The Adoption of the Circumcision Ritual bèkà by the Baka-Pygmies in Southeast Cameroon

  • Susanne Fürniss Ethnomusicologist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique


In this article, I discuss the borrowing of the circumcision ritual bèkà by the Baka of Cameroon. I will present an in-depth analysis of the ritual system and the music that goes with it, with particular attention to the ritual’s actors and their function.


Arom, Simha 1978 Anthologie de la Musique des Pygmées Aka. OCORA/Radio France 558 526-28 (re-editions as CD 1980, 1985, 1987 and 2003, C559012/13)
1988 "Systèmes musicaux en Afrique subsaharienne", Revue de Musique des Universités Canadiennes 9(1): 1-18
1991 African Polyphony and Polyrhythm. Musical Structure and Methodology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
1994 "Intelligence in traditional music", in Khalfa, Jean (ed), What is Intelli- gence?, pp. 137-160. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
2004 "L'Aksak: Principes et typologie", Cahiers de musiques traditionnelles 17: 11-48.
Arom, Simha, Serge Bahuchet, Alain Epelboin, Susanne Fürniss, Henri Guillaume, and Jacqueline M. C. Thomas 1998 Pygmées Aka - peuple et musique. CD-ROM. Paris: CNRS, Montparnasse Multimédia, ORSTOM
Arom, Simha, Nathalie Fernando, Susanne Fürniss, Sylvie Le Bomin, Fabrice Marandola, and Jean Molino 2008 "La catégorisation des patrimoines musicaux de tradition orale", in Alvarez- Pereyre, Frank (ed), Catégories et Catégorisations. Une perspective interdisciplinaire, pp. 283-313. Louvain, Dudley, and Paris: Peeters
Arom, Simha, and Susanne Fürniss 1993 "An interactive experimental method for the determination of musical scales in oral cultures. Application to the vocal music of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa", Contemporary Music Review 9:7-12
Arom, Simha, and Patrick Renaud 1977 Music of the Baka Pygmies, Unesco, "Musics and Musicians of the World", Auvidis D 8029 AD 090 (re-edited as CD in 1990)
Bahuchet, Serge 1992 Histoire d'une civilisation forestière I. Dans la forêt d'Afrique Centrale. Les Pygmées Aka et Baka, Louvain and Paris: Peeters
1993a Histoire d'une civilisation forestière II. La rencontre des agriculteurs: les Pygmées parmi les peuples d'Afrique Centrale, Louvain-Paris: Peeters
1993b "L'invention des Pygmees", Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines 33(1):153-181
Brandel, Rose 1961 The Music of Central Africa, Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff
Brisson, Robert Forthcoming Petit Dictionnaire baka, Louvain-Paris: Peeters
Brisson, Robert, and Daniel Boursier 1979 Petit Dictionnaire baka. Douala: B. P. 1855 (typewritten)
Bundo, Daisuke 2001 "Social relationship embodied in singing and dancing performances among the Baka", African Monograph Studies Suppl. 26:85-101
Demolin, Didier 1990 Chants de l'orée de la forêt. Polyphonies des Pygmées Efe. CD, Fonti Musicali: fmd 185
1993 "Les rêveurs de la forêt: Polyphonies des Pygmées Efe de l'Ituri (Zaïre)", Cahiers de Musiques Traditionnelles 6: 139-151
Fürniss, Susanne 1992 Die Jodeltechnik der Aka-Pygmäen in Zentralafrika. Eine akustisch- phonetische Untersuchung, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag
1998 Central Africa. Aka Pygmies. Hunting, Love and Mockery Songs. CD, OCORA/Radio France: C 560139
2005 "Femmes, maîtresses, mères: chants et danses des jeunes filles baka", Cahiers de Musiques Traditionnelles 18:217-237
2006 "Aka polyphony: music, theory, back and forth", in Tenzer, M. (ed.), Analytical Studies in World Music, pp. 163-204. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press
Fürniss, Susanne and Claire Lussiaa-Berdou 2004 Bèkà. Rituel de circoncision chez les Baka occidentaux du Cameroun, CNRS-LMS.
Kisliuk, Michelle 1996 "(Un)Doing Fieldwork: Sharing Songs, Sharing Lives", in Barz, Greg and Timothy Cooley (eds), Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives on Fieldwork and Ethnomusicology, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press
1998 Seize the Dance! BaAka Musical Life and the Ethnography of Performance. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press
Joiris, Daou Véronique 1996 "A comparative approach to hunting rituals among the Baka Pygmies", in Kent, S. (ed.), Cultural Diversity among 20th Century Foragers, pp. 245- 275. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
1997-1998 La chasse, la chance, le chant. Aspects du systbme rituel des Baka du Cameroun, Ph. D. Dissertation, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Leclerc, Christian 2001 En bordure de route. Espace social, dynamisme et relation à l'environnement chez les Pygmées Baka du Sud-Est Cameroun. Ph. D. Dissertation, Université Paris X-Nanterre
Rupp, Stephanie 2003 "Interethnic relations in Southeastern Cameroon: challenging the 'hunter- gatherer'- 'farmer' dichotomy", African Monograph Studies Suppl. 28:37- 56
Sallée, Pierre n. d. Gabon - Musique des Pygmées Bibayak, OCORA/Radio France 558 504
Sallée, Pierre, and Hubert de Fraysseix 1973 Pygmées et Bochiman. Musiques et Traditions du Monde, CBS 80212
Sarno, Louis 1993 Song from the Forest, New York: Houghton Mifflin
Thomas, Jacqueline M. C., Serge Bahuchet, Alain Epelboin (since 1993), and Susanne Fürniss (since 2003) (eds) 1981ss Encyclopédie des Pygmées Aka. Leuven, Dudley, and Paris: Peeters (17 volumes of which 13 are published)
Tsuru, Daisaku 1998 "Diversity of ritual spirit performances among the Baka Pygmies in Southerneastern Cameroon", African Monograph Studies Suppl. 25:47-84
2001 "Generation and transaction processes in the spirit ritual of the Baka Pygmies in Southeast Cameroon", African Monograph Studies Suppl. 27:103-123
Turnbull, Colin 1965 Waywards Servants: the Two Worlds of the African Pygmies, London: Eyre and Spottiswoode
Turnbull, Colin and Francis S. Chapman 1957 Music of the Ituri Forest. Ethnic Folkways Library FE 4483 (re-edited in 1961)
How to Cite
Fürniss, S. “The Adoption of the Circumcision Ritual Bèkà by the Baka-Pygmies in Southeast Cameroon”. African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music, Vol. 8, no. 2, Nov. 2008, pp. 92-13, doi: