African Music

Everything you wanted to know about African Music – By Country 

African Music

Written By D Mark Agostinelli - 2014

Africa is a big continent.     The continent holds a total of 54 countries. However, there is a part of Africa that is called sub-Saharan Africa.     This part of Africa is an extremely colorful part of Africa and the music that comes from this part of the continent offers the “african music sound” In the northern parts of Africa there is more of a “middle eastern” sound or “a nomadic Arabic sound” This sound, is usually considered middle eastern in nature.     However, this music from northern Africa is still part of Africa and deserves to be identified as such.     African Music is the music of Africans that live south of the Sahara. Each country of Africa has its own history and mixture of cultures and languages. The mixture of history, culture and language; greatly affects the sound of music that a country creates.    


Traditional African Music


There are multiple reasons why Africans would play music.     Music is utilized for both work and play, used to express feelings and political position.     Some tribes even use music as a means of communication; such as beating a drum so it can be heard in the distance.     Most African cultures do not have a form of written music composition. Songs are passed down from generation to generation.     Traditionally, children learn how to play music by imitating their parents. Clapping and singing what their parents have sung.     Songs are usually left open for improvisation, since there is usually no written form of the music being performed.     A musician may play the song over one hundred times.     Each time leaving room for the musicians own creativity.    

Music was used as a form of storytelling.     Players would play a tune, or sing a story.     Using the instruments as props and tools of expression.    

Music can be used to resolve disputes.     Rather than two people fighting with blood, they would fight by singing to each other, mocking each other, and using instrument as modes of expression. This method would save lives by using a form of battle that does not inflict physical pain and death.   There are cultures in Africa that would actually lineup men and battle by way of music, to settle disputes between entire villages.    


Music and song during:


Clearing fields for planting

Men with grazing anmals would play an instrument to pass lonely hours

Hunters would play after a successful kill.

Music was played during birth, death, marriage, manhood and othersuch great page markers in one’s life.    

                II             MUSICAL STYLE  

Although diverse, African music has distinctive traits, which makes it different from the mainstream world. The first is the use of repetition as an organizing principle. For example, in the mbira music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, a repeated pattern is established by the interaction of various parts, and the musician develops an improvisation out of this core pattern.     The second common characteristic is polyphony (the simultaneous combination of several distinct musical parts). African music also has a conversational quality, in which different voices, instrumental parts, or even the parts of a single player are brought into lively exchange. One of the most common types of music making is call-and-response singing, in which a chorus repeats a fixed refrain in alternation with a lead singer, who has more freedom to improvise.

There are many different modes of expression in African music. In West Africa, drum ensembles consisting of three to five musicians who play interlocking patterns are common. In the ensemble, each drummer uses a special method of striking the drum head to produce varying pitches and timbres (distinctive sounds also known as tone colors) to distinguish the drum from all the others. Such ensembles often include rattles and an iron bell, which is struck with a stick to produce a repeated pattern called a timeline. This pattern penetrates the dense texture of the ensemble and helps the drummers to play their patterns at the correct time.

In the akadindaxylophone music of the Baganda, two groups of three players each face one another across one xylophone. The first group plays a repeated pattern in octaves, and the second group fills in the missing beats with an interlocking pattern. The resulting tempo may approach 600 beats per minute. In eastern, central, and southern Africa, groups of musicians play sets of stopped flutes or trumpets, each person contributing a single note in strict rotations with the others. The alternation of the parts creates a rich polyphonic texture.     This kind of ensemble technique, sometimes called hocketting, was described by European observers as early as the 15th century. Hocketting also plays an important role in the music of the San people of the Kalahari Desert and the Pygmies of the central African rain forests.

Among the southern African peoples, polyphony is most highly developed in vocal music.     In traditional Zulu choral music, individual voices enter at different points in a continuous cycle, overlapping in a complex and constantly shifting texture. The same technique may be used in solo vocal performances, during which a singer will jump from one entrance point to another to create a polyphonic texture. A wide variety of vocal qualities are used in African music, and it is common for sound-producing objects, such as jingles, rattles, and membranes made of spider web, to be attached to instruments to produce a “sizzling” effect.


                III            INSTRUMENTS  

A wide variety of instruments are used in African music. Drums are among the more popular instruments and are made in a variety of shapes and sizes.     A Drum is also called a Membranophone, which is any musical instrument that produces a sound from a stretched membrane that resonates to produce a sound. Materials such as wood, gourds, and clay are used to construct drum shells. Drum membranes are made from the skins of reptiles, cows, goats, and other animals. Important types of drums include drum-chimes, in which a set of drums tuned to a scale is mounted in a frame and played by a team of drummers; friction drums, in which sound is produced by rubbing the membrane; and the West African hourglass-shaped tension drum, which is sometimes called a talking drum because it can be used to imitate the tonal contours of the Yoruba language of Nigeria. As the drum itself is played, it is possible to make the drum talk the language of Yoruba.    

Other important percussion instruments in African music include clap-sticks, bells, rattles, slit gongs, struck gourds and clay pots, stamping tubes, and xylophones.     These are all types of Idiophones, which are musical instruments that resonates as a whole without the use of a membrane or string. The whole instrument resonates to produce the sound. The lamellophone, an instrument unique to Africa, consists of a series of metal or bamboo strips mounted on a board or box. The instrument is held in the hands or on the player’s lap, and the free ends of the strips are plucked with thumbs or forefingers. Lamellophone are used throughout Africa and are also referred to as mbira, kalimba, or likembe.

African stringed instruments include the musical bow, lute, lyre, harp, and zither. Professional musicians among the Mandinka people of Gambia play the kora, a 21-string harp-lute. The xalam, a plucked lute, is a close relative of the African American banjo. It is used in Senegal by Wolof praise singers, whose songs revere important people. The musical bow, which consists of a string stretched between two ends of a flexible stave, plays a particularly important role in the traditional music of southern African peoples, such as the San, Xhosa, and Zulu.

The flute, whistle, oboe, and trumpet are among the African wind instruments. Transverse and end-blown flutes made from bamboo, reeds, wood, clay, bones, and other materials are used throughout the sub-Saharan region. Trumpets, often associated with royalty, are made from animal horns or wood and are also widely used. Clarinets from the savanna 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 Hausa algaita, originated from the shawms of North Africa.


                IV            AFRICAN MUSIC IN SOCIETY  

Professional musicians played a crucial role as historians in the kingdoms that developed from the 10th century to the 20th century in various parts of Africa. Among the Mandé people of western Africa, professional bards, or griots, still recount the histories of powerful lineages and offer counsel to contemporary rulers. Among the Yoruba of Nigeria, an incompetent or evil king often first heard the public’s command to abdicate from his “talking drummers.” When Ugandan government troops invaded the palace of the kabaka (king) of Buganda in the 1970s, they made sure that the royal musical instruments were destroyed first. In his memoirs, the kabaka described the royal drums as the “heart” of his kingdom.

Music continues to play an important role in African societies. It is a medium for the transmission of knowledge and values and for celebrating important communal and personal events. Music is often combined with speech, dance, and the visual arts to create multimedia performances. Even in societies with well-developed traditions of professional musicianship, the ability of all individuals to participate in a musical event by adding a voice to the chorus or by adding an appropriate clap pattern is assumed to be part of normal cultural competence.

Important stages of an African person’s life are often marked with music. There are lullabies, children’s game songs, and music for adolescent initiation rites, weddings, title-taking ceremonies, funerals, and ceremonies for the ancestors. Among the Yoruba of Nigeria, the mother of twins must perform a special repertoire of songs, and in Ghana there are songs for teasing bedwetters and for celebrating the loss of a child’s first tooth.

In many African religions, sound is thought to be one of the primary means by which deities and humans impose order on the universe. In West Africa, drummers play a crucial role in possession-trance ceremonies, in which the gods enter or “ride” the bodies of devotees. A competent drummer must know scores of specific rhythms for particular gods and be responsible throughout the performance for regulating the flow of supernatural power in ritual contexts. In Zimbabwe, Shona mbira musicians create an environment that encourages the ancestral-spirit possession that is considered a necessary part of healing.

Music is also used to organize work activities. Kpelle men in Liberia use a form of vocal hocketting to coordinate their machete blows while clearing dense brush for rice fields. In pygmy societies of the central rain forest, singing and vocal cries are used to coordinate the movements of hunters through the brush. In southern Africa, herders use flutes and other instruments to help control the movement of cattle.


                V             POPULAR MUSIC  

African popular music is a blend of African, European, African American, and Middle Eastern musical traditions. In most parts of Africa, popular music was pioneered by workers drawn into expanding colonial economies during the early 20th century. The subsequent development of popular-music styles has been strongly influenced by the electronic mass media. The international popularity of African music increased in the 1980s, in part because of the participation of African musicians on albums by popular music stars such as Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, and David Byrne.

The most influential style of popular music within Africa is Congolese guitar band music, also known as soukous. Influenced by Afro-Cuban music, this style developed in the towns of central Africa and is now played by groups in such cities as Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire); Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo; and Paris, France. Proponents of soukous include Franco and l’Orchestre O.K. Jazz, Rochereau, Mbilia Bel, Papa Wemba, and Loketo.

In the late 19th century, a style called highlife began to develop in Ghana. There are two types of highlife groups: dance bands, in which musicians play an Africanized version of Western ballroom-dance music, complete with trumpets and saxophones; and guitar bands, which usually include several electric guitars and a set of percussion instruments. In Nigeria, the Afro-beat style of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, formerly a highlife musician, is strongly influenced by the African American music of jazz. Yoruba musicians developed a variant of guitar-band highlife called juju, which uses traditional proverbs and praise poetry and features the talking drum. Popular stars of juju music include King Sunny Adé and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey. In Zimbabwe, Thomas Mapfumo and guitarist Joshua Sithole helped to develop a style called jiti, transferring Shona mbira patterns to the electric guitar. This style played an important role in the songs of resistance disseminated during the struggle for independence (1957-1980) against the white-controlled Rhodesian government.

The tradition of professional griots in the savanna region of West Africa is carried on by musicians such as Youssou N’Dour of Senegal and Salif Keita of Mali. These musicians make use of traditional instruments such as the xylophone and the kora (a harp-lute) in addition to using electric guitars and synthesizers. Their vocal styles often reflect the influence of Islam on the music of the savanna region.

South Africa is home to some of the best-known styles of African popular music. Mbaqanga, which was developed in the segregated black townships created under apartheid, is the most popular form of dance music. Contemporary Mbaqanga groups, such as the Soul Brothers and Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, employ a lead singer and chorus, electric guitar and bass, drum set, and some combination of saxophone, accordion, and organ. The Zulu male choral style isicathamiya (“a stalking approach”), performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, draws upon traditional wedding songs, African American choral styles, and Wesleyan church hymns.






Algerian music is virtually synonymous with Raï among foreigners; the musical genre has achieved great popularity in France, Spain and other parts of Europe. For several centuries, Algerian music was dominated by styles inherited from Al-Andalus, eventually forming a unique North African twist on these poetic forms. Algerian music came to include suites called nuubaat (singular nuuba). Later derivatives include rabaab and hawzii.




Music in Algeria offers a rich diversity of genre: popular music (Shaabi), Arabo-Andalusian music (Malouf San’aa, Gharnati, etc.), classical Arabic, Bedouin, Berber music (Kabyle, Shawi, Tuareg, etc.), Rai etc.


Sha-bii is, in North African countries, folk music; in Algeria, however, it refers to a style of recent urban popular music, of which the best known performer was El Hajj Muhammad El Anka, considered to be the Grand Master of Andalusian classical music. True styles of folk music include hofii, a form of female vocal music, and zindalii, from Constantine.



Rai is a creative outlet to express political discontent, this music is a mix between Western music and Bedouin music.


The Malouf is the Arab-Andalusian music of Constantine and is also well known in Tunisia and Libya, it is a very large number of diversified musical repertoire of Algeria. Nevertheless, Malouf cannot compete commercially with popular music, much of it Egyptian, and it has only survived because of the efforts of the Tunisian government and a number of private individuals. Malouf is still performed in public, especially at weddings and circumcision ceremonies, though recordings are relatively rare.


Souad Massi

Important musicians


      Cheikh Larbi Ben Sari, composer and musician from the Tlemcen school of Andalusian music

      Abdelkrim Dali, Master of Hawzi classical music

      El Hadj Mohamed El Anka, Master of Chaabi classical music

      Cheikh Mohamed El Ghafour, musician from the Tlemcen school of Hawzi music

      Mohamed Tahar Fergani, musician and master of the Malouf classical style

      El Hachemi Guerouabi, musician and reformer of the Chaabi classical style

      Fadela Dziria, singer of Hawzi classical style music

      Kamel Messaoudi, singer of Chaabi music

      Warda Al-Jazairia, singer of classical Arab oriental music

      Dahmane El Harrachi, a singer composer and songwriter of Chaabi music

      Zaho, an Algerian R&B singer based in Canada.

      Souad Massi singer, songwriter and guitarist now living in France

      Karim Abranis singer, songwriter and guitarist now living in France

      Khaled, king of Raï. Singer, songwriter now living in France.


Rai Music of Algeria


Raï is a form of folk music that originated in Oran, Algeria from Bedouin shepherds, mixed with Spanish, French, African and Arabic musical forms, which dates back to the 1930s.


Singers of Raï are called Cheb (Shabab, young) as opposed to sheikh (Shaykh, old), the name given to Chaabi singers. The tradition arose in cities like Oran, Relizane, Mostaganem, Chlef and Sidi-Bel-Abbès, primarily among the poor. Traditionally sung by men, by the end of the 20th century, female singers had become common. The lyrics of Raï have concerned social issues, such as disease and the policing of European colonies, which affected native populations.





Raï is a music style that originated in Algeria in the 1930s. It appealed to young people who sought to modernize the traditional Islamic values and attitudes. Regional, secular, and religious drum patterns, melodies, and instruments were blended with Western electric instrumentation.


Oran, a seaport in Western Algeria, was invaded by the Spanish in the 16th century; Spanish troops kept women there to entertain the troops, and the city has retained a reputation for hedonism ever since. In the early 20th century, Oran was divided into Jewish, French, Spanish, and Arab quarters. By independence in 1962, the Jewish quarter (known as the Derb), was home to musicians like Reinette L’Oranaise, Saoud l’Oranais and Larbi Bensari. Sidi el Houari was home to Spanish fishermen and many refugees from Spain who arrived after 1939. These two quarters had active music scenes, and the French inhabitants of the city went to the Jewish and Spanish areas to examine the music. The Arabs of Oran were known for al-andalous, a classical style of music imported from Southern Spain after 1492. Hawzi classical music was popular during this time, and female singers of the genre included Cheikha Tetma, Fadila D’zirya and Myriam Fekkai. Another common musical genre was bedoui (or gharbi), which originated from Bedouin chants. Bedoui consisted of Melhun poetry being sung with accompaniment from guellal drums and gaspa flutes. Bedoui was sung by male singers, known as cheikhs, who were dressed in long, white jellabas and turbans. Lyrics came from the poetry of people such as Mestfa ben Brahim and Zenagui Bouhafs. Performers of bedoui included Cheikh Hamada, Cheikh Mohammed Senoussi, Cheikh Madani, Cheikh Hachemi Bensmir and Cheikh Khaldi. Senoussi was the first to have had recorded the music in 1906.


French colonization of Algeria changed the organization of society, producing a class of poor, uneducated urban men and women. Bedoui singers mostly collaborated with the French colonizers, though one exception from such collaboration was Cheikh Hamada. The problems of survival in a life of poverty were the domain of street musicians who sang bar-songs called zendanis. A common characteristic of these songs included exclamations of the word “Raï!” and variations thereof. The word “rai” implies that an opinion is being expressed.


In the 1920s, the women of Oran were held to strict code of conduct. Many of those that failed became social outcasts and singers and dancers. They sang medh songs in praise of the prophet Mohammed and performed for female audiences at ceremonies such as weddings and circumcision feasts. These performers included Les Trois Filles de Baghdad, Soubira bent Menad and Kheira Essebsadija. Another group of female social outcasts were called cheikhas, who were known for their alluring dress, hedonistic lyrics, and their display of a form of music that was influenced from meddhahates and zendani singers. These cheikhas, who sang for both men and women, included people such as Cheikha Remitti el Reliziana, Cheikha Grélo, Cheikha Djenia el Mostganmia, Cheikha Bachitta de Mascara, and Cheikha a; Ouachma el Tmouchentia. The 1930s saw the rise of revolutionary organizations, including organizations motivated by Marxism, which mostly despised these early roots Raï singers. At the same time, Arab classical music was gaining popularity across North Africa, especially the music of Umm Kulthum.


When first developed, Raï was a hybrid blend of rural and cabaret musical genres, invented by and targeted toward distillery workers, peasants who had lost their land to European settlers, and other types of lower class citizens. The geographical location of Oran allowed for the spread of many cultural influences, allowing Raï musicians to absorb an assortment of musical styles such as flamenco from Spain, gnawa music, and French cabaret, allowing them to combine with the rhythms typical of Arab nomads. In the early 1930s, social issues afflicting the Arab population in the colony, such as the disease of typhus, harassment and imprisonment by the colonial police, and poverty were prominent themes of raï lyrics. However, other main lyrical themes concerned the likes of wine, love, and the meaning and experiences of leading a marginal life. From its origins, women played a significant role in the music and performance of raï. In contrast to other Algerian music, raï incorporated dancing in addition to music, particularly in a mixed-gender environment.


In the 1930s, Raï, al-andalousm, and the Egyptian classical style influenced the formation of wahrani, a musical style popularized by Blaoui Houari. Musicians like Mohammed Belarbi and Djelloul Bendaoud added these influences to other Oranian styles, as well as Western piano and accordion, resulting in a style called bedoui citadinisé. Revolt began in the mid-1950s, and musicians which included Houari and Ahmed Saber supported the Front de Libération National. After independence in 1962, however, the Marxist government of the Houari Boumédienne regime, along with President Ahmed Ben Bella, did not tolerate criticism from musicians such as Saber, and suppression of Raï and Oranian culture ensued. The amount of public performances by female raï singers decreased, which led to men playing an increased role in this genre of music. Meanwhile, traditional raï instruments such as the gasba (reed flute), and the derbouka (Maghrebi drums) were replaced with the violin and accordion.




In the 1960s, Bellamou Messaoud and Belkacem Bouteldja began their career, and they changed the raï sound, eventually gaining mainstream acceptance in Algeria by 1964. In the 1970s, recording technology began growing more advanced, and more imported genres had Algerian interest as well, especially Jamaican reggae with performers like Bob Marley. During the 1970s, raï artists brought in influences from other countries such as Egypt, Europe, and the Americas. Trumpets, the electric guitar, synthesizers, and drum machines were specific instruments that were put into raï music. This marked the beginning of pop raï, which was performed by a later generation of chabs (young men) and chabas (young women). International success of the genre had begun as early as 1976 with the rise to prominence of producer Rachid Baba Ahmed.


While this form of raï increased cassette sales, its association with mixed dancing, an obscene act according to orthodox Islamic views, led to government-backed suppression. However, this suppression was overturned due to Raï’s growing popularity in France, where it was strongly demanded by the Maghrebi Arab community. This popularity in France was increased as a result of the upsurge of Franco-Arab struggles against racism. This led to a following of a white audience that was sympathetic to the antiracist struggle.


After the election of President Chadli Bendjedid in 1979, Raï music had a chance to rebuild because of his lessened moral and economic restraints. Shortly afterwards, Raï started to form into pop-raï, with the use of instruments such as electrical synthesizers, guitars, and drum machines.


In the 1980s, raï began its period of peak popularity. Previously, the Algerian government had opposed raï because of it’s sexually and culturally risqué topics, such as alcohol and consumerism, two subjects that were taboo to the traditional Islamic culture.


