Baka Beyond have been active for over two decades now, pleasing festival crowds with animated live performances and putting out a number of world music CD releases along the way. The band is based around two British musicians, Martin Craddock and Su Hart, who have had a long ongoing relationship with the forest pygmies of the Baka region in Cameroon, West Africa. Working on a regular basis with the Baka people they have set up Global Musical Exchange — a sort of cultural fair trade charity — to repay the debt they feel they owe these people for their musical inspiration.
This recording has a clutch of new players joining the regular band: drummer Clyde Kramer, who like the founder members has also spent time in the forest with the Baka people, and vocalist Ellie Jamison, who previously toured and sang with the group a decade ago. This time round there is an additional Shakespeare connection too, as After the Tempest — the clue is in the name — includes two songs ("Ariel's Song" and "Full Fathom West") from a Welsh production of The Tempest that the band were recently involved with.
What Baka Beyond play is a pleasing blend of Celtic-style tunes ("Siuil a Run") and West African guitar music ("Mosumana Collé," "Imbayé") that also successfully integrates the distinctive singing style of Baka women, which imitates the creatures of the forest's natural world. After the Tempest is tuneful and relaxed — easy listening even, although not in the pejorative sense. This is laid back, dreamy music that evokes light-dappled forest clearings, sunny music festival stages and crackling campsite fires. There's some pretty tasty bass playing too, courtesy of one-time Kanda Bongo Man sidekick, Kibisingo Douglas.