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Africanmusic traditions exhibit so many common features that they may in some respects be thought of as constituting a single musical system. While some African music is clearly contemporary-popular music and some is art-music, still a great deal is communal and orally transmitted while still qualifying as a religious or courtly genre.
Music and dance in African societies
Drumming and dancing at Dakawa, Morogoro, Tanzania
In many parts of Africa the use of music is not limited to entertainment: it serves a purpose to the local community and helps in the conduct of daily routines. Traditional African music supplies appropriate music and dance for work and for religious ceremonies of birth, naming, rites of passage, marriage and funerals. The beats and sounds of the drum are used in communication as well as in cultural expression.
African dances are largely participatory: there are traditionally no barriers between dancers and onlookers except with regard to spiritual, religious and initiation dances. Even ritual dances often have a time when spectators participate. Dances help people work, mature, praise or criticize members of the community, celebrate festivals and funerals, compete, recite history, proverbs and poetry and encounter gods. They inculcate social patterns and values. Many dances are performed by only males or females. Dances are often segregated by gender, reinforcing gender roles in children. Community structures such as kinship, age, and status are also often reinforced. To share rhythm is to form a group consciousness, to entrain with one another, to be part of the collective rhythm of life to which all are invited to contribute.
African ethnic groups
Yoruba dancers and drummers, for instance, express communal desires, values, and collective creativity. The drumming represents an underlying linguistic text that guides the dancing performance, allowing linguistic meaning to be expressed non-verbally. The spontaneity of these performances should not be confused with an improvisation that emphasizes the individual ego. The drummer's primary duty is to preserve the community. Master dancers and drummers are particular about the learning of the dance exactly as taught. Children must learn the dance exactly as taught without variation. Improvisation or a new variation comes only after mastering the dance, performing, and receiving the appreciation of spectators and the sanction of village elders.
The music of the Luo, for another example, is functional, used for ceremonial, religious, political or incidental purposes, during funerals (Tero buru) to praise the departed, to console the bereaved, to keep people awake at night, to express pain and agony and during cleansing and chasing away of spirits, during beer parties (Dudu, ohangla dance), welcoming back the warriors from a war, during a wrestling match (Ramogi), during courtship, in rain making and during divination and healing. Work songs are performed both during communal work like building, weeding, etc. and individual work like pounding of cereals, winnowing.
Geo-political map of Africa divided for ethnomusicological purposes, after Merriam, 1959.
Alan P. Merriam divided Africa into seven regions for ethnomusicological purposes, observing current political frontiers (see map), and this article follows this division as far as possible in surveying the music of ethnic groups in Africa.
The music of Sudan(turquoise on the map) indicates the difficulty of dividing music traditions according to state frontiers. The musicology of Sudan involves some 133 language communities. that speak over 400 dialects, Afro-Asian, Nilotic and Niger-Congo.
The SenegambianFula have migrated as far as Sudan at various times, often speaking Arabic as well as their own language. The Hausa people, who speak a language related to Ancient Egyptian and Biblical Hebrew, have moved in the opposite direction. Further west the Berber music of the Tuareg has penetrated to Sub-Saharan countries. These are included in the Western region, but the music of Sub-Saharan herders and nomads is heard from west to east.
Western, central, eastern and southern territories
Saharan trade routes circa 1400
These remaining four regions are most associated with Sub-Saharan African music: familiar African musical elements such as the use of cross-beat and vocal harmony may be found all over all four regions, as may be some instruments such as the iron bell. This is largely due to the expansion of the Niger-Congo-speaking people that began around 1500 BC: the last phases of expansion were 0-1000 AD. Only a few scattered languages in this great area cannot readily be associated with the Niger-Congo language family. However two significant non-Bantu musical traditions, the Pygmy music of the Congo jungle and that of the bushmen of the Kalahari, do much to define the music of the central region and of the southern region respectively.
Inland and coastal languages are only distantly related. While the north, with its griot traditions, makes great use of stringed instruments and xylophones, the south relies much more upon drum sets and communal singing.
