Outside Assistance

Baka Beyond and Baka Gbine – Baka Live
Baka Beyond and Baka Gbine

Baka Live (March Hare Music MAHACD 26, 2007)

Beginning in the early ’90s as a melding of acoustic U.K. melodies with the rhythms and oddly beautiful vocalizing of Cameroon’s Baka Pygmies, Baka Beyond has evolved into one of the best fusion bands around. Their 2006 British tour saw them reproducing the nuances of their sound onstage with the help of Baka Gbine, a group of Cameroonian singers and players who for the most part hadn’t previously left their rainforest domicile. Baka Beyond leaders Martin Cradick (guitar, mandolin) and Su Hart (vocals) reportedly had reservations about touring with the actual Baka folk, not wanting to appear exploitative.

This live CD (recorded in Cardiff, London and Oxford) sounds anything but. The performances are full of spirit and marvelously attuned interplay between the performers, on songs that sound straight from the bush and those more infused with the folk/Celtic feel that’s sweetened Baka Beyond’s studio albums.

Much as I would’ve loved it if the tour had visited my comparatively distant part of the world, Baka Live is a consolation prize to be savored repeatedly. And it’s a disc you can feel good about buying, as a healthy part of the royalties will go to the One Heart Global Music Exchange, a charity started by Baka Beyond to assist in the basic needs and music making of the people whose name they bear.

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