A Short Story About African Music

Published: 09th October 2009
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African music is arguably the most influential music in all of mankind. But it did not come out of a vacuum.

The truth is that different regions of Africa were influenced by a number of foreign musical traditions. For example, many nations in North Africa can trace their more recent musical lineage back to the Greeks and Romans who once governed over the area. Later there was also a substantial Middle Eastern influence on their music.

Other parts of the African continent were similarly affected by foreign music. Parts of East Africa and the offshore islands were influenced by Arabic music and Indian music in more recent times. While Southern, Central and West Africa had been influenced by the music of North America and Western Europe.

Other African music can be attributed to specific dance forms such as the rumba and salsa, which were founded by African slaves who settled in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this article we will be exploring the different kinds of African music and where it originated.

North Africa

The music of North Africa was strongly influenced by the music of ancient Egypt and the early Arabs. Although it is one of the least popular forms of contemporary African music, it is historically important and merits a good look at by all those interested in traditional music.

Sub-Saharan Music

No music is more purely African than music that originated in Sub-Saharan Africa. Though many regions were influenced by other nations, Sub-Saharan music remains quintessentially African. Because writing and reading came late to parts of Africa, this music was created as a form of communication. In time, it became an interesting and exciting, communal way to celebrate and mark several major milestones in a person's life. For example, there are literally hundreds of African songs and music that celebrate marriage, childbirth or even hunting parties.

Music is also played to scare off evil spirits and to pay homage to deceased ancestors. African music of this type is almost always accompanied by a specific dance or ceremony. It is often performed by professional musicians who have knowledge and experience with ceremonial music.

Because music from Sub-Saharan Africa focused on communal singing, it was one of the earliest to emphasize the use of harmony and structured singing. These singing methods ranged from simple rhythmic structures to incredibly complex and elaborate structures based on improvisation and several variations.


Though stringed instruments, bells, flutes and even xylophones were all used in traditional African music, there is nothing more important than the basic African hand drum. In fact, there are literally dozens of drums that are played on different occasions. A few of the most popular drums that are used in a traditional African musical include: bougarabou, tama talking drums, djembe, water drums and a many different kinds of ngoma drum that are played in parts of Central and Southern Africa.

These drums are almost always accompanied by singers or choruses who often keep time with rattles, shakers, woodsticks, bells or by simply clapping their hands' or stumping their feet.

To get more info on African music check out the African Side website and listen to free African style music. Then download the African musical CD by Georgy B - The king of Afro Talk music.

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