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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/777

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LIFE AT THE CAMEROONS.

silently on his breast, and thus converse at his convenience with his countrymen, even in the presence of white men who understand the spoken language. The drum-telegraph does not cease during the whole night, for the Cameroons man is communicative and has much time. The drum is also available as an instrument to dance by. The dances are quite different from those of the civilized world. The sexes being separated, there are no waltzes or contra-dances; there are no pauses for conversation; but the dancing lasts all day, and, when any one gets tired of it, he simply goes away and rests. The performance presents a curious scene, with two fellows beating on their drums as if wild, yet in regular measure, and a company of male or female dancers in action in front of them. These have disposed themselves in a circle, and beginning with short, shuffling steps to the right and left, gradually wax more lively in their motions till the muscles of the legs, arms, and shoulders are all engaged, and the whole body at last gets into a condition of shaking and twisting that no European can imitate. There is, however, no jumping, but a kind of singing, in which a favorite theme is taken up by one of the musicians and joined in by the chorus, which from time to time rises into a regular bellowing. This goes on to the climax, then subsides into a calmer tempo, while the performers are gathering strength for a new outburst. The Cameroons music would be tame without the drum. It is therefore taken into the boat, where the song is performed in the same fashion as at the dance. The subjects of the songs are various: sometimes they celebrate the beauty of the canoe; sometimes the good trade which the singers have made; sometimes scorn of their enemies or praise of their friends; and sometimes they are of love. The other musical instruments are of inferior importance as compared with the drum, and include stringed instruments of various construction, in which the resonance is sometimes strengthened by using a hollow gourd shell; and, in King Bell's royal canoe, a bell and an ivory horn.

The Cameroons man is a most passionate trader. Circumstances compel the recognition of a credit system between Europeans and the Duallas. The black comes to the white man and asks for an advance upon the products which he engages to bring. When he brings them he wants another advance, and, keeping this up for several years, he is liable to get considerably behind in the white man's books. The Europeans accordingly find it convenient to "stop the trade" from time to time, and compel the natives to "wash out their accounts" before they will permit any further advances. This they do by agreement among themselves, whereby the native is debarred the opportunity of skipping from one dealer to another. Trade is almost wholly by barter, in which the blacks receive rice, tobacco, spirits, cloth, guns, ammunition,