A Brief History of African Music

African music is a rich and varied tradition that has been passed down through generations. African music is deeply rooted in the culture and history of the African people. African music has evolved over time, influenced by both the indigenous traditions of the continent and by the various cultures that have interacted with Africa over the centuries.

 

Today, African music is enjoyed all over the world. African musical traditions have been incorporated into the music of many different cultures, resulting in a truly global phenomenon.

 

Spread of African Music

African music has spread all over the world by the African diaspora. African musical traditions have been carried to other parts of the world by African Americans, who have played a significant role in shaping the music of many different cultures. African music has also been taken up by non-African cultures, such as Brazil and Cuba.

 

The popularity of African music continues to grow, as more and more people are exposed to its infectious rhythms and catchy melodies. African music is now enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds, all over the globe.

 

It truly is a truly global phenomenon, enjoyed by people of all cultures and backgrounds. The style of music has something to offer everyone, with its rich variety of traditions.

 

The Origins of African Music

 

African music was first recorded by Egyptian musicians in the 3rd millennium BC. The Egyptians used a wide variety of musical instruments, including harps, flutes, drums, and cymbals. African music was also influenced by the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD. Islamic music exerted a strong influence on African musical traditions, particularly in North Africa.

 

In sub-Saharan Africa, traditional African music has been influenced by a number of factors, including the African slave trade, European colonialism, and the spread of Christianity. African music has also been influenced by African-American music, particularly in the form of jazz and blues.

 

There are a number of theories about the origins of African music. Some scholars believe that it originated with the sounds of animals and nature, while others believe that it was first created by humans as a way to express themselves. Whatever its origins, African music is an important part of the continent’s culture and history.

 

The Instruments of African Music

 

African music is characterized by a wide variety of musical instruments. The most commonly used African musical instruments include drums, xylophones, flutes, and horns.

 

Drums are the most important African musical instruments. African drums come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are used for a variety of purposes. African drums are used to keep time, to communicate, and to generate excitement.

 

Xylophones are another type of African musical instrument that is commonly used. Xylophones are percussion instruments that consist of a series of wooden bars that are struck with mallets. Xylophones originated in Africa, and their use has spread to other parts of the world as well.  They are even a common instrument in today’s modern western symphony orchestra!

 

Flutes and horns are also frequently used African musical instruments. Flutes are often used to provide accompaniment for singers, while horns are typically used as solo instruments.

 

Some of the African musical instruments prevalent across the continent, in Sub-Saharan Africa, are as follows:

 

  1. Membranophones –  drums of all types, including the talking drums which are used to communicate over long distances.

 

  1. Aerophones – flutes, horns, and whistles.

 

  1. Chordophones – stringed instruments such as the African harp, the kora, and the ngoni.

 

  1. Idiophones – percussion instruments such as the xylophone, maracas, and African bells.

African Music Today

 

  1. Percussion Instrument – include clapsticks, rain sticks, bells, gongs and pots

 

The Music of Africa Today

 

African music has evolved over time, influenced by both the indigenous traditions of the continent and by the various cultures that have interacted with Africa over the centuries. Today, African music is enjoyed all over the world. African musical traditions have been incorporated into the music of many different cultures, resulting in a truly global phenomenon.

 

Contemporary African music is a genre of music that includes a wide range of styles and influences from across the continent. contemporary African music is characterised by its use of traditional instruments, rhythms, and melodies, as well as its fusion with Western genres such as pop, rock, and hip-hop.

 

The Contemporary African music genre has become increasingly popular in recent years, with artists such as Wizkid, Yemi Alade, and Davido gaining international recognition. This music is a powerful force for unity and expression, and its popularity is only growing.

 

Glossary

A lot of terminologies used in African music are fairly unknown in the West.  So we thought it would be useful to give you a list of the key terms used to represent styles of music:

 

Afrobeat

A term used by Fela Anikulapo Kuti to describe his fusion of West African with black American music.

 

Apala

Yoruba style of talking drum percussion from Nigeria.

 

Axe

Yoruba word meaning “life force”, used to describe the Bahian style of Brazilian pop music popular in that country.

 

Benga

Originating from the Luo people of Western Kenya, this style is widely popular throughout the country.

 

Chimurenga

A popular style of music from the Shona people of Zimbabwe. Also called mbira-based music, one of the best examples of this sound is the music of Thomas Mapfumo.

 

Fuji

Nigerian Yoruba voice and percussion style using original African percussion instruments popularised by Kollington, Barrister, and Adewale Ayuba. A percussion conversation.

