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jw-pygmiesAugust, 1971. The gentle Mbuti people live in the Ituri rainforest, one of the world’s densest jungles, in northeastern DR Congo. They are among the most ancient of all human populations, with their ancestors having hunted in these forests for over 60,000 years. The tallest among them is under five feet.

It was on my first visit to Africa that I was able to spend time with them. They live in scattered bands of a few dozen each, always on the move in search of game, sleeping in small makeshift huts of branches and leaves, and far away from villages of Bantus who always try to enslave them.

Their music is hypnotic. To the beat of drums of hollowed-out logs, they sing with a polyphonic complexity that is extraordinary. I’ll never forget the performance they gave for me. Alas, no tape recorder – much less videocam back then! (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #65 photo ©Jack Wheeler)