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The Mugongo (or “Mouth Harp”) is one of humanity’s oldest traditional musical instruments. It is derived from the bow, a weapon of war. In Gabon, the Babongo people have been playing Mugongo since the dawn of time, passing on this primal art to the Bantu people through the Bwete rite.

Traditionally and most often, this sacred instrument of high symbolic value is made from a particularly robust shrub called Kouta. The people of the Gabonese forest also use Kouta to make formidable hunting traps. Last but not least, the whole shrub is highly prized for its many therapeutic virtues, particularly for men…

The Mugongo is also equipped with an improved liana which, when tapped rhythmically with one hand using a stick (from another forest vine) and the other hand pinched with a wedge, usually also made from kouta, produces a range of hypnotic sounds and melodies in complex resonance with the player’s mouth and breathing.

The Mugongo is a major ritual tool used in Gabon during the different phases of the initiation process specific to each branch of the Bwiti tradition.

The mugongo promoted by BOTF are made by David Menvie Me Ndong, known in Bwiti as ‘Mbilou’. Mbilou is a member of the NGO Ebando and is developing this income-generating activity with the aim of creating a workshop offering all the traditional handicrafts used in the Bwiti tradition in Gabon. Mbilou also wants to build his own village with its own temple so that he can practise bwiti as taught to him by his late grandfather Maitre André Ndji, Nima of the Mimbiri rite.


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