The Malian kora harp-lute is perhaps the most sophisticated of Africa's stringed instruments
The originally nomadic/pastoral Senegambian Fula people or Tukulor represent 40% of the population of Guinea and have spread to surrounding states and as far as Sudan in the east. In the 19th century they overthrew the Hausa and established the Sokoto Caliphate. The Fula play a variety of traditional instruments including drums, the hoddu (xalam), a plucked skin-covered lute similar to a banjo, and riti or riiti (a one-string bowed instrument similar to a violin), in addition to their vocal music. They also use end-blown bamboo flutes. Their griots are known as gawlo.
Mande music: the music of Mali is dominated by forms derived from the Mande Empire Their musicians, professional performers called jeliw (sing. jeli, French griot), have produced popular alongside traditional music. Mande languages include Mandinka, Soninke, Bambara, Bissa, Dioula, Kagoro, Bozo, Mende, Susu, Vai and Ligbi: there are populations in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Liberia and, mainly in the northern inland regions, in the south coast states of Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.
Jola man at Boucotte in Casamance (Sénégal) playing the akonting
In Senegal, The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau the Jola are notable for their stringed instrument the akonting, a precursor of the banjo while the Balanta people, the largest ethnic group of Guinea-Bissau, play a similar gourd lute instrument called a kusunde or kussundé, with a short A#/B drone string at the bottom, a top F# string of middle length and a middle C# string, the longest. Top string stopped gives G#, middle string stopped is D#.
Songhai music, as interpreted by Ali Farka Toure, has gathered international interest for a minor pentatonic lute-and-voice style that is markedly similar to American blues.
A performance group from Burkina Faso based on the balafon
Among Gur-speaking peoples the Dagomba use the lunga talking drum and a bass drum with snares called a gungon, as well as the flute, gonje (goje) and bell. as well as molo (xalam) lute music, also played by Gurunsi peoples such as the Frafra. Similar styles are practised by local Fulani, Hausa, Djerma, Busanga and Ligbi speaking people. Drummers in Dagbon are storytellers, historians, bards of family ancestry who perform at events called sambanlunga.
The Gurunsi, the Lobi, the Wala and the related Dagaaba people of Ghana and Burkina Faso and are known for complex interlocking (double meter) patterns on the xylophone (gyil).
The musical ensemble of the chief of Abetifi (Kwahu people) c. 1890
The Akan people include the Fante, Ashanti, who originated the adowa and kete styles, the Baoulé whose polyphonic music introduced the gbébé rhythm to Ivory Coast, the Nzema people who play the edengole. Akan peoples have complex court music including the atumpan and Ga kpanlogo style, a modernized traditional dance and music form, developed around 1960. Yacub Addy, Obo Addy, and Mustapha Tettey Addy are Ga drummers who have achieved international fame. A huge log xylophone is used in asonko music. The 10-14 string Ghanaian seprewa, midway between the kora and the African harp, is still played but often replaced by guitar. Other styles include; adaha, agbadza, akwete, ashiko and gombe as well as konkomba, mainline, osibisaba and sikyi. Instrumentation includes the aburukawa, apentemma, dawuro and torowa.
Complex polyphonic structures of Baoule singers intoned by Djourou harp.
The related Aja people are native to south-western Benin and south-eastern Togo. Aja living in Abomey mingled with the local tribe, thus creating the Fon or Dahomey ethnic group, now the largest in Benin. Tchinkoumé.
Yoruba music is prominent in the music of Nigeria and in Afro-Latin and Caribbean musical styles. Ensembles using the talking drum play a type of music that is called dundun after the drum, using various sizes of tension drum along with special band drums (ogido). The leader or oniyalu uses the drum to "talk" by imitating the tonality of Yoruba language. Yoruba music traditionally centred on folklore and spiritual/deity worship, utilising basic and natural instruments such as handclaps. Professional musicians were referred to by the derogatory term of Alagbe.
Complex polyrhythms performed by Igbo musicians in Nsukka, Nigeria.
Igbo music informs Highlife and Waka. The drum is the most important musical instrument for the Igbo people, used during celebrations, rites of passage, funerals, war, town meetings and other events, and the pot-drum or udu (means "pot") is their most common and popular drum: a smaller variant is called the kim-kim. Igbo Styles include egwu ota. Other nstruments: obo - ufie - ogene, a flat metal pan used as a bell.
The Central African musicological region and the River Congo upon a satellite photograph showing the African tropical rainforest and desert regions.
