Posts Tagged ‘sub-Saharan African music’
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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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.
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.