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AFRICAN MUSIC

KEYWORDS

Polyrhythm (cross-rhythm)
Polyphony
Call and response
Master drummer
Ostinato (repetition)
Improvisation
Variation
A capella
Brimintingo/ Kumbengo
Kushaura/ Kutsinhira

Tribal Africa

This includes the sub-Saharan countries of Africa such as


Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Central
African Republic and Congo.

African music

Music is central to every aspect of traditional life, from rituals


to entertainment. Virtually all drum music is to accompany
dancing or singing.
1
Music is passed on through oral tradition rather than notation,
and in West Africa particularly there are hereditary musicians
called griot or jali who can trace their family heritage back
to the 12th century.
2
The griot pass their musical skills on to their sons from a very
young age and are highly respected (and paid) within their
communities.
Master drummers are soloists and conductors. They set the
rhythm, pulse and decide upon solos and dynamics. They give
visual and drum signals throughout. 3
YouTube - Djembe Drumming and Dancing

YouTube - Little Djembefola Isaiah Drums and Dances

YouTube - Isaiah 4 Years Old Plays "Ngri


"Ngri""

YouTube - Fadouba Oulare and his sons from Les Petits Sorciers - Kawa

Musical styles: African

In African music repetition is often used to organise the music. In the


mbira music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, the interaction of players
hands establishes a repeating pattern (ostinato) which players use as a
basis for improvisation.

Polyphony and Polyrhythm are also important.


Polyphony has many musical parts or rhythms interweaving with each
other.
Polyrhythm is the simultaneous sounding of two or more individual
rhythms (3 against 4). In West Africa, drum ensembles have 3-5 players,
each with a distinctive method of striking their drum and playing
interlocking patterns. Sometimes other percussion instruments join in,
creating a thick musical texture.

Call-and-response is very popular. The chorus repeats a fixed refrain in


alternation with a lead singer, who then has more freedom to improvise.
This makes the music conversational. (cassette)

POLYRHYTHM

x
x

3:2

Try it!

x
x

Drums- Djembe

African drums come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The


bodies are usually made from wood, gourds, and clay; drum
heads are made from animal skins.
The djembe drum has been called "the healing drum". It dates
back to the 12th century Mali Empire of West Africa. It has a
very wide tonal range setting it apart from other drums.

Drums- dunun
These set of drums are collectively known as
dunun. Individually they are called:
Dununba- bass drum
Sangban- mid drum
Kenkeni- high drum
Drum ensembles may consist
of dunun, djembes and
percussion.

Polyrhythms

The three dunun players each perform a


different cyclic rhythm pattern on their drum
and bells. These cyclic patterns combine to
create a polyrhythm which is unique to a
particular piece of music. The polyrhythm
created by the set of dunun drums and bells is
essential in supporting the whole piece- the
solo drummers and supporting djembes rely on
the dunun drums to hold the piece together.
drumYouTube
drumYouTube - Akaran Iko Iko rhythm sample - Soli (rapide
(rapide)) fast

Talking Drums

Talking drums belong to the family of hourglass shaped pressure drums.


The gan gan is the smallest, the dun dun is the largest. They have a drum
head at both ends.
Pitch in African music is largely determined by the tuning of the drums.
Drum rhythms can imitate well-known phrases. It's said that when
Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo, the native people in West
Africa knew about it before their English or French governors, because the
news was drummed down the coast from North Africa. Talking drums are
used to send messages, using a combination of pitch and rhythm to imitate
speech. http://images.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://www.soundsofafrica.tv/Africa%2520Out%2520Loud/Assane-forweb.jpg&imgrefurl=http://

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en&start
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Percussion-shakers

The yenca rattle is a gourd containing seeds that make the


sound. It has a sponge plug which can be removed to change
the seeds for different sizes, to give a different sound. (hoshomaracas)
The axatse or shekere also has seeds loosely covering a
hollowed gourd. It is played by striking it on their hand, then
on their leg, in various patterns. The top of the ball can be hit
to create a deeper tone.

Percussion- bells

The gonkogui (gankogui) is a traditional double bell which is held in the


hand whilst being struck with a stick. It has one high and one low tone.
(agogo bells)
The toke or banana bell is played by striking it with a metal rod whilst it
lies across the palm of the hand. It can also be hung on the side of drums. A
pair of these bells, tuned a fourth apart, usually play together

Tuned percussion

The balaphon is a predecessor to the


xylophone and marimba. It uses hollow gourds
as resonators.