The government eventually attempted to ban raï, banning the importation of blank cassettes and confiscating the passports of raï musicians. This was done to prevent raï from not only spreading throughout the country, but to prevent it from spreading internationally and from coming in or out of Algeria. Though this limited the professional sales of raï, the music increased in popularity through the illicit sale and exchange of tapes. In 1985, Algerian Colonel Snoussi joined with French minister of culture Jack Lang to convince the Algerian state to accept raï. He succeeded in getting the government to return passports to raï musicians and to allow raï to be recorded and performed in Algeria, with government sponsorship, claiming it as a part of Algerian cultural heritage. This not only allowed the Algerian government to financially gain from producing and releasing raï, but it allowed them to monitor the music and prevent the publication of “unclean” music and dance and still use it to benefit the Algerian State’s image in the national world. In 1986, the first state-sanctioned raï festival was held in Algeria, and a festival was also held in Bobigny, France.


In 1988, Algerian students and youth flooded the streets to protest state-sponsored violence, the high cost of staple foods, and to support the Peoples’ Algerian Army. President Chadli Bendjedid, who held power from 1979 to 1992, and his FLN cronies blamed raï for the massive uprising that left 500 civilians dead in October 1988. Most raï singers denied the allegation, including Cheb Sahraoui, who said there was no connection between raï and the October rebellion. Yet Raï’s reputation as protest music stuck because the demonstrators adopted Khaled’s song “El Harba Wayn” (“To Flee, But Where?”) to aid their protesting:


      Where has youth gone?


      Where are the brave ones?

      The rich gorge themselves

      The poor work themselves to death

      The Islamic charlatans show their true face…

      You can always cry or complain

      Or escape… but where?


In the 1990s, restrictions were placed on raï, and those who did not submit to censorship faced consequences such as exile. One exiled raï singer, Cheb Hasni, accepted an offer to return to Algeria and perform at a stadium in 1994. Hasni’s fame and controversial songs led to him receiving death threats from Islamic fundamentalist extremists. On September 29, 1994, he was the first raï musician to be murdered, outside his parents’ home in the Gambetta district of Oran, reportedly because he let girls kiss him on the cheek during a televised concert. His death came amid other violent actions against North African performers. A few days before his death, the Kabyle singer Lounès Matoub was abducted by the GIA. The following year, on February 15, 1995, Raï producer Rachid Baba-Ahmed was assassinated in Oran.


The escalating tension of the Islamist anti-raï campaign caused raï musicians such as Chab Mami and Chaba Fadela to relocate from Algeria to France. Moving to France was a way to sustain the music’s existence. France was where Algerians had moved during the post-colonial era in order to find work, and where musicians had a greater opportunity to oppose the government without censorship.


Though raï found mainstream acceptance in Algeria, Islamic fundamentalists still protested the genre, saying that it was still too liberal and too contrasting to traditional Islamic values. The fundamentalists claimed that the musical genre still promoted sexuality, alcohol and Western consumer culture, but critics of the fundamentalist viewpoint stated that fundamentalists and raï musicians were ultimately seeking converts from the same population, the youth, who often had to choose where they belonged between the two cultures. Despite the governmental support, a split remained between those citizens belonging to strict Islam and those patronizing the raï scene.


International success


Cheb Khaled was the first musician with international success, including his 1988 album Kutché, though his popularity did not extend to places such as the United States and Latin America. Other prominent performers of the 1980s included Houari Benchenet, Raïna Raï, Mohamed Sahraoui, Cheb Mami, and Cheb Hamid.


International success grew in the 1990s, with Cheb Khaled’s 1992 album Khaled. With Khaled no longer in Algeria, musicians such as Cheb Tahar, Cheb Nasro, and Cheb Hasni began singing lover’s raï, a sentimental, pop-ballad form of raï music. Later in the decade, funk, hip hop, and other influences were added to raï, especially by performers like Faudel and Rachid Taha, the latter of whom took raï music and fused it with rock. Taha does not call his creation raï music, but rather describes it as a combination of folk raï and punk. Another mix of cultures in Arabic music of the late 1990s came through Franco-Arabic music released by musicians such as Aldo.


The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a rise in female raï performers. According to authors Gross, McMurray, and Swedenburg in their article “Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Raï, Rap, and Franco-Maghrebi Identity,” raï musician Chaba Zahouania was forbidden by her family to perform or even appear in public. According to Gross et al., the raï record companies have pushed female artists to become more noticed.


Censorship of raï music


Throughout the course of raï music’s development and commercialization in Algeria, there have been many attempts to stifle the genre. From lyrical content to the album cover images, raï has been a controversial music. Religious identity and transnationalism function to define the complexities of Maghrebi identity. This complex identity is expressed through raï music and is often contested and censored in many cultural contexts.


In 1962, as Algeria claimed its national independence, expression of popular culture was stifled by the conservative nature of the people. During this time of drastic restriction of female expression, many men started to become raï singers. By 1979, when President Chadli Bendjedid endorsed more liberal moral and economic standards, raï music became further associated with Algerian youth. The music remained stigmatized amongst the Salafi Islamists and the Algerian government. Termed the “raï generation”, the youth found raï as a way to express sexual and cultural freedoms. An example of this free expression is through the lyrics of Cheb Hasni in his song “El Berraka”. Hasni sang: “I had her … because when you’re drunk that’s the sort of idea that runs through your head!” Hasni challenged the fundamentalists of the country and the condemnation of non-religious art forms.


Raï started to circulate on a larger scale, via tape sales, TV exposure, and radio play. However, the government attempted to “clean up” raï to adhere to conservative values. Audio engineers manipulated the recordings of raï artists in order to submit to such standards. This tactic allowed for the economy to profit from the music by gaining conservative audiences. The conservativeness not only affected the way listeners received raï music, but also the way the artists, especially female artists, presented their own music. For instance, many female raï artists do not appear on their album covers. Such patriarchal standards pressure women to societal privacy.


Selected list of raï musicians



      Bellemou Messaoud

   Chaba Fadela

   Cheb Bilal

   Cheb Hasni

   Cheb Mami

   Cheb Sahraoui

   Cheikha Rimitti



      Rachid Taha

      Raïna Raï

      Cheb Nasro

      Chaba Zahouania

      Cheb Najim

      Reda Taliani






Ethnic Groups of Angola


The Ovimbunduare People

The Ovimbunduare people are major group in Angola they are located mainly in the Bié Plateau of central Angola and in the coastal strip west of these highlands. The Ovimbunduare are predominantly Christian, however they still practice traditional African religions.     The singing of the Ovimbunduare are primarily antiphonic, with the older people still using a pentatonic scale.     The youngsters of the Ovimbunduare in Angola are highly influenced by Western music.


The Ambunu People

The Ambunu are located in the Northwest area of Angola.     The Ambunu people are the second largest group of Angola.     The Ambunu speak the language of Kimbundu.    


The Bakongo People

               The Bakongo are located on the Atlantic coast of Angola.     The Bakongo speak the language of Kikongo.


The Chokwe People

                The Chokwe group is located in the Northeastern part of Angola, and an interesting fact about them; is that, during the 17th and 18th century there were twelve clans of the Lunda Empire.



Genres of Angola



           Combination of Kizomba, Rebita, Kazukutu and Kaetula

           Often themed of a cautionary tale or story on day-to day- life and social activities


           Dance and music from Angola

           Known for its sensual and romantic flows


           Energetic fast paced techno music

           Traditional carnival music


           Accordion and harmonica based style



Present day music of Angola is comprised of a combination of Congolese, Brazilian and Portuguese music.     They use the pentatonic scale.    

Okatchaka – a ball shaped rattle


Kissanje or Mbira



Phwitas – Was used to signal battle centuries ago, and used for messages between tribes.

Otchimbwetete – a Lamellophone – which is extremely rare.  This instrument’s keys are made from palm tree bark, and its woody twangings give a most unusual timbre. 

Otchimbwetete – known as a thumb piano – from palm tree bark.

Alimba – Also known as the bowed xylophone.

Okatchiyeke – Known as: 3 stringed viola.     It is a Chordal drone an Instrument of the Ovimbundu

Olombendu – Alto recorder – – Instrument of the Ovimbundu




Ethnic Groups of Benin


Yoruba in the South East, Dendi in the North, Bariba and Fula in the Northeast, Betammaribe and the Somba in the Atcora Range. Fon, mina, xueda and Aja in the south and along the coast of Benin.    


Benin has played an important role in the African music scene, producing one of the biggest stars to come out of the continent in Angélique Kidjo. Post-independence, the country was home to a vibrant and innovative music scene, where native folk music combined with Ghanaian highlife, French cabaret, American rock, funk and soul, and Congolese rumba. It also has a rich variety of ethnomusicological traditions.


National music


The national anthem of Benin, adopted upon independence in 1960, is “L’Aube Nouvelle” (The New Dawn) by Gilbert Jean Dagnon. The Gangbe brass band is an internationally-prominent Beninese ensemble.

Traditional music


The majority of Benin’s 9.32 million people live in the south. The population includes about 42 ethnic groups overall. These include coastal populations of Yoruba in the southeast, who migrated from what is now Nigeria in the 12th century, the Fon in the south central area around Abomey, Mina, Xueda and Aja who came from what is now Togo.


Northern peoples include the Dendi in the north-central area, who came from what is now Mali in the 16th century, the Bariba and Fula people in the northeast and the Betammaribe and Somba in the Atacora Range.


Ignacio Blazio Osho was perhaps the most influential musician of the post-independence period, alongside Pedro Gnonnas y sus Panchos, Les Volcans and Picoby Band d’Abomey. Pedro produced the song Feso Jaiye, which became a hit and was performed by many bands at the 2nd All-Africa Games in 1973.


In 1972, however, the Kérékou government came to power and instituted curfews and other measures that inhibited musical expression. Kérékou encouraged indigenous folk music. Some musicians, like Tohon Stan, adapted folk styles for mainstream audiences at home and abroad, including tchinkoumé, a funeral music played using water percussion which was adapted into tchink-system music.


Sagbohan Danialou, a multi-instrumentalist from Porto Novo, is another very influential musician who transformed traditional Vodou religious rhythms such as kakagbo into popular music.


Nel Oliver who debuted in France in 1976. He took elements from all over Africa and the United States to create “Afro-akpala-funk”.


The “Tout Puissant” Orchestre Poly-Rythmo are still a household name in Cotonou and one of Africa’s most prolific groups with over 50 LPs, hundreds of 45s and CD re-issues of their work. They have toured both England and the United States; according to a concert review in the New York Times, the band “belongs on the very short list of the world’s greatest funk bands.”


Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke is one of the most important young musicians in jazz, infusing African influences. Loueke currently lives in New York and is a member of Herbie Hancock’s band.


Zeynab Ouloukèmi Abiba, born in Abidjan, released “Intore”, her first album, in 2001. In 2002 she released Rhythm and blues, a bridge between RnB and Beninese culture. Zeynab Abib has had concerts, invitations outside of Benin, and a Kora trophy nomination. Zeynab released a second album “From one location to another” comprising 14 tracks.


The last few decades of the 20th century saw numerous other developments, including the rise of reggae (brought from Jamaica by Yaya Yaovi) and hip hop (most popularized by Ardiess Posse), as well as a new wave of musicians, including Cella Stella, Africando, Ambroise Coffi Akoha, Bluecky d’Almeida and Angélique Kidjo.


Gangbé Brass Band, from Cotonou continued the trajectory of transforming traditional Vodou music, combining it with jazz and brass band traditions. Gangbe has released four albums: Gangbe (1998), Togbe (2001), Whendo (2004) and Assiko (2008), and tours extensively in Europe and North America.


Genre of Benin


Adjogan – Adjogan music is endemic to Porto-Novo. The style of music is played on an alounloun, a stick with metallic rings attached which jingle in time with the beating of the stick. The alounloun is said to descend from the staff of office of King Te-Agdanlin. The music is played to honor the King and his ministers. The music is also played in the city’s Roman Catholic churches, but the royal bird crest has been replaced with a cross.


Instruments of Benin

Alounloun – The Alounloun is used to play adjogan. It is a stick that jingles. It is a stick that has metal rings attached. These rings jingle when it is struck with another stick or on the ground.


Adajalin – The adajalin is an instrument constructed of bamboo branches tied together with raffia, which is a type of palm tree native to Benin.     The adajalin is similar to a Zither.     Looks almost like a guitar strung onto a box.    




Music of Botswana


Batswana just like all other countries has popular music that is called “Jazz” However, this African Jazz has no similarity to the African American Jazz in the United States of America. Today’s pop genre is called Gumba-gumba and is a form of Tswana Music, with a mix of Zulu sounds and traditional Jazz. The word gumba derives from the word “party”


Batswana also has a form of Hip hop Music. Such artists that are popular are Magosi, Zeus, Scar and Zibanani.    


Batswana has a traditional music that is called Tswana Music. Tswana music is usually played without drums.     It is highly noticeable, due to the fact that almost all African music is complimented by a form of drum.     However, in Tswana music, there are no drums.     There are a lot of string instruments that are utilized in the genre of Tswana, notably the guitar is the most popular.     In Tswana music they usually clap for the rhythm and vocals are of “call and response” vocal style.    


Instruments of Tswana Music are the Segaba and the Setinkane. The segaba is more like a violin, in the design, but uses only one string hooked to a tin. Players would hit the string with a strait stick to create the sound.     The setinkane is made with varying forks, and played more like a keyboard.

Figure 1 – Setinkane

Figure 2 – Setinkane


Segaba – – Taken from -



There are many sub Genres of Tswana music. Examples:












Some notable musicians of the Genre are:

Culture Spears, Kwataeshele, Stampore, Mokorwna.


It is important to note that Batswana has a strong existence of Kwaito music, from Johannesburg, South Africa and Kwasa Kwasa, from Central Africa.     Although they are both not originally from Botswana, they are often played and enjoyed by Botswannian people.    





Burkina Faso


The music of Burkina Faso includes the folk music of 60 different ethnic groups. The Mossi people, centrally located around the capital, Ouagadougou, account for 40% of the population while, to the south, Gurunsi, Gurma, Dagaaba and Lobi populations, speaking Gur languages closely related to the Mossi language, extend into the coastal states. In the north and east the Fulani of the Sahel preponderate, while in the south and west the Mandé languages are common; Samo, Bissa, Bobo, Senufo and Marka. Burkinabé traditional music has continued to thrive and musical output remains quite diverse. Popular music is mostly in French: Burkina Faso has yet to produce a major pan-African success.


Burkina Faso has no one popular national style, and many popular recordings are imported from Europe, the United States and Democratic Republic of the Congo. In spite of this influx of popular styles, a few home-grown talents have emerged such as Koudbi Koala’s Saaba, who perform traditional Mossi music from the region around Ouagadougou, the nation’s capital. Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second-largest city, is a cultural center of Burkina Faso’s Mandé people of the southwest.


Popular traditional groups from Burkina Faso include balafon bands, percussion ensembles and others such as Farafina and Gabin Dabiré, who uses elements of traditional Burkinabé music.


The Traditional music of Burkina Faso


The Djeli, a caste of courtly praise-singers in Burkina Faso, function like the griots elsewhere in West Africa: at each ruler’s funeral they recite the names and histories of past rulers, they intervene in people’s personal affairs and perform at social gatherings. The Mossi and their griots retain ancient royal courts and courtly music.


The kora, the stringed instrument of the Djeli, has been popular throughout much of West Africa since the Malian empire of the 1240s. The instrument traditionally featured seven strings until the Gambian griot Madi Woulendi increased that number to twenty-one. The kora can be played in several scales including the hypolydian mode (saouta), silaba, sim’bi and mandéka.


Mandé-speakers are also known for the balafon, a kind of wooden xylophone, the exact characteristics of which can vary depending on the maker. The Dagara, Bwa and Senufo peoples also have their own varieties.


Djembe drums, like balafons, are often manufactured in Bobo Dioulasso. The djembe, a vital part of Burkinabé traditional music, is said to be of Malinké origin. It is made from a single piece of wood, usually from a caïlcedrat or lenke tree.


The bendré drum (called bara in Mali and dumaa among the Hausa) is a membranophone made from a gourd with the top cut off and covered with goat or sheep skin. It is an ancient instrument, probably introduced during the reign of Naaba Oubri to be played in sacred music at the royal courts of Moaga by a head drummer (benaaba) who strikes the center or edges of the drum to make varying sounds.


Another stringed instrument is called the n’goni. Legend says it was invented by a Senufo hunter. The n’goni is also played in Niger, Senegal and Mali.


The Fula people (Fulbe) of the north play a variety of traditional instruments including drums, hoddu (or xalam, a plucked skin-covered lute related to the banjo) the and riti or riiti (a one-string bowed instrument), and use complex vocal techniques with clapping percussion. Their griots are known as gawlo.







Burundi is a Central African nation that is closely linked with Rwanda, geographically, historically and culturally. The drum such as the karyenda is one of central importance. Internationally, the country has produced the music group Royal Drummers of Burundi.


Burundian-Belgian musicians like Éric Baranyanka from the Burundese royal family, Ciza Muhirwa and, especially, Khadja Nin, have more recently gained prominence. Since the music is from the mind and soul, it mainly expresses what the people in Burundi feel and what they think when they beat the drums.


One feature of Burundian men’s folk songs is the inanga accompaniment






The best-known Music of the Cameroon is makossa, a popular style that has gained fans across Africa, and its related dance craze bikutsi.


The pirogue sailors of Douala are known for a kind of singing called ngoso which has evolved into a kind of modern music accompanied by zanza, balafon, and various percussion instruments.


Traditional Music of Cameroon


The ethnicities of Cameroon include an estimated 250 distinct ethnic groups in five regional-cultural divisions. An estimated 38% of the population are Western highlanders–Semi-Bantu or grass fielders including the Bamileke, Bamum, and many smaller Tikar groups in the northwest. 12% are coastal tropical forest peoples, including the Bassa, Duala, and many smaller groups in the southwest. The southern tropical forest peoples (18%) include the Beti-Pahuin and their sub-groups the Bulu and Fang, the Maka and Njem, as well as, the Baka pygmies. In the semi-arid northern regions (the Sahel) and central highlands the Fulani (French: Peul or Peuhl; Fula: Fulɓe) form an estimated 14% of Cameroonians, while the Kirdi (unbelievers) are a general category, comprising 18% of the population, of various mainly Chadic and Adamawa speakers.


The Beti, or Ewondo, live in the area around Yaoundé and south into Equatorial Guinea. They are best known for bikutsi music, which has been popularized and become a rival for the more urban and accessible makossa of Douala. The name can be loosely translated as beating the ground continuously. Bikutsi, characterized by an intense 6/8 rhythm, is played at Beti gatherings including parties, funerals, and weddings.


Beti gatherings fall into two major categories:


      Ekang phase: the time when imaginary, mythological, and spiritual issues are discussed

      Bikutsi phase: when real-life issues are discussed


A double sided harp with calabash amplification called the mvet is used during these ceremonies by Beti storytellers, who are viewed as using the mvet as an instrument of God to educate the people. The Ekang phase is intensely musical and usually lasts all night. There are poetic recitations accompanied by clapping and dancing, with interludes for improvised and sometimes obscene performances on the balafon (a type of xylophone). These interludes signal the shift to the bikutsi phase which is much less strictly structured than Ekang. During bikutsi, women dance and sing along with the balafon, and lyrics focus on real-life problems, as well as sexual fantasies. These female choruses are an integral part of bikutsi, and their intense dancing and screams are characteristic of the genre. Another type of ceremony is the mevungu, when women dance all night to abstain from sex during those hours for a period of nine days. The sso ritual is much-feared by Beti boys as it involves a series of tests to mark a boy’s passage into manhood.


Modern Pop Music


The earliest recorded music from Cameroon comes from the 1930s, when the most popular styles were imported pop music and French-style chanson. In Douala, the most developed city in Cameroon, accordions and ambasse bey music were common, with performers like Lobe, Ebanda Manfred, and Nelle Eyoum finding a local audience. Ekambi Brillant and the first major Cameroonian hit, “N’Gon Abo,” set the stage for the development of makossa. Post-independence in 1960, a local variant on palm wine music called assiko, was popular especially Jean Bikoko and Dikoume Bernard.


