Archive for the ‘African Music Blog’ Category
The study of African Music History is derived from archaeological findings, oral historical accounts, rock paintings and petroglyphs, and field notes from travelers from the Middle East and Europe. As the continent is the cradle of human beings, music evolved and traveled the globe to influence music everywhere.
Ancient cultures from what is known as the “green Sahara” created vast amounts of written history in the form of rock paintings. These are among the earliest sources of African music. The most primitive rock painting was discovered by a French explorer in 1956 in the Tassili-n-Ajjer plateau of Algeria. It depicts music and dance and is astonishing for its similarity of costume and style of movement to what is still practiced today. The rock painting in question dates from 6,000 to 4,000 bc.
The study of African musical instruments is somewhat limited by the natural materials used to create them. Those made from vegetables like horns and drums of gourd did not survive in the earthen deposits of sub-Sahara, however those made from stone or clay did endure for discovery.
From these discoveries, scientists conclude the pressure drum called dundun, and one used throughout the Savannah region, was likely formed in the 15th century. Also created during that century were the double iron clapperless bells, pellet bells and tubular bells with clappers.
By the 17th and 18th centuries, lamellaphones, with iron keys, grew in influence throughout the Zambezi valley and into Angolan society. As use of the instruments spread they became smaller and portable. These became known as travel instruments.
The small lamellaphone became popular in the Congo where it was named the likembe, still in use today in Zande, Ngbandi and Gbaya.
It is fascinating to realize Latin America has a wealth of knowledge about African Music History, as slaves carried their oral histories with them to their reluctant new homes.
Like the continent, African musical culture is as vast as the distinct musical traditions of its regions and nations.
The music of North Africa has a different history from that of Sub-Saharan African music. Like the musical genres of the Nile Valley and the Horn of Africa, its music has close ties with Middle Eastern music. East Africa and the offshore islands in the Indian Ocean have slight Arabic music influence but also by the music of India, Indonesia, and Polynesia. The region’s indigenous musical traditions, however, are primarily of the sub-Saharan Niger Congo-speaking peoples.
Similarly in the broad sub-Saharan musical tradition Southern, Central, and West Africa 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 and Latin American music genres like rumba and salsa and other clave-based genres, were founded to varying degrees on the music of African slaves, which have in turn influenced African popular music.
There is a close connection between music and language in many African cultures because many African languages are tonal languages. The tonal pattern of the text puts some constraints on the melodic patterns in singing. But in instrumental music, a native speaker of a language can often perceive a text or texts in music. This effect is also the basis of drum languages (talking drums).
Besides the use of the voice, a wide array of musical instruments is 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, harps, the kora, and fiddles), many types of xylophones and lamellophones like the mbira, and different types of wind instruments like flutes and trumpets.
Drums used in Africa include tama 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 in African musical culture include many rattles and shakers such as the kosika, rainstick, bells, and woodsticks.
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An assortment of east African music mp3 has transformed the way devotees can listen to the music from this ancient land.
Like all recorded music, African sounds are available in digital format to a global audience for a small fee.
Our dear friend Samite offers his music to fans in an MP3 downloadable format. Even as far back as 1992, his Pearl of Africa Reborn is available in digital format. There are 10 tracks on this album. The 5 minute track Munomumo requires 5.15 MB, but most of his songs need less than that, in the 3 to 4 MB range, with the soulful Kasambajiro running 3:01 and 2.76 MB.
Samite’s Stars to Share has 12 tracks for download. Some examples are Tindiba, Esawayo, Bring Back the Music, Old Man’s Wisdom, Sala Endongo, Stars to Share and Cradle with Love. These songs demonstrate beautifully Samite’s command of both ethnic and New Age genres and they make him a popular artist among a growing legion of fans.
There are CDs offering a compilation of artists too, for those who want to sample a range of East African musical styles. The Great East African Trip CD features some of the top modern and classic artists from Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. You can sample the sounds of Samba Mapangala of Kenya, Kidum from Burundi, Super Mazembe from the Congo and Priscilla and Qute Kaye from Uganda.
East African artists keep it real with their fans and they encourage interaction. Samite offers a free download mp3 on this blog. You are encouraged to try it and contact us to let us know what you think of Samite’s latest efforts.
Of course, like many other popular artists of today, there are Samite ring tunes also available for downloading to your cellphone so that those around you can hear the beautiful strains of east African music mp3 whenever you take a phone call.
Linking traditional African music with the United States, there are generous grants being offered to preserve the history and culture of traditional African songs, dances and musical instruments.
The U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation has been quietly assembling samples of African music. Most people think of the State Department efforts as a fund to save historic buildings, museums and historical sites, however some of the monies have gone toward saving the music that is in danger of being replaced by modern sounds.
A project funded by the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation dispatched archivists throughout Africa with recording equipment. In Burundi alone, the historians returned with 230 recordings of traditional music.
In an effort to make this music accessible to future generations, the field recordings of questionable quality were enhanced with Burundian musicians who ‘’filled the gaps” with traditional instrument. The famous Burundian drums are now highlighted in 176 songs on CDs.
