Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Peter Gabriel jams with Ape Trust's Bonobos

It made perfect sense for musician Peter Gabriel, a big fan of experimental and world music, to jam with two bonobos at an Atlanta ape-language research center several years ago.

Those two bonobos, Panbanisha and Kanzi, are among eight moving to the Great Ape Trust of Iowa in Des Moines. On Monday, Panbanisha, 19, and her sons, Nyota, 7, and Nathan, 4, arrived in Des Moines after a 20-hour van ride from Georgia.

The bonobos became excited when they saw their sprawling new home in southeast Des Moines, said Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, the trust's lead bonobo scientist. Savage-Rumbaugh has spent weeks preparing the apes for the move from a Georgia State University research center.

Five more bonobos will arrive from the Atlanta center in early May.

Savage-Rumbaugh and an international team of collaborating scientists will study the apes' communication, memory and forgiveness behaviors, among other things.

Gabriel said in a telephone interview last week that he has no doubt the bonobos have a sense of music and composition. He hopes to visit them in Des Moines to continue pursuing his curiosity about ape-language research.

"In my mind, there is no question that they responded with great musicality and responded musically," said Gabriel, a co-founder of the rock group Genesis. "When I play the tape to other musicians, they are just amazed."

In a video that has not been made public because of copyright issues, Gabriel and his band interacted musically with the bonobos; each ape got a turn to play a keyboard along with music Gabriel was playing from an adjoining room.

A Register reporter viewed the video last week. Panbanisha appeared to carefully pick notes one at a time with both index fingers. Kanzi seemed more interested in rhythm. Both kept time well.

"I was always interested in the reports of apes learning our language," said Gabriel, who called bonobo researcher Savage-Rumbaugh and asked to visit her project at Georgia State. "She said, 'Come on down!' " said Gabriel, who lives in England.


Story here.

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