The Ba'Aka pygmies are considered to be the first inhabitants of the Central African Republic.

"Ya Ya" is a Ba'Aka traditional song & dance. The Ba'Aka (Mbenga Pygmies) are hunters and gatherers. When they return from hunting, the women and children sing and dance "Ya Ya" to welcome them back.

Ba'Aka music is very complex. It's known for its contrapuntal group improvisation. This means the voices harmonize, but they have different rhythms... all while improvising.

Regarding the meaning of the songs, very few words are used. BaAka songs are identified by the syllables "Ee Ya, Ee Ya" or "Oh, Ee Ya Eh" or "Ee Ya Ee Ya Eh." You can hear many of these syllables in the song in the video, so we listed them in the lyrics to help you pick them out while listening.

Ya Ya - Central African Children's Songs - Central African Republic - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image


The following is from an interview with Michelle Kisliuk about BaAka Music:

"...every once in a while, some people will sing a line or two together in unison, but then they'll break and go their own way as they are listening and interacting in very intricate ways with what they are hearing and seeing their relatives and friends do.

... two of the things that pretty much immediately identify BaAka or forest peoples style are the syllables 'Ee Ya, Ee Ya' sometimes 'Oh. Ee Ya Eh.' Very few actual words for the most part are involved in the singing. Especially as the songs get more elaborate over time, that text drops out. The words drop out and are replaced by 'Ee Ya Ee Ya Eh.' That's one thing. The other thing is yodeling. So those are two identifiable aspects of BaAka singing style. It has to be loud to come out the right way.

...everyone will have a basic cycle - the cycle of the song - in their ears. And once they're familiar with the song, they can improvise around that basic theme that repeats."

Quoted from an interview with Michelle Kisliuk and Justin Mongosso: The BaAka of Central Africa. Michelle Kisliuk is an ethnomusicologist at the University of Virginia. In the mid-80s she went to the Central African Republic to study the music and dance of the BaAka pygmies. Her book about the BaAka is called, "Seize the Dance! BaAka Musical Life and the Ethnography of Performance" (Oxford University Press. 1998).

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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Photo: Grobar