Exploring African Music

Author: Christine M. Brady
Grade Level: Early Elementary


  1. Students will come to appreciate African Music and the rich culture it represents.
  2. Students will identify two characteristics of African Music in their journals.

Materials Needed:

  • Book: Seeger, Pete. ABIYOYO. Illustrated by Michael Hays. Scholastic Inc., 1989. ISBN 0-590-42720-2
  • C.D./ Tape: Zimmer, Hans, Lebo M. and Jay Rifkin. The Power Of One. With Bulawayo Church Choir, Teddy Pendergrass. Warner Brothers, 1992. (Tape or C.D. player also needed)
  • Instruments: Drums, Rattles, and Clappers (optional)

Optional Materials:

  • Lesson Manual: Silver Burdett Ginn. The Music Connection. Teacher Edition Part 1. Book 2. Morristown, NJ, 1995. "Abiyoyo" pg. 71 ISBN 0-382-26191-7
  • Video: Lancit Media. (1986). Reading Rainbow. No. 94 Abiyoyo.

African Music Background Information


  1. Anticipatory Set - Have music playing from the soundtrack "Power of One" as class begins. Introduce the lesson in the following way: "Many songs which you heard as a small child, such as 'Rockabye Baby,' 'Jingle Bells,' and 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,' have been passed down by parents to children for many years. These songs become a part of our lives, and mark the events we remember in our lives. African people use music in their everyday activities as well. Their music marks important events in their lives just as it does in ours. Their songs can teach us not only about African music, but also about African culture."

  2. Explaining Purpose - "We are going to be learning more about African Music and exploring the characteristics within the music. You will be able to identify two specific characteristics of African Music once we have finished."

  3. Picture: Abiyoyo Book CoverRead (with animation) the South African
    Folk Story of Abiyoyo to the class. (May choose to use the Reading Rainbow Video segment of Pete Seeger telling the tale of Abiyoyo). In this story we learn about a brave little boy who helps his father conquer the terrible monster, Abiyoyo, who is threatening to destroy their village. The little boy sings the song of Abiyoyo and the father makes the monster disappear.

  4. Teach students how to sing the South African Lullaby "Abiyoyo." (The music is provided in the book, Abiyoyo). Talk about the repetition of the melody evident in the song. Add instrumental accompaniment: drums, rattles, clappers, etc. Explain how African music often involves improvisation. Model how a singer might add some improvisation, and encourage a few students to try improvising at certain times during the music.

  5. Appropriate Practice - Listen to the soundtrack, The Power of One, and identify as a class the components that are characteristic of African Music (i.e. repetition, improvisation, short melodic theme, accompaniment). The following songs are particularly appropriate for this study: "Senzenina," "Mother Africa," "Limpopo River Song," and "The Rainmaker."

  6. Closure - End the lesson in the following way: "Today we have listened to African Music, and we have identified characteristics present in African Music." Have students make an entry in their journals describing two common characteristics present in African Music. Continue playing African Music in the background.


Make a Mini-Musical from Abiyoyo (see The Music Connection Lesson Manual).


  1. Evaluation based on active participation and student responses in class discussion.
  2. Students will be expected to identify two characteristics of African Music and write about them in their journals.

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