The urbanization of Cameroon has had a major influence on the country’s music. Migration to the city of Yaoundé, for example, was a major cause for the popularization of bikutsi music. During the 1950s, bars sprang up across the city to accommodate the influx of new inhabitants and soon became a symbol for Cameroonian identity in the face of colonialism. Balafon orchestras, consisting of 3-5 balafons and various percussion instruments (including the balafon, which is both a harmonic and percussive instrument) became common in the bars. Some of these orchestras, such as Richard Band de Zoetele, became quite popular in spite of scorn from the European elite.

1950s and 60s


The middle of the 20th century saw the popularization of a native folk music called bikutsi. Bikutsi is based on a war rhythm played with various rattles and drums and xylophone. Sung by women, bikutsi featured sexually explicit lyrics and songs about everyday problems. In a popularized form, bikutsi gained mainstream success in the 1950s. Anne-Marie Nzie was perhaps the most important of the early innovators. The next bikutsi performer of legendary stature was Messi Me Nkonda Martin and his band, Los Camaroes, who added electric guitars and other new elements.


Balafon orchestras had remained popular throughout the 50s in Yaoundé’s bar scene, but the audience demanded modernity, and the popular style at the time was unable to cope. Messi Martin was a Cameroonian guitarist who had been inspired to learn the instrument by listening to Spanish language-broadcasts from neighboring Equatorial Guinea, as well as Cuban, and Zairean rumba. Messi changed the electric guitar by linking the strings together with pieces of paper, thus giving the instrument a damper tone which emitted a “thudding” sound similar to the balafon.


Messi’s style was immediately popular, and his hits, like “Mengalla Maurice” and “Bekono Nga N’Konda,” became radio favorites throughout the country beginning in the early 60s. Further innovations followed, as Messi replaced the handclaps and sanza with a synthesizer and the foot-stamping 6/8 rhythm to drums.




Later in the 1960s, modern makossa developed and became the most popular genre in Cameroon. Makossa is a type of funky dance music, best known outside Africa for Manu Dibango, who’s 1972 single “Soul Makossa” was an international hit. Outside of Africa, Dibango and makossa were only briefly popular, but the genre has produced several pan-African superstars through the 70s, 80s and 90s. Following Dibango, a wave of musicians electrified makossa in an attempt at making it more accessible outside of Cameroon. Another pop singer in 1970s Cameroon was André-Marie Tala, a blind singer who had a pair of hits with “Sikati” and “Potaksima.”


By the 1970s, bikutsi performers like Maurice Elanga, Les Veterans, and Mbarga Soukous, added brass instruments and found controversy over pornographic lyrics. Mama Ohandja also brought bikutsi to new audiences, especially in Europe. The following decade, however, saw Les Tetes Brulées surpass previous artists in international popularity though their reaction at home was mixed. Many listeners did not like their mellow, almost easy listening-styled bikutsi. Cameroonian audiences preferred more roots-based performers like Jimmy Mvondo Mvelé and Uta Bella, both from Yaoundé.



By the 1980s, makossa had moved to Paris and a new pop-makossa fused elements of Antillean zouk. Prominent musicians from this period included Moni Bilé, Douleur, Bébé Manga, Ben Decca, Petit-Pays, and Esa.


The 80s also saw rapid development of Cameroon’s media which saw a flourishing of both makossa and bikutsi. In 1980, L’Equipe Nationale de Makossa was formed, joining the biggest makossa stars of the period together, including, Grace Decca, Ndedi Eyango, Ben Decca, Guy Lobe, and Dina Bell. Makossa in the 80s saw a wave of mainstream success across Africa and, to a lesser degree, abroad as Latin influences, Martinican zouk, and pop music changed its form. While makossa enjoyed international renown, bikutsi was often denigrated as the music of savages, and it did not appeal across ethnic lines and into urban areas. Musicians continued to add innovations, however, and improved recording techniques; Nkondo Si Tony, for example, added keyboards and synthesizers while Elanga Maurice added brass instruments. Les Veterans emerged as the most famous bikutsi group in the 80s while other prominent performers included Titans de Sangmelima, Seba Georges, Ange Ebogo Emerent, Otheo and Mekongo President, who added complex harmonies and jazz influences.


In 1984, a new wave of bikutsi artists emerged, including Sala Bekono formerly of Los Camaroes, Atebass, a bassist, and Zanzibar, a guitarist who would eventually help form Les Têtes Brulées with Jean-Marie Ahanda. 1985 saw the formation of CRTV, a television network that did much to help popularize Cameroonian popular music across the country.


Jean-Marie Ahanda became the most influential bikutsi performer of the late 80s, and he revolutionized the genre in 1987 after forming Les Têtes Brulées, whose success changed the Cameroonian music industry. The band played an extremely popular form of bikutsi that allowed for greater depth and diversity. Guitarist Zanzibar added foam rubber to the bridge of his guitar, which made the instrument sound more like a balafon than before, and was more aggressive and innovative than previous musicians. Les Têtes Brulées emerged as a reaction against pop-makossa, which was seen as abandoning its roots in favor of mainstream success. The band’s image was part of its success, and they became known for their shaved heads and multi-colored body painting, done to represent traditional Beti scarification, as well as torn t-shirts that implied a common folkness in contrast to the well-styled pop-makossa performers of the period. They also wore backpacks on stage, a reference to Beti women’s traditional method of carrying babies while they danced bikutsi.


It took only a few weeks for Les Têtes Brulées to knock makossa off the Cameroonian charts, and the band even toured France. While in France, Les Têtes Brulées recorded their first LP, Hot Heads, which was also the first bikutsi music recorded for the CD. Hot Heads expanded the lyrical format of the genre to include socio-political issues. Tours of Japan, Africa, Europe, and the United States followed, as well as Claire Denis’ film Man No Run, which used footage from their European tour.



In the 1990s, both makossa and bikutsi declined in popularity as a new wave of genres entered mainstream audiences. These included Congolese-influenced new rumba and makossa-soukous, as well as more native forms like bantowbol, northern Cameroonian nganja (which had gained some popularity in the United Kingdom in the mid-80s), and an urban street music called bend-skin.


Les Têtes Brulées remained the country’s most well-known musical export, especially after accompanying the Cameroonian soccer team to the World Cup in 1990 in Italy and 1994 in the United States. A new wave of bikutsi artists arose in the early 90s, including Les Martiens (formed by Les Têtes Brulées bassist Atebass) and the sexually themed roots-singer Katino Ateba (“Ascenseur: le secret de l’homme”) and Douala singer Sissi Dipoko (“Bikut-si Hit”) as well as a resurgence of old performers like Sala Bekono. Bikutsi’s international renown continued to grow, and the song “Proof” from Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints, released to mainstream promotion and success in 1990, gained yet more renown from international audiences. Vincent Nguini also contributed guitar arrangements and performance to Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints, which became an influential world music album, introducing many North American listeners to the wide range of instrumentation and genres.


In 1993, the Pedalé movement was born as a reaction to the Cameroonian economic slump. Youthful artists like Gibraltar Drakuss, Zele le Bombardier, Eboue Chaleur, Pasto, Roger Bekono, Mbarga Soukous, and Saint-Desiré Atango was a return to the aggressive, earthy sound of bikutsi roots. Meanwhile Henri Dikongué, whose music incorporated, amongst others, bikutsi and makossa, began to release albums which met international success. He went on to tour Europe and North America. The most recent form of Cameroonian popular music is a fusion of Congolese soukous and makossa, a scene which has produced Petit Pays, Marcel Bwanga, Kotto Bass, Papillon and Jean Pierre Essome. Other popular genres include tchamassi, mangambeu, and makassi.




Cape Verde


Cape Verde is known internationally for morna, a form of folk music usually sung in the Cape Verdean Creole, accompanied by clarinet, violin, guitar and cavaquinho. The islands also boast Funaná, Coladeira, Batuque and Cabo love music.


Genres of Cape Verde




Morna is by the most popular genre of Cape Verdean music, and it has produced an international superstar in Cesária Évora. Morna is a national song-style, like Argentinian tango, beloved by Cape Verdeans across the many islands of the country. Lyrics are usually in Creole, and reflect highly-variable themes, including love and lust, patriotism and mourning.


Morna is believed to have originated on Boa Vista as a cheerful song-type. Eugénio Tavares was an influential songwriter of the period, and his songs are still extensively performed. Morna also spread to São Vicente, and composers like B. Leza and Manuel de Novas became popular. Solo vocalists are accompanied by a guitar, violin, bass guitar) and a piano. The cavaquinho (similar to a ukulele), a Portuguese instrument, is also common.


In the 1930s, Morna evolved in a swifter form of music called coladeira. It is a more light-hearted and humorous genre, with sensual rhythms. Performers include Codé di dona, Manuel de Novas, Frank Cavaquim, Djosa Marques and Os Tubarões.


Aside from Évora, popular morna musicians include Ildo Lobo, Titina, Celina Pereira, Bana, Djosinha, B. Leza, Travadinha, Sãozinha and Maria Alice.



All about the Morna


The morna (pronunciation in both Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole 🙂 is a music and dance genre from Cape Verde.


Lyrics are usually in Cape Verdean Creole, and instrumentation often includes cavaquinho, clarinet, accordion, violin, piano and guitar. Morna is often compared to the blues; there is little research on the relationship between the genres, though there are interesting similarities and significant cultural connections between Cape Verde and the United States. Morna is widely considered the national music of Cape Verde, as is the fado for Portugal, the tango for Argentina, the merengue for Dominican Republic, the rumba for Cuba, and so on.


The best internationally known morna singer was Cesária Évora. Morna and other genres of Cape Verdean music are also played in Cape Verdean migrant communities abroad, especially in New England in the US, Portugal, the Netherlands, France, West Africa and parts of Latin America.


As a music genre, the morna is characterized by having a lento tempo, a 2-beat bar (sometimes and in its most traditional form by having a harmonic structure based on a cycle of fifths, while the lyrics structure is organized by musical strophes that alternate with a refrain. The morna is almost always monotonic, i.e., it is composed in just one tonality. Compositions that use more than one tonality are rare and generally they are cases of passing from a minor to major tonality or vice-versa.


Harmonic structure


In its most traditional form, the morna obeys to a cycle of fifths. The harmonic progression starts in a chord (the tonic) of a certain tonality, the second chord is the lower fifth (the subdominant), the third chord is the same as the first and the fourth chord is the upper fifth (the dominant seventh). These chords — tonic, dominant seventh, subdominant — have in Cape Verde the popular names of “primeira”, “segunda” and “terceira” (first, second and third) respectively of the tonality in question. For example, if the music is being performed in an A minor tonality, the A minor chord has the name “primeira de Lá menor” (A minor’s first), the E 7th chord has the name of “segunda de Lá menor” (A minor’s second) and the D minor chord has the name of “terceira de Lá menor” (A minor’s third).


However, this structure corresponds to the most basic and most primary harmonic sequence of the morna. First, this structure has been enriched later with the so-called passing chords. Second, this structure is by no means mandatory. Several composers, especially recent composers, employ different chord progressions.


Melodic structure


The melodic line of the morna varies a lot through the song, with ascending and descending note sequences, and within a bar the notes generally do not have the same length. One frequent characteristic of the morna is the syncopation, more precisely, one note at the end of a bar is extended to the strong beat of the next bar. The melody is accentuated on the first beat and the last half-beat of the bar.


The melody is structured in verses that in turn are organized in strophes. The main strophes alternate with a refrain strophe, and this alternation can have several models: ABABAB…, ABCBABCB…, ACBACB…, AABCCB…, etc. The melody of the refrain is never the same as the melody of the other strophes.



The theme of the morna is varied, but there are certain subjects that are approached with more frequency. Besides universal subjects like love, typically Cape Verdean subjects are talked about, such as departure abroad, the return, the saudade, love for the homeland and the sea. One of the great performers responsible for this thematic was the poet/composer Eugénio Tavares who introduced in the beginning of the 20th century the lyricism and the exploration of typical romanticism still used today.




The main instrument associated with the morna is the guitar, popularly called “violão” in Cape Verde. In its most simple form, a guitar is enough to provide the accompaniment for another solo instrument that can be another guitar, a violin (popularly called “Rabeca” in Cape Verde), the singer’s voice or any other melodic instrument. The specific way of strumming the strings in a guitar is popularly called “mãozada” in Cape Verde. The strumming of the morna articulates a bass (played with the thumb, marking the accentuation of the rhythm) with chords (played with the other fingers, either in an arpeggio, rhythmically, or in a combination of both). The morna can also be performed on a piano, with the left hand providing the bass and the accompaniment and the right hand providing the accompaniment and the melody.


The composition of a morna band is not rigid. A medium-sized band may have, besides the aforementioned guitar, a cavaquinho (that plays the chords rhythmically), a ten or twelve string guitar (popularly called “viola” in Cape Verde that provides harmonic support), a solo instrument besides the singer’s voice and some percussion instrument. A bigger band may have another guitar, an acoustic bass guitar, more than one solo instrument (violin, clarinet, trumpet, etc.) and several percussion instruments (shaker, güiro, bongos, etc.).


From the 1960s, morna began electrification, with the percussion instruments being replaced by a drum kit and the bass / accompaniment play performed on the guitar replaced by a bass guitar and an electric guitar. In the late 1990s, there was a return to the roots with unplugged (acoustic) performances sought after again.


In its most traditional form, the song starts with an introduction played on the solo instrument (this introduction generally being the same melody as the refrain) and then the song develops in an alternation between the main strophes and the refrain. Approximately after the middle of the song, instead of the sung refrain, the solo instrument performs an improvisation. Recent composers, however, do not always use this sequence.

As a dance


As a dance the morna is a ballroom dance, danced in pairs. The performers dance with an arm embracing the partner, while with the other arm they hold hands. The dancing is made through two body swings to one side in a music’s bar, while in the next bar the swinging is to the other side.




The history of the morna can be divided into several periods, not always agreed among scholars:


1st period: the origins


It is not known for sure when and where the morna appeared. The oral tradition gives it for certain that the morna appeared in the Boa Vista Island in the 18th century, but there are no musicological records to prove this. But when Alves dos Reis says that, during the 19th century, with the invasion of polkas, mazurkas, galops, country dances and other musical genres in Cape Verde, the morna was not influenced, it suggests that by that time the morna was already a fully formed and mature musical genre.


Even so, some authors trace the origins of the morna back to a musical genre — the lundum — that would have been introduced into Cape Verde in the 18th century. There is also a relationship between the morna and another musical genre that existed already in the islands, the choros, which are plaintive songs performed on certain occasions, such as the working songs and wake songs. The morna would be, then, a cross between the choros and the lundum, with a slower tempo and a more complex harmonic structure. Some authors claim that speeding up the tempo of some older songs from Boa Vista or even the song “Força di cretcheu” from Eugénio Tavares, produces something very close to the lundum.


From Boa Vista, this new musical genre would have gradually spread to the other islands. At that time, the morna did not have the romantic thematic that it has today, nor the noble character that it was given later.


Musicologists cite the morna “Brada Maria” as the composition with the longest documented provenance, composed around 1870.


The origin of the word “morna” for this musical genre is uncertain. However, there are three theories, each with its supporters and detractors.


For some, the word comes from English “to mourn”. For others the word comes from French “morne”, the name given to hills in the French Antilles, where the chansons des mornes are sung. But to most of the people the word “morna” would correspond to the feminine of the Portuguese word “morno” (warm) clearly alluding to the sweet and plaintive character of the morna.

2nd period: Eugénio Tavares


In the beginning of the 20th century, the poet Eugénio Tavares was one of the main people responsible for giving morna the romantic character that it has today. In the Brava Island the morna underwent some transformation, acquiring a slower tempo than the Boa Vista morna, the poetry became more lyricized with themes focusing mostly on love and feelings provoked by love.

3rd period: B. Leza


In the 1930s and the 1940s, the morna gained special characteristics in São Vicente. The Brava style was much appreciated and cultivated in all Cape Verde by that time (there are records about E. Tavares being received in apotheosis in S. Vicente Island and even the Barlavento composers wrote in Sotavento Creole, probably because the maintenance of the unstressed vowels in Sotavento Creoles gave more musicality). But specific conditions in S. Vicente such as the cosmopolitanism and openness to foreign influences brought some enrichment to the morna.


One of the main people responsible for this enrichment was the composer Francisco Xavier da Cruz (a.k.a. B.Leza) who under Brazilian music influence introduced the so-called passing chords, popularly known as “meio-tom brasileiro” (Brazilian half-tone) in Cape Verde. Thanks to these passing chords, the harmonic structure of the morna was not restrained to the cycle of fifths, but incorporated other chords that made the smooth transition to the main ones.


Another innovation is that this period slightly coincides with the literary movement Claridade, and consequently the thematic was widened to include not only themes related to the Romanticism bat also related to the Realism.


4th period: the 1950s to the 1970s


In this period a new musical genre, the coladeira, reached its maturity and a lot of composers tried this novelty. Therefore, the years from the 1950s to the 1970s did not bring big innovations in musical techniques to the morna.


However, some compositions with a “subtle and sentimental melodic trait” came up, and if movement against the Portuguese colonial policy began, in the morna it is made discretely with the thematic widening to include lyrics praising the homeland or beloved people in the homeland. The lyrics were also inspired by other music (bolero, samba-canção, American songs, chanson française, etc.). In the 1970s, there were even political songs.


In the 1960s, electric instruments began to be used and the morna began to be known internationally, either by performances abroad or records production.


5th period: the more recent years


Recent composers take advantage of more artistic freedom to give to the morna unusual characteristics. More recent mornas hardly follow the cycle of fifths scheme, there is a great freedom in chord sequences, the musical strophes do not always have a rigid number of verses, in the melody the reminiscences of the lundum have practically disappeared, and some composers try fusing the morna with other musical genres.


Variants of the morna


The Boa Vista morna


The Boa Vista morna is the oldest variant of the morna. It is characterized by having a quicker tempo (andante ± 96 bpm) and a rubato style, and by being structurally simpler. The themes often talk about jokes, satires or social criticism. The melody accentuation is very close to the lundum.


The Brava morna


The Brava morna is in the origin of the most known variety of morna today. Besides having a slower tempo than the Boa Vista morna (lento ± 60 bpm), it has typical Romanticism characteristics, such as the use of rhymes, an accentuated lyricism and a more rigid meter. The Brava style is still practiced by composers from Brava and Fogo.


The São Vicente morna


The São Vicente morna is a derivative of the Brava morna. Both have the same tempo, but in the S. Vicente morna the chord sequences have been enriched with the passing chords. The thematic has also been widened to include not only romantic themes and the poetry is not so rigid. Neither makes use of rhymes like the Brava morna.


Departing from the S. Vicente morna one can witness from more recent and innovative composers to some other morna variants that have not been systemized yet.


Funaná Genre of Cape Verde


Funaná is an accordion-based genre from Santiago. Prior to independence, funaná was denigrated by colonial authorities, who considered it African. Since independence, however, bands like Bulimundo adapted the music for pop audiences and Finaçon, who combined funaná and coladeira into a fusion called funacola.


The Funaná is a music and dance genre from Cape Verde. Funaná is an accordion-based music. It is perhaps the most upbeat form of Cape Verdean music with influences of zouk music. The rhythm is usually provided by the ferrinho much like the use of washboards in zydeco, the saw in Caribbean ripsaw


Characteristics of the Funaná


As a music genre, the funaná is characterized by having a variable tempo, from vivace to andante, and a 2-beat rhythm. The funaná is intimately associated to the accordion, more precisely to the diatonic accordion, commonly known as gaita in Cape Verde. This influences a lot of musical aspects that characterize the funaná, such as the fact that, in its most traditional form, the funaná uses only diatonic scales, and not chromatic ones.


