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Immerse yourself in this fascinating online exhibition of an ethnomusicological mission to Africa in 1946

In 1946, a scientific expedition led by the 23-year old French ethnologist Noël Ballif journeyed to Equatorial Africa, where ethnomusicologist Gilbert Rouget captured the first audio and visual recordings of Congolese musical culture and Pygmy music.

Now, for the first time, this incredible material is avaliable in one place online, thanks to an immersive exhibition-like experience from Europeana Collection.

congolese sound recordings

Immerse yourself in a fascinating online exhibition of audio visual material captured during a pioneering mission to Equatorial Africa in 1946.

The exhibition starts with a summary of the trip, describing the pioneering mission, which was the first organised by the Liotard group, a collective of young French explorers from Paris’ Musée de l’Homme.

“From July to December 1946, the 12 members of the expedition travelled across the former Middle Congo (the current Republic of the Congo) and Gabon. They spent six weeks completely immersed in Babinga Pygmies tribes from the Haute Sangha region, in the North of Moyen Congo – an experience that turned out to be decisive for some of them.

Whether they are sound recordings, photographs, films, artifacts or scientific studies, the documents collected and produced during and after the Ogooué-Congo Mission allow us to discover their adventure.

Let’s walk in their footsteps…”

From there you can explore the genesis of the mission, which was said to “give sound and image a central role”, and scroll through images of the journey through Middle Congo and Gabon.

Then you can delve into fascinating sound and visual material captured during the trip on a make-shift recording studio in the middle on the Congolese jungle.

You can also explore over 500 of the field recordings captured during the journey, which feature an absolutely stunning range of audio material, such as a traditional Singing Yeli Women’s Choir, a crude xylophone, the chants and instrumentals of local Pygmy tribes, and a paddler’s song recorded on the Ogooué River in Gabon.

Check out the fascinating exhibition here.