Posts Tagged ‘African Music’
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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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.
Some define the world music as any non-western music, but most people associate world music with that of a culture, played by native musicians with close associations to the music of their origin. It is useless to define this genre as “any music of the world” since it is obvious any music of the world is of this world.
In an attempt to narrow the definition, world music incorporates scales and inflections that are ethnic in origin. Often the music is played on traditional instruments like the sitar, steel drum, kora, didgeridoo or kalimba.
It is tempting to limit world music to traditional folk sounds, but that would give the art the short shrift. World music can venture from classical to pop and to something urban.
Among the various kinds of world music are:
Indian raga music
Japanese koto music
Music of the Balkan villages
Eastern European folk music
Tribal music of the Middle East
In the last century the homogenization of the world has allowed for frequent travel between countries, and the availability of affordable recording equipment has opened up cultures in a way that never occurred before.
With this new accessibility came the opportunity to mix and cross-over sound styles. It hasn’t been all good. In mixing the various cultures some of the authenticity and originality has been lost. The uniquely localized traditions have merged with other tribes and cultures, watering down the historical significance of the art form. Some of the hyper-local cultures have been lost altogether.
One of the cradles of world music is Paris, France which has attracted artists from North and West Africa. Paris also encourages these foreign artists to perform concerts and advance the cause of their sound.
It is no surprise that the communities that embrace the world music and promote it are thanked for their efforts to continue this marvelous musical option.
We received a review from Samite regarding his support for a new CD sampler of music from Zimbabwe. We encourage you to check it out and enjoy more African music.
“I recently had the opportunity to listen to a new CD from Zimbabwe titled:
It is a compilation CD by talented musicians from a place that we were used to hearing only bad news about. It is very exciting to learn that while the politicians in Zimbabwe have yet to figure out how to run their country and feed their people, musicians remain creative and feed their countrymen’s souls.
The songs vary from reggae rhythms to intricate arrangements with marimbas, mbira (what East Africans call kalimbas) and flutes.
One of my very favorite musicians today is Oliver Mtukudzi and when I heard that his daughter Selmor Mtukudzi was one of the featured artists in this compilation, I could not wait to hear it.
I was not disappointed when I heard her track “Mhembwe Rudzi.” I think she is as talented as her father is. While the songs on this CD do not necessarily go well with each other, it does not matter because I think it is a great sampler of what we can expect to hear from Wide World Artists and especially from Zimbabwe.
I encourage you to check them out at www.wideworldartists.com.
Traditional African music is as old as the human race, 150,000 years old. As such, it is not a kind of music with a written history. The intonations and melodies are difficult to note with the western staff.
One of the true legends in American folk music, Pete Seeger, supports Samite’s African Music and wants you to do so also. Here is Mr. Seeger talking about “My Music World” and the revolutionary aspect of the way Samite brings his music direct to you.
The closest western patterns that mimic African music are pentatonic, teratonic, hexatonic and heptatonic arrangements. Drums are the most popular musical instruments in Africa and these drums include almost anything such as hand clappers, sticks, bells, pots and friction sticks. Musicians in Africa also use wind instruments and like the percussion devices these instruments are made of gourds, wood, conch shells, horns and tusks.
The purpose of African music can be recreational, but it can also be ceremonial and ritualistic too. Closely intertwined with music is dance which amplifies the tonal quality of the sounds. Like the Asian languages, African dialects often hold different meaning when a particular word is “sung” with different tones. Dance is integral to the music as a way of enhancing its meaning.
Like music in the west, sub-Saharan African music is used for religion, battle, lullabies and work. Both cultures share instruments like wind instruments, strings and percussion.
The purpose of African music is to express the full extent of life through the sound. It’s an integral part of African culture and society. Children are taught the value of music and musical instruments at a very early age. By the age of three or four, African children are taught how to make their own instruments.
In this way art and Africa are intimately enmeshed, so much so, that some dialects lack a specific word for “music”. Music is so integral; there needn’t be a word for it, showing just how important African music is to its people.
You will help Samite immensely by ordering his new CD, “My Music World” and we thank Pete Seeger for his support.