Background Information

African music is an oral tradition. It is distinct from Arabic cultures in the north and Western European settler communities in southern Africa. African music is largely cultivated in sub-Saharan Africa communities. Everywhere music is integrated into economic and political activities, ceremonies, ancestral rites, worship, entertainment, and domestic life. At different times different people participate in a song or dance. Sometimes everyone joins in; at other times only one, two, three, or four, participate. Traditions emphasize singing. It is used as a way of communicating. In the African language, tones indicate meaning. The same holds true in singing. In group singing, some societies sing in unison. They are usually in call-and-response form..

There are many types of instruments used in African music. Rattles, bells, standing tubes, the xylophone, and the thumb piano are popular. Many types of drums covered in parchment are found. Different wind instruments used are flutes out of bamboo, and animal horns. Body percussion is very popular especially hand clapping and foot stamping. Gourds are played with dried roots and shells attached to make noise when shaken. Many of the women dance and play the gourds when their friends get married.

African Thumb Piano

Although traditional music and dance is still practiced, it is decreasing because of urbanization. Preservation of traditional music is given special attention in many of the countries because of its historical, political and cultural importance.

J.H. Kwabena Nketia
Microsoft Encarta'95
1994 Funk & Wagnalls Corporation

Rick Van De Graaff, Director
Ouelessebougou-Utah Alliance
1025 South 700 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84104

Go to African Music Lesson Plan