Music of Africa


Music of Africa
The lamellophone thumb piano or mbira, a popular instrument in southeastern Africa.

Africa is a vast continent and its regions and nations have distinct musical traditions. The music of North Africa for the most part has a different history from sub-Saharan African music traditions.[1]

The music and dance forms of the African diaspora, includes African-American music and many Caribbean genres like soca, calypso and zouk. Latin American music genres like the samba, 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.

Contents

North African music

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

Geo-political map of Africa divided for ethnomusicological purposes, after Alan P. Merriam, 1959.

The ethnomusicological pioneer Arthur Morris Jones (1889–1980) observed that the shared rhythmic principles of Sub-Saharan African music traditions constitute one main system.[2] Similarly, master drummer and scholar C.K. Ladzekpo affirms the profound homogeneity of sub-Saharan African rhythmic principles.[3]

African traditional music is frequently functional in nature. Performances may be long and often involve the participation of the audience.[4] 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.

Musicologically, Sub-Saharan Africa may be divided into four regions;

Southern, Central and West Africa are similarly in the broad Sub-Saharan musical tradition, but draw their ancillary influences primarily from Western Europe and North America.

Musical instruments

The talking drum or tama, a popular instrument in West Africa.

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 kinds 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, Africa has lots of other types of drums, and lots of flutes, and lots of stringed and wind instruments.

Relationship to language

Many languages spoken in Africa are tonal languages, leading to a close connection between music and language in some local cultures. These particular communities use vocal sounds and movements with their music as well. 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).[5]

Influences on African music

Historically, several factors have influenced the tribal music of Africa. The music has been influenced by language, the environment, a variety of cultures, politics, and population movement, all of which are intermingled. 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 other societies did. Each tribe moved at different rates and to different places than others, and thus each was influenced by different people and circumstances. Furthermore, each society did not necessarily operate under the same government, which also significantly influenced their music styles.[6]

Influence on North American 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.[7]

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.

Certain Sub-Saharan African musical traditions also had a significant influence on such well-known works 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.[8][9]

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 and rhythm and blues. Likewise, African popular music has adopted elements, particularly the musical instruments and recording studio techniques of western music.[10]

The Afro-Euro hybrid style, the Cuban son, has had an influence on certain popular music in Africa. Some of the first guitar bands on the continent played covers of Cuban songs.[11] 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.

See also

References

  1. ^ GCSE Music - Edexcel Areas of Study, Coordination Group Publications, UK, 2006, page 34, quoting examination board syllabus.
  2. ^ Jones, A.M. (1959). Studies in African Music. London: Oxford University Press. 1978 edition: ISBN 0-19-713512-9.
  3. ^ Ladzekpo, C.K. (1996). Cultural Understanding of Polyrhythm. http://home.comcast.net/~dzinyaladzekpo/PrinciplesFr.html.
  4. ^ GCSE Music - Edexcel Areas of Study, Coordination Group Publications, UK, 2006, page 36.
  5. ^ GCSE Music - Edexcel Areas of Study, Coordination Group Publications, UK, 2006, page 35, quoting examination board syllabus.
  6. ^ Nketia, J.H. Kwabena. The Music of Africa. New York: Norton and Company, 1974. Print.
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ "The Characters." Lion King Pride. 2008. Disney, 1997-2008. Web. 01 February, 2010.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Scaruffi, Piero (2007). A History of Popular Music before Rock Music. ISBN 978-0-9765531-2-0
  11. ^ Roberts, John Storm (1986: cassette) Afro-Cuban Comes Home: The Birth and Growth of Congo Music, Original Music.

External links

Department of Music And Musicology


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