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OKA! Opens: New Film Highlights Rarely Heard Music From Africa

In theaters today, OKA! is an adaptation of the memoir of an ethnomusicologist from New Jersey, Louis Sarno, who moved to the remote forests of the Central African Republic to record the music of the Bayaka Pygmies over 20 years ago, fell in love and stayed.

Kris Marshall (Love Actually) gives a fine performance as the ethnomusicologist, but it’s the local Bayaka ensemble cast and the lush African rainforest that are worth your attention here. The plot is familiar—a capitalistic politician wants to destroy the Bayaka’s forest home to make way for a logging company’s expansion—but don’t be quick to dismiss this as another Fern Gully rip-off. The beauty of this film is in the moments that aren’t trying to move the plot along—children singing in perfect syncopated rhythm together, a group of women making music in a river using the water as their only instrument, and the documentary-worthy wildlife shots.

If you're in New York you can catch it at the Angelika Film Center, and soon in other theaters nationwide.

Lyndsey Matthews is an online editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure

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