African youth are being exposed to new kinds of instruments and village elders are concerned the indigenous sounds will disappear. An Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation grant also went toward a research project for young Africans to explore their musical history and to learn from the elders how to make the instruments themselves. The young people recorded the music on these instruments to have an audible record.
In the process, the youth are learning entrepreneurial skills to market and sell the instruments to a new generation who would otherwise not be exposed to this cultural treasure.
Lastly, in Madagascar, the AFCP funded an attempt to preserve the unusual Malagasy dances, music and instruments. The various districts there have distinct sounds and costumes. All of it was recorded and shared in the classrooms of school children, insuring that future generations will be comfortable and knowledgeable with the sounds of their ancestors.
Like all African music, sub-Saharan African music is traditionally functional in nature. Performances can get very long and usually involve the audience participating in it.
There are many 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 these is performed outside its intended social context and much of it is associated with a particular dance. Some of it is sacral music or ceremonial and courtly music performed by professional musicians at royal courts.
The shared rhythmic principles of sub-Saharan music traditions constitute one main system. Similarly, the sub-Saharan African rhythmic principles have a profound homogeneity. The sub-Saharan rhythm is characterized by cross-rhythm and key patterns.
The joining of two or more rhythms is called polyrhythm. The regular and systematic superimposition of cross-beats over main beats creates a specific sub-set of polyrhythm called cross-rhythm. The technique of cross-rhythm is a simultaneous use of contrasting rhythmic patterns within the same scheme of accents or meter.
The main beat scheme cannot be separated from the secondary beat scheme. The cross-rhythm three-over-two (3:2), hemiola, is the most significant rhythm ratio found in sub-Saharan rhythm. 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 pervades southern Ewe music.
Key patterns epitomize the complete rhythmic matrix and are typically clapped or played on idiophones like a bell, a piece of bamboo, or wooden claves. In some ensembles, such as “iyesa” and “bata” drums, a key pattern may be played on a high-pitched drumhead.
The most commonly used key pattern in sub-Saharan Africa is the seven-stroke figure known on ethnomusicology as the standard pattern. It is expressed in both a triple-pulse (12/8 or 6/8) and duple-pulse (4/4 or 2/2) structure.
Traditions may coincide entirely, partially, or not at all with geographic, political, linguistic or cultural boundaries. African folk music traditions, including sub-Saharan African music, overlap in varying degrees with each other.
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News on an Africa music blog shows Africa remains a continent with trouble spots. In Mogadishu, Somalia, music radio stations are struggling to reconcile two disparate directives.
On the one hand, the stations received an ultimatum from Islam in April, 2010 to stop playing music. On the other hand, the government warned that any station that complied with the threat would be shut down.
The conflict underscores the question of exactly who is in charge in Somalia, a near anarchical country. A brave contingent of independent journalists perseveres, even under the threat of violence.
The insurgent Islamic group Hizbul warned of “serious consequences” to any radio station that did not adhere to a deadline to halt all music, due to its “un-Islamic” nature. Some defiant station owners filled the dead air with recitation of lyrics, and sound effects of loud items like gunshots, animals whinnying, and engines revving, as they determined their next step.
The government meanwhile was taken aback by this challenge to authority and held a news conference announcing that any station that buckled to the demand by Hizbul would be ordered shut down.
The general secretary of the Mogadishu administration of the Transitional Federal Government , Abdikafi Hilowle Osman, accused the broadcasters of “working with” the radicals.
The fight over radio stations is the latest problem in an escalating conflict over Western ideology in Islamic land. The Islamic radicals seek to purge these influences and have even threatened to ban Voice of America and BBC programs.
Also recently, in a village north of Mogadishu, the country’s most powerful insurgent group Shabab, banned school bells there. It said the noise too closely resembled the sound of church bells and was therefore un-Islamic.
All internationally recognized observances such as World AIDS Day were banned as well. For a lighter side of African music news, please stay tuned to this blog.
More common than non western African music, westernized African music has similarities but not the true soul born of an ancient history.
Non western African music is also known as World Music and it owes its origins to the sub Sahara Desert.
Music and dance in Africa are closely intertwined. All important life events are celebrated with music: birth, marriage and death. And the Ruler’s Courts include music as well.
Poet Leopold Senghor, the first President of Senegal, once commented that African rhythm is “comparable to all the technical achievements” of Western civilization.
The many drums used in African music showcase the importance of percussion in African society. There are jembe drums enjoyed by the Manding people and their dancing parties. A large tabale drum indicates the signal for war. In fact, drums in the sub Saharan desert are more effective and common than a telegraph. The resonant beat is carried for miles to great distances.
The violin-drum chong is used in West Cameroon. It’s a stick bow placed into a hole in the drum membrane. Secret cults and societies beat the chong drum to scare off non members of the societies.
Music as an art form is understandably pure in Africa. The human species originated on that continent and then spread around the world. While civilizations advanced in the Middle East, the Far East and Europe, sub Saharan Africa stayed distinct and apart.
