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Music of Africa 1

Music of Africa
Africa is a vast continent and its regions and nations
have distinct musical traditions. Most importantly,
the music of north Africa (red region on map) has a
different history from that of Sub-Saharan African
• North Africa is the seat of the Mediterranean
culture that built =Egypt and Carthage before
being ruled successively by Greeks, Romans and
Goths and then becoming the Maghreb of the
Arab world. Like the musical genres of the Nile
Valley and the Horn of Africa (sky-blue and dark
green region on map), its music has close ties
with Middle Eastern music.

• East Africa and the offshore islands in the Indian

Ocean (light green regions on map) have been
slightly influenced by Arabic music and also by Geo-political map of Africa divided for ethnomusicological purposes,
the music of India, Indonesia and Polynesia. after Alan P. Merriam, 1959.

However, the region's indigenous musical

traditions are primarily in the mainstream of the sub-Saharan Niger Congo-speaking peoples.

• Southern, Central and West Africa (brown, dark blue and yellow regions on map) are similarly in the broad
sub-Saharan musical tradition, but draw their ancillary influences from Western Europe and North America. The
music and dance forms of the African diaspora, including African American music and many Caribbean genres
like soca, calypso and Zouk; and Latin American music genres like the rumba, salsa; and other clave
(rhythm)-based genres, were founded to varying degrees on the music of African slaves, which has in turn
influenced African popular music.

North African music

The music of North Africa has a considerable range, from the music of ancient Egypt to the Berber and the Tuareg
music of the desert nomads. The region's art music has for centuries followed the outline of Arab and Andalusian
classical music: its popular contemporary genres include the Algerian Raï. For further details see: Music of Egypt,
Music of Libya, Music of Tunisia, Music of Algeria, Music of Morocco and Music of Mauritania.
With these may be grouped the music of Sudan and of the Horn of Africa, including the music of Eritrea, Ethiopia,
Djibouti and Somalia.

Sub-Saharan music
African traditional music is frequently functional in nature. Performances may be long and often involve the
participation of the audience.[2] There are, for example, little different kinds of work songs, songs accompanying
childbirth, marriage, hunting and political activities, music to ward off evil spirits and to pay respects to good spirits,
the dead and the ancestors. None of this is performed outside its intended social context and much of it is associated
with a particular dance. Some of it, performed by professional musicians, is sacral music or ceremonial and courtly
music performed at royal courts.
Music of Africa 2

Sub-Saharan rhythm
The ethnomusicological pioneer Arthur Morris Jones (1889–1980) observed that the shared rhythmic principles of
Sub-Saharan African music traditions constitute one main system.[3] Similarly, master drummer and scholar C.K.
Ladzekpo affirms the profound homogeneity of sub-Saharan African rhythmic principles.[4]
Polyrhythm is the joining of two or more rhythms. The regular and systematic superimposition of cross-beats
over main beats creates a specific sub-set of polyrhythm called cross-rhythm.
From the philosophical perspective of the African musician, cross-beats can symbolize the challenging
moments or emotional stress we all encounter. Playing cross-beats while fully grounded in the main beats,
prepares one for maintaining a life-purpose while dealing with life’s challenges. Many sub-Saharan languages
do not have a word for rhythm, or even music. From the African viewpoint, the rhythms represent the very
fabric of life itself; they are an embodiment of the people, symbolizing interdependence in human
relationships.—Peñalosa (2009: 21)[5]
Cross-rhythm is the basis for much of the music of the Niger-Congo peoples, the largest linguistic group in Africa
south of the Sahara Desert. Cross-rhythm was first explained as the basis of sub-Saharan rhythm in lectures by C.K.
Ladzekpo and the writings of David Locke.
Cross-rhythm pervades southern Ewe music.—Locke (1982: 231)[6]
At the center of a core of rhythmic traditions within which the composer conveys his ideas is the technique of
cross-rhythm. The technique of cross-rhythm is a simultaneous use of contrasting rhythmic patterns within the
same scheme of accents or meter. . .
By the nature of the desired resultant rhythm, the normal beat scheme cannot be separated from the secondary
beat scheme. It is the interplay of the two elements that produces the cross-rhythmic texture."—Ladzekpo
The cross-rhythm three-over-two (3:2), hemiola, is the most significant rhythmic ratio found in sub-Saharan rhythm.
. . .the 3:2 relationship (and [its] permutations) is the foundation of most typical polyrhythmic textures
found in West African musics.— Novotney (1998: 201)[8]
3:2 is the generative or theoretic form of sub-Saharan rhythmic principles. Victor Kofi Agawu states very succinctly:
[T]he resultant [3:2] rhythm holds the key to understanding... there is no independence here, because 2
and 3 belong to a single Gestalt.—Agawu (2003: 92)[9]
Key Patterns
Musics organized around key patterns [also known as bell patterns, timeline patterns, guide patterns and
phrasing referents] convey a two-celled (binary) structure, a complex level of African
cross-rhythm.—Peñalosa (2009: 53)[10]
[Key patterns] express the rhythm’s organizing principle, defining rhythmic structure, as scales or tonal modes
define harmonic structure. . . Put simply, key patterns epitomize the complete rhythmic matrix.
Key patterns are typically clapped or played on idiophones, for example a bell, a piece of bamboo [or wooden
claves in Cuban music]. In some ensembles, such as iyesá and batá drums, a key pattern may be played on a
high-pitched drumhead.— Peñalosa (2009: 51)[11]
Gerhard Kubik. . .claims that a timeline [key] pattern 'represents' the structural core of a musical piece,
something like a condensed and extremely concentrated expression of the motional possibilities open to
the participants (musicians and dancers).— Agawu (200-6: 1)[12]
At the broadest level, the African asymmetrical timeline patterns are all interrelated….— Kubik (1999:
Music of Africa 3

