Among the Baka forest people in Central Africa, water drumming and dancing is an important aspect of their society reserved for the women hunters.
The ritual is usually performed before they go hunting in the early hours of the day, usually at dawn to enchant the forest and in the process call out the animals so that the hunters do not have to go deep into the forest. The Baka people are the principal hunter-gatherers of the tropical rainforest of Central West Africa.
Groups establish temporary camps of huts constructed of bowed branches covered in large leaves (though today more and more homes are constructed following Bantu methods).
The Baka hunt and gather their own food. The men hunt and trap in the surrounding forest, using poisoned arrows and spears to great effect. The men also welcome the help of dogs when going on hunting excursions. Fishing is very important in Baka culture as young boys are taught to use fishing rods at a young age.
The men fish using chemicals obtained from crushed plant material. Using fast-moving river water, they disperse the chemical downstream. This non-toxic chemical deprives fish of oxygen, making them float to the surface and easily collected by Baka men.
Another method of fishing, performed generally only by women, is dam fishing, in which water is removed from a dammed area and fish are taken from the exposed ground.
Children and adolescent-girls often accompany the women when they go fish-bailing in nearby streams. More than only fishing with adults, their job is also to help the women by watching over the infants while they fish. Women cultivate plants, such as plantains, cassavas, and bananas, and practice beekeeping.
The group remains in one area until it is hunted out. It then abandons the camp and settles down in a different portion of the forest. The group is communal and makes decisions by consensus. During the dry season, it is common for the Baka to move and set camp within the forest in order to facilitate fishing and overall nutritional gathering.
The Baka are the most active during these dry seasons. Men hunt from dawn until dusk and the women gather two types of fruits: the “mabe” and the “peke”, which are used for the provision of juice and nuts. The Baka people continue to monitor bee activity in order to obtain honey or “poki”.
The Liquindi or Yelli drumming is not only peculiar for being performed on water, but it is also unique for having women perform due to the fact that drumming is usually left for men, and in the instances where women play, they only play a supporting and smaller drum.
The Liquindi is usually performed in groups with a lead drummer and singer with her chorus singers and drummers. To perform, the women must be in a good mood, very strong, and must also be hunters.