The structure of a funaná composition is not very different from the structure of other musical genres in Cape Verde, i.e., basically the music is structured through a set of main strophes that alternate with a refrain. The main difference is that between the different strophes and the refrain there is a solo played on the accordion. The music is generally monotonic.


The accompaniment is made with the left hand on the accordion, providing a bass and the chords. The rhythmic model is played on the ferrinho.


The melodic line of the funaná varies a lot through the composition, with a lot of series of ascending and descending notes. The funaná singers occasionally use the sforzando technique in certain notes, especially if they are long (imitation of the accordion?).


The lyrics of the funaná generally talk about everyday situations, mentioning the sorrows and the happiness of quotidian life, but they also talk about social criticism, reflections about life and idyllic situations. Recent composers however have expanded the themes. Another characteristic of funaná is that the lyrics are not made in a direct way, but frequently use figures of speech, proverbs and popular sayings

That requires a good knowledge of popular culture and language, and that’s why recent compositions, compositions from younger authors or compositions from authors with little contact with popular culture do not always use this poetry technique.


Concerning instrumentation, in its most traditional form, the funaná only uses the accordion and the ferrinho. With the stylization and electrification other instruments are used: the rhythm provided by the ferrinho is made on a drum set together with other percussion instruments (a shaker or a cabasa); the bass/accompaniment played on the accordion is replaced by a bass guitar and an electric guitar; the melody played on the accordion is replaced by a synthesizer. By the end of the 90’s, there is a certain revival where the unplugged (acoustic) performances are sought after, in which electronic instruments are relegated in favor to authentic accordions and ferrinhos.


Funaná as a dance


As a dance, funaná is a couple dance, with the partners embracing each other with an arm while with the other arm they hold on the hands together. The dance is made through alternated quick and strong inflexions of each knee, marking the beats of the rhythm. In the more rural way of dancing, the bodies are slightly inclined to the front (having shoulder contact), and the feet lift off the ground. In the more urban way of dancing, more stylized, the bodies are more vertical (having chest contact), and the feet drag on the ground.




The funaná is a relatively recent musical genre. According to the oral tradition, the funaná appeared when, in an attempt of acculturation, the accordion would have been introduced in Santiago island in the beginning of the 20th century, in order to the population to learn Portuguese musical genres. The result, however, would have been completely different: it would be the creation of a new and genuine music genre. There aren’t, nevertheless, musicological documents to prove that. Even so, it’s still curious the fact that, even being a totally different musical genre, the usage of the accordion and the ferrinho in the funaná is analogous to the usage of the accordion and the triangle in certain Portuguese folk music genres (malhão, corridinho, vira, etc.)


Other sources, also from oral tradition, trace back another origin. They place the origins of the funaná in the increase of accordion importations as a cheap substitute for organs to play religious music. The funaná would have then appeared as an adaptation for the accordion of other musical genres that were in vogue then.


The name “funaná” itself is also recent, and dates back probably from the 60’s and 70’s. For some, the word derives from the Portuguese word “fungagá”. For others the name comes from the merging of the names of two great players, one of accordion and the other of ferrinho, named Funa and Naná. The older words for designating the funaná were “fuc-fuc” and “badju l’ gaita”.


Initially a genre exclusively from Santiago, for a long time the funaná was relegated to a rural context and/or for the less favored social classes. It has even been forbidden its performance in the capital, where it was the morna that had a more prestigious and noble character.


But during the 1970s, and mostly after the independence, there had been essays of reviving certain musical genres, among them the funaná. The post-independence socialist ideology, with its struggle against the social classes’ differences, was a fertile field for the rebirth of the funaná. These essays weren’t successful mostly because “the funaná couldn’t step away from the coladeira”.


It was necessary to wait for the 1980s in order the band Bulimundo and especially its mentor Carlos Alberto Martins (a.k.a. Catchás) make a true revival of the funaná. Going to “drink” directly to the source (inner Santiago island), Catchás profited his jazz and classical music knowledge to make up a new style of playing the funaná, leaning in electric and electronic instruments, that would influence nearly all artists from now on. Thanks to the success of Bulimundo, the funaná was exported to all the islands in Cape Verde. Today, the funaná is no longer seen as a genre exclusively from Santiago, being composed, performed and appreciated by people from all the islands.


If the 80’s were the years of the spreading of the funaná within Cape Verde, the 90’s were the years of the internationalization. The band Finaçon, born from a split of the band Bulimundo, was one of the responsible for the internationalization of this genre, thanks to a contract with a renowned foreign record label. Not only the funaná had become known internationally, but it is also performed by musical bands abroad, being Cape Verdean bands or not.


Concerning musical techniques there are no big innovations to the “Catchás’ style”, maybe perhaps only regarding the instrumentation (the possibilities of electronic instruments are explored). We can also notice, in this period, the excessive commercialization and banning of the funaná. For instance, during a certain year, there has been an attempt of disclosing the funaná in France. That attempt was not successful because funaná was sold as a kind of “summer in-vogue music” (right after the lambada), and not exploring the ethno-musical particularities of the funaná.


By the end of the 90’s, we can assist to a return to the roots, where the bands prefer to perform with authentic accordions and ferrinhos (occasionally a bass, a drum set and/or a guitar is added). One of the leading bands of this new vague is the band Ferro Gaita.


The funaná has several variants, not all of them well known and not all of them known by its true name.


Here is the description of some:

Figure 3 Rhythmic model of funaná kaminhu di ferru, ± 150 bpm.

Funaná kaminhu di férru

This is the most known variant of the funaná. Generally when the word “funaná” is used alone it refers to this variant which is the one that is more successful, especially in dancing. It is a variant that reminds a march but with a vivace tempo.


Figure 5 Rhythmic model of funaná maxixi, ± 120 bpm.


Funaná maxixi

The name of this variant probably comes from the musical genre maxixe that was once in vogue in Cape Verde. It is a variant that looks like the previous one, but with an allegro tempo.


Figure 6 Rhythmic model of funaná samba, ± 96 bpm.


Funaná samba

In spite of the name, this variant has no relationship with the present Brazilian genre samba. It seems to be an adaptation of the lundum to the accordion techniques. The tempo is slower (andante) and the rhythm is different from the other variants, it is quite similar to the toada.


Figure 7 Rhythmic model of slow funaná, ± 92 bpm.


Funaná morna

Practically, it is not known by this name, it is more known as slow funaná. It seems to be an adaptation of the morna to the accordion techniques, with an andante tempo. While during a long time it was the morna (badju di viulinu) that enjoyed some prestige in urban contexts and noble dance rooms, in rural contexts a slower version of funaná (badju di gaita) was developed in contraposition. Curiously, this variant has the same tempo as the Boa Vista morna and not

The Brava morna.




The Batuque Genre is also popular in Cape Verde. Originally a woman’s folk music, batuque is an improvised music with strong satirical or critical lyrics. In the 80’s, Orlando Pantera has created the “new batuco” (neo-batuku), but he died in 2001 before to achieve his creative work. Performers and songwriters are Pantera, Vadú, Tcheka, Mayra Andrade, Lura, Zeca di nha Reinalda.


Coladeira is a form of dance and music from Cape Verde.


Popular Music of Care Verde


Cabo love


Cabo Love is a popular music genre from the Cape Verde islands, in the late 80’s, many cape Verdeans started creating electric pop music, Also in the 70’s, when the cape Verdean diaspora living in Europe and North America have influenced the traditional “coladeira” with “salsa music” and some “zouk” Rhythm together, this fusion was called in the late 70’s as “Coladance” or by some called as “Colazouk”. But in the late 80’s when the new generation of young talented people from Cape Verde were born, they have created a new slow mixed version of electric pop music with Cape Verdean music styles. These two fusions were put together and became “Commercialized”. So in this period, a new age of Cape Verdean music was born called “Cabo love” or “Cabo zouk” it’s very similar to “zouk love” or “kizomba”. This new genre gained a lot of popularity from Portuguese speaking country’s from Africa and Brazil and the rest of the world. Most of the songs are written in Portuguese/creole.


Cape Verdean zouk musicians include, singer and Kora Award winner Suzanna Lubrano, Frank de Pina, Mendes Brothers (and their influential record label, MB Records), Saozinha, Creole Sextet and Rui Pina.




The musical style Cabo love originating from the Cape Verde islands is a derivative of zouk mixed with the coladeira and other Cape Verdean rhythms. In some cases there has been a fusion of the zouk love with the coladeira, to which several names have been given, such as cola-dance, cola-zouk, cabo-swing, Cabo love, etc. However, in other cases the performance is practically a zouk copy. In this variant, the rhythm has the same accentuation as the compass, the instrumentation is also copied from the zouk, the accentuation of the melody line is different, the syncopation is made in other contexts and the melody line is less continuous than the traditional coladeira, with breaks.


There are many Cape Verdeans living abroad, especially in the United States, where they are concentrated in California, Hawaii and throughout New England, especially Rhode Island and Boston. Many came on whaling ships in the 19th century. Their music included string bands like The B-29s, Notias, Augusto Abrio and the Cape Verdean Serenaders. There were also Cape Verdean big bands, including the Creole Vagabonds and the Don Verdi Orchestra.



Central African Republic


The music of the Central African Republic includes many different forms. Western rock and pop music, as well as Afrobeat, soukous and other genres have become popular nation-wide. The sanza is a popular instrument.


The Pygmies have a complex folk music tradition. Polyphony and counterpoint are common components, as is a varied rhythmic structure. The trumpet-based music of the Bandas has also gained some popularity outside of the area due to its jazzy structure. The Ngbaka use an unusual instrument called an mbela, which is made with an arched branch and a string strung between the two ends and held in front of the musician’s mouth. When the string is struck, the mouth is used to amplify and modulate the tone. Instruments similar to the mbela are sometimes considered the oldest ancestors of all string instruments.


The national anthem of the Central African Republic is “La Renaissance”. This song, which has been the anthem since 1960, was written by Barthélémy Boganda (words), the first President of the Central African Republic, and Herbert Pepper, who also composed the melody for the Senegalese national anthem


Popular music


Popular music in the Central African Republic generally comes from the music of the Democratic Republic of the Congo or elsewhere in Africa; however, Latin, European and American pop are also common, as is jazz and rock and roll. African folktales are very popular as well, like the Panda.


Folk music


Banda music

The Banda people have produced some modern popular music, using a trumpet-based kind of jazzy music which UNESCO has called one of the “great musicological discoveries of our century”. Banda folk music includes ongo, a kind of trumpet made from wood or antelope horn. Ongos are used in ceremonies and rituals, including adolescent initiation rites, in polyphonic ensembles of eighteen trumpets.


Pygmy music

Formally Pygmy music consists of at most only four parts, and can be described as an, “ostinato with variations,” or similar to a passacaglia, in that it is cyclical. In fact it is based on repetition of periods of equal length, which each singer divides using different rhythmic figures specific to different repertoires and songs. This interesting case of ethnomusicology and ethnomathematics creates a detailed surface and endless variations of not only the same period repeated, but the same piece of music. As in some Balinese gamelan these patterns are based on a super-pattern which is never heard. The Pygmies themselves do not learn or think of their music in this theoretical framework, but learn the music growing up.


Pygmy styles include liquindi, or water drumming, and instruments like the bow harp (ieta), ngombi (harp zither) and limbindi (a string bow) (Abram).


I explain more about Pygmy Music


Pygmy music includes the Sub-Saharan African music traditions of a broad group of people who live in Central Africa, especially in the Congo, the Central African Republic and Cameroon. Pygmy groups include the Baka, the Aka, the Twa peoples and the Efé. Music is an important part of Pygmy life, and casual performances take place during many of the day’s events. Music comes in many forms, including the spiritual likanos stories, vocal singing and music played from a variety of instruments including the bow harp (ieta), ngombi (harp zither) and limbindi (a string bow).


Researchers who have studied Pygmy music include Simha Arom, Louis Sarno, Colin Turnbull and Jean-Pierre Hallet.


Polyphonic song


The Mbenga (Aka/Benzele) and Baka peoples in the west and the Mbuti (Efé) in the east are particularly known for their dense contrapuntal communal improvisation. Simha Arom says that the level of polyphonic complexity of Mbenga–Mbuti music was reached in Europe only in the 14th century. The polyphonic singing of the Aka Pygmies was relisted on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.


Mbenga–Mbuti Pygmy music consists of up to four parts and can be described as an “ostinato with variations” similar to a passacaglia in that it is cyclical. It is based on repetition of periods of equal length that each singer divides using different rhythmic figures specific to different repertoires and songs. This creates a detailed surface and endless variations not only of the same period repeated but of various performances of the same piece of music. As in some Balinese gamelan music these patterns are based on a super-pattern which is never heard. The Pygmies themselves do not learn or think of their music in this theoretical framework, but learn the music growing up.


Polyphonic music is only characteristic of the Mbenga and Mbuti. The Gyele/Kola, Great Lakes Twa and Southern Twa have very different musical styles.

Pygmy scale


The typical Pygmy scale is a minor pentatonic scale and follows the sequence of steps: tone, half tone, ditone, tone + half tone and tone. The use of a half tone makes it a hemitonic scale. A Pygmy scale in C would consist of the notes: C, D, Eb, G and Bb.


Use of the Pygmy scale has grown in popularity since the invention of the Hang (instrument) in the year 2000, hand pans such as the Halo and also steel tongue drums, all of which have been made using sound models based on the Pygmy scale.



Liquindi is water drumming, typically practiced by Pygmy women and girls. The sound is produced by persons standing in water, and hitting the surface of the water with their hands, such as to trap air in the hands and produce a percussive effect that arises by sudden change in air pressure of the trapped air. The sound cannot exist entirely in water, since it requires the air-water boundary as a surface to be struck, so the sound is not hydraulophonic.



Hindewhu is a style of singing/whistle-playing of the BaBenzélé pygmies of the Central African Republic. The word is an onomatopoeia of the sound of a performer alternately singing pitched syllables and blowing into a single-pitch papaya-stem whistle. Hindewhu announces the return from a hunt and is performed solo, duo or in groups.

Western popularization


Colin M. Turnbull, an American anthropologist, wrote a book about the Efé Pygmies, The Forest People, in 1965. This introduced Mbuti culture to Western countries. Turnbull claimed that the Mbuti viewed the forest as a parental spirit with which they could communicate via song.


Some of Turnbull’s recordings of Efé music were commercially released and inspired more ethnomusicological study such as by Simha Arom, a French-Israeli who recorded hindewhu, and Luis Devin, an Italian ethnomusicologist who studied in depth the musical rituals and instruments of Baka Pygmies.



Ethnic Groups of Chad


The Sara People

The Sara people are located mainly throughout Chad.     The Sara are descendants of the Sao.     One instrument that the Sara are known for is a type of drum called the Kodjo Drum.


The Mayo-kebbi People

                   The Mayo-kebbi people are located mainly in the Southwest part of Chad.     The Mayo-kebbi is also a region of chad.    


The Kanem-Bornou People

                 The Kanem-Bornou people are located in the North and Northwest part of Chad. They are


The Ouaddai People

The Ouaddai people are mainly located in the East part of Chad.     At one time the Ouaddai Empire was a Muslim Empire.    




Genres of Chad


Teda Music

The Genre of Teda music is however, named after a tribe called the Teda People of Chad.     The Teda are located near the Tibesti Mountains of Chad.     When the Teda play music the men play the instruments and the woman sing. The men use string instruments such as the keleli to express themselves.     The Keleli takes the place of the man singing, because it is not appropriate for a man to sing in front of a woman.    





           Blacksmith clans

           Lutes, drums

           Women sing and men dance


           Based on church upbringing and Sao people

      Sai, Ndo, Dala

           Dance music


Instruments of Chad






           Known as: wooden xylophone

           Fact: instrument of the Sara ethnic group

               Sara kabba balafon-curve gourds

               Sara balaphone-straight gourds


           Known as: violin-like instrument

           Fact: played by Bilala shamans


           Known as: five-stringed instrument.     This instrument has a wooden body and is usually cover in animal hide.

           Fact: from the Logone district


           Known as: stringed instrument.     This instrument was adopted from the Chinese.     It is Similar to the erhu and is typically made of wood, Snakeskin, and horsehair.

Hu –



           Fact: normally put with calabash loudspeakers


           Known as: tin horn

           Fact: used in the upper class ceremonies for kings in the Hausa tribe. The horn is usually three or four meters long. It looks like a trumpet and is typically used during Hausa Ceremonies.    

Kakaki for the Emir of Zaria –



The Comoro Islands (Comoros)


Comoros is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean, mostly an independent nation but also including the French territory of Mayotte. It is historically linked to both East Africa and France, and now has a strong Malagasy influence. Zanzibar’s taarab music, however, remains the most influential genre on the islands, and a Comorian version called twarab is popular. Leading twarab bands include Sambeco and Belle Lumière, as well as star singer Mohammed Hassan. Comorian instruments include the ‘ud and violin, the most frequent accompaniment for twarab, as well as gabusi (a type of lute) and ndzendze (a box zither). Sega music from nearby Mauritius and Réunion is also popular.


Modern musicians include Abou Chihabi, who composed the Comorian national anthem and who is known for his reggae-tinged pan-African variant music, reggae/zouk/soukous fusionists like Maalesh and Salim Ali Amir, Nawal, Diho, singer-songwriters and instrumentalists.




Congo (Republic of Congo)


The Republic of the Congo is an African nation with close musical ties to its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s homegrown pop music, soukous, is popular across the border, and musicians from both countries have fluidly travelled throughout the region playing similarly styled music, including Nino Malapet and Jean Serge Essous. Brazzaville had a major music scene until unrest in the late 1990s, and produced popular bands like Bantous de la Capitale that played an integral role in the development of soukous and other styles of Congolese popular music. The Hip-Hop group “Bisso na Bisso” also hails from Congo-Brazzaville.

Traditional Music

The Republic is home to the Sub-Saharan African music traditions of the Kongo (48%), Sangha (20%), M’Bochi (12%) and Teke (17%) people, as well as 3% Europeans and others, in a population of about 4,492,689 (July 2013 est.).


Folk instruments in the Republic of the Congo include the xylophone and mvet. The mvet is a kind of zither-harp, similar to styles found elsewhere in both Africa and Asia. The mvet is made of a long tube with one or two gourds acting as resonators.




Though soukous has become much more closely associated with the popular music of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, early in the style’s evolution both the local scenes of Kinshasa and Brazzaville played a very important role. In these cities, American style orchestras (called soukous, or kirikiri or kasongo) played rumba (a kind of Cuban music) influenced by traditional music and jazz. Soukous arose from this fusion of styles, popularized as dance music by a number of different orchestras in the 1950s and 60s.




Ivory Coast


Ethnic Groups of Ivory Coast


The Dan People

                 The Dan people are located in the western region of Côte d’Ivoire.     The Dan usually use a pentatonic scale and they occasionally use the heptatonic scale in their music.


The Wè People

                   The tribe is located in the western region of Côte d’Ivoire.     They speak the language of Kru.     They usually have extremely elaborate drum patterns also called “drum language.” The Wè use the pentatonic scale and utilize chromatics in their music.


The Baoulé People

The Baoulé are located in the central region of Côte d’Ivoire.     They were originally from a Ghanaian forest and is now considered part of Ivory Coast. Their language that they use is part of Akan language group.     The Baoulé use the heptatonic scale and almost all music is performed in parallel thirds.


The Sénoufo People

The Sénoufo are located in the Northern region of Côte d’Ivoire.     The language of the Sénoufo are part of the Volta language group.     The Sénoufo use the pentatonic scale with very complex polyphony.     They are known for their high-pitched, tense monadic vocal music.


Genres of Ivory Coast



There are a four major styles of music that comes from Ivory Coast.     The first one is called Ziglibithy.     Ziglibithy was developed in the Early 1970’s in Ivory Coast and it was pioneered by Ernesto Djedje.     Ziglibithy is a highly syncopated dance music.     This was the first major popular genre that is unique to Ivory Coast.   Such examples of this style is 1977 – Zibote, 1977 – Le Roi du Ziglibithy, Aguisse and Zouzoup Ale.



