A summary of african music

Here is some of the stuff you need to know for african music

if doing music GCSE would recommend music lifeline (Rhinegold) very useful!

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  • Created by: Em
  • Created on: 11-01-10 19:00
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Area of Study 4
African Music
In Sub-Saharan music plays a big part in traditional life.
Not normally written down, oral tradition.
Specialist musicians ­ master drummers.
Drums ­
o The bigger the drum the lower it is
o The tighter the skin the higher it is
o Djembe ­
Carved from a hollowed trunk
Covered with goat skin
Shaped like a large goblet
Played with bare hands
o Talking drums ­
Style of drum playing that imitates the rhythms
and intonations of speech
o Cross rhythms - Two conflicting rhythms are heard at the
same time
E.g. triplet quavers played at the same time as
straight quavers on another drum. ­ Polyrhythmic
o Time Line ­ short repeated rhythm, clapped or played by a
single/double bell.
o Master Drummer ­ has the most elaborate part and plays
solos ­ his role is to lead the drum ensemble (musical cues)
Other instruments ­
o Kora ­
Long- necked African harp
Used to accompany praise songs
Plays complicated, melodic music at speed.
o Xylophone ­
Bars made from logs or bamboo
Come with and without gourd resonators.
o Mbira ­
Thumb piano
Comes in different sizes
o Singing and songs ­
The pitch of the speaking voice helps to
determine the meaning of the words

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Area of Study 4
Ordinary speech tends to be melodious and
performers move easily between singing and
Split into verses or
call and response ­ leader sings a line and is
answered by the chorus
The chorus usually remains the same, and the solo
is improvised.
There is often overlapping between the lead
singer and the chorus.…read more


Samuel Richardson

This is a nice description of the rythms, and instruments used in traditional Sub-Saharan African music. See if you can hear each of these instruments in the music, and identify the different rhythmic devices explained in the notes. 

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