Sound recording roadtrip through Uganda

It had been over a year since I had last been to Africa for sound recording, and it started to itch. I poured over maps, dreamed up plans, made a few half starts and eventually settled on visiting Uganda for a three weeks field recording trip. I wanted to experience the same freedom as in 2015, when I drove through and camped in Botswana and Namibia, recording whenever I could.

Why choose Uganda? It is a relatively small country that with its great variety of nature is almost a miniature sub-Saharan Africa, offering dense rainforests, expansive grassland savannas and spectacular mountain ranges. It is a top African birding destination, and right now the best country to see mountain gorillas in the wild.

And while not exactly cheap, Uganda is relatively affordable yet not as touristy as neighbouring countries Kenya and Tanzania. So the question to me quickly became: why not choose Uganda?

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Recording lions and chimps in Spain

Spain isn’t precisely the first country that would jump to mind when thinking of big cats and great apes, but nevertheless I recently went there to get some high quality, close up recordings of lions and chimpanzees. I was given permission to spend a day at the most excellent wildlife refuge centre Primadomus, the Spanish headquarters of the Dutch foundation Stichting AAP. AAP/Primadomus rescue animals, in particular primates and big cats, rehabilitate them and either find them a new home or let them live out their days at AAP/Primadomus’s generous facilities.

I normally try to record animals in their natural environment, in the wild so to speak. I think there are a lot of unique calls and interactions that can only be observed and recorded that way. But the flip side of recording in the wild is that unpredictability is huge, so you need a lot of time and a healthy dose of calculated luck. Being granted permission to spend a day in close proximity to species as vocal as chimpanzees and lions was a great way for me to get some recordings I would otherwise struggle to get.

One of the two generously sized chimp enclosures. There are also separate areas for other primates, and the big cats.

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SONIC MMABOLELA – a report for fellow sound designers/recordists

When I first read about Sonic Mmabolela, I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to partake in. A two week sound recording workshop/residency held at a private game reserve in South Africa, rented out in its entirety for the sole purpose of recording and thus promising minimal outside interference – it’s a field recordist’s dream come true. And further reading of its description, plus the fact that it is organised by renowned sound artists Francisco Lopez and Barbara Ellison, promised that this was going to be thematically quite different from other recording workshops out there, which tend to focus a lot on the technical side of things.

Pictures from a previous year of Sonic Mmabolela

I had many reasons to join up, but chief among them were a longing to go back to the African continent for more sound recording, and a growing interest in sound art. I was curious to learn from people who work as independent sonic artists and perhaps find a new outlet for my love of recording sounds of the natural environment and its wildlife.

All that being said, the biggest draw was simply to go out and spend two weeks of non-stop recording in the bush. If nothing else, perhaps I could gather enough material to release another African wildlife themed library. And so it happened that I found myself at the end of November of 2016 as one of the participants in that year’s Sonic Mmabolela.

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