The second style that is a popular Genre of Ivory Coast is a Genre called Zoblazo.     Zoblazo is a dance music with traditional rhythms.     Zoblazo was invented in the early 1990s.     It is a fast paced dance that will incorporate a Mixture of electronic Instrumentation. A great example of this style is a record Ayibebou, by Freddy Meiway and his group Zo Gang.



The third most popular style of music in Ivory Coast is Zouglou. This is a style of music that is Dance orientated.     It originated in the mid 1990’s.     A Group of University students in Abidjan (the capital city of Ivory Coast) Drew upon other styles of music such as zouk, soca and Ragga. The Music Zouglou usually carries a political message or comic message that is being delivered to the listener. It has spread to other countries such as Cameroon, Gabon and Burkina Faso.   Some major artists of this genre are Petit Denis, Magic System, Yode Small & Child Siro, Dezy Champion, and Fitini.    



The forth Genre that helps define Ivory Coast’s music is Coupé-Décalé. This Genre draws heavily on such genres as, Zouk, Zouglou, and heavy African Sounds. The music is repetitive and utilizes minimal arrangements. Although this music originated in Paris, France. It is known as an Ivory Coast Genre, Due to the fact of its popularity in Ivory Coast. The style of music was invented by a small group of Ivory Coastian Disc Jockeys in Paris, France. Their group was called Jet Set, and they became popular in both France and Ivory Coast. In Ivorian Slang the word Couper means to cheat and the word decaler means “to run away”.     So the Genre literary means “to cheat and run.” The genre’s first hit, “Sagacité” was pioneered by Stephane Doukouré, a member of the “Jet Set”, during the post-2002 military-political crisis in Ivory Coast.     The hit became a success in African clubs in Paris and spread quickly among disc Jockeys in Ivory Coast.     Although arising from this time of political turmoil, Coupé-Décalé lyrically addresses topics such as relationships, earning money, and maintaining a good mood.     A lot of the lyrics in this genre refer to specific dance moves, often referencing current events such as the “avian flu dance” or “Guantanamo” (with hand movements imitating hands raised in chains).     These global themes could have helped to make Coupé-Décalé so deeply popular across a politically divided Côte d’Ivoire and spread its influence so far across Africa.     In history this genre has 3 waves where is became popular and faded away. The first wave was 2002-2004. The 2nd wave was 2005-2006. The 3rd wave was 2006-2010.


Instruments of Ivory Coast



           Known as: bridge lute or kora


           Known as: forked harp


               Used only by the Wè

      Atungblan or atumpan

           Known as: talking drums


               Used by the Baoulé

               Normally paired

      Bow harp

           Known as: two-string harps


               Used by Sénoufo

               Played in groups




Democratic Republic of the Congo

Ethnic Groups of the Democratic Republic of the Congo


The Mongo People

                  The Mongo people are located in Equatorial forest between Congo and the Kasai/Sankuru Rivers. The Mongo speak the languages of Mongo, Nkundo and Lingala.


The Luba People

                The Luba are located in the southern part of Democratic Republic of the Congo.     The Luba speak the language Luba-Kasai, Luba-Katanga and Swahili.


The Kongo People

                  The Kongo are located near the Atlantic Coast.     The Kongo speak the language of Kikongo.


The Mbuti People

                 The Mbuti are located near the Ituri rainforest.     The Mbuti speak Efe, Asoa, and Kango.


Genres of the Democratic Republic of the Congo


      Kwasa Kwasa

           Dance genre

           Slow dance rhythm




      Dance music genre

      Originated from African rumba music of Belgian Congo and French Congo


Tcha tcho


      slower style of soukous

      Term invented by Olomide




      Subgenre of soukous

      Fast hip-swinging dance genre




Music of the Democratic Republic of the Congo varies in its different forms. Outside of Africa, most music from the Democratic Republic of Congo is called soukous, which most accurately refers instead to a dance popular in the late 1960s. The term rumba or rock-rumba is also used generically to refer to Congolese music, though neither is precise nor accurately descriptive.


People from the Congo have no term for their own music, per se, although Muziki Na Biso (our music) was used until the late 1970s, and now the most common name is “ndule”, which simply means music in the Lingala language. Most songs from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are sung in Lingala.



Colonial times


Since the colonial era, Kinshasa, Congo’s capital, has been one of the great centers of musical innovation, ranking alongside Nairobi, Lagos, Johannesburg and Abidjan in influence. The country, however, was carved out from territories controlled by many different ethnic groups, many of which had little in common with each other. Each maintained (and continue to do so) their own folk music traditions, and there was little in the way of a pan-Congolese musical identity until the 1940s.


Like much of Africa, Congo was dominated during the World War 2 era by rumba, a fusion of Latin and African musical styles that came from the island of Cuba. Congolese musicians appropriated rumba and adapted its characteristics for their own instruments and tastes. Following World War 2, record labels began appearing, including CEFA, Ngoma, Loningisa and Opika, each issuing many 78 rpm records; Radio Congo Belge also began broadcasting during this period. Bill Alexandre, a Belgian working for CEFA, brought electric guitars to the Congo.


Popular early musicians include Feruzi, who is said to have popularized rumba during the 1930s and guitarists like Zachery Elenga, Antoine Wendo Kolosoy and, most influentially, Jean Bosco Mwenda. Alongside rumba, other imported genres like American swing, French cabaret and Ghanaian highlife were also popular.


In 1953, the Congolese music scene began to differentiate itself with the formation of African Jazz (led by Joseph “Grand Kalle” Kabasele), the first full-time orchestra to record and perform, and the debut of fifteen-year-old guitarist François Luambo Makiadi (aka Franco). Both would go on to be some of the earliest Congolese music stars. African Jazz, which included Kabasele, sometimes called the father of modern Congolese music, as well as legendary Cameroonian saxophonist and keyboardist Manu Dibango, has become one of the most well-known groups in Africa, largely due to 1960’s “Indépendance Cha”, which celebrated Congo’s independence and became an anthem for Africans across the continent.


Big bands (1930s–1970s)


Into the 1950s, Kinshasa and Brazzaville became culturally linked, and many musicians moved back and forth between them, most importantly including Nino Malapet and the founder of OK Jazz, Jean Serge Essous. Recording technology had evolved to allow for longer playing times, and the musicians focused on the seben, an instrumental percussion break with a swift tempo that was common in rumba. Both OK Jazz and African Jazz continued performing throughout the decade until African Jazz broke up in the mid-1960s.


Tabu Ley Rochereau and Dr. Nico then formed African Fiesta, which incorporated new innovations from throughout Africa as well as American and British soul, rock and country. African Fiesta, however, lasted only two years before disintegrating, and Tabu Ley formed Orchestre Afrisa International instead, but this new group was not able to rival OK Jazz in influence for very long.


Many of the most influential musicians of Congo’s history emerged from one or more of these big bands, including Sam Mangwana, Ndombe Opetum, Vicky Longomba, Dizzy Madjeku and Kiamanguana Verckys. Mangwana was the most popular of these solo performers, keeping a loyal fan base even while switching from Vox Africa and Festival des Marquisards to Afrisa, followed by OK Jazz and a return to Africa before setting up a West African group called the African All Stars. Mose Fan Fan of OK Jazz also proved influential, bringing Congolese rumba to East Africa, especially Kenya, after moving there in 1974 with Somo Somo. Rumba also spread through the rest of Africa, with Brazzaville’s Pamelo Mounk’a and Tchico Thicaya moving to Abidjan and Ryco Jazz taking the Congolese sound to the French Antilles.


In Congo, students at Gombe High School became entranced with American rock and funk, especially after James Brown visited the country in 1969. Los Nickelos and Thu Zahina emerged from Gombe High, with the former moving to Brussels and the latter, though existing only briefly, becoming legendary for their energetic stage shows that included frenetic, funky drums during the seben and an often psychedelic sound. This period in the late 60s is the soukous era, though the term soukous now has a much broader meaning, and refers to all of the subsequent developments in Congolese music as well.


Zaiko and post Zaiko (1970s–1990s)


Stukas and Zaiko Langa Langa were the two most influential bands to emerge from this era, with Zaiko Langa Langa being an important starting ground for musicians like Pepe Feli, Bozi Boziana, Evoloko Jocker and Papa Wemba. A smoother, mellower pop sound developed in the early 1970s, led by Bella Bella, Shama Shama and Lipua Lipua, while Kiamanguana Verckys promoted a rougher garage-like sound that launched the careers of Pepe Kalle and Kanda Bongo Man, among others.


By the beginning of the 1990s, the Congolese popular music scene had declined terribly. Many of the most popular musicians of the classic era had lost their edge or died, and President Mobutu’s regime continued to repress indigenous music, reinforcing Paris’ status as a center for Congolese music. Pepe Kalle, Kanda Bongo Man and Rigo Starr were all Paris-based and were the most popular Congolese musicians. New genres like madiaba and Tshala Mwana’s mutuashi achieved some popularity. Kinshasa still had popular musicians, however, including Bimi Ombale and Dindo Yogo.


In 1993, many of the biggest individuals and bands in Congo’s history were brought together for an event that helped to revitalize Congolese music, and also jumpstarted the careers of popular bands like Swede Swede. Another notable feature in Congo culture is its sui generis music. The DRC has blended its ethnic musical sources with Cuban rumba and meringue to give birth to Soukous.


Influential figures of Soukous and its offshoots (N’dombolo, Rumba Rock) are Franco Luambo, Tabu Ley, Simaro Lutumba, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Kanda Bongo, Ray Lema, Mpongo Love, Abeti Masikini, Reddy Amisi, Pepe Kalle, and Nyoka Longo. One of the most talented and respected pioneers of African rhumba – Tabu Ley Pascal Rochereau.


Congolese modern music is also influenced in part by its politics. Zaire, then in 1965, Mobutu Sese Seko took over, and despite massive corruption, desperate economic failure, and the attempted military uprising of 1991, he held on until the eve of his death in 1997, when the president, Laurent Kabila. Kabila inherited a nearly ungovernable shell of a nation. He renamed it the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Kabila could not erase the ruinous effects of the Belgian and Mobutu legacies, and the country is now in a state of chronic civil war. Mobutu instilled a deep fear of dissent and failed to develop his country’s vast resources. But the walls he built around his people and his attempts to boost cultural and national pride certainly contributed to the environment that bred Africa’s most influential pop music. Call it soukous, rumba, Zairois, Congo music, or kwassa-kwassa, the pop sound emanating from Congo’s capital, Kinshasa has shaped modern African culture more profoundly than any other.


Africa produces music genres that are direct derivatives of Congolese Soukous. Some of the African bands sing in Lingala, the main language in the DRC. The same Congolese Soukous, under the guidance of “le sapeur” Papa Wemba, has set the tone for a generation of young guys who dress in expensive designer clothing. The numerous singers and instrumentalists who passed through Zaiko Langa Langa went on to rule Kinshasa’s bustling music scene in the ’80s with such bands as Choc Stars and Papa Wemba’s Viva la Musica.


One erstwhile member of Viva la Musica, Koffi Olomidé, has been indisputably the biggest Zairean/Congolese star since the early ’90s. His chief rivals are two veterans of the band Wenge Musica, J.B. Mpiana and Werrason. Mpiana and Werrason each claims to be the originator of ndombolo, a style that intersperses shouts with bursts of vocal melody and harmony over a frenetic din of electric guitars, synthesizers and drums. So pervasive is this style today that even Koffi Olomidé’s current repertory is mostly ndombolo.




Currently the Democratic Republic of Congo’s music is dominated by the “ndombolo” dance and well represented by the newest Congolese superstar: Fally Ipupa is a strong performer from the Democratic Republic of Congo who worked with the legendary Koffi Olomide in his group, Quatier Latin, before branching out on his own. His performances are energetic, his delivery unsurpassable. Female fans love to watch as he whips his songs to new heights in time to his swiveling hips (part of the reason he made the top ten sexiest men list). The mix of rhumba, reggae, soul and ndombolo have proven to be his magical elixir. He has performed to sold out audiences in Paris and New York and continues to gain recognition internationally for his music.


His awards include the Césaire de la Musique award for best male artist of the year (October 2007); he received a gold disc for his album, Droit Chemin, and has been nominated for best music clip, and best artist in the Black Music Awards to be held in Coutonou, Benin on January 12, 2008. Droit Chemin, produced by Maïka Munan (who has worked with famous Congolese musicians such as Tabu Ley Rochereau, M’Bilia Bel, Papa Wemba, Afia Mala), has been received with accolades and is extremely popular with his fans. The video is well done and features several ndombolo moves. One wonders how long it will be before his moves show up on a hip hop video as the next big move.


Instruments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo


      Molimo trumpet

           Known as: trumpet

           Fact: instrument of Mbuti ethnic group

      Slit log drum

           Known as: hollow percussion instrument

           Fact: idiophone


           Known as: thumb piano

           Fact: lamellophone and plucked idiophone


           Known as: upright drums

           Fact: played by men beating sticks on wooden sides and hands on the skins




The music of Djibouti refers to the musical styles, techniques and sounds of Djibouti.



Djibouti is a multiethnic country. The two largest ethnic groups are the Somali and the Afar. There are also a number of Arab, Ethiopian and European (French and Italian) residents. Traditional Afar music resembles the folk music of other parts of the Horn of Africa such as Ethiopia; it also contains elements of Arabic music. The history of Djibouti is recorded in the poetry and songs of its nomadic people, and goes back thousands of years to a time when the peoples of Djibouti traded hides and skins for the perfumes and spices of ancient Egypt, India and China. Afar oral literature is also quite musical. It comes in many varieties, including songs for weddings, war, praise, and boasting.


Somalis have a rich musical heritage centered on traditional Somali folklore. Most Somali songs are pentatonic; that is, they only use five pitches per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale. At first listen, Somali music might be mistaken for the sounds of nearby regions such as Ethiopia, Sudan or the Arabian Peninsula, but it is ultimately recognizable by its own unique tunes and styles. Somali songs are usually the product of collaboration between lyricists (midho), songwriters (laxan) and singers (codka or “voice”). Balwo is a Somali musical style centered on love themes that is popular in Djibouti.


The national anthem of Djibouti is “Djibouti”, adopted in 1977 with words by Aden Elmi and music by Abdi Robleh. “Miniature poetry”, invented by a truck driver named Abdi Deeqsi, is well known in Djibouti; these are short poems (balwo), mostly concerning love and passion. They perform music and dance from two of Djibouti’s main ethnic groups (Somali, Afar), they feature regularly on Djiboutian radio and television shows and perform as representatives of Djiboutian culture around the world. This festival draws performers from all over the country, and live recordings of headliner acts have proved popular with international audiences. Among the best-known performers are the Dinkara and Aïdarous. The government sponsors several organizations dedicated to the preservation of traditional culture and dance.


Djiboutian instruments include the tanbura, bowl lyre and oud.


Notable Djiboutian singers


      Awaleh Aden

      Adan Farah Samatar

      Issa Aptidon

      Abdi Nour

      Said Helaf

      Hassan Wado

      Kaltoun Bacado

      Abdo Xamar Qoodh

      Abdiraxman Hadanteeye

      Casha Bisle

      Siciid Xamar Qoodh

      Mohamed Ali Furshed

      Adan Faarax

      Nimco Jaamac

      Houssein Hayle





The music of Egypt has been an integral part of Egyptian culture since antiquity. The ancient Egyptians credited one of the powerful gods Hathor with the invention of music, which Osiris in turn used as part of his effort to civilize the world. The earliest material and representational evidence of Egyptian musical instruments dates to the Predynastic period, but the evidence is more securely attested in the Old Kingdom when harps, flutes and double clarinets were played. Percussion instruments, lyres and lutes were added to orchestras by the Middle Kingdom. Cymbals frequently accompanied music and dance, much as they still do in Egypt today. Egyptian folk music, including the traditional Sufi dhikr rituals, are the closest contemporary music genre to ancient Egyptian music, having preserved many of its features, rhythms and instruments.


They also played recorders and clarinets. In general, Arabic music is the term used to identify the present music of Egypt. The tonal structure of Arabic music is defined by the maqamat, loosely similar to Western modes, while the rhythm of Arabic music is governed by the awzan (wazn, sing.), formed by combinations of accented and unaccented beats and rests. Typically ancient Egyptian music is composed from the phrygian dominant scale, phrygian scale, Double harmonic scale (Arabic scale) or lydian scale. The phrygian dominant scale may often feature an altered note or two in parts to create tension. For instance the music could typically be in the key of E phrygian dominant using the notes E, F, G sharp, A, B, C, D and then have an A sharp, B, A sharp, G natural and E to create tension.


Front and rear views of the oud.


Since the Nasser era, Egyptian pop music has become increasingly important in Egyptian culture, particularly among the large youth population of Egypt. Egyptian folk music continues to be played during weddings and other traditional festivities. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Egyptian music was a way to communicate social and class issues. Among some of the most popular Egyptian pop singers today are Mohamed Mounir and Amr Diab. Religious music remains an essential part of traditional Muslim and Coptic celebrations called mulids. Mulids are held in Egypt to celebrate the saint of a particular church. Muslim mulids are related to the Sufi zikr ritual. The Egyptian flute, called the ney, is commonly played at mulids. The liturgical music of the Coptic Church also constitutes an important element of Egyptian music and is said to have preserved many features of ancient Egyptian music.

Lute and double pipe players from a painting found in the Theban tomb of Nebamun, a nobleman of the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, c. 1350 BC


Contemporary Egyptian music traces its beginnings to the creative work of luminaries such as Abdu-l Hamuli, Almaz and Mahmud Osman, who were all patronized by Khedive Ismail, and who influenced the later work of Sayed Darwish, Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Abdel Halim Hafez, Zakariyya Ahmad and other Egyptian musicians.


Egyptian music began its recorded history in the 1910s, around the time composers such as Sayed Darwish were incorporating western musical forms into their work. Some of the Middle East’s biggest musical stars have been Egyptian. Abdel Halim Hafez and Umm Kulthum were especially popular. Most of these stars, including Umm Kulthum, were part of the classical Egyptian and Arabic music tradition. Some, like Abd el-Halim Hafez, were associated with the Egyptian nationalist movement in 1952.


Folk and roots revival


The Egyptians even used their own teeth as instruments they would make tapping noises and would use special plucks to make interesting noises with their teeth. The 20th century has seen Cairo become associated with a roots revival. Musicians from across Egypt are keeping folk traditions alive, such as those of rural Egyptians (fellahin), the Nubians, the Arabs, the Berbers, the Gypsies and the Bedouins. Mixtures of folk and pop have also risen from the Cairo hit factory.


Sawahli (coastal) music is a type of popular music from the northern coast, and is based around the simsimiyya, an indigenous stringed instrument. Well-known singers include Abdo’l Iskandrani and Aid el-Gannirni.


Saidi (Upper Egyptian)


Egyptian musicians from Upper Egypt play a form of folk music called saidi (Upper Egyptian). Metqal Qenawi’s Les Musiciens du Nil are the most popular saidi group, and were chosen by the government to represent Egyptian folk music abroad. Other performers include Shoukoukou, Ahmad Ismail, Omar Gharzawi, Sohar Magdy and Ahmed Mougahid.




Nubians are native to the south of Egypt and northern Sudan, though many live in Cairo and other cities. Nubian folk music can still be heard, but migration and intercultural contact with Egyptian and other musical genres have produced new innovations. Ali Hassan Kuban’s efforts had made him a regular on the world music scene, while Mohamed Mounir’s social criticism and sophisticated pop have made him a star among Nubians, Egyptians, and other people worldwide. Ahmed Mounib, Mohamed Mounir’s mentor, was by far the most notable Nubian singer to hit the Egyptian music scene, singing in both Egyptian Arabic his native Nobiin. Hamza El Din is another popular Nubian artist, well-known on the world music scene and has collaborated with the Kronos Quartet.

