Louis Sarno

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Louis Sarno
Born(1954-07-03)July 3, 1954
Newark, New Jersey, United States
DiedApril 1, 2017(2017-04-01) (aged 62)
NationalityUnited States and Central African Republic

Louis Sarno (July 3, 1954 – April 1, 2017) was an American musicologist and author. In the mid-1980s he made field recordings of the music of a Bayaka Pygmy clan while living among them in the forests of the Central African Republic.[1] Sarno lived in the CAR for more than 20 years, and held a dual citizenship there and in the United States.[2] He documented some of his experiences in his memoir, Song from the Forest: My Life Among the Pygmies (2015), which Geoff Wisner included in his survey work A Basket of Leaves: 99 Books That Capture the Spirit of Africa.[3]

Louis Sarno was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. In 1985 he went to Africa to record the music of a pygmy tribe. He "combined recordings of Bayakan music with sounds of their surrounding environment into a two-CD/book package entitled Bayaka: The Extraordinary Music of the Babenzélé Pygmies (Ellipsis Arts).

Louis Sarno married a Bayakan woman and they had sons.[4]

The documentary film Song from the Forest, by German director Michael Obert, tells Sarno's life story. The film premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2013[5][6] where it was honored with the Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary.[7][8] A movie based on Sarno's life called Oka! was released in 2011 (in the Aka language, oka means "listen").

Sarno died on April 1, 2017 in Teaneck, New Jersey.[9]


  1. ^ Swains, Howard (April 18, 2015). "Inside the World of Louis Sarno, the Pygmy Chief From New Jersey". Newsweek. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  2. ^ Sarno, Louis (April 25, 2014). Louis Sarno 5 (video). Doug Spencer. Retrieved February 13, 2018 – via YouTube.
  3. ^ Geoff Wisner (2008). A basket of leaves: 99 books that capture the spirit of Africa. Jacana Media. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-77009-206-8.
  4. ^ Louis Sarno Archived October 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, an interview by Deni Kasrel. Philadelphia City Paper, June 13–20, 1996.
  5. ^ Young, Neil (November 23, 2013). "Song From the Forest: IDFA Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  6. ^ Kohn, Eric (April 6, 2015). "In 'Song From the Forest,' Louis Sarno Joins a Pygmy Tribe, Starts a Family and Returns to New York". IndieWire. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  7. ^ Macnab, Geoffrey (November 29, 2013). "Song From The Forest wins at IDFA". ScreenDaily. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  8. ^ "Song From the Forest wins IDFA Award". International Documentary Filmfestival Amersterdam. Archived from the original on February 12, 2015. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  9. ^ "Louis J. Sarno, Age 62". The Hunterdon County News. April 4, 2017. Retrieved April 4, 2017.