African music has a rich and diverse history that spans centuries and encompasses an array of cultures and traditions. African music reflects the history, beliefs, and values of the continent’s people, from traditional tribal rhythms to modern-day pop and hip-hop.
African music has captivated audiences worldwide with its unique blend of rhythms, melodies, and instruments. And it has continued to influence popular music today. This article has delved into the history and beauty of African music, exploring its roots, evolution, and cultural significance.
History And Beauty Of African Music
African music mesmerizes audiences with its powerful rhythms, soulful melodies, and cultural significance. This rich art form showcases the history, beliefs, and values of Africa’s diverse cultures and has a long history that spans centuries.
Its roots lie in ancient tribal cultures where music served as a means of communication, religious rituals, storytelling, and community gatherings.
African music incorporates complex beats and strongly emphasizes rhythm, including traditional instruments like the balafon, xylophone, and kora.
In the 20th century, African music evolved as musicians blended Western music with their traditional sounds, giving birth to genres like highlife, juju, and makossa.
African music has influenced popular music globally, with genres like jazz, blues, reggae, and hip-hop drawing inspiration from African musical traditions.
For travelers visiting Africa, experiencing the local music scene is a must. From vibrant West African highlife to soulful East African taarab, African music offers a unique and captivating experience.
Types Of African Music
African music encompasses a wide range of musical styles, each reflecting the cultural and historical traditions of the different regions in Africa. Here are some of the most well-known types of African music:
- Highlife: Highlife is a fusion of Western and traditional African music styles and originated in West Africa in the early 20th century. It features brass instruments, guitar, and percussion and is characterized by upbeat, danceable rhythms.
- Juju: Juju is a popular style of music originating from Nigeria that features complex rhythm patterns and incorporates elements of traditional Yoruba music. Juju combines percussion instruments, lead guitar, and background vocals.
- Soukous: Soukous is a fast-paced, dance-oriented genre that originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is popular across Central and West Africa. Soukous uses an upbeat, driving rhythm and use of guitar, bass, and percussion.
- Taarab: Taarab is a popular form of music in East Africa that originated in the Swahili-speaking coastal regions of Kenya and Tanzania. Taarab mixes Arabic-inspired melodies and complex rhythms and often incorporates elements of Indian and African musical styles.
- Makossa: Makossa is a popular dance genre in Cameroon known for its energetic rhythm and fast-paced beats. It draws influences from funk, soul, and traditional Cameroonian music.
- Amapiano: Amapiano is a genre that originated in South Africa in the late 2000s. It has a signature piano sound, upbeat rhythm, and deep bass lines. It has since become popular across much of southern Africa.
- Afrobeat: Afrobeat is a fusion of traditional African music, jazz, and funk that originated in Nigeria. Afrobeat is popularized by the legendary musician Fela Kuti, and it’s known to use heavy percussion and horns.
Prominent Stars in African Music
Fela Kuti is the pioneer of Afrobeat, a musical genre that blends African rhythm and melody with jazz, funk, and highlife elements.
Born in Nigeria in the late 1930s, Fela became one of the most influential musicians in Africa and around the world, with a reputation for his politically charged lyrics and outspoken activism.
Miriam Makeba, also known as Mama Africa, was a South African singer and civil rights activist.
She rose to fame in the 1950s and 60s with her soulful voice and traditional Xhosa songs and became a global ambassador for African music and culture.
She used her platform to raise awareness about the oppressive apartheid regime in South Africa. She was exiled for several years before being allowed to return home in the 1990s.
Hailu Mergia is an Ethiopian keyboardist and accordion player who has been active in the music scene since the 1970s.
He was a member of the Walias Band. And also one of Ethiopia’s most popular and innovative groups and has since established himself as a solo artist and composer, combining traditional Ethiopian music with jazz and funk elements.
Youssou N’Dour is a Senegalese singer and composer considered one of the greatest African musicians of all time.
His powerful voice and innovative fusion of traditional Senegalese music with jazz, soul, and funk elements have made him known since he became active in the 1970s.
He has won several Grammy Awards and has been a prominent voice for peace and justice in Africa and worldwide.
Angélique Kidjo is a Beninese singer, composer, and actress known for her powerful voice and dynamic stage presence.
She has been active since the 1980s and has earned international recognition for her blend of African rhythms, soul, and world music.
She has used her platform to advocate for children’s rights and gender equality in Africa and worldwide, and she is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Popular African Instruments
Idiophones musical instruments that produce sound through the vibration of the instrument itself rather than a vibrating string or air column.
Examples of idiophones include xylophones, marimbas, bells, and clappers. These instruments are struck or shaken to produce a sound, and their material, size, and shape determine their sound.
Chordophones are stringed instruments that produce sound through the vibration of strings that have been stretched over a resonating chamber. Examples of chordophones include guitars, violins, and harps.
Aerophones are wind instruments that produce sound through the vibration of air within the instrument. Examples of aerophones include flutes, clarinets, and trumpets.
Membranophones are musical instruments that produce sound through the vibration of a stretched membrane. Examples of membranophones include drums and timpani.
The membrane’s size, tension, and material determine the pitch of the sound produced by membranophones. These instruments are typically played by striking the membrane with a drumstick or other implements.