Western classical music


Western classical music was introduced to Egypt, and, in the middle of the 18th century, instruments such as the piano and violin were gradually adopted by Egyptians. Opera also became increasingly popular during the 18th century, and Giuseppe Verdi’s Egyptian-themed Aida was premiered in Cairo on December 24, 1871.


By the early 20th century, the first generation of Egyptian composers, including Yusef Greiss, Abu Bakr Khairat, and Hasan Rashid, began writing for Western instruments. The second generation of Egyptian composers included notable artists such as Gamal Abdelrahim. Representative composers of the third generation are Ahmed El-Saedi and Rageh Daoud. In the early 21st century, even fourth generation composers such as Mohamed Abdelwahab Abdelfattah (of the Cairo Conservatory) have gained international attention.

Revival of ancient Egyptian music


In the early 21st century, interest in the music of the pharaonic period began to grow, inspired by the research of such foreign-born musicologists as Hans Hickmann. By the early 21st century, Egyptian musicians and musicologists led by the musicology professor Khairy El-Malt at Helwan University in Cairo had begun to reconstruct musical instruments of Ancient Egypt, a project that is ongoing.





Equatorial Guinea


Equatorial Guinea’s is a difficult culture to research. There is not that much information on the cultures and music of the country.     It has been less documented than most African countries, and recordings of commercial quality are scarce.


Traditional music


The largest ethnic group of Equilateral Guinea are the Fang. The fang make up 85.7% of the population (1994 census) of a total 704,001 (July 2013 est.)), with 6.5% Bubi and smaller populations of Mdowe (3.6%), Annobónese (1.6%) and Bujeba (1.1%), including smaller groups such as the Ndowe, the Bisio and the Combe.


When talking about the Fang, they are most known for their mvet, which is a cross between a zither and a harp. The mvet can have up to fifteen strings. The semi-spherical part of this instrument is made of bamboo and the strings are attached to the center by fibers. Music for the mvet is written in a form of musical notation that can only be learned by initiates of the bebom-mvet society.


While playing music in Equilateral Guinea. The music is typically call and response with a chorus in the background.     Like most other African music, drumming is also important.     They usually have drummers, playing on an alternating pattern. Musicians like Eyi Moan Ndong have helped to popularize folk styles.


A three or four person orchestra consisting of some arrangement of sanza, xylophone, drums, zithers and bow harps accompanies the many dances in Equatorial Guinea, such as the balélé and the risque ibanga.     The balélé is a traditional dance that is only played around Christmas time.


Another popular instrument is the tam-tam, which is a wooden box covered with animal skin. In its center, there are bamboo keys installed with complete musical scales. A second type of tam-tam has two different levels of musical keys. Generally, wooden musical instruments are decorated with fauna images and geometric drawings. Drums are covered with animal skins or animal drawings.


Popular music


There is little popular music coming out of Equatorial Guinea. Pan-African styles like soukous and makossa are popular, as are reggae and rock and roll. Acoustic guitar bands based on a Spanish model are the country’s best-known indigenous popular tradition, especially national stars Desmali y su Grupo Dambo de la Costa.


Other musicians from Equatorial Guinea include Malabo Strit Band, Luna Loca, Chiquitin, Dambo de la Costa, Ngal Madunga, Lily Afro and Spain-based exiles like Super Momo, Hijas del Sol and Baron Ya Buk-Lu.






Eritrea is a country in the Horn of Africa. Perhaps the most famous Eritrean musicians in the history of Eritrea are Engineer Asgedom Woldemichael, Bereket Mengisteab, Yemane Baria, Osman Abderrehim, Alamin Abdeletif and Atowe Birhan Segid, some of whose music was banned by the Ethiopian government in the 1970s. Also of note is Bereket Mengistab, who has had a lengthy career, and 60s legends Haile Ghebru and Tewolde Redda. Tewolde Redda was one of the first electric guitar players in the Horn region, a singer, and reportedly a writer of the famous Eritrean independence song “Shigey habuni”, with an allegedly coded political love theme.


Eritrean music is distinguished by its unique rhythm. Modern popular stars include Bereket Mengistab, Teklé Tesfa-Ezighe Tekele Kifle Mariam (Wedi Tukul), Tesfai Mehari (Fihira), Osman Abderrehim, Abrar Osman, Abraham Afwerki, Yemane Ghebremichael, Idris Mohamed Ali, Alamin Abdeletif, Tsehaytu Beraki, Atewebrhan Segid and Berekhet Mengisteab.


Folk music


Traditional instruments of Eritrea include the stringed kraar, kebero, lyre, kobar and the wata (a distant/rudimentary cousin of the violin).


Popular music


Modern Eritrean popular music can be traced back to the late 1960s, when the MaHber Theatre Asmara began to produce stars like Osman Abderrehim, Alamin Abdeletif, Yemane Ghebremichael (also commonly known as Yemane Baria), Jabber, Ateweberhan Seghid, Yonus Ibrahim, Tsehaytu Beraki, Tewolde Redda, Teberh Tesfahiwet and Tukabo.


Since then, some musicians, like kraar-player Dawit Sium, Yohannes Tikabo and Temesgen Gebreselassie (also commonly known as Taniqo) have helped to incorporate the core indigenous Eritrean musical elements in popular music. Imported styles of music from Europe, North America, and elsewhere in the Horn region, are also very popular in urban areas of Eritrea.




Traditional Eritrean Tigrinya dancing involves two main styles of dance. In the first which is called ‘quda’, the dancers form a circle and slowly circumambulate or move around in an endless circular motion to the rhythm of the music. Then, they cease the circular musical flow/motion and dance in pairs or 3’s facing each other for a short while before resuming the circular motion in a file again. During this time, they shuffle their feet to the beat of the music and bob their shoulders in a rhythmic fashion. Female dancers usually move their shoulders more than the male dancers. Towards the end, the musical tempo increases and the drum beat quickens to signal this musical crescendo. The dancers round off their dancing by facing each other in twos and threes and moving their shoulders faster. This can also involve jumping and bending one’s knees, as well as going down to the floor to sit in a squatting position while bobbing those shoulders and moving the head sideways to the strong drum beats.


In the second style of dance, two groups (often a group of men and a group of women) line up and face each other. The dance features a skipping step to the music. Periodically, the two groups will change places, dancing across the floor and passing each other in the process.


Traditional dances practiced by Eritrea’s other Afro-Asiatic communities include those by the Saho, which involve jumping on each leg in rhythm with the beat. The related Afar, Tigre, Bilen and Hidareb have similar moves. Additionally, the Rashaida also have their own unique dances.


Dancing by the Nilo-Saharan Kunama involves raising bead-strung legs in sync with the rhythm of the music. The related Nara have similar traditions.




In 1994, a year after Eritrea declared its independence and gained international recognition, a group of musicians were brought together under the direction of Kahsay Gebrehewet as part of Eritrea’s nation building efforts. The musicians, who had previously performed in various revolutionary music groups, were brought together as the national music and dance troupe, Sibret (heritage). Sibret perform music and dance from all nine of Eritrea’s main ethnic groups (Afar, Bilen, Hedareb, Saho, Kunama, Nara, Rashaida, Tigre and Tigrinya), they feature regularly on Eritrean radio and television shows and perform as representatives of Eritrean culture around the world. Their instrumentation includes the amplified krar, bass krar and percussion.




Ethnic Groups of Ethiopia


The Oroma People

                 The Oroma are located in the central parts of Ethiopia. The language that they speak are part of the Cushitic branch of Afro-Asiatic language. The name of the Language is Oromo.     The Oroma is the largest tribe in Ethiopia.    


The Amhara People

                  The Amhara are also located in the central parts of Ethiopia.     The Amhara speak the language of Amharic and an Afro-Asiatic language from the Semitic branch.


The Somali People

                  The Somali are located in western Ethiopia.     They are speak a form of Cushitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language.


The Tigray People

The Tigray are located in northern Ethiopia.     Their language is descendant of the Semitic language Ge’ez.


Genres of Ethiopia



           Fukera praises the achievements of a great warrior

           Azmari-male professional musician who sings and accompanies himself on a masenqo

           Local taverns, weddings, festivals, urban hotels or on radio


           Improvised rhymed poems of various lengths

           Dabtara: is a non-ordained church musician who trains in church schools for 15-20 years


           Liturgial dance



           Muslim musical


           Spread to Harar and Jimma


           Rastafari Movement- an abrahamic spiritual movement that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica. Its followers worship Haile Salassie. Believing Selassie is reincarnation of Jesus.

           20th Century the Rastafari movement became known to the world through ragge music.

               Bob Marley and Peter Tosh

           Niyabinghi chants-anti-colonial efforts and danced to invoke the power of Jah

           Burru drumming-centered on three fundeh drums


Instruments of Ethiopia



           Known as: six strings instrument

           Fact: associated with the Devil due to its function as an accompaniment of songs praising love and beauty-Amhara


           Known as: bamboo flute

           Fact: found in highlands-Amhara and Tigray


           Known as: large end-blown trumpet

           Fact: used to announce ceremonial occasions


           Known as: flat kettledrum played with a curved stick,

           Fact: used for royal proclamations






Gabon’s music includes several folk styles and pop. Gabonese pop artist Patience Dabany, who now lives in the US, produces albums recorded in Los Angeles with a distinctively Gabonese element; they are popular throughout Francophone Africa. Other musicians include guitarists Georges Oyendze, La Rose Mbadou and Sylvain Avara, and the singer Oliver N’Goma. Imported rock and hip hop from the US and UK are popular in Gabon, as are rumba, makossa and soukous.



Traditional music


Gabon’s population, estimated at 1,640,286, of whom 42% are minors (July 2013 est.), include four major Bantu groupings; the Fang, the Punu, the Nzebi and the Obamba.


Gabon, to the French ethnographer Barabe, “is to Africa what Tibet is to Asia, the spiritual center of religious initiations”, due to the sacred music of the Bwiti, the dominant religious doctrine of the country, variously ascribed to the Fang and the Mitsogho, which involves the use of iboga.


Gabonese folk instruments

Include the obala.


Popular music


The history of modern Gabonese music did not begin until about 1974, when the blind guitarist and singer Pierre Akendengué released his first album. He was classically trained in Europe, and his compositions reflect the influence of Western classical music. Akendengue’s European career started after being treated for eye disease at a hospital in Paris. He stayed, and studied at the Petit Conservatoire. By the 1970s, he was at the forefront of a wave of popular Francophone African music stars, beginning with the release of Nandipo in 1974. Akendegue was supported by Pierre Barouh, a powerful man in the French music industry, responsible for launching the careers of Brigitte Fontaine and Jacques Higelin, among others. Akendegue came to be seen as a spokesperson for the Gabonese people, and for the poor and dispossessed of all Africa. After spending twenty years in France, Akendegue returned to Gabon despite concerns over government censorship of his music. He wound up being appointed a government advisor.


The 1980s saw the formation of Africa No. 1, a radio station devoted to African music, and the opening of the first Gabonese recording studio, Studio Mademba. Musicians from across Africa and even in the Caribbean travelled to Libreville to record.


Though Libreville was producing enough pan-African hits in the 80s to rival cities like Abidjan and Johannesburg for popular music, the end of the decade saw the music scene die out.






Ethnic Groups of Gambia


The Maninka People

                 The Mandinka are located mainly throughout Gambia and they are descendants of the Mali Empire.     The Mandinka speak the language of Mandinka. The Language of Mandinka is a type of Mandé language.     Most Mandinka today are Muslim.    


The Wolof People

                  The Wolof are located mainly in the area of Serekunda, Gambia.     The Woof are descendants of the Lebou people. The Wolof are also the largest group of people in Senegal. See the Senegal section to learn more about the Wolof.    


The Jola People

                   The Jola are mainly located along the Gambia River.     They are known for having no caste system of griots, slaves, or nobility.


The Serahuli People

                  The Serahuli are located mainly throughout Gambia, they are the forefather founders of the Ghana Empire.    


Genres of Gambia



           Evolved out of Congo rumba, Wolof tama melodies, and electric guitar


           Contemporary popular and semi-traditional music


           Serer women’s dance


           Ndut initiation rite

           Serer style of music


Instruments of Gambia



           Known as: three string gourd instrument


               Folk lute

               Instrument of the Jola ethnic group


           Known as: one-string bow


               Instrument of the Jola ethnic group


           Known as: calebasse in a container of water


               Used by women

               Instrument of the Jola ethnic group


           Known as: drum


               Instrument of the Jola ethnic group

               Used during initiation


           Known as: 21 string bridge harp

           Fact: used by Mandinka



The music of the Gambia is closely linked musically with that of its neighbor, Senegal, which surrounds its inland frontiers completely. Among its prominent musicians is Foday Musa Suso. Mbalax is a widely known popular dance music of the Gambia and neighboring Senegal. It fuses popular Western music and dance, with sabar, the traditional drumming and dance music of the Wolof and Serer people.


National music


“For The Gambia Our Homeland”, the national anthem of the Gambia, was composed by Jeremy Frederic Howe, based on the traditional Mandinka song “Foday Kaba Dumbuya”, with words Virginia Julia Howe for an international competition to produce an anthem (and flag) before independence from the United Kingdom in 1965.

Traditional music


The Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa, is an independent coastal state along the River Gambia. It gained its separate identity as a colony of the United Kingdom while Senegal was a colony of France, but the two countries’ traditional music are very much intertwined. Among Gambia’s people, who together number some 1.728 million (2010), 42% are Mandinka, 18% Fula, 16% Wolof\Serer, 10% Jola and 9% Soninke, the remainder being 4% other African and 1% non-African (2003). 63% of Gambians live in rural villages (1993 census), though the population is young and tends towards urbanization. 90% are Muslims and most of the remainder Christians.


Griots, also known as jelis, hereditary praise-singers, a legacy of the Mandé Empire, are common throughout the region. Gambian griots, as elsewhere, often play the kora, a 21 string harp. The region of Brikama has produced some famous musicians, including Foday Musa Suso, who founded the Mandingo Griot Society in New York City in the 1970s, bringing Mandé music to the New York avant-garde scene and collaborating with Bill Laswell, Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet.


Mbalax (meaning “rhythm” in Wolof),derives its from accompanying rhythms used in sabar, a tradition that originated from the Serer of the Kingdom of Sine and spread to the Kingdom of Saloum whence Wolof migrants took it to the Wolof kingdoms. The Nder (lead drum), Sabar (rhythm drum), and Tama (talking drum) percussion section traces some of its technique to the ritual music of Njuup.


The Njuup was also progenitor of Tassu, used when chanting ancient religious verses. The griots of Senegambia still use it at marriages, naming ceremonies or when singing the praises of patrons. Most Senegalese and Gambian artists use it in their songs. The Serer people are known especially for vocal and rhythmic practices that infuse their everyday language with complex overlapping cadences and their ritual with intense collaborative layerings of voice and rhythm.” Each motif has a purpose and is used for different occasions. Individual motifs represent the history and genealogy of a particular family and are used during weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals etc.


Popular music


Gambian popular music began in the 1960s. The Super Eagles and Guelewar formed under the influence of American, British and Cuban music. The Super Eagles played merengue and other pop genres with Wolof lyrics and minor African elements. They visited London in 1977, appearing on Mike Raven’s Band Call. After the program, when the band began playing traditional tunes an unknown listener is said to have inspired the group to return the Gambia’s musical roots, and they spent two years travelling around studying traditional music. The reformed band was called Ifang Bondi, and their style was Afro-Manding blues.


Gambian Laba Sosseh, who relocated to Dakar, Senegal as a teenager, spent his entire career outside of the Gambia, becoming a significant presence in the African and New York salsa scene. Civil unrest caused Ifang Bondi and other Gambian musicians to leave for Europe.


Former Ifang Bondi musician Juldeh Camara has been working with Justin Adams since 2007 and has been touring all over the world. Also from Ifang Bondi, Musa Mboob and Ousman Beyai have started a new group XamXam which started with a project in the Gambia to produce new music by taking six musicians based in the UK to the Gambia to work with top musicians from four different tribal backgrounds. Ousman Beyai moved to the UK where he worked with Musa Mboob to set up the live band XamXam.


Jaliba Kuyateh and his Kumareh band is currently the most popular exponent of Gambia’s Mandinka music. There is also a thriving Gambian hip hop scene.




Ethnic groups of Ghana


The Akan People

                The Akan people are Located


The Asante People

                The Asante people are located in the south-central part of Ashanti Province.


The Akuapem People

The Akuapem are southeast, in areas north of Accra.


The Fante People

The Fante are south central, between Winneba, Takoradi, and Obuasi.     They are a traditional matrilineal culture.


The Ewe People (might be a language)

                The Ewe people are located in the Southeast corner of Ghana. And is also spoken in Togo


The Frafra People

                The Frafra are located in northeast Ghana, The language is closely related to Mossi


The Ga-Adangbe People

                The Ga-Adangbe people are in the Accra Plains of Ghana, They are known for their History in Boxing.



Genres of Ghana



           Jazzy horns and multiple guitar

           Modeled after Afro-Cuban

           3-2 clave motif



           Fusion of highlife and hip hop

           Voiced over instrumentals and dubs


           Modernized traditional dance and music

           From the Ga ethnic group


           Drumming ensembles and dance music

           From the Ewe ethnic group


Instruments of Ghana



           Known as: set of five or seven ivory trumpets

           Fact: associated with Akan royalty


           Known as: single-headed barrel drums

           Fact: played in pairs tuned a perfect fourth apart


           Known as: percussion logs

           Fact: played to accompany recreational music


           Known as: rattles strung with nets of beads

           Fact: played in kpanlogo music


There are many styles of traditional and modern music of Ghana, due to its cosmopolitan geographic position on the African continent. The best known modern genre originating in Ghana is Highlife. For many years, Highlife was the preferred music genre until the introduction of Hiplife and many others.


Traditional music


The traditional musicology of Ghana may be divided geographically between north Ghana, and the fertile, forested southern coastal Ghana, inhabited by Ghanaian people speaking Kwa languages such as Akan.


      The north music is a mix melodic composition on stringed instruments such as the kologo (xalam) and the gonjey, wind instruments and voice, with poly-rhythms clapped or played on the talking drum, gourd drums or brekete. The tradition of gyil music (balafon) is also common. Music in the northern styles is mostly set to a minor pentatonic scale and melisma plays an important part in melodic and vocal styles, along with a long history of griot praise-singing traditions.


      The music of the coast is associated with social functions, and relies on complex polyrhythmic patterns played by drums and bells as well as harmonized song. An exception to this rule is the Akan tradition of singing with the Seperewa harp-lute, a now lapsed genre that had its origins in the griot traditions of the north.


Gold Coast period


During the Gold Coast era, the Gold Coast was a hotbed of musical syncretism. Rhythms especially from gombe and ashiko, guitar-styles such as mainline and osibisaba, European brass bands and sea shanties, were all combined into a melting pot that became high-life.

Mid-20th century and the invention of Ghanaian pop


Ghana became an independent nation in 1957. The music of Ghana often reflects a Caribbean influence, yet it still retains a flavor all its own. While pan-Ghanaian music had been developed for some time, the middle of the 20th century saw the development of distinctly Ghanaian pop music. High-life incorporated elements of swing, jazz, rock, ska and soukous. To a much lesser extent, Ghanaian musicians found success in the United States and, briefly, the United Kingdom with the surprise success of Osibisa’s Afro-rock in the 1970s.


Guitar-bands in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s


In the 1930s, Sam’s Trio, led by Jacob Sam, was the most influential of the high-life guitar-bands. Their “Yaa Amponsah”, three versions of which were recorded in 1928 for Zonophone, was a major hit that remains a popular staple of numerous high-life bands. The next major guitar-band leader was E. K. Nyame, who sang in Twi. Nyame also added the double bass and more elements of the Western hemisphere, including jazz and Cuban music on the recommendation of his producer and manager E. Newman-Adjiri. In the 1960s, dance high-life was more popular than guitar-band high-life; most of the guitar bands began using the electric guitar until a roots revival in the mid-1970s.


