World Music: Technology, Cultural Advocacy, Traditional Cultural Expressions and the Baka

If “Tradition is a source of creativity,” 1. then a Cultural Advocate’s (CA) mission is to protect and to preserve Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs.) Their clients are often displaced 2. and legally marginalized by war, climate change and multinational exploitation: indigenous people, who have lost their homelands and are watching the foundations of their traditions vaporize. These “stakeholders” are variously compromised. Their “no” votes get overruled when permits on “protected” lands are issued. Likewise, recent claims of artistic ownership of, say, original folk music are difficult to uphold under the current definitions of Intellectual Property. Cases can be dismissed because these laws are written to protect the sole creator; nether is perpetual tribal holding favored by a 70 year life expectancy clause. Also, a song’s very precious antiquity and forgotten or unclaimed authorship can lump it into the free-for-all world of Public Domain. For better or worse, schitzophonic elements populate the creative commons. CAs focus on retaining such intangible heritage while allowing other artists to respectfully appropriate. This is a delicate balance because, ironically, the same technology that preserves an artifact – exposes it. Their job is to catalogue and distribute as much of the cynthonic arts as possible and defend against Infringement.

How can we best use technology to mainstream the Baka of Cameroon 3. painlessly into “Modernity?”  They are fraction of 200,000 widely dispersed, pejoratively named, African “Pygmy” people? This small group is a gentle, acephalous population that is being displaced and urbanized at a staggering rate. The CA’s are encouraging them to share and recreate their art forms. How do artisans avoid being sampled, “knocked off” and diluted while they navigate the world trading TCE’s for self-sustainability and cultural longevity.

First, we need to know what will continue to inspire these hunter gatherers to create anything after they are moved out. Baka music is not only for fixed rituals but rather a constant polyphony that “happens” as part of navigating a dark, reptile infested forest. Their eyes and feet will miss the familiar topography. Perhaps their territory can be mapped in 3D, using Google earth and abstracted or enhanced using advanced imaging technology. The Baka can amplify and annotate their “IMAX” with a kind of “Story Corps.” People could indicate the important places and sing/dance about each. (“Here’s where the honey was found after that dry spring.”) Remembering the spaces between the termite mounds and elephant’s ground could comfort them and, at least, provide minimal archiving. The dances and movements for each season or location could be shot from several angles. And, all this fed into a Wii type computer program. Newly sedentary Baka (and housewives?) could reenact a crouching hunt or hopping celebration lead by most virtuous dancers as models for a yodeling workout, This exercise video might be promoted abroad.

Hook them up

Connect everybody through the web. Facebook hosts 70 languages (including Maya Katcquel) and has Skype free video teleconferencing   features.  Once the system is set up literacy is not required. The musicians can be introduced to Yoyo Ma’s Indaba – an interactive site that promotes remote creation and provenance is, undoubtedly, registered and authenticated by time stamp and IP address. Find streaming UN events, special webcasts and trusted distribution channels like Putumayo.

Find and develop leadership

This long enslaved, leaderless community will have a hard time reaching out and touching …Hollywood tyes. They could benefit from assertiveness trainings 4.– perhaps kinesthetic exercises like Qi Gong. It could take a decade get enough people trained to organize and make group decisions. Eventually, they could follow the Latin American model, where small 20-40 person co-operatives mesh new arts with authentic handicrafts and ultimately join greater (600+) associations to hire consultants, buy supplies and to promote their goods and locations to intrepid medical and eco-tourists.


Most forms of IP, such as copyright, related rights, patents and industrial design,
establish private property rights in creations and innovations in order to grant control over
their commercial exploitation and to provide incentives for the further creation and
dissemination of the products of human creativity. IP protection must be distinguished from
the concepts of “preservation” and “safeguarding.” The goals of copyright protection, for
example, are largely to promote further creativity, encourage public dissemination and enable
the holder to control the commercial exploitation of the work. By contrast, preservation and
safeguarding in the context of cultural heritage refer generally to the identification,
documentation, transmission, revitalization and promotion of tangible or intangible cultural
heritage in order to ensure its maintenance and viability.



4. Page 202 – A weak ego does not gain substantial strength from being persistently bolstered. A strong ego, secured in its identity by a strong society, does not need, and in fact is immune to any attempt at artificial inflation.‎

Author: diane e. dreyfus

on the road until they put the lid down

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