Marius-Billy.jpg

Marius Billy, Founder of Afrique Profonde, is a musician, ethnomusicologist and human rights activist from the village of Ingoumina in the interior of Congo-Brazzaville.  His vision is to see the survival of Pygmies in Central Africa as discrete and sovereign cultural groups.

After graduating in 1993 with a degree in psychology from the University of Brazzaville, Billy had the opportunity to spend two weeks in South Africa.  He witnessed Zulu musicians performing their traditional gospel music, and he perceived that it was well-publicized and well-received in South Africa and the rest of the world.  He saw the need for encouraging people in his own country to follow this example.

In 1993, he began researching the roots of African music, and his journey led him back to the Babongo Pygmies that he had occasionally encountered while growing up in a Swedish missionary village. In 1996, Billy collaborated with the US Cultural Center in Brazzaville to organize a cultural exchange exhibition.  During the exhibition, he played traditional instruments and performed with Pharaoh Sanders, a prominent African-American saxophonist.  Sanders, who played and recorded with John Coltrane and many other jazz greats, expressed to Billy his interest in Pygmy music.  Although Sanders was unable to meet any Pygmies because of the difficulty in reaching them in the deep forest, the conversation left a strong impression in Billy’s mind.  He continued to research the Pygmies' music more seriously on his own.  What he found was a culture that was dying, and a group of marginalized people living in servitude to Bantu landowners.  One of the Pygmy elders that taught Marius about the traditions of the Pygmy, charged him with saving what remained of their dying culture.  Marius has worked since 1998 to develop an organization that would help bridge the communication between the governments, NGOs, and international community that could be helpful to securing the human rights of the Babongo Pygmies and other groups in similar situations in Central Africa. 

Afrique Profonde is now registered in Sweden as a nonprofit organization.  In addition to a Masters in Museology at Umeå University, Sweden, Marius Billy is currently working on a project to connect the Sami, an indigenous group in northern Scandanavia, with the Pygmies he knows in Congo using satellite video technology.  The aim is for the groups to help each other share best practices and draw international attention and aid to the people in his country who need it.