The MBIRA is considered to create the essential link


between the world of the living and the world of the spirits.
It's believed to have the power of projecting its sound into
the heavens and attracting the attention of the ancestors.
It is played by the thumbs and forefingers in cyclic
patterns. It is sometimes called the thumb piano, but this
is seen as a colonial term in Africa. YouTube Mbira

Mbira patterns

Mbira players improvise over core ostinato patterns


which creates complex polyphonic textures.
The lead part is called the KUSHAURA.
The intertwining part is called the KUTSINHIRA.
Although cyclic, the performers do not consider any
one point of the cycle the beginning or the end.
Mbira are accompanied traditionally by hosho (an
African forerunner of the maracas) YouTube - Hunters Mbira Crew 2

Stringed instruments

The kora is a 21- string


harp-lute, which
includes both plucked
and sympathetic strings.
It is used by professional
musicians (jali) among
the Mandika people of
Gambia.
YouTube - Jali Music Party in Brikama

, The Gambia
YouTube - Jali Sherrifo Konteh at Whitby Musicport 2005

Kora patterns

The kora sounds like a harp and can be played


solo or to accompany songs
The melody, counter- melodies and bass line
are all played by one musician (Griot or jali).
The melody (and improvisations around it are
called BRIMINTINGO.
The ostinato patterns below the melody are
called KUMBENGO.

Ngoni/ Xalam

The xalam/ ngoni is


the most common
stringed instrument
in Senegal in West
Africa. A plucked
lute which is a close
relative of the
African American
banjo
. YouTube - Xhalam playing by Abdulai
Saine,Gambia 2002

Southern Africa

Music in the southern countries of Africa, which


include South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zaire, have
been influenced by Western church music, introduced
by missionaries in the 19th century. Choral singing is
very important in this part of Africa. The traditional
vocal music of the Zulus of South Africa is called
ISICATHAMIYA. It has been popularized by a group
called Ladysmith Black Mambazo. (Heinz beans ad!!)
In this clip, notice the A CAPELLA men's voices
using CALL AND RESPONSE.
YouTube - Mambazo

African instruments
Listen to these clips and identify the
instrument(s)1.

DJEMBE

4.

DUNUN

2.

KORA

5.

3.

BALAFON

6. MBIRA (THUMB PIANO)

TALKING DRUM

Africa- its influence (Fusions)


Elements of African music can be found in
almost every other culture in the world.
Africa has had a direct influence on the music of
South America, the Caribbean, USA, Western
Europe and many other nations.
Africa is a huge and diverse continent with a
wide variety of people, customs, music and
instruments.

Fusion

List some of the genres or styles of music that


you think may have been influenced by
African music.
BLUES
DISCO BLUEGRASS
FUNK
DANCE
SOUL
JAZZ
GOSPEL
MINIMALISM
REGGAE
RAP
SALSA/ CUBAN

FUSIONS

African musicians have always embraced new


technology, applying the playing techniques of
their own instruments to that of the western
instruments brought in by the colonial powers.
Often bands would play waltzes, marches and
popular songs from the country that ruled.
With independence came the freedom to
explore traditional music, often moved on to
the new instruments.

Guitar styles

Guitar styles copy the fast moving rippling


rhythms of the kora and other string
instrumentsMose Fan Fan- Sikulu
Listen for the interlocking guitar lines, call and
response vocals and shave haircut shampoo
clave rhythm that is the basis of all cuban
musicLoketo- Trouble.

Electric Africa
This all electric mix has many names in Africa
depending where it originates from West Africa- Highlife
Afrobeat
Mbalax
Makossa
Central and East Africa- Soukous (Soca)
South Africa- Mbquanqa

Chimurenga

Listen to this MBIRA tune played traditionally


and then arranged for electric instruments.

Traditional Mbira- Taireva


Thomas Mapfumo- Pfumvu
Thomas Mapfumo- Chigwaya

Youssou NDour

Youssou Ndour is from Senegal, West Africa and is


from a family of traditional musicians.
He has created his own style of electric music called
mbalax, which comes from local Wolof drumming
patterns. His band uses the cyclic patterns on electric
guitars, bass, keyboards, brass, drum kit and
traditional drums including tama (talking drum).
Ndobine.
He makes different recordings of the same material
for his African and Western markets putting a steady
bass drum beat in his European recordings.
Del teew

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Styles (CD2)
Name these styles/ genre that have their roots
in African music.
1.
2.
Reggae
Salsa

3.

Blues

4.

Soul/ Funk

5.

Bluegrass

6.

Minimalism

Extension

Listen to these clips of African music and try


to spot what style of music it has influenced.

Ali Farka Toure


Manu Dibango
King Sunny Ade
Extra tracks- Muezzin call / Field hollers
Mannish Boy / Bridging the Gap

Homework

Find 4 different examples of


fusion music and identify the
influences.
If you can ,bring in a copy of
one to play to the class.

Traditional African instruments

Other instruments

African wind instruments include flutes, whistles, oboes and


trumpets. The flutes were made from bamboo, reed , wood,
clay, bones and other materials found in the sub-Saharan
region.
Trumpets, often associated with royalty, were made from
animal horns or wood. Clarinets, from the Savannah region of
West Africa are made from guinea-corn or sorghum stems,
with a reed cut from the surface of the stem at one end.
Double-reed instruments, such as the hasua algaita, are
derived from North Africa.