 

Gnawa

Morrocan music of people descended from the slaves brought from Mali in the 16th century. This music features the stringed instruments sintir or gimbri, singing in unison, and hand clapping. Most often played at healing ceremonies.

 

Griot

Generic term for a West African oral historian-cum-minstrel; a storyteller.

 

Highlife

Dance music from Ghana and Eastern Nigeria originates from the popular kpanlogo rhythm developed in Ghana in the 60s.

 

Isicathamiya

Traditional Zulu call-and-response a cappella choral music sung by men from South Africa. Ladysmith Black Mambazo is the premier example of this style of music.

 

Jali

Manding word for a West African oral historian-cum-minstrel; a storyteller.

 

Jit

Hard, fast percussive Zimbabwean dance music, influenced by mbira-based guitar styles.

 

Jive

Generic South African term for popular music.

 

Juju

I.K. Dairo was credited with being the first modern Juju star. This popular style from Nigeria relies on the traditional Yoruba rhythms, but instead of being played on all percussive instruments as tradition demands the instruments in Juju are more Western in origin. Drum kit, guitars, keyboards, often pedal steel guitar and sometimes accordion (squeeze box) are used along with the traditional dun-dun (talking drum, or squeeze drum). King Sunny Ade is the most well-known of all Juju performers.

 

Kwassa Kwassa

Shake-your-booty dance style began in Zaire in the late ’80s popularised by Kanda Bongo Man.

 

Kwela

South African pennywhistle (tin flute) music.

 

Makossa

Cameroonian dance rhythm from the Douala region, also the name of the country’s most popular pop style typified by Manu Dibango.

 

Marabi

South African three-chord township music of the 1930s-1960s evolved into “African Jazz”.

 

Marrabenta

Mozambique’s popular roots-based urban rhythm, a distinctive dance sound.

 

Mbalax

(pronounced M’balah) Senegalese (Wolof) percussion music modernised by Youssou N’Dour, characterised by a sweet, funky combination of Afro-Cuban rhythms, Wolof drumming, and American pop.

 

Mbaqanga

Also sometimes called “Township Jive”, this South African township music was first popularised in the ’60s. Johnny Clegg and the Mahotella Queens are good examples of this sound.

 

Morna

from Cape Verde is a soulful genre often sung in Creole-Portuguese and played in a minor key emotional tone, mixing sentimental folk tunes filled with longing and sadness with the acoustic sounds of guitar, cavaquinho, violin, accordion, and clarinet.

 

Palm Wine

music originates in tropical Sierra Leone located on the far West coast of Africa. Typical of the Palm Wine sound are the light and airy guitar riffs originally played on acoustic guitar accompanied by traditional percussion instruments. Palm Wine is the sweet milky sap extracted from the palm tree. It ferments quickly and is a popular drink at bars and dance halls, as well as at social occasions where the music originated.

 

Rai

Youthful pop music from Algeria. Rai’s typical themes of love and drinking have brought Rai singers into conflict with Islamic militants.

 

Reggae

Originally from Jamaica, this internationally played sound dominated by bass, drums (or often drum machine), and guitar chops is associated with the Rastafarian religion, liberation politics, and Ganga.

 

Salsa

New York Puerto Rican adaption of Afro-Cuban music.

 

Samba

The basic underlying rhythm that typifies most Brazilian music.

 

Samba Reggae

(pronounced sam-ba heg-gay), grew out of the blocos afros (Black carnival associations) a tradition begun in 1974 in Bahia, Salvador. The Bahian Carnival Associations with their afoxe (pronounced ah-fo-shay) drum sections are similar to Rio’s samba schools, with many surdos (big bass drums of varying sizes) and repineques (smaller, high-pitched drums) comprising the bulk of the rhythm section. Olodum is one of the first groups to popularise the sound.

 

SOCA

comes from combining the words “soul” and “calypso”, is modern Trinidadian pop music.

 

Soukous

is a musical style that grew out of ’50s Cuban rumba music mixing the kwassa kwassa dance rhythm with zouk and rhumba. Many African artists, originally from the Congo (or Zaire), relocated to Paris, which became a popular expatriate community for them, and where they are mostly still based.

 

Wassoulou

a musical style from Mali typified by a strong Arabic feel along with the sound of the scraping kain yang, women play the fle, a calabash strung with cowrie shells, which they spin and throw into the air in time to the music.

 

Were

A Muslim style of music is performed most often as a wake-up call for early breakfast and prayers during Ramadan celebrations.

 

Zouk

Creole slang word for “party.” Modern hi-tech Antillean music is produced mostly in Paris.

