Thursday, November 24, 2011

N'Goundi girls

N'Goundi girls
24" x 18"
oil on canvas, 2011
The Folkways catalog, and especially the Ethnic Folkways Series, housed in the Smithsonian Library of Congress, is probably the best and broadest source of historic field recordings that exists. I consider myself a collector of these series even though I only own less than 5% of the 500 or so records in the series (of a total of 1930 titles on Folkways). The records were produced by Moses Asch and released from 1944 until Asch's death in 1986, after which the Smithsonian Institute added the label to their inventory. All Folkways' titles have always been available on vinyl during Asch's life and all titles continue to be available on CD format (or as download) through the Smithsonian Institute. Occasionally I pick one of the titles and listen to excerpts of the songs on it. I pick my favorite ones and order these as a download for 99 cents a song. The last one I explored was Music of Equatorial Africa with recordings made in the early 1950s in what was then French Equatorial Africa. My favorite pick from the recordings is a song by young N'Goundi girls. It's a chorus of girls singing accompanied by hand clapping. The lead singer uses a sort of a yodel in her singing, probably picked up through neighboring pygmy tribes. "This a satirical and licentious song. The young N'Goundi girls scoff at a young boy who has bragged too much about his capabilities."
The location of the recording is not specified but most likely made in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The N'Goundi people must be known now by a different name as all the hits on a search on line for N'Goundi come from sources before 1954, the year the record was released. 
Extensive searching for images yielded only two photographic images, both from the early 20th Century. The three girls in the painting are singled out from a larger group of N'Goundis in one of these photographs. It was found in the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives.

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