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Sample Track 1:
"Yetoo;s Dream" from Listen...OKA! soundtrack
Sample Track 2:
"Bottlefunk Girls" from Listen...OKA! soundtrack
Layer 2

More About Listen...OKA!

Chris Berry Bio:

Chris Berry
is a California native who discovered his passion for African music in private study with a Congolese drummer, Tiro Sampa.  At 19, he accompanied his teacher home to Brazzaville, Congo.  His fascination with mbira (thumb piano) music soon led him to Zimbabwe where he settled and studied under mbira master Monderek Muchena for ten years. Berry became one of the first westerners to be accepted among the elder mbira masters and to earn the title of Gwenyambira or “one whose music calls the spirits.”   Berry has achieved international recognition as a master dancer and musician of the mbira and the ngoma drum of the Shona people of southern Africa.  

Chris married a Zimbabwean woman and together formed the bank Panjea in 1991, which successfully toured until four members died in Zimbabwe’s AIDS epidemic.   Yet the band’s legacy lives on as Chris continues to work with the surviving members and to promote the Panjea Foundation for Cultural Education established in 1998 to facilitate music education and cultural exchange.    His record sales have reached platinum album levels in southern Africa.

In composing the score for Oka! Amerikee,  Barry spent over two weeks performing night and day with various combinations of over one hundred Bayaka pygmies from Yandombe village in the Central African Republic.    His co-musicians ranged in age from three to 90 years old.  He then returned home to integrate over one hundred hours of recordings.   With the help of musicologist Louis Sarno who has lived with the Bayaka for over 25 years, Berry showcased their unique musical genius that integrates powerful human emotions and intuition into an elaborate 64-beat musical code unique to forest people. 

Barry performed as a special guest on Paul Winter’s 2005 Grammy Award winning album, Silver Solstice, and is currently collaborating with Winter on a new album, Rhythm Quest, that features songs recorded in 20 different countries.    When not on tour,   he divides his time among Africa, Hawaii and New York City. 

Kris Marshall Bio:

Kris Marshall began acting at an early age and made his TV debut in the British police series The Bill. He was raised in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, UK; Hong Kong and Canada, and educated at Wells Cathedral School. After failing his A-levels school exams, he entered Redroofs Theatre School.   His work in children's theatre in Ascot led to touring productions of Agatha Christie.  His persistence landed a role in the play Journey's End staged above a London pub and led to an agent.

His major breakthrough came in 2000 as oldest-son Nick Harper in the BBC sitcom My Family that earned the Best Newcomer prize at the 2002 British Comedy Awards.  During the following run of successful TV, stage and film appearances,   Marshall suffered severe head injuries in April 2008 when a car flung him 12 feet outside a night club in Bristol.  He miraculously recovered in time to begin his acclaimed performance as Carter in the UK run of American playwright Neil LaBute’s play Fat Pig only weeks later.

His numerous film roles include the unlikely playboy Collin Frissel in Love Actually;  Troy in the UK version of Death at a Funeral; Gratiano in the 2004 film Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons, and Dr. Gudeon in Iris starring Judy Dench.   His most recent roles include Ethan who seduces American women with his British accent in Fox TV’s 2011 sitcom, Traffic Light, and the best man in an Australian outback wedding in Stephen Elliot’s film A Few Best Men with Olivia Newton-John (2012 release).  

During his two months filming Oka! Amerikee in the jungles of the Central African Republic, Marshall impressed colleagues with his fortitude and his ability to integrate fully with his fellow Bayaka actors as his 6 ft. 2 in frame towered above the 4 ft. pygmies.   He studiously learned their Akka language,    hung out in their rustic dwellings and gamely dined on their prized grubs and other exotic delicacies. 

Marshall has earned a near cult following playing “Adam” whose relationship with “Jane” as the “BT Couple” has generated several years of quirky British telecommunication ads.   Half a million viewers voted to choose Jane’s  wedding dress, their car and song before the “couple” filmed the “marriage ceremony” with fans who competed to appear as the wedding guests (aired during the 2011 Britain’s I’ve Got Talent competition.) 

Lavinia Currier Bio:

Lavinia Currier is a film director, screen writer, producer and environmentalist with a diverse interest in the interplay of the arts and ecology.  She studied poetry at Harvard University with Professor Robert Fitzgerald, the renowned translator of Greek classics, and then acting with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.  While absorbing Meisner’s groundbreaking approach of "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances,"     Currier served as production assistant to director James Ivory for his film Jane Austen in Manhattan.  This assignment led to Ivory, and his partners Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala becoming mentors both for their art and their remarkable working relationships.

Her first formal directing was staging liturgical and passion plays at New York’s Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in collaboration with John–Michael Tebelak, the award-winning writer of the musical Godspell.  Then in Paris, Currier directed and acted in American plays in English at a theatre that her Harvard classmate founded in a building inherited from her great aunt Isadora Duncan. 