Africans evolved from hunters and gatherers to agriculture, but a lack of written history makes details of the evolution of society in Africa a challenge to study. For that reason, the music remained unblemished by outside influences. Indeed, the sounds of Africa today are close to their evolutionary roots.
There is homogenization of cultures throughout the world, but non western African music is enchantingly reminiscent of the ancient beginnings of its people.
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The definition of Kadongo Kamu is “single guitar” and it is the first type of music played in Uganda.
Though Africa has an ancient history with a music culture handed down through the generations, the music of Uganda is very much a story of the tumultuous 1980s. There was another CD in the 90s featuring a group of Ugandan musicians referred to as the supergroup. One of the Ugandan performers, Geoffrey Oryema, was involved in Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios/Real World record label.
One of the most exciting developments is the blending of styles between the West and East Africa. America with its hip hop element, is ripe for influence from the rhythms of World Music from Africa.
The home of Kadongo Kamu is the Wandegeya area of Uganda and it is more popular with the older population. Some of the original artists are deceased but the symbol of this style of music is Bernard Kabanda.
Among the other premiere performers of Kadongo Kamu are Samite, Jose Chameleon, Bebe Cool, Radda Dee, Bobi Wine, Madoxx Ssematimba and Babaluku. Some of the younger artists are merging traditional Ugandan sounds with rap in the mother tongue.
An article on Kadongo Kamu would not be complete without a mention of the passing of a great African musician, Fred Hannington Masagazi Muwonge. Muwonge died in 2009 in hospital, he was considered the grandfather of Kadongo Kamu music.
He sang, played guitar and acted his music on stage in the 1960s and 70s. Perhaps most significant, he achieved success tying Kadongo Kamu to the western version of country music. Muwonge’s first hit was Atanawa Musolo which was released one year before Independence.
Masagazi Muwonge is survived by his wife, eight children and nine grandchildren, leaving a void in the hearts in all who were inspired by his groundbreaking music of Kadongo Kamu.
This African music blog presents a brief history of the rich culture of Africa and the music that now enjoys a worldwide following.
With one thousand native languages, it’s no surprise the history of African music is a patchwork tapestry of oral history passed down from one generation to another. It is a western sensibility that attempts to catalogue and organize African music which is known under several categories such as global music, African music and world music.
Many scholars who studied African music are sensitive to the culture and to misunderstanding about its value. Hugh Tracy from South African, Mngoma of South Africa and Makabuya of Uganda are concerned about the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of African culture by those who stereotype this intriguing country.
It is interesting to note that unlike western cultures, music and dance in Africa are not isolated as separate activities from the normal culture. There are words that describe the particular acts of playing an instrument, singing and dancing, but they are largely seen as part of the broader text of communication that existed for centuries.
Dance and music go hand in hand in Africa. Beginning at birth and continuing in ceremonies to name the child, to initiation ceremonies, farming activities, war declarations, religious services and finally, honoring the dead, music and dance are so intertwined that many African cultures do not have words that define music and dance.
For this reason some scholars, like Ndlovu believe that writing African music damages the integrity of the art form. They assert there is no need to put African dance and music into words because it is purely a western tradition. In fact, it dilutes the authenticity of traditional African art forms.
The one exception to this is African choral music which translates well into western documentation. Whatever your taste, the information in an African music blog will likely sharpen your knowledge of this wonderful art form.
Any discussion of African Music must include the various influences of other countries on the African Continent.
Northern Africa is dominated by Arabic culture. South Africa is affected by Western styles. So the most authentic African music is widely accepted to come from the central, or sub-Saharan part of the continent.
Most ancient societies use music as a means of communication and Africa is no exception. In fact, the very language itself is musical, as the tone of delivery changes the meaning and context. For this reason, African languages are considered “tone languages”.
Modern life has crept into sub-Saharan Africa. Traditional music is getting harder and harder to find. Today it is common to see blends of cultures in the music. The Caribbean is present in songs which incorporate African and Western sounds. Latin America makes its way into music of the Congo. The United States’ history of swing is apparent in the music of South Africa.
Traditional dance and music of Africa are threatened with extinction so it’s vital that artists spread the importance of this cultural art form throughout the world.
One way this can be accomplished is with the unique sounding musical instruments used in African music. In sub-Saharan Africa artists use resonant devices such as bells, the thumb piano or mbira, the xylophone and stamping tubes.
Drums are available in many varieties such as kettledrums, membranophones made from parchment, and drums of different shapes such as cylindrical, semicylindrical and barrel-shaped. There are even drums in the shape of an hour-glass.
The indigenous animals of the continent are represented in other instruments. Animal horns make up wind instruments like horns made of elephant tusks. Other natural materials like wood and gourd, and millet stalks and reeds make flute-like wonders similar to the western flute.
It’s no wonder that African Music of yesterday and today is finding an appreciative audience worldwide. It is with pleasure that we recommend Samite’s latest CD album, “My Music World” to bring you the type of music that Samite Mulondo appreciates and loves to share.
Click this link for a previous article about African Music.