The central region of African music is defined by the tropical rain-forests at the heart of the continent. However Chad, the northernmost state, has a considerable subtropical and desert northern region.
The Toubou, who live mainly in the north of Chad around the Tibesti mountains and also in Libya, Niger and Sudan, are semi-nomadic herders, Nilo-Saharan speakers, mostly Muslim, numbering roughly 350,000. Their folk music revolves around men's string instruments like the keleli and women's vocal music.
Bemba people of Zambia. (or 'BaBemba' using the Ba- prefix to mean 'people of', and also called 'Awemba' or 'BaWemba' in the past) belong to a large group of peoples mainly in the Northern, Luapula and Copperbelt Provinces of Zambia who trace their origins to the Luba and Lunda states of the upper Congo basin, in what became Katanga Province in southern Congo-Kinshasa (DRC). There are over 30 Bemba clans, named after animals or natural organisms, such as the royal clan, "the people of the crocodile" (Bena Ng'andu) or the Bena Bowa (Mushroom Clan). The Bemba language (Chibemba) is related to the Bantu languages Kaonde (in Zambia and the DRC), Luba (in the DRC), Nsenga and Tonga (in Zambia), and Nyanja/Chewa (in Zambia and Malawi). It is mainly spoken in the Northern, Luapula and Copperbelt Provinces, and has become the most widely spoken African language in the country, although not always as a first language. Bemba numbered 250,000 in 1963 but a much larger population includes some 'eighteen different ethnic groups' who, together with the Bemba, form a closely related ethno-linguistic cluster of matrilineal-matrifocal agriculturalists known as the Bemba-speaking peoples of Zambia. Instrumentation = babatone - kalela
The Luo peoples inhabit an area that stretches from Southern Sudan and Ethiopia through northern Uganda and eastern Congo (DRC), into western Kenya and Tanzania and include the Shilluk, Acholi, Lango and Joluo (Kenyan and Tanzanian Luo). Luo Benga music derives from the traditional music of the nyatiti lyre: the Luo-speaking Acholi of northern Uganda use the adungu. Rhythms are characterized by syncopation and acrusis. Melodies are lyrical, with vocal ornamentations, especially when the music carries an important message. Songs are call-and-response or solo performances such as chants, recitatives with irregular rhythms and phrases which carried serious messages. Luo dances such as the dudu were introduced by them. A unique characteristic is the introduction of another chant at the middle of a musical performance. The singing stops, the pitch of the musical instruments go down and the dance becomes less vigorous as an individual takes up the performance in self-praise. This is called pakruok. A unique kind of ululation, sigalagala, mainly done by women, marks the climax of the musical performance. Dance styles are elegant and graceful, involving the movement of one leg in the opposite direction to the waist or vigorous shaking of the shoulders, usually to the nyatiti. Adamson (1967) commented that Luos clad in their traditional costumes and ornaments deserve their reputation as the most picturesque people in Kenya. During most of their performances the Luo wore costumes; sisal skirts (owalo), beads (Ombulu / tigo) worn around the neck and waist and red or white clay used by the ladies. The men's costumes included kuodi or chieno, a skin worn from the shoulders or from the waist. Ligisa headgear, shield and spear, reed hats and clubs were made from locally available materials. Luo musical instruments range from percussion (drums, clappers, metal rings, ongeng'o or gara, shakers), nyatiti, a type of lyre; orutu, a type of fiddle), wind (tung' a horn,Asili, a flute, Abu-!, to a specific type of trumpet. In the benga style of music. the guitar (acoustic, later electric) replaced the nyatiti as the string instrument. Benga is played by musicians of many tribes and is no longer considered a purely Luo style.
The Music and dance of the Maasai people used no instruments in the past because as semi-nomadic Nilotic pastoralists instruments were considered too cumbersome to move. Traditional Maasai music is strictly polyphonicvocal music, a group chanting polyphonic rhythms while soloists take turns singing verses. The call and response that follows each verse is called namba. Performances are often competitive and divided by age and gender. The neighbouring Turkana people have maintained their ancient traditions, including call and response music, which is almost entirely vocal. A horn made from the kudu antelope is also played. The Samburu are related to the Maasai, and like them, play almost no instruments except simple pipes and a kind of guitar. There are also erotic songs sung by women praying for rain.