 

Key African Artists

Lastly, we thought it would be helpful to list all the key artists who have made a difference in the world of African music.  If you feel we have missed someone out, please do drop a comment in the comments box below!  So here, in alphabetical order, are the African music superstars:

 

A

 

Wabi Abdrehman

Amara Aboubacar

Abyssinia Band

Ahmed Adaweyah

Obo Addy

King Sunny Ade

Segun Adewale

African Brothers International

African Jazz Pioneers

African Percussion

Africando

AFRIGO Band

Afro-National

Khaled Agag

Eric Agyeman

Mahmoud Ahmed

Airto Moreira

Alpha Blondy

Amaduduzo

Amayenge

Les Amazones

Kwashi Amevuvor

Les Ambassadeurs

Ara Ketu

Kollington Ayinla

Adewale Ayuba

Arrow

Francis Awe

Aster Aweke

Najat Atabou

Bachir Attir

Mohammed Awel

Azumah

 

B

 

Bala & Ses Balladins

Les Ballets Africains

Robson Banda and The New Black Eagles

Bosco Banks

Orchestra Baobab

Chief Doctor Sikiru Ayinde Barrister

Valdamar Bastos

Mustapha Baqbou

Bembeya Jazz

Frances Bebey

Mbilia Bel

Dina Bell

Nyanka Bell

Moni Bile

Bhundu Boys

Ifang Bondi

Bouchebcheb

Black Stalin

Black Star Musical Club

Black Umfolosi

Blackites

Alpha Blondy

Bonga Kuenda

Joao Bosco

Boukan Ginen

Boukman Eksperyans

The Boyoyo Boys

Ekambi Brillant

Bwaluka Founders

 

C

 

Capoeria

Chatuye

Ebenezer Calendar & the Maringar Band

Papa Ladji Camara

Gadji Celi

Lem Chaheb

Yvonne Chaka-Chaka

Thomas Chauke & the Sinyori Sisters

John Chibadura

Chicco (Sello Twala)

Stella Rambisai Chiweshe

Choc Stars

Johnny Clegg & Juluka /& Savuka

Mily Clement

Oliver de Coque

Coupe Cloue

Nanou Coul

Culture Musical Club

 

D

 

I.K. Dairo

Fanta Damba

Dandemutande

Dark City Sisters

Neway Debebe

Ben Decca

Leonard Denbo

D’Gary

Abdoulaye Diabate

Djanka Diabate

Ibro Diabate

Madou Diabate

Sekou Bembaya Diabate

Sekouba Bambine Diabate

Sona Diabate

Toumani Diabate

Djeneba Diakite

Amir Diad

Yaya Diallo

Manu Dibango

Diblo Dibala and Loketo

Prince Diabaté

Wasis Diop

Oumou Dioubate

Ernesto Djedje

Gnaore Djimi

Doudou Ndiaye Rose

Nahawa Doumbia

Adama Drame

The Drummers of Burundi

Lucky Dube

Beulah Dyoko

 

E

 

Ejema

Eklips

Hoigen Ekwalla

Ihashi Elimhlope

Jean Emilien

Hassan Erraji

Alemayehu Eshete

Ethio Stars

Jaojoby Eusebe

Cesaria Evora

Prince Ndedi Eyango

 

F

 

Majek Fashek

Brenda Fassie

Souleymane Faye

Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Femi Kuti

Paulo Flores

Foday Musa Suso

Four Brothers

The Four Stars (see Le Quatre Etoiles)

Franco

 

G

 

Gilberto Gil

Tlahoun Gessesse

Roger Georges

Nass el-Ghiwane

La Grande Kalle (Joseph Kabaselle Tshamala)

Juan Luis Guerra

Toto Guillaume

Dr. K. Gyasi & His Noble Kings

 

H

 

Abd el-Halim Hafez

Hassan Hakmoun

Gnawa Halwa

Hanan

Los Hermanos Rosario

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Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand)

Haruna Ishola

Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje

 

J

 

Master Musicians of Jajouka

Jali Musa Jawara

Jil Jilala

Antonio Carlos Jobim

Amadou Bansang Jobarteh

Malamini Jobarteh

Salle John

Orchestra Os Jovens do Prenda

Juwata Jazz

 

K

 

Kafala Brothers

Kaikpai

Le Grande Kalle (Joseph Kabaselle Tshamala)