Dance high-life in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s


Dance highlife evolved during World War II, when American jazz and swing became popular with the arrival of servicemen from the United States and United Kingdom. After independence in 1957, the socialist government began encouraging folk music, but highlife remained popular and influences from Trinidadian music. E. T. Mensah was the most influential musician of this period, and his band The Tempos frequently accompanied the president. The original bandleader of The Tempos was Guy Warren, who was responsible for introducing Caribbean music to Ghana and, later, was known for a series of innovative fusions of African rhythms and American jazz. King Bruce, Jerry Hansen and Stan Plange also led influential dance bands during the 1950s and ’60s. By the 1970s, however, pop music from Europe and the US dominated the Ghanaian scene until a mid-1970s roots revival.


1970s: Head revival


By the beginning of the 1970s, traditionally styled highlife had been overtaken by electric guitar bands and pop-dance music. Since 1966 and the fall of President Kwame Nkrumah, many Ghanaian musicians moved abroad, settling in the US, and UK. High-life bands arose like Sammy Kofi’s (also known as Kofi Sammy). In 1971, the Soul to Soul music festival was held in Accra. Several legendary American musicians played, including Wilson Pickett, Ike and Tina Turner and Carlos Santana. With the exception of Mexican-American Santana, these American superstars were all black, and their presence in Accra was seen as legitimizing Ghanaian music. Though the concert is now mostly remembered for its role as a catalyst in the subsequent Ghanaian roots revival, it also led to increased popularity for American rock and soul. Inspired by the American musicians, new guitar bands arose in Ghana, including Nana Ampadu & the African Brothers, The City Boys and others. Musicians such as CK Mann, Daniel Amponsah and Eddie Donkor incorporated new elements, especially from Jamaican reggae. A group called Wulomei also arose in the 1970s, leading a cultural revival to encourage Ghanaian youths to support their own countryman’s music. By the 1980s, the UK was experiencing a boom in African music as Ghanaian and others moved there in large numbers. The group Hi-Life International was probably the most influential band of the period, and others included Jon K, Dade Krama, Orchestra Jazira and Ben Brako. In the middle of the decade, however, British immigration laws changed, and the focus of Ghanaian emigration moved to Germany.


The Ghanaian-German community created a form of highlife called Burger-highlife. The most influential early burgher highlife musician was George Darko, whose “Akoo Te Brofo” coined the term and is considered the beginning of the genre. Burgher highlife was extremely popular in Ghana, especially after computer-generated dance beats were added to the mix. The same period saw a Ghanaian community appear in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada. Pat Thomas is probably the most famous Ghanaian-Canadian musician. Other emigres include Ghanaian-American Obo Addy, the Ghanaian-Swiss Andy Vans and the Ghanaian-Dutch Kumbi Salleh. In Ghana itself during the 1980s, reggae became extremely popular.




By the late 1990s, a new generation of artists discovered the so-called Hiplife. The originator of this style is Reggie Rockstone, a Ghanaian musician who dabbled with hip-hop in the United States before finding his unique style. Hiplife basically was hip hop in the Ghanaian local dialect backed by elements of the traditional High-life. Ace music producer Hammer of The Last Two unveiled artistes including Tinny and Ex-doe who further popularized the Hiplife music genre respectively. Hiplife has since proliferated and spawned stars such as Reggie Rockstone, R2bees, Obrafour, Akyeame, Tic Tac, Lord Kenya, Sherifa Gunu, Kwaw Kese, Obour, Ayigbe Edem, Ko-Jo Cue, Asem, Samini and Sarkodie. Producers responsible for steering this genre to what it is today were Zapp Mallet, Jay Q, Panji Anoff, Hammer of The Last Two, Morris De Voice, Richie Mensah, Appietus, Killbeatz and EL.







Guinea is a West African nation, composed of several ethnic groups. Among its most widely known musicians is Mory Kanté – 10 Cola Nuts saw major mainstream success in both Guinea and Mali while “Yeke-Yeke”, a single from Mory Kanté à Paris, was a European success in 1988.


Traditional music


Guinea’s 10 million people belong to at least twenty-four ethnic and languages groups. The most prominent are the Fula (40%), the Mandinka (30%) and the Susu (20%). Fula is widely used in the central Fouta Djallon, Mandinka in the east and Susu in the northwestern coastal region. It is a predominantly Islamic country, with Muslims representing about 85 percent of the population. Christians, mostly Roman Catholic, about 10 percent of the population, are mainly found in the southern region of Guinée forestière.


Mandé music is dominated by the djelis, travelling singer-historians who sing praises to noble patrons. Traditionally, popular instruments include the ngoni, a distant relative of the banjo, and the balafon. Famous balafon players include El Hadj Djeli Sory Kouyaté and, early in his career, superstar Mory Kanté. The kora, a cross between a harp and a lute, is also widespread. Other popular folk music utilizes the cylindrical Dunun paired with the goblet shaped Djembe.


As in Mali, a roots revival occurred in the 1960s and 1970s with state support from Sekou Touré. He introduced a radical cultural policy called authenticite, whereby musicians and artists were instructed to “look at the past” for inspiration and to incorporate traditional practices in their arts. Authenticite ended with the death of Sekou Toure in 1984.

Popular music


After World War 2, the guitar was imported to Guinea and players like Kanté Facelli and his cousin Kanté Manfila developed their own style of playing. In modern times, the guitar plays a very important role.


Some of the early dance bands included popular groups like Keletigui Et Ses Tambourinis, Balla et ses Balladins, and Kebendo Jazz (also known as Orchestre de Danse de Guéckédou). Many of these bands recorded on Syliphone records. Bembeya Jazz National further enriched Guinea’s musical melting pot after visiting Cuba in 1965.






The music of Guinea-Bissau is most widely associated with the polyrhythmic gumbe genre, the country’s primary musical export. Tina and tinga are other popular genres.



National music


Independence from Portugal was declared in 1973 after a long struggle. “Esta É a Nossa Pátria Bem Amada” (“This Is Our Beloved Country”), composed by Xiao He with words by Amílcar Cabral, is the national anthem of Guinea-Bissau, as it was of Cape Verde until 1996.


In contrast to other Portuguese colonies like Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde, the fado style hardly penetrated Guinea-Bissau’s music. Popular song lyrics, however, are almost always in Guinea-Bissau Creole, a Portuguese-based creole language. They are often humorous and topical, revolving around current events and controversies such as AIDS. Popular singers have had a stormy relationship with Guinea-Bissau’s government. Zé Carlos, who criticized the administration, died in a plane crash in Havana under suspicious circumstances. Later Super Mama Djambo supported the PAIGC while mocking its perceived nepotism and corruption. Some performers were banned by the government, including Zé Manel after he began singing “Tustumunhus di aonti” (Yesterday’s Testimony) in 1983, using lyrics written by Huco Monteiro, a poet. Justino Delgado, another popular singer, was arrested for criticizing President João Bernardo Vieira.     Civil unrest and a small population have limited the wider influence of the country’s music.


Traditional music


Guinea-Bissau’s 1,596,677 people (July 2011 estimate) include Balanta (30%), Fula (20%), Manjack (14%), Mandinka (13%) and Papel (7%). The European and Mulatto population is less than 1% and there is a small Chinese population.


The word gumbe is sometimes used generically to refer to any music of the country, but it refers specifically to a unique style that fuses about ten of the country’s folk music traditions.


The Balanta play a gourd lute instrument called a kusunde, similar to the Jola akonting but with the short drone string (A#/B) at the bottom rather than the top. The top string is of middle length (open F#, stopped G#) while the middle string, the longest (open C#, stopped D#) is stopped by the top string and sounds the same.


Extent folk traditions include ceremonial music used in funerals, initiations and other rituals, as well as Balanta brosca and kussundé, Mandinga djambadon and the kundere sound of the Bijagos islands.


The calabash is a primary musical instrument of Guinea-Bissau, and is used in extremely swift and rhythmically complex dance music.


Popular music


Gumbe, the first popular song tradition to arise in the country after independence, had begun in 1973 with the recording of Ernesto Dabó’s “M’Ba Bolama” in Lisbon. Dabó’s record producer, Zé Carlos, had formed the popular Cobiana Djazz in 1972. The next popular band was Super Mama Djombo with their 1980 debut Cambança, followed by Africa Livre, Chifre Preto and Kapa Negra.


In the 1980s genres like kussundé began to become popular, led by Kaba Mané, whose Chefo Mae used electric guitar and Balanta lyrics.


Angolan pop music, called Kizomba, supports a number of artistes singing in both English and Portuguese.






The music of Kenya is very diverse, with multiple types of folk music based on the variety over 40 regional languages.


Zanzibaran taarab music has also become popular, as has hip hop, reggae, soul, soukous, zouk, rock and roll, funk and Euro-pop. Additionally, there is a growing western classical music scene and Kenya is home to a number of music colleges and schools.



Popular music


The guitar is the most dominant instrument in Kenyan popular music. Guitar rhythms are very complex and include both native beats and imported ones, especially the Congolese cavacha rhythm; music usually involves the interplay of multiple parts and, more recently, showy guitar solos.


Lyrics are most often in Swahili or Lingala, but are also sometimes in one of the indigenous languages, though radio will generally not play music in one of the “tribal” languages.


Benga music has been popular since the late 1960s, especially around Lake Victoria. The word benga is occasionally used to refer to any kind of pop music: bass, guitar and percussion are the usual instruments.


Benga is a genre of Kenyan popular music. It evolved between the late 1940s and late 1960s, in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi. In the 1940s, the African Broadcasting Service in Nairobi aired a steady stream of soukous, South African kwela, Zairean finger-style guitar and various kinds of Cuban dance music. There were also popular folk songs of Kenya’s Luo peoples.


Luo Benga


The Luo of Kenya have long played an eight-string lyre called nyatiti, and guitarists from the area sought to imitate the instrument’s syncopated melodies. In benga, the electric bass guitar is played in a style reminiscent of the nyatiti. As late as the turn of the twentieth century, this bass in nyatiti supported the rhythm essential in transmitting knowledge about the society through music. Opondo Owenga of Gem Yala, the grandfather of Odhiambo Siangla, was known in employing music as a means of teaching history of the Luo. The father of the popular Luo Benga is none other than The Famous George Ramogi (Omogi wuod Weta) and CK Jazz. He helped the Benga enthusiasts by recording their Benga music in in different labels in the capital city Nairobi. Dr. Mengo of Victoria Jazz was a protégé of George Ramogi.


In 1967, the first major benga band, Shirati Jazz, was formed by Daniel Owino Misiani. The group launched a string of hits that were East Africa’s biggest songs throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Shirati Jazz’s biggest rival was Victoria Jazz, formed in 1972 by Ochieng Nelly Mengo and Collela Mazee. Despite many personnel changes, Victoria Jazz remained popular throughout the 1970s, when the Voice of Kenya radio station pushed an onslaught of East African pop. Victoria C Band of Awino Lawi was one of the splinter group of Victoria Jazz.


1997 saw the death of three prominent Luo Benga artist, Okatch Biggy of Heka Heka Band, George Ramogi and Prince Jully. The Jolly Boys Band of Prince Jully was taken over by his wife Princess Jully and she has since been a leading female Benga musician.


Another famous benga band Migori Super Stars was formed in the mid-70s and was led by Musa Olwete which later split to form another popular benga band Migori Super Stars C with musicians such as Joseph Ochola (Kasongo Polo Menyo), Onyango Jamba, Ochieng’ Denge denge and others.


More modern benga artists include Kapere Jazz Band and the rootsy Ogwang Lelo Okoth. The new millennium has seen emergence of Dola Kabarry and Musa Juma. The latter saw his career cut short as he died in 2011. MJ, as he was popularly known to his fans, developed a kind of benga that infused elements of rumba. He was able to mold other musicians such as John Junior, Ogonji, Madanji, and his late brother Omondi Tonny.


There are also Benga artists are based in other countries than Kenya, such as American/Kenyan group Extra Golden.


Big Benga iniourcu


Major Kikuyu benga musicians include Joseph Kamaru and Daniel Kamau and Jane Nyambura (Queen Jane).


Partially from 1994 and wholly from 2003 Kenyan popular music has been recognized through the Kisima Music Awards. A number of styles predominate in Kenya including Benga and Reggae have separate categories, and a multitude of Kenyan artists are awarded each year.

Early 20th century


The guitar was popular in Kenya even before the 20th century, well before it penetrated other African countries. Fundi Konde was the best-known early guitarist, alongside Paul Mwachupa and Lukas Tututu the middle of the 1920s, dance clubs had appeared in Mombasa, playing music for Christians to dance in a European style.


During World War II, Kenyan and Ugandan musicians were drafted as entertainers in the King’s African Rifles and continued after the war as the Rhino Band, the first extremely popular band across Kenya. In 1948, the group split, with many of the members forming the Kiko Kids or other bands.


By the 1950s, radio and recording technology had advanced across Kenya. Fundi Konde, the prominent guitarist, was an early broadcaster and influential in the fledgling recording industry.

Congolese finger-style and the development of benga


Beginning in about 1952, recordings from legendary Congolese guitarists like Edouard Massengo and Jean-Bosco Mwenda were available in Kenya. Bosco’s technique of picking with the thumb and forefinger (finger-style) became popular. Finger-style music is swift and usually based around small groups, in which the second guitar follows the first with syncopated bass rhythms. This style of music became extremely popular later in the decade.


The next decade saw new influences from kwela and rumba become more popular than finger-style. The Equator Sound Band was the most popular band of the period. In Nairobi in the late 1960s, bands like the Hodi Boys and Air Fiesta were popular, primarily playing cover versions of Congolese, British and American hits. Other musicians were innovating the benga style, with Shirati Jazz the most popular of the early bands.


Into the 1970s, benga was at its most innovative, producing numerous popular bands like Victoria Jazz and the Victoria Kings, the Continental Luo Sweet Band and Luna Kidi Band.

Swahili and Congolese pop


The two biggest genres of pop music played by Kenyan bands are called the Swahili sound or the Congolese sound. Both are based on soukous (rumba) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Swahili music can be distinguished by a much slower rhythm, though the styles have had a tendency to merge in recent decades. The genres are not distinguished by language, though Swahili pop is usually in Swahili or the related Taiti language. Both are sometimes in Lingala or one of the native languages of Kenya.


Congolese musicians were the most popular performers in Kenya during the 1970s and 1980s, only losing their mainstream acceptance in the early 1990s. Orchestre Virunga was perhaps the most popular and long-running of the Congolese bands. During this period, Swahili musicians (many from Tanzania) were mostly based around the Wanyika bands. This group of often rival bands began in 1971 when a Tanzanian group named Arusha Jazz came to Kenya, eventually becoming the Simba Wanyika Band. The band first split in 1978, when many of the group members formed Les Wanyika. Other notable Congolese groups in Kenya included Super Mazembe and Les Mangelepa.


Hotel pop


Tourist-oriented pop covers are popular, and employ more live bands than more authentic Kenyan folk and pop genres. “Them Mushrooms”, who began playing the Nairobi hotel circuit in 1987, are probably the most popular of these bands. Lately, hotel bands like Them Mushrooms and Safari Sound Band have begun playing reggae.

Regional pop


The Kamba people live to the south and east of Nairobi. Their pop music is closely related to benga, but includes a second guitar that plays a melodious counterpoint to the primary guitar. The most popular Kamba pop bands arose in the middle of the 1970s and include Les Kilimambogo Brothers Band led by Kakai Kilonzo, Kalambya Boys & Kalambya Sisters led by Onesmus Musyoki and Joseph Mutaiti and Peter Mwambi & His Kyanganga Boys. Other groups also include Lower Mbooni Boys Band, Muthetheni Boys Band and Ukia Boys Band.


Other Akamba Pop Bands were formed in the 1980s and included Kakuku Boys Band vocalled by John Mutua Muteti whose lyrics consisted of religious, domestic, and court humour, Ngoleni Brothers which was formed by Dick Mutuku Mulwa after he left Kalambya Boys & Kalambya Sisters. It can also be noted that Kalambya Boys original members were Onesmus Musyoki (vocals), Joseph Mutaiti (vocals), Dick Mutuku Mulwa (rhythm guitar), James Maisha Muli (Drums) and Peter Kisaa (solo guitar). Kalambya Boys split and Joseph Mutaiti formed Super Kaiti and Onesmus Musyoki went gospel to form Emali Town Choir.


The Kikuyu, one of the biggest ethnic groups in Kenya, have their own form of pop music. Kikuyu pop can be distinguished by female back-up singers, who are rare in the rest of Kenya. The biggest Kikuyu pop star is Joseph Kamaru, whose 1967 hit “Celina” launched the field. He remained popular, inviting controversy with topical lyrics that criticized the Kenyan government, until becoming a born again Christian in 1993 and switching to gospel music. Kikuyu pop played a major role in the development of benga, largely due to the activity of Daniel Kamau.


Also highly popular is Mugithi, a distinctive style usually performed by a single singer with guitar accompaniment and whose singers often adopt some of the dress code of Country music singers with cowboy hats a popular accessory for Mugithi performers.


Leading Luhya musicians include Sukuma Bin Ongaro, and Shem Tube with his group Abana Ba Nasery.


Hip hop of Kenya


Hip hop is a hugely popular style of music in Kenya. Artists normally rap in English, Swahili or the local Sheng slang. One of its many popular genres is Genge which is showcased through artists such as Jua Cali, Nonini and Jimwat. There is also Kapuka rap, which is found with artists like Nameless.


The country also boasts a large following of hardcore rap which is characterized by swift freestyle battlers and lyricists like Bamboo, Doobiez and Chiwawa.


Camp Mulla, an alternative hip hop group, has had more success than any other Kenyan artist in history. As of 28 September 2012, they have won two CHAT Awards and have been nominated for prestigious awards such as the BET Awards, the MTV Europe Music Awards and the MOBO Awards.


Reggae of Kenya


Reggae is one of the most popular genres of music in Kenya. Reggae elements are often mixed with local hip hop and pop music, yet there have not been many mainstream reggae musicians in Kenya. One of the best known local reggae musicians is the late Mighty King Kong. Upcoming reggae artist “priest fari” is the artist to watch out for. With two albums “warrior” and “Pressure” under his belt, Priest fari is arguably the next big thing on the Kenyan reggae scene. His touch remains the original Jamaican roots reggae.


Others include Jahkey Malle and Prince Otach. Reggae Ras Naya, is one of the best reggae artists from Kenya and abroad, based in Paris. His last album “Shine” was recorded in Orange Street, Kingston, Jamaica, in 2012. The other albums are called “Freedom”, “Mau Mau” and “Black and White”. A new album called “Mama” is coming on 2013. Ras Naya represents Kenyan reggae in Europe and the rest of the world.


Other Reggae icons in Kenya who have risen in the recent past include the talented Wyre and Red San. The massive love for reggae in Kenya has led to inception of other talents including Reggae music Deejays. The most remarkable Disc Jockey who shines in the hearts of all Kenyan Reggae music lovers is DJ Stano. DJ Stano has grown to be Kenya’s biggest reggae music Disc Jockey. His talent and love for music has developed to major parts of Kenya and beyond.


DJ Stano’s career was catapulted to great heights on one of the largest radio shows in Kenya with millions of listeners live and online. As co-host and DJ on Riddim Base, a daily show on the pioneer reggae station Metro FM, DJ Stano’s expertise gained him huge support from reggae music lovers. He also hosted Club Metro, a weekly show on the all reggae station ‘Metro FM’. DJ Stano has taken his talents worldwide with a variety of live shows in places like the UK and Dubai. Currently he hosts a weekly show “The Rave” on Venus FM. DJ Stano is also part of the Music Unit at the State Broadcaster (KBC).