Currier wrote, directed and filmed her first feature Heart of the Garden at her family farm in Virginia.  The production, shot by cinematographer Edward Lachman, included a sound track featuring her Harvard classmate cellist Yo Yo Ma, playing Bach underneath a tree.    This professional debut won a 1985 Gold Eagle Cine award in the entertainment category. 

Her first full-length feature, Passion in the Desert (1997), was inspired by Honore de Balzac’s novella about a French army officer in Napoleon’s 1798 invasion of Egypt, played by award-winning actor Ben Daniels. Lost and alone in the Saharan desert after Muslim warriors attack, the soldier finds himself in a mysterious relationship with a female leopard that has saved his life.   Currier developed her now signature style of evoking vivid atmospheres and bringing the landscape alive in equal importance with the human characters. Following years of scouting and preparation, she filmed the actors in Jordan, and shot the dangerous and often unhappy leopards in Moab, Utah the following summer. A defining point in gaining confidence as a director came when the leopard cubs, that a trainer purchased and raised for the role, refused to cooperate.  Her intuitive problem-solving that managed to complete the film also taught her a more flowing and receptive approach.  The feature received special recognition for excellence in film-making from the National Board of Review and was widely acclaimed in Europe and the United States. Subsequently, she wrote and directed “Beautiful Swimmer,” a fable about the Chesapeake Bay. 

In 2004, Currier moved with her family to Italy to work with Tonino Guerra, the legendary Italian screenwriter who collaborated with many of the world’s leading film directors, including Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Andrei Tarkovsky.   They together produced a screen play, The Butterfly Seller, based on true experiences of Abkhazia refugees camped in an abandoned luxury hotel in the Democratic Republic of Georgia.  The plot centers on a young girl surviving life in a crumbling building packed with families, drug dealers and Mafia.  As Currier scouted locations with Russian cinematographer Aleksei Rodionov during the aftermath of Georgia’s “Rose Revolution,” the government’s abrupt ban on foreign cameras halted the project. 

Currier turned instead to a story inspired by renowned ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno and the Bayaka pygmies whom she had encountered on her first trip to the Central Africa Republic (CAR) as a World Wildlife Fund board member.    She retrieved Sarno’s unpublished memoir from his mother’s New Jersey home and together they created the film script for Oka! Amerikee, an evocative fable set in the tropical forests of the Congo River basin. Spurred by memories of her Georgia shutdown, Currier defied last-minute political and civil conflicts that made few actors willing to film in the remote Dzanga Sangha forest reserve in southwestern CAR.   In 2009, her cast and crew survived two months in a jungle tent camp during rainy season besieged by poisonous snakes, insects, illness, muddy roads and unhappy government officials who three times closed down production of only the second film ever shot in the CAR.   The film’s captivating wildlife images include a scene Currier directed with wild elephants and actors in a natural forest clearing with support from the prominent elephant researcher Andrea Tarkalo.  

In both her full-length features, Currier explores a central male figure confronting the powers of nature outside the moorings of his own culture.   Her Oka! character Larry Whitman, inspired by Sarno, is a tall man in a world made for short people carrying recording equipment among forest people famous for their incredibly acute hearing.  She directed the Bayaka in their acting debuts by appealing to their sensitive emotional natures and skillfully engaging them in the storytelling so her cast never disappeared back into the forest before the finish.  The first cut of Oka! Amerikee screened at the 2010 Telluride film festival, and the final cut premiered at the 2011 Washington DC Environmental Film Festival.   

Lavinia Currier continues her philanthropic work in support of environmental initiatives.  Her support of Tibetan refugees earned the International Campaign for Tibet’s Light of Truth Award presented by the Dalai Lama.  She is executive producer of the acclaimed documentary film The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom (2010).    Her film company is Roland Film Productions.

Louis Sarno Bio:

Louis Sarno is an acclaimed ethnomusicologist born in New Jersey in 1954 who now lives in the Dzanga Sangha Dense Forest Reserve in southwestern Central African Republic (CAR).    Drawn to the heart of Africa by pygmy music he heard on the radio while traveling in Europe,   Louis made his first journey to the CAR in the 1980’s  with little more than a plane ticket, some recording equipment, insufficient cash and untested notions about pygmy life.  His trip was also inspired by Colin Turnbull’s classic The Forest People and an encouraging correspondence with the famed anthropologist.  

Sarno has now lived with the Bayaka pygmies for over twenty-five years as a welcome member of a cooperative community.  He has married a Bayaka woman, adopted two children,   suffered life threatening diseases and witnessed the struggles and even deaths of many of his African friends.   His committed presence has earned their trust to record songs and rituals previously unheard by western ears.  He calls this music that is older than the pyramids “one of the hidden glories of humanity.”  He is convinced that their music’s  intricacy and profound emotional content represents one of the world’s most significant cultural traditions.  

Sarno’s published works include the acclaimed Song from the Forest: My Life Among the Ba-Benjelle Pygmies (1993) and a book and compact disc collection called The Extraordinary Music of the Ba-Benzele Pygmies (1995)His unpublished memoir,   Thoughts Before Vanishing from the Face of the Earth, inspired the film Oka! Amerikee and its lead character Larry Whitman.