The Standard Pattern

The most commonly used key pattern in sub-Saharan Africa is the seven-stroke figure known in ethnomusicology as
the standard pattern.[14] The standard pattern is expressed in both a triple-pulse (12/8 or 6/8) and duple-pulse (4/4 or
2/2) structure.[11]

Musically Africa may be divided into four regions

• The eastern region includes the music of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and
Zimbabwe as well as the islands of Madagascar, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Comor.
• The southern region includes the music of South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia and Angola.
• The central region includes the music of Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the
Congo and Zambia, including Pygmy music.
• The western region includes the music of Senegal and the Gambia, of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone
and Liberia, of the inland plains of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the coastal nations of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana,
Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo as well as islands such as Sao Tome and
Principe. Snare drums were made in Africa

Musical instruments
Besides using the voice, which has been developed to use various techniques such as complex hard melisma and
yodel, a wide array of musical instruments are used. African musical instruments include a wide range of drums, slit
gongs, rattles, double bells as well as melodic instruments like string instruments, (musical bows, different types of
harps and harp-like instruments such as the Kora as well as fiddles), many types of xylophone and lamellophone like
the mbira, and different types of wind instrument like flutes and trumpets.
Drums used in African traditional music include talking drums, bougarabou and djembe in West Africa, water drums
in Central and West Africa, and the different types of ngoma drums (or engoma) in Central and Southern Africa.
Other percussion instruments include many rattles and shakers, such as the kosika, rain stick, bells and wood sticks.
Also has lots of other types of drums, and lots of flutes, and lots of stringed instruments, and blowing instruments.
Many modern instruments, such as flute, double reed, trumpet-type horns, stringed instruments and percussion of all
kinds can trace their origin to Africa.

Relationship to language
African languages are tonal languages leading to a close connection between music and language in many African
cultures. In singing, the tonal pattern or the text puts some constraints on the melodic patterns. On the other hand, in
instrumental music a native speaker of a language can often perceive a text or texts in the music. This effect also
forms the basis of drum languages (talking drums).[15]

Influences on African Music

Historically, several factors have influenced the tribal music of Africa: the environment, various cultures, politics,
and population movement. All of these factors essentially go hand in hand. Each African tribe evolved in a different
area of the continent, which means that they ate different foods, faced different weather conditions, and came in
contact with different tribes than the other societies did. Each tribe moved at different rates and to different places
than the others, and thus they were influenced by different people and circumstances. Furthermore, each society did
not necessarily operate under the same government, which also significantly influenced their music styles.[16]
Music of Africa 4

Popular music
African popular music, like African traditional music, is vast and varied. Most contemporary genres of African
popular music build on cross-pollination with western popular music. Many genres of popular music like blues, jazz
and rumba derive to varying degrees from musical traditions from Africa, taken to the Americas by African slaves.
These rhythms and sounds have subsequently been adapted by newer genres like rock, rhythm and blues. Likewise,
African popular music has adopted elements, particularly the musical instruments and recording studio techniques of
western music.[17]
The appealing Afro-Euro hybrid the Cuban son (music) influenced popular music in Africa. The first African guitar
bands played Cuban covers.[18] The early guitar-based bands from the Congo called their music rumba (although it
was son rather than rumba-based). The Congolese style eventually evolved into what became known as soukous.

