Music of Africa

Traditional African music is an imprecise term for the black African countries played in music, which is considered as affected only slightly or not of musical styles outside the region. The word "traditional" constructs an opposition to akulturierter music and assumes a more or less constant remained historically African music which is distinguishable from the accrued since the European colonial influences. In fact, the music of Africa has always been subject to changes due to regional cultural exchange and development and not often associate individual ethnicities. Second, the Western cultural import is neglected by such a distinction, the strong influence of Arabic music, on the other hand overemphasized from a Euro -centric point of view.

A division into classical music and popular music is a European categorization and for Africa is not applicable. There are distinct by their intended use courtly music of the kingdoms, ritual music and entertainment music of the general population, which Africans but not necessarily connect a rating. Played drums with complex rhythms are only one aspect of African music, of equal importance is an oral tradition of singing tradition. After the occurrence of certain musical instruments and playing styles, individual style regions can be demarcated.


Many African languages ​​are tonal languages ​​, in which pitch is used to distinguish meaning, and tone sequences can be subjected to the speech sound in vocal music. In addition, listeners can hear meaningful texts from instrumental melodies. African music and African dance are inseparable; many African languages ​​use the same word for music and dance. Storytelling, masks, music and dance are in sub-Saharan Africa always in connection with a social event. The tests to be listening music can not easily be changed, because it belongs to the respective causal celebration or ritual. Just as diverse are the forms which are fixed and known to all. An improvisation of a drummer would encounter, for example, a lack of understanding. Variants, however, are not prohibited, but even demanded to a certain extent, particularly to respond to certain reactions of the participants in the performance situation to be able to. These variations must, however, be limited, since the language of the instruments is incomprehensible otherwise.

An important part of African music is repetition. Musicians and operators may as listening deeply into the music to "dive " and sometimes achieve trance-like states. Only in this way - by the long retention of the pattern - can be understood in the whole circumference of the music.

In all events of importance and even in everyday activities music plays a central role. A festival has to be canceled when the corresponding musicians traveling or ill.

African drums can sing and really talk. The musical patterns are often created from the language. The individual drum beats of the rhythm pattern must be clearly identified in their pitch or in its tone, otherwise they remain incomprehensible and without meaning. With the so-called talking drums that often require years of training, all the words and phrases may be communicated.

Past research has shown that African musical cultures are consistently dynamic. Therefore, only a romantic notion of the West, the concept of " original African music " reflects and is now used to increase the market value of African music in the West, but it lacks factual foundation.

In addition, African cultures are too different to name in common for the whole continent. Various sound systems, music in combination with cult, representation, village festivals, urban entertainment, since the early 20th century, a commercial music industry ( shellac records ) each exist locally under different conditions.

A rough classification in style areas distinguishes the khoisanid dominated south by Bantu-speaking Central Africa, and the more or less Islamic -influenced regions of East and West Africa.

Traditional African religions are called animistic ( animals, plants and inanimate nature have a soul ). The supernatural, invisible world of spirits is closely connected with the natural world and especially by the music ( the sound is " immaterial " ) communicate the two worlds. The spirits to be interviewed do not understand the language of words, but the closely related with their musical language. For all significant events of social life (birth, initiation, circumcision, healing, marriage, harvest, inauguration of ecclesiastical and secular rulers, funeral, etc.) are the spirits and ancestors asked summoned and appeased.

Even in Islamic regions of the use of music as a spiritual force is heavily influenced by traditional animistic practices.

Social functions

Music can be used in African cultures completely different purposes. Examples of social functions of music are:

  • Learning in the initiation school: The initiators learn with the help of music cognitive content of their culture
  • Representation secular ruler: King drums and trumpets (like the Kakaki in Hausa ) embody social prestige and political authority
  • Implementation of dead rituals (eg, the Bira by Stella Chiweshe )
  • Accompanied by the myths, legends and chronicles the singer price
  • Music to dance - to " secularized " forms of African rock music, especially in cities
  • Music for relaxation, recreation, entertainment, as lullabies
  • Music for messaging through messages drums

Some musical instruments

  • Stringed instruments: Web harps: kora
  • Spit sounds: endingidi, Goge, ngoni, masinko
  • Lyre: krar
  • Zithers: tube zither Valiha, trough zither inanga, board zither Bangwe
  • Mouth sheets, music sheets: mtyangala, Pluriarc

Tone scales

Mostly pentatonic or heptatonic; the interval size differs from one region differs from the European tempered scale partially sharply. The melody is mainly engstufig and falling; smaller intervals prevail. Short motifs are frequently repeated, varied or sequenced. The voting Ideal when singing is predominantly hoarse and rough guttural to shrill cries.