The Kikuyu are one of the largest and most urbanized communities in Kenya. At the Riuki cultural center in Nairobi traditional songs and dances are still performed by local women, including music for initiations, courting, weddings, hunting, and working. The Kikuyu, like their neighbours the Embu and the Meru are believed to have migrated from the Congo Basin. Meru people like the Chuka, who live near Mount Kenya, are known for polyrhythmicpercussion music.
The Buganda are a large southern Ugandan population with well-documented musical traditions. The akadinda, a xylophone, as well as several types of drum, is used in the courtly music of the Kabaka or king. Much of the music is based on playing interlocking ostinato phrases in parallel octaves. Other instruments; engelabi, ennanga or (inanga, a harp), entenga. Dance - baksimba.
The ng'oma drumming of Gogo women of Tanzania and Mozambique, like that of the ngwayi dance of northeastern Zambia, uses "interlocking" or antiphonal rhythms that feature in many Eastern African instrumental styles such as the xylophone music of the Makonde dimbila, the Yao mangolongondo or the Shirima mangwilo, on which the opachera, the initial caller, is responded to by another player, the wakulela.
The Kamba people are known for their complex percussion music and spectacular performances, dances that display athletic skills resemble those of the Tutsi and the Embu. Dances are usually accompanied by songs composed for the occasion and sung on a pentatonic scale. The Akamba also have work songs. Their music is divided into several groups based on age: Kilumi is a dance for mainly elderly women and men performed at healing and rain-making ceremonies,Mbeni for young and acrobatic girls and boys, Mbalya or Ngutha is a dance for young people who meet to entertain themselves after the day's chores are done, Kyaa for the old men and women.Kiveve, Kinze etc. In the Kilumi dance the drummer, usually female, plays sitting on a large mwase drum covered with goatskin at one end and open at the other. The drummer is also the lead singer. Mwali (pl: Myali) is a dance accompanying a song usually made to criticize anti-social behaviour: Mwilu is a circumcision dance.
The Gusii people use an enormous lute called the obokano and the ground bow, made by digging a large hole in the ground, over which an animal skin is pegged. A small hole is cut into the skin and a single string placed across the hole.[dubious – discuss]
The Mijikenda (literally "the nine tribes") are found on the coast of Tanzania, Kenya and Southern Somalia. They have a vibrant folk tradition perhaps due to less influence from Christianmissionaries. Their music is mostly percussion-based and extremely complex. Taarab is a mixture of influences from Arabic, Indian and Mijikenda music found in the coastal regions of Kenya, Zanzibar, Pemba and the islands off East Africa.
Bushmen Also Basarwa, Khoe, Khwe, San, !Kung. The Khoisan (also spelled Khoesaan, Khoesan or Khoe-San) is a unifying name for two ethnic groups of Southern Africa who share physical and putative linguistic characteristics distinct from the Bantu majority of the region, the foragingSan and the pastoralKhoi. The San include the original inhabitants of Southern Africa before the southward Bantu migrations from Central and East Africa reached their region. Khoi pastoralists apparently arrived in Southern Africa shortly before the Bantu. Large Khoi-san populations remain in several arid areas in the region, notably in the Kalahari Desert. Styles= hocket
The Ovambo people number roughly 1,500,000 and consist of a number of kindred groups that inhabit Ovamboland in northern Namibia, forming about half of that state's population, as well as the southernmost Angolan province. Shambo, a traditional dance music, blended Ovambo music previously popularised by folk guitarist Kwela, Kangwe Keenyala, Boetie Simon, Lexington and Meme Nanghili na Shima with a dominant guitar, rhythm guitar, percussion and a heavy "talking" bassline. The Herero, with about 240,000 members, mostly in Namibia, the remainder living in Botswana and Angola speak a similar language, as do the Himba people. Herero people oviritje, also known as konsert, has become popular in Namibia. The Damara are genetically Bantu but speak the "click" language of the bushmen. Ma/gaisa or Damara Punch is a popular dance music genre that derives from their traditional music.
Goonji/Gonjey/Goge - Traditional one stringed-fiddle played by a majority of other sahelian groups in West Africa.