Influence on North African music

African music has been a major factor in the shaping of what we know today as blues and jazz. These styles have all
borrowed from African rhythms and sounds, brought over the Atlantic ocean by slaves. On his album Graceland, the
American folk musician Paul Simon employs African bands, rhythms and melodies, especially Ladysmith Black
Mambazo, as a musical backdrop for his own lyrics. In the early 1970's, Remi Kabaka, an Afro-rock avant-garde
drummer, laid the initial drum patterns that created the Afro-rock sounds in bands such as Ginger Baker's Airforce,
the Rolling Stones, and Steve Winwood's Traffic. He continued to work with Winwood, Paul McCartney, and Mick
Jagger throughout the decade.[19]
As the rise of rock'n'roll music is often credited as having begun with 1940s American blues, and with so many
genres having branched off from rock - the myriad subgenres of heavy metal, punk rock, pop music and many more -
it can be argued that African music has been at the root of a very significant portion of all recent popular or
vernacular music.
African music has also had a significant impact on such well-known pieces of work as Disney's The Lion King and
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, which blend traditional tribal music with modern culture. Songs such as Circle of
Life and He Lives in You blend a combination of Zulu and English lyrics, as well as traditional African styles of
music with more modern western styles. Additionally, the Disney classic incorporates numerous words from the
Bantu Swahili language. The phrase "hakuna matata," for example, is an actual Swahili phrase that does in fact mean
"no worries." Characters such as Simba, Kovu, and Zira are also Swahili words which mean "Lion," "scar," and
"hate," respectively.[20] [21]

[1] GCSE Music - Edexcel Areas of Study, Coordination Group Publications, UK, 2006, page 34, quoting examination board syllabus.
[2] GCSE Music - Edexcel Areas of Study, Coordination Group Publications, UK, 2006, page 36.
[3] Jones, A.M. (1959). Studies in African Music. London: Oxford University Press. 1978 edition: ISBN 0-19-713512-9.
[4] Ladzekpo, C.K. (1996). Cultural Understanding of Polyrhythm. http:/ / home. comcast. net/ ~dzinyaladzekpo/ PrinciplesFr. html.
[5] Peñalosa, David (2009: 21). The Clave Matrix; Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins. Redway, CA: Bembe Inc. ISBN
[6] Locke, David (1982). "Principles of Off-Beat Timing and Cross-Rhythm in Southern Ewe Dance Drumming” Society for Ethnomusicology
Journal Nov. 11.
[7] Ladzekpo, C.K. (1995: webpage). "The Myth of Cross-Rhythm" (https:/ / home. comcast. net/ ~dzinyaladzekpo/ Myth. html), Foundation
Course in African Dance-Drumming.
[8] Novotney, Eugene D. (1998). "The Three Against Two Relationship as the Foundation of Timelines in West African Musics" (http:/ / www.
unlockingclave. com/ 3-2-thesis-abstract. html), Urbana, IL: University of Illinois.
[9] Agawu, Kofi (2003: 92). Representing African Music: Postcolonial Notes, Queries, Positions New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-94390-6.
[10] Peñalosa (2009: 53).
[11] Peñalosa (2009: 51).
[12] Agawu, Kofi (2006: 1-46). “Structural Analysis or Cultural Analysis? Comparing Perspectives on the ‘Standard Pattern’ of West African
Rhythm” Journal of the American Musicological Society v. 59, n. 1.
Music of Africa 5

[13] Kubik, Gerhard (1999: 54). Africa and the Blues. Jackson, MI: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 0-4-415-94390-6.
[14] Jones, A.M. (1959: 210-213). King, Anthony (1960). “The Employment of the Standard Pattern in Yoruba Music” American Music Society
[15] GCSE Music - Edexcel Areas of Study, Coordination Group Publications, UK, 2006, page 35, quoting examination board syllabus.
[16] Nketia, J.H. Kwabena. The Music of Africa. New York: Norton and Company, 1974. Print.
[17] Scaruffi, Piero (2007). A History of Popular Music before Rock Music. ISBN 978-0-9765531-2-0
[18] Roberts, John Storm (1986: cassette) Afro-Cuban Comes Home: The Birth and Growth of Congo Music, Original Music.
[19] Azam, O.A. (1993). The recent influence of African Music on the American music scene and music market http:/ / azam. org/ archives/
geocities/ www. geocities. com/ omarazam/ papers/ afrMusic. htm
[20] "The Characters." Lion King Pride. 2008. Disney, 1997-2008. Web. 01 February, 2010.
[21] http:/ / www. lionking. org/ ~tlkpride/ charact. html

