Music is used in communication, celebration, festivals and socialising.
The three main types of African music are drumming, chorus song (tribal music) and instrumental music.
The four main features are...
- Call and response
It is passed down by oral tradition.
In African music, the drum is considered the most important of all instruments and used to be used in communication, with certain rhythm patterns and pitches meaning different things.
There are hundreds of African drums but the three you need to know are...
- Djembe - Goblet-shaped drum from West Africa. The most common.
- Donno - Hourglass-shaped 'talking drum'.
- Dundun - double-headed drum played with sticks.
Different sounds can be produced by using techniques. These include where you hit the drum ( centre of the skin or on the wooden edge), how (hands or sticks) and how you stretch the drum membrane.
The master drummer acts as a conductor and directs the performance.
There are complex rhythms and cross-rhythms, resulting in a polyrhythmic texture.
African choral singing
Some Africans believe that music serves as a link to te spirit world. It is a vital part of life. Everyone sings regardless of ability.
Like drumming it is also a mean of communication. African languages are tone languages where the pitch level determines the meaning of words.
Common features are...
- call and response
- short, simple, repetitive melodies
- theme and variations
- Sung is a round
African instrumental music
Instruments are grouped into four categories...
Idiophones Aerophones Chordophones Membranophones
(solid) (wind) (strings) (with a skin)
Rattles Flutes Zithers Dundun
Mbira Ocarinas Lyres Donno
Xylophones Pipes Lutes Djembe
Body percussion is also used as well as vocables which are effects made by vocalising vowel sounds e.g. 'eh' and 'ah'.
Xylophones, or Balaphones are very common in Africa as they can cover a wide range of pitches.
Common features are repetition, improvisation, cyclic structures, polyphonic textures and intertwining melodies.
The instruments used are... vocals, balaphones,a flute, maracas,a djembe, a talking drum, a tam-tam and a dundun.
Comes from Burkino Faso, which is a landlocked country in West Africa.
There are three clear strands
- the balaphone ostinati - produces a complex polyphonic texture
- the drum ostinati - one bar pattern present throughout
- the vocal line - pentatonic call and response
Yiri is in D flat.
The texture is monophonic at the beginning, and later becomes heterophonic.
The tempo, beat and dynamics are unvaried.
There are patterns of voices followed by instrumental breaks.
It ends with a bell.