Pepe Kalle

Oum Kalsoum

Joseph Kamaru

Kanda Bongo Man

Kerfala Kante

Mory Kante

Kapere Jazz Band

Serge Kasi

Katitu Boys

Cecile Kayirebwa

Mamady Keita

Salif Keita

Trends in Kenyan Popular Music :artists/kenyamx.html

Jabu Khanyile & Bayete

Khedr

Angelique Kidjo

Peter Kigia

Ras Kimono

Lord Kitchner

Ami Koita

Ayinla Kollington

Daly Komoko

Aicha Kone

Dembo Konte

Sadio Kouyate

Ali Hassan Kuban

Toure Kunda

Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Femi Kuti

 

L

 

Papa Ladji Camera

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Kine Lam

Lapiro de Mbanga

Legal Lions

Ray Lema

Cheikh Lo

Ismael Lo

Guy Lobe

Diblo Dibala and Loketo

Eboa Lotin

 

M

 

Baaba Maal

Sipho Mabuse

Kasse Mady

Dama Mahaleo

Vusi Mahlasela

Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens :artists/mqueens.html

Fissa Maiga

Lovemore Majaivana

Miriam Makeba

Kante Manfila

Sam Mangwana

Bopol Mansiamina

Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga

Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited

Dumisani Maraire

Wasiu Ayinde Marshall

Clemont Masdongar

Hugh Masekela

Mashabe

Spokes Mashiyane

Master Musicians of Jajouka

Dorothy Masuka

Maquis Original

Charlotte Mbango

Jimi Mbaye

Thio Mbaye

Mbira HomePage

Mzwakhe Mbuli

Meiway

Netsanet Mellesse

Mendes Brothers

Maulidi & the Musical Party

Margareth Menzes

Daniela Mercury

Mlimani Park Orchestra

Marisa Monte

Mohamed Mounir

Jonah Moyo

Oliver Mtukudzi

Yshala Muana

Ephat Mujuru

George Mukambi

Filipe Mukenga

Peter Mwambi & the Kyanganga Boys

 

N

 

Milton Nascimento

Youssou N’Dour

Vinvent Nguini

Dr. Nico

Prince Nico Mbarga

West Nkosi

Nouvelle Generation

 

O

 

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey

Ayub Ogada

Sonny Okosun

Babatunde Olatunji

Olodum

Kofi Olomide

Gabriel Omolo

Remmy Ongala & Orchestre Super Matimila

Orchestra Baobab

Sir Dr. Warrior and the Oriental Brothers

Geoffrey Oryema

Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe

Osibisa

Orlando Owoh

O’Yaba

 

P

 

Andy Palacio

Eduardo Palm

Gnonnas Pedro

Omar Pene

Sir Shina Peters

John Pounds

Prince Diabaté

Prince Nico Mbarga

Dudu Pukwana

Flora Purim

 

Q

 

Les Quatre Etoiles (The Four Stars)

 

R

 

Shaaban Abdel Raheem

Rail Band

Chico Ramos

Reflexes

Ricky

Tabu Ley Rochereau

Roger

S.E. Rogie

Roha Band

Abdul Tee-Jay Rokoto

Doudoundiaye Rose

Rossy

David Rudder

 

S

 

Mokhtar Al Said

Salamat

Samite

Oumou Sangare

Kuku Sebiebe

Coumba Gawlo Seck

Dieneba Seck

Mansour Seck

Thione Seck

Sidi Seddiki

Shalawambe

Shangara Jive

Shirati Jazz

Coumba Sidibe

Sali Sidibe

Sery Simplice

Jona Sithole

Sparrow

Les Sofas

Soukous Stars

The Soul Brothers

Momo “Wandel” Soumah

Hadja Soumano

Sukama Bin Ongaro

Super Biton

Super Diamono

Super Eagles

Super Mazembe

Foday Musa Suso

 

T

 

Muungano Taarab

Tabou Combo

Dele Taiwo

Tananas

Tarika

Tarika Sammy

Nene Tchakou

Les Tetes Brulees

Sam Fan Thomas

Hebiste Tiruneh

Timbalada

Stan Tohan

Tukot Band

Toure Kunda

Alaji Toure

Ali Farka Toure

Keletigui Traore

Lobi Traore

 

V

 

Ruka Vandunen

Nana Vasconcelos

Caetano Veloso

Les Veterans

Vijana Jazz

Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga

Voodoo Server

Vusi Ximba

 

W

 

Abdel Wahab

Walias Band

Les Wanyika

Simba Wanyika

Sir Dr. Warrior and the Oriental Brothers

Papa Wemba

Wenge Musica

 

X

 

Xalam

 

Z

 

Le Zagozougou

Zaiko Langa Langa

Zaza Club

Hukwe Zawose

Zein Musical Party

Zimbabwe Stone Sculpture

Zitany Neil

Zouglou