Gungon - Bass snare drum of the Lunsi ensemble. Of northern origin, it is played throughout Ghana by various groups, known by southern groups as brekete. Related to the Dunun drums of other West African peoples.
Gyil - large resonant Xylophones, related to the Balafon.
Koloko - Varieties of Sahelian lute. Varieties include the one-stringed 'Kolgo/Koliko' of Gur-speaking groups, the two-stringed 'Molo' of the Zabarma and Fulani minorities, or the two-stringed 'Gurumi' of the Hausa.
^Hudson, Mark with Jenny Cathcart and Lucy Duran, "Senegambian Stars Are Here to Stay" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 617-633; Karolyi, p. 42
^Hudson, Mark with Jenny Cathcart and Lucy Duran, "Senegambian Stars Are Here to Stay" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 617-633
^de Klein, Guus, "The Backyard Beats of Gumbe" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 499-504
^ abcdeBensignor, François and Brooke Wentz, "Heart of the African Music Industry" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 472-476
^Turino, p. 182; Collins, John, "Gold Coast: Highlife and Roots" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 488-498
^Martin Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, (1975), Christine Oppong, Growing up in Dagbon, (1973), David Locke, Drum Damba, quoted by Elana Cohen-Khani at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-08-03. Retrieved .CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) .
^Bensignor, François, "Hidden Treasure" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 437-439
^; Manuel, Popular Musics, pp. 90, 92, 182; Collins, John, "Gold Coast: Highlife and Roots" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 488-498; Koetting, James T., "Africa/Ghana" in Worlds of Music, pp. 67-105
^ abBensignor, François with Eric Audra, "Afro-Funksters" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 432-436
^ abTurino, pp. 181-182; Bensignor, François with Eric Audra, and Ronnie Graham, "Afro-Funksters" and "From Hausa Music to Highlife" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 432-436,588-600; Karolyi, p. 43
^Echezona, Wilberforce W. Music Educators Journal. Ibo Musical Instruments. Vol. 50, No. 5. (April - May 1964), pp. 23-27,130-131.
^"Ames, David. African Arts. Kimkim: A Women's Musical Pot Vol. 11, No. 2. (January 1978), pp. 56-64,95-96."
^Ronnie Graham, "From Hausa Music to Highlife" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 588-600
^ abcNkolo, Jean-Victor and Graeme Ewens, "Music of a Small Continent" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 440-447
^ abcKoetting, James T., "Africa/Ghana" in Worlds of Music, pp. 67-105
^Dominguez, Manuel, "Malabo Blues" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 477-479
^ abLima, Conceução and Caroline Shaw, "Island Music of Central Africa" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 613-616
^ abManuel, Popular Musics, p. 96; Máximo, Susana and David Peterson, "Music of Sweet Sorrow" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 448-457
^ abTurino, pp. 179, 182; Sandahl, Sten, "Exiles and Traditions" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 698-701
^ abcPaterson, Doug, "The Life and Times of Kenyan Pop" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 509-522
^Turino, pp. 179, 182; Sandahl, Sten, "Exiles and Traditions" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 698-701; Koetting, James T., "Africa/Ghana" in Worlds of Music, pp. 67-105; World Music CentralArchived April 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
^ abLwanda, John, and Ronnie Graham with Simon Kandela Tunkanya, "Sounds Afroma!" and "Evolution and Expression" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 533-538,702-705
^ abJacquemin, Jean-Pierre, Jadot Sezirahigha and Richard Trillo, "Echoes from the Hills" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 608-612
^Bensignor, François, "Sounds of the Sahel" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 585-587
^Turino, p. 184; Bensignor, François and Ronnie Graham, "Sounds of the Sahel" and "From Hausa Music to Highlife" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 585-587, 588-600
^Turino, p. 178; Collins, John, "Gold Coast: Highlife and Roots" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 488-498
^Turino, pp. 172-173; Bensignor, François, Guus de Klein, and Lucy Duran, "Hidden Treasure", "The Backyard Beats of Gumbe" and "West Africa's Musical Powerhouse" in the Rough Guide to World Music, pp. 437-439, 499-504, 539-562; Manuel, Popular Musics, p. 95; World Music CentralArchived February 7, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
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