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Rhythm A Day Blog for March 29, 2020: Commemoration of Boganda, C.A.R.

Posted by Wolf Murphy on

Commemoration of Boganda,
Central African Republic

Barthélemy Boganda was a passionately nationalist politician in what became the Central African Republic. His political activity predates his country's independence, and he became the first Prime Minister of the Central African Republic autonomous territory. 

Boganda 1959 stamp

C.A.R. Postage Stamp picturing Boganda
(Public Domain)

He was born into a family of subsistence farmers in Bobangui, a large M'Baka village. The French treatment of the indigenous peoples was little short of slavery. He was adopted and educated by Roman Catholic Church missionaries after his mother was beaten to death by company officials while she was collecting rubber. and was ordained as the first locally-born Roman Catholic priest in 1938. He served in WWII, and became politically active after that. In the French National assembly he spoke against racism and the colonial regime. His vocal protest did not change the oppressive colonial rule so he returned home and started a grassroots opposition; this led foundation of the Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa (MESAN) in 1949.

He was laicized—kicked out of—the priesthood for marrying a young Frenchwoman, but the minor hit his popularity took did not prevent him from advocating for equality and civil rights for blacks. His politicals were summed up in the Sango phrase "zo kwe zo", which translated to "every human being is a person". By 1958, the movement had enough local support that he was able to successfully negotiate autonomy and on December 1st of that year Boganda announced the establishment of the Central African Republic; full independence was to come within 2 years, though Boganda did not survive to see this.

He was the autonomous territory's first Prime Minister and headed for being its first President, but was killed in a mysterious plane crash on March 29 of the following year. (Experts found traces of explosives in the wreckage, but kept this secret. Boganda is considered the hero and father of his nation and one of the great leaders of decolonization in Africa. He also designed of the flag of the Central African Republic.

Flag of the Central African Republic

Flag of the Central African Republic (Public Domain)

For our rhythms, the Water Drumming of the M'Baka women! (Feel Free to see our blog for March 5th for more information on Water Drumming!) And for more music from the Baka tribes, check out anything by Baka Beyond. Spirit of the Forest may be my favorite; I have been enjoying this band (a collaboration between some European musicians/ethnomusicologists and some of the Baka people).

The patterns here use 2 new sounds: a higher-pitched "plough" (notated as a tone) and there is also clapping, just above or only slightly submerged in the water. These phrases are played in orchestrated fashion, and if there are more than 1 players on Phrase B, one may choose to switch to the solo phrase.


Today's Vlog Lesson


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