External links
• African Music (
• Glossary of African music styles (
• International Library of African Music (
at Rhodes University
• ( Mapouka and other African genres
• Radio Kriola ( - traditonal and modern african and creole music
Department of Music And Musicology
• Rhythms of the Continent ( from the
• Historical Notes on African Melodies (
• Music of Africa ( at the Open
Directory Project
Article Sources and Contributors 6

Article Sources and Contributors

Music of Africa  Source:  Contributors: A8UDI, Academic Challenger, Addihockey10, Afluent Rider, Africanmusic, Africanotic,
Afrobeatmusic, Ahoerstemeier, Aiken drum, Allen3, AlphaEta, Amcaja, Anak 1, Anaxial, Anetode, Animum, Ankimai, Anna512, Antandrus, Auntof6, AzaToth, BRUTE, Baa, Babano123,
Bassbonerocks, Bealeyboy25, Belovedfreak, Black Falcon, Bluemoose, BoH, Bobo192, BoomerAB, Brianga, C+C, Calvin 1998, CapitalR, Carcharoth, Carl.bunderson, Carlossuarez46,
Chasingsol, Chriswiki, Circeus, Codetiger, Collincentre, CrimsonEye, Crohnie, Cyberdiablo, DARTH SIDIOUS 2, Danski14, Darklilac, Debresser, Deconstructhis, Delldot, Deor, DiiCinta,
Discospinster, Djkidalex, Dogru144, Dr clave, Dulcem, E2eamon, Eagleridge, Ejosse1, Enti342, Enviroboy, Epbr123, Eric-Wester, Erick880, Ezeu, Fangjian, FayssalF, Firehazard07,
Flatterworld, Frankenpuppy, FstrthnU, Gadfium, Gdr, Geneb1955, Gilliam, Gogo Dodo, Graham87, Greenaz, Greenhausfilms, Grm wnr, Gurch, Gyrofrog, HaeB, HalfShadow, Hbent, Hyacinth,
IRP, ImperatorExercitus, Insanity Incarnate, Iridescent, Isotope23, Itain'tsobad, Ixfd64, J.delanoy, Jaydeedoubleyou, Joannaguy, John, John of Reading, JonnyBoy92, Jovty11, Jpeeling, Jrchitenje,
Jujimufu, JuneGloom07, Jusdafax, Juzzeth, Karenjc, Karuba, Katiker, Kelomees, Khoikhoi, Klausness, Koavf, LBM, LaMenta3, Lagringa, Landon1980, Laromusic, Leafever, Ligulem, Mais2,
Majorly, Malcolmo, Malidirect, Mandojack, Marek69, Mentifisto, Michiv, Middayexpress, Mike Rosoft, Mirage5000, Mo-Al, Musicman378, Mygerardromance, Nannus, Natalie Erin, Netalarm,
Netaustin, Netoholic, Never621, NewEnglandYankee, Noosentaal, Nubiatech, Ohnoitsjamie, Oliisdaug1, Omni 98, Overtone1, OwenX, PGWG, Paddles, Phantomsteve, Picaroon, Pilotguy,
Ponies, Ppntori, Pteron, PÆon, QuiteBeautifulReally, Qxz, R'n'B, RadioFan, RadioFan2 (usurped), Reconsider the static, Redheylin, Rettetast, Revolution is natural, Rexparry sydney, Rflower2,
Rhinocerous Ranger, Rich Farmbrough, Richard Keatinge, Rjwilmsi, RobertG, Rocket71048576, Ronz, Rrburke, Rtyq2, Rubseb, Safari1, Salmar, Santaduck, Shekukal, Shirulashem, Shlomke,
Silverxxx, Sjakkalle, Skomorokh, Sluzzelin, Snailwalker, Snowolf, SoWhy, Soosed, Sophweirich, SpaceFlight89, Spartan-James, Spellcast, Squid65799, Stefaun, Sunderland06, TUF-KAT,
TeaDrinker, Tempodivalse, Teteo Toure, The Enslaver, TheAckademie, Tiddly Tom, Tide rolls, Tohd8BohaithuGh1, Tommy2010, Trotter, Uncle Milty, Virago, Vsmith, WarthogDemon,
Wasner, Where, Wicca 2010, WikHead, Wikieditor06, Wikiklrsc, WikipedianMarlith, Wikipelli, Willking1979, Woohookitty, Wrp103, XxJayZ894xX, Yowuza, Yuetyanli, Zazaban, Zephyr-efc,
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Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors

Image:Afrika MO.jpg  Source:  License: Public Domain  Contributors: Original uploader was MatthiasMaterné at nl.wikipedia

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