Equatorial Guinea

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01World Routes20130519

Lucy Duran heads to Equatorial Guinea in central Africa, with her guide Isabela de Aranzadi, to hear the music of the majority Fang people. She meets Stanislav Bengono Nvo, one of the few remaining players of the mvet, a 4 string harp zither. They head deep into the continental portion of the country to meet local artisan Felipe Osa and possibly for the first time ever record the Abakuya dance tradition, which has its roots in Nigeria, then Cuba and then Equatorial Guinea. In the forest Lucy goes in search of a man called Chacho who performs the Fang funeral tradition of Ndomba, and back on the island of Bioko they hear the many xylophones of the Fang language Catholic mass.

Home to many different ethnic groups, the Fang, Bubi, Ndowe, Bisio, Krio and others, Equatorial Guinea is spread across a mainland portion, squeezed between Gabon and Cameroon, and a series of islands, the largest being Bioko and home to capital Malabo. It first cropped up on European maps when Portuguese explorer Fernando Po passed by the islands in the 15th Century; then, swapped for a bit of Brazil with the Spanish, it began its Spanish speaking history. The British had a go at moving their anti-slavery operations from nearby Sierra Leone to Malabo in the early 19th Century but the Spanish weren't giving up, and returned in 1843 to claim back Spanish Guinea, bringing Catholicism too. Independence came in 1968, followed by the 11-year reign of terror of first president Francisco Macias Nguema. He was overthrown by his nephew, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who at 34 years in the job is now Africa's longest serving leader. Since the discovery of oil in the mid-1990s Equatorial Guinea has become an extremely wealthy nation, and is undergoing extensive infrastructural change.

02 LASTWorld Routes20130526

Lucy Duran heads back to Equatorial Guinea to hear the music of the island of Annobon and meet singer and guitarist Desmali.

Desmali is a quiet emotional man with a sweet toned voice, who comes from the remote island of Annobon, 400 miles south of the capital Malabo, separated from the rest of Equatorial Guinea by Sao Tome and Principe. Desmali is clearly a performer, and in the slum where he lives, ironically named "Niu Bili" meaning New Building, sat under the almond and mango trees he worked an ever growing crowd of elders and children drawn to World Routes' Sunday afternoon recording session. His songs were of love for his guitar, a woman he met called Sonita, but also of a life spent struggling to make ends meet through music. Despite the tinge of wistful melancholy that haunted his words. the music confounded easy definition, so naturally embracing centuries of criss-crossed paths of returned slaves, Europeans and indigenous people that make Equatorial Guinea, and its music so unique.

Home to many different ethnic groups, the Fang, Bubi, Ndowe, Bisio, Krio and others, Equatorial Guinea is spread across a mainland portion, squeezed between Gabon and Cameroon, and a series of islands, the largest being Bioko and home to capital Malabo. The Spanish claimed the country in 1843 as Spanish Guinea, independence came in 1968, followed by the 11-year reign of terror of first president Francisco Macias Nguema. He was overthrown by his nephew, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who at 34 years in the job is now Africa's longest serving leader. Since the discovery of oil in the mid-1990s Equatorial Guinea has become an extremely wealthy nation, and is undergoing extensive infrastructural change.