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Recordings of the Mabi people, different places same time: Cameroon 1908 and Berlin 1909

Abstract : The Berlin Phonogramm-Archive hosts wax cylinders with music from Mabea of the town of Kribi at the South-Cameroonian Atlantic coast. They have been recorded by two collectors, Georg August Zenker and Erich Moritz von Hornbostel. Zenker was a botanist and farmer who worked for the German colonial administration before settling on his own account as a plantation owner near Kribi. Founder of the actual Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé, he lived in a small town near Kribi until the end of his life. In 1908 he recorded ritual and recreative music, canoesongs, two dance repertoires and masksongs of the initiation ritual ngi. On the other hand, Erich Moritz von Hornbostel has recorded Mabea songs sung a cappella in Berlin by an inhabitant of Kribi, Jakob Malapa, who had had the opportunity to travel to Germany. The recording situations are completely different, one collector recording in Cameroon among the Mabea and having a deep knowledge of their culture, whereas the other one only hears snippets of Mabea music through solo versions of collective songs, without having any experience with an African culture. Still, in both cases, the contextual informations which accompany the recordings are hardly existing and the question of the limits of these historical recordings is of equal relevance for both collections. Thus, it was necessary to bring these recordings back to Kribi in 2012 and 2013 in order to establish or to confirm the identifications and to collect ethnological and musicological background information. My interaction with Mabi musicians and notables brought to evidence that most of these recordings document former states of now changed repertoires, even when the social context still exists. The article establishes equivalences with actual practices and shows that the repertoires of 1908 are less "lost" as it might appear.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - 11:12:20 AM
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Susanne Fürniss. Recordings of the Mabi people, different places same time: Cameroon 1908 and Berlin 1909. Ziegler, Susanne; Ingrid Åkesson; Gerda Lechleitner. Historical Sources of ethnomusicology in contemporary debate, Cambridge Scholars publishing, pp.68-82, 2017. ⟨halshs-02445413⟩

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