Rock music has found a home to a growing fan base and with a number of locally established as well as emerging rock bands (there are over twelve active local rock bands in Nairobi alone) further cementing this genre by engaging in different as well as mutually organized rock themed events. Foreign international rock bands (Jars of Clay, Casting Crowns, Parachute Band, 38th Parallel, Zebra & Giraffe) Skinflint-Heavy Metal from Botswana) have also graced the local scene which reflects on the growing influence and acceptance of this genre. Arguably the most popular band in Kenya is ParkingLotGrass.


Organized member bodies such as Wiyathi (now defunct) and Roffeke (Rock ‘n’ Roll Film Festival Kenya) were fundamental in initially marketing local rock bands in the country by hosting regular shows and helped to establish a vibrant rock community. Recently, the bands also by social event groups like Kenya Rock Fans, have widely assisted the bands to gain popularity and increase their fan base, subsequently the founding of a governing body, the Rock Society of Kenya, which serves to promote the interests of member bands. The society spearheads numerous rock related events like the Battle of the Bands and live rock club shows that has spurred constructive level of activity for bands.


Over the past few years many entertainment spots have also independently incorporated rock music onto their programs further indicating a genuine interest from the public. In addition there are radio stations that play rock music: 98.4 Capital FM and 105.5 X FM, the latter being a 24-hour rock station. KTN (Str8up), STV (The Rumble) and K24 (The Rumble) also play regular weekly rock shows. Popular prominent local rock bands include acts such as Parking Lot Grass, Murfy’s flaw, Dove Slimme, M20, Rock of Ages, Last Year’s Tragedy, Seismic, The Itch, The Beathogs, Crystal Axis, Bedslum and kick ass metal band Mortal Soul.


Other genres


There is a growing interest in other genres of music such as house and drum and bass. Acts like Just “A Band” have also dabbled in numerous alternative genres.     Neo soul music has also gained a huge audience with recurrent events such as Blankets and Wine promoting upcoming Neo soul bands and artistes such as Sauti Sol and Dela respectively all from a recording stable known as Penya. Genres such as Genge with artistes such as Juacali and Nonini acting as ambassadors of this genre.


Genres such as Kapuka also have an audience with acts such as Nameless, the late Esir and the late K-rupt sampling from these genres. The Kenyan music scene has been regarded as diverse but criticism has been leveled at its perceived lack of unoriginality in terms of musical content.


Traditional Music of Kenya


Kenya’s diverse ethnic groups each have their own folk music traditions, though most have declined in popularity in recent years as gospel music became more popular. The Turkana people of the north, the Bajuni, Akamba, Borana, Chuka, Gusii, Kikuyu, Luhya and Luo, the Maasai and the related Samburu and the Mijikenda (“nine tribes”) of the eastern coast are all found within the borders of Kenya.

Maasai of Kenya – Music and Dance


Music and Dance

Traditional jumping dance


Maasai music traditionally consists of rhythms provided by a chorus of vocalists singing harmonies while a song leader, or olaranyani, sings the melody. The olaranyani is usually the singer who can best sing that song, although several individuals may lead a song. The olaranyani begins by singing a line or title (namba) of a song. The group will respond with one unanimous call in acknowledgment, and the olaranyani will sing a verse over the group’s rhythmic throat singing. Each song has its specific namba structure based on call-and-response. Common rhythms are variations of 5/4, 6/4 and 3/4 time signatures. Lyrics follow a typical theme and are often repeated verbatim over time. Neck movements accompany singing. When breathing out the head is leaned forward. The head is tilted back for an inward breath. Overall the effect is one of polyphonic syncopation. Unlike most other African tribes, Maasai widely use drone polyphony.


Women chant lullabies, humming songs, and songs praising their sons. Nambas, the call-and-response pattern, repetition of nonsense phrases, monophonic melodies repeated phrases following each verse being sung on a descending scale, and singers responding to their own verses are characteristic of singing by females. When many Maasai women gather together, they sing and dance among themselves.


One exception to the vocal nature of Maasai music is the use of the horn of the Greater Kudu to summon morans for the Eunoto ceremony.


Both singing and dancing sometimes occur around manyattas, and involve flirting. Young men will form a line and chant rhythmically, “Oooooh-yah”, with a growl and staccato cough along with the thrust and withdrawal of their lower bodies. Girls stand in front of the men and make the same pelvis lunges while singing a high dying fall of “Oiiiyo..yo” in counterpoint to the men. Although bodies come in close proximity, they do not touch.


Maasai dance


Eunoto, the coming of age ceremony of the warrior, can involve ten or more days of singing, dancing and ritual. The warriors of the Il-Oodokilani perform a kind of march-past as well as the adumu, or aigus, sometimes referred as “the jumping dance” by non-Maasai. (both adumu and aigus are Maa verbs meaning “to jump” with adumu meaning “To jump up and down in a dance”) Warriors are well known for, and often photographed during, this competitive jumping. A circle is formed by the warriors, and one or two at a time will enter the center to begin jumping while maintaining a narrow posture, never letting their heels touch the ground. Members of the group may raise the pitch of their voices based on the height of the jump.


The girlfriends of the moran (intoyie) parade themselves in their most spectacular costumes as part of the eunoto. The mothers of the moran sing and dance in tribute to the courage and daring of their sons.


Kikuyo Tribe of Kenya


Traditional Kikuyu music has existed for generations up to 1888, when the Agikuyu people encountered and adopted a new culture from the Europeans. Before 1888 and well into 1920s, Kikuyu music included Kibaata, Nduumo and Muthunguci. Today, Music and Dance are strong components of Kikuyu culture. There is a vigorous Kikuyu recording industry, for both popular and gospel music, in their pentatonic scale and western music styles. Popular Kikuyu musicians include Joseph Kamaru, DK Kamau, Wanganangu, HM, D’mathew, Peter Kiggia, Mike Rua and Esther Wahome.


Kikamba music of the Akamba people of Kenya


The Akamba people’s love of music and dance is evidenced in their spectacular performances at many events in their daily lives or on occasions of regional and national importance. In their dances they display agility and athletic skills as they perform acrobatics and body movements. The Akamba dance techniques and style resemble those of the Batutsi of Rwanda-Burundi and the Aembu of Kenya.


The following are some of the varieties of traditional dance styles of the Akamba community:


      Mwali (plural Myali), a dance accompanying a song, the latter which is usually made to criticise anti-social behavior.

      Kilumi and Ngoma, religious dances, performed at healing and rain-making ceremonies;

      Mwilu is a circumcision dance;

      Mbalya or Ngutha is a dance for young people who meet to entertain themselves after the day’s chores are done.

      Kamandiko, or the modern disco usually held after a wedding party.


Dances are usually accompanied by songs composed for the occasion (marriage, birth, nationally important occasion), and reflect the traditional structure of the Kikamba song, sung on a pentatonic scale. The singing is lively and tuneful. Songs are composed satirising deviant behavior, anti-social activity, etc. The Akamba have famous work songs, such as Ngulu Mwelela, sung while work, such as digging, is going on. Herdsmen and boys have different songs, as do young people and old. During the Mbalya dances the dance leader will compose love songs and satirical numbers, to tease and entertain his / her dancers.







Ethnic Groups of Lesotho


The Basotho People

The Basotho are located throughout Lesotho.     There are subgroups of the Basotho, and some examples include the bakuena, batloug, baphuthi, bafokeng, bataung, batsoeneng, and matebele.


Genres of Lesotho


There are a few popular genres of Lesotho. One example is Ho engoe.     Songs of Ho Engoe are performed while standing still.     This types of music is used for Initiation ceremonies for girls & boys


The genre of Likoma are secret instructional songs for boys about myths, history, or life lessons


The genre Mangae are songs learned by males and initiates boys into manhood.     These songs are usually performed publicly


The Genre Famo is singing accompanied by accordion, drums, and bass.


The musician Mokete Shadrack Chakela aka Mosotho Chakela sings about political subjects.

Instruments of Lesotho


Traditional musical instruments include lekolulo, a kind of flute played by herding boys, setolo-tolo, resembling an extended jaw harp played by men using their mouth, and the women’s stringed thomo.



The Lisiba is a one-stringed chordophone.     It has a blown cape vulture feather that vibrates a string.     It is mouth-resonated.



The Moropa is a single-headed drum.     This drum is used to accompany the initiation of girls.     It is used while girls and woman sing and dance.



The Lekolilo is a reed flute



The Sekupu is a double-headed drum.     This Drum is used by healers and also in mother/newborn ceremonies


Sekhankula or ‘mamokhorong

The Sekhankula is a Horsehair bow, and it has a tin resonator on one end






Ethnic Groups of Liberia


The Kpelle People

               The Kpelle are located in the central north of Liberia.     The Kpelle people are also known as Berlu, Mpessi, Gerse, Guerze, Kpwesi, Kpessi, Gbelle, Bere, Buni, Gizima, and Gbalin.  The area of Liberia that they are located in is called Bong County and their footprint reaches as far as Guinea. The language that they speak is called Kpelle and it is part of the Mandé family.     They make up a population of 760,000 in Liberia and 460,000 in Guinea. The Kpelle are the largest Ethnic group of Liberia.     They have their own religion called the Kpelle Religion, and they also mainly follow Christianity.     There are a few ethnic groups that are closely related to the Kpelle. These groups are the Mende, Loma, Gbandi, Loko, and Zialo.       The Kpelle are known for doing work well and are considered hard workers. Their labor supplies majority of the country with food.     The Kpelle eat rice as a primary staple. And Cassava is also commonly eaten by the Kpelle.     They also eat peanuts, sugarcane, fufu, and Kola nuts.    

The Kpelle have been farmers traditionally with rice as the main crop for production. Traditionally, a Kpelle family consists of a man, his wives and his children. The household has been the usual farming unit, and all the family members participate in daily farming work. Young children learn how to farm and help the older family members with farm activities.

In their social structure, leadership was very crucial. Every Kpelle tribe used to have a chief who oversaw their own interests as well as the interests of the society. These chiefs were recognized by the national government.     They used to act as mediators between the government and their own tribes. Each town also had its own chief.     The chiefs act as liaisons for different groups in the society.     Anthropologists such as Caroline Bledsoe have characterized Kpelle social organization as one premised on wealth in people.

In intelligence research, the Kpelle people perform differently from Westerners on sorting tasks. While Westerners tend to take a taxonomic approach, the Kpelle take a more functional approach. For example, instead of grouping food and tools into separate categories, a Kpelle participant stated, “The knife goes with the orange because it cuts it.” (Glick 1975)

An anthropologist named Joe Glick, studied the Kpelle tribe and asked adults to sort items into categories.     Rather than producing taxonomic categories (e.g. “fruit” for apple), they sorted into functional groups (e.g. “eat” for apple).     Such functional grouping is something only very young children in Western culture would usually do.     Glick tried and failed, to teach them to categorize items.     Eventually he decided they simply didn’t have the mental ability to categorize in this way. Then, as a last resort, he asked them how a stupid person would do this task. At this point, without any hesitation, they sorted the items into taxonomic categories.


“They could do it, but in their culture, it was of no practical value. It was stupid.”


The Bassa People

                 The Bassa are located in the central coastal counties of Liberia.     The Counties are Rivercess, Montserrado, Margibi, and Grand Bassa. The Language of the Bassa is called the Bassa Language and is in the Kru language family.     The population of Bassa in Liberia is Approximately 350,000 people. The Bassa also have a writing system called “bassa”.     The Bassa footprint also spans out into Sierra Leone.    


The Grebo People

                 The Grebo are located in the Southern coastal and river region of Liberia. They speak the language of Grebo and this language is in the Kru family.     There are approximately 387,000 Grebo in Liberia with 48,000 spanning into Ivory Coast. The Grebo is a group that has been subjected to years of war and turmoil. They blame Europeans for their loss of native language use, and are typically upset that they have to borrow many English words from the English language.     The tribes along the coast are known for practicing ritualistic murders and cannibalism. Tooth chipping was common with the Grebo people before the 1970’s and is still practiced today by some Grebo people.     They chip their teeth into points to create a scary look, to warn off enemies. Today it is done for tradition and for aesthetic reasons.     The Kings and Chiefs of the Grebo usually wore very heavy brass ankle rings that they wore, until the day that they died.     These ankle rings that were around the ankle of a king was thought of as being alive, and was regularly fed human blood.     The woman of Grebo are sometimes convicted of witchcraft, they are judged by being forced to eat a poisonous plant, called “sassywood”.     The bark of this plant is extremely poisonous.     If the woman dies after eating the bark, she would be considered guilty. If she survived; she was innocent.




The Gio People

The Gio are located in the Central North of Liberia.     The Gio people are also known as the Dan People.     The Gio people have a footprint that spans into Ivory Coast.     In Liberia they are known as the Gio people, and in Ivory Coast they are known as the Dan people.     The population of Gio in Liberia is approximately 350,000 people.     This area is called Nimba County and the footprint of the Gio reaches as far as Côte D’Ivoire.     The Language that the Gio speak is called (Dan) and it is in the Mandé family. The Gio before the 17th Century was a warlike tribe that was involved in many disputes with neighboring ethnic groups.     They stopped participating in warlike affairs after the Americo-Liberian movement.     The Gio are also Farmers and their staple crops are rice, cassava, and sweet potatoes.    


Genres of Liberia



                The genre Tan of Liberia is a genre that is used for Dancing.     Most of the songs are played for dancing.     The music of this genre is polyphonic.


                   The genre Zlöö is Praise music in Liberia and it is Heptatonic.     The vocals are usually shout-singing.


                  The genre Gbo is Funeral lament



                The genre Chantefable is Kpelle traditional music and performance. In this type of music storyteller’s use recite stories during musical sections.     The music is frequently pentatonic and the use of rhythmic patterns are common with unequal beats.    



                The genre HipCo is unique to Liberia.     The music is usually in English or other local vernacular languages. The vocals are usually in reference to political issues of Liberia.     Heavy use of synthesizers are common in this type of music.     The name HipCo is the word “Hip”, which means “cool” and “co” which means “colloqua”



Traditional music


The indigenous ethnic groups of Liberia can be linguistically divided into three groups; those in the east who speak the isolate Gola language and the Mel languages (particularly Kissi) and those in the west who speak Kru languages (particularly Bassa). To these must be added the Mandé people (the Kpelle are Liberia’s largest ethnic group) in the north as well as Liberian repatriates (Americo-Liberians, Congo, Caribbean)


Liberian music makes particular use of vocal harmony, repetition and call-and-response song structure as well as such typical West African elements as ululation and the polyrhythm typical of rhythm in Sub-Saharan Africa. Christian music was introduced to Liberia by American missionaries and Christian songs are now sung in a style that mixes American harmonies with West African language, rhythm and call-and-response format.


Traditional music is performed at weddings, naming ceremonies, royal events and other special occasions, as well as ordinary children’s songs, work songs and lullabies. Rap and pop music are also performed in indigenous languages across the country.


Popular music


Highlife music is very popular in Liberia, as elsewhere in West Africa. It is a combination of North American, West African and Latin American styles, and emerged in the 1950s in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia, especially among the Liberian Kru people, who were sailors that played Spanish guitar, banjo, pennywhistle, harmonica, accordion, mandolin and concertina.


Past and present musicians include Princess Hawa Daisy Moore, Fatu Gayflor, Nimba Burr, Tejajlu, Morris Dorley, Yatta Zoe, Anthony “Experience” Nagbe Gebah Swaray, Kandakai Duncan and Miatta Fahnbulleh. Of these Dorley deserves special notice for having spearheaded a movement to create a national Liberian identity, alongside musicians like Anthony “Experience” Nagbe. Dorley’s popular songs include “Grand Gedeh County” and “Who Are You Baby”.


There is a new breed of budding musicians now in Liberia. They have created their own style called HIP-CO which is usually in the Liberian English or local vernacular. This music is very popular with both youth and adults. It touches on all aspects of life in Liberia. The country’s most renowned radio station is ELBC, or the Liberian Broadcasting Corporation.


In 1963, President Tubman set-up the new Cape-Palmas Military Band. Israeli Bandmaster Aharon Shefi, formed and conducted a 56 pieces Concert and Marching Band. Which performed Liberian, American and universal folk and church music. The CPMB has performed at the January 1st 1964 President Tubman’s Inauguration in Monrovia. Heads of states from all over the world, expressed their high impression and extended compliments on the high quality of the Band. Among the pieces played’ were Highlife, original marches by the late Liberian composer Victor Bowya, National Anthem and The Lone Star Forever. The CPMB had also performed in Churches, schools, Holidays and Military parades and official events.



Liberian Music has taken a new dimension with the new HipCo artists changing the style of music. HipCo (“Co” for short) is uniquely Liberian. In short, it’s the music of vernacular speech, the style of communication with which Liberians speak and relate to each other. HipCo evolved in the 1980s and has always been socially and politically bent. In the ’90s it continued to develop through the civil wars, and today stands as a definitive mark of Liberian culture.


Some young Liberians who have come to prominence through their charismatic HipCo messages are Luckay Buckay, Takun-J, Bone Dust, Red Rum, Kenny Da Knowledge Noy-Z, Real Mighty, Mighty Blow,Benevolence, Sundaygar Dearboy, and T-Five. These Rappers have been able to remind their listeners and fans about the History of Liberia in the Liberian Society.


Songs like Behold Behold by Luckay Buckay, It Not Right by Takun-J featuring Luckay Buckay, and Technique by Bone Dust have been among the many prominent songs that have told people of the government lack of consciousness for her people, prostitution, jealousy, hatred, envy, fornication all over Liberia.


Instruments of Liberia



The Turu is a Side-blown horn and is played in hocket style.



                 The Konîng is an instrument of Liberia.     It is a triangular framed version of the zither, and it has eight or nine strings.


Kongoma or Bonduma

                The Kongoma is an instrument in Liberia and is also known as the Bonduma in Liberia. It is a large lamellophone with only a few keys, and it is played by the Kpelle people of Liberia.


Bala, Gio, Blande, Balau

                The Bala is an Instrument of Liberia, and it also has a few other names. The Bala, Gio, Blande, and Balau. It is a xylophone made of free logs mounted on banana stalks.     This instrument is usually played by the Kpelle and Mano people.    



The music of Liberia is less modern than the music of neighboring countries; it consists of many tribal beats. Liberian music is often spoken in one of their native dialects, or colloquial.







Various kinds of Arab music are popular in Libya such as Andalusi music, locally known as Ma’luf, Chabi and Arab classical music.


The Tuareg live in the southern, Saharan part of the country, and have their own distinctive folk music. There is little or no pop music industry. Among the Tuareg, women are the musicians. They play a one-stringed violin called an anzad, as well as a variety of drums.


Two of the most famous musicians of Libya are Ahmed Fakroun and Mohammed Hassan.


Among Libyan Arabs, instruments include the zokra (a bagpipe), flute (made of bamboo), tambourine, oud (a fretless lute) and darbuka, a goblet drum held sideways and played with the fingers. Intricate clapping is also common in Libyan folk music.


Travelling Bedouin poet-singers have spread many popular songs across Libya. Among their styles is huda, the camel driver’s song, the rhythm of which is said to mimic the feet of a walking camel.





Ethnic Groups of Madagascar

The Merina People

                The Merina People are located in the central plateau of Madagascar.     The Merina bury ancestors in family tombs.     They also believe that Ancestors can intervene in events on earth for good or to cause pain.

The Betsimisaraka People

The Betsimisaraka people are located in the eastern central and northeastern coast of Madagascar.     The Betsimisaraka speak a dialect of Malagasy, which is a West Austronesian language.

The Bara People

                The Bara People are located in the south central region of Madagascar. The Bara People are mainly cattle farmers.

The Antanosy People

                   The Antanosy people are located in the southeast coast of Madagascar.     The Antanosy people are considered the poorest people in Madagascar.


Genres of Madagascar


      Folk music

           Political songwriting led by the group Tarika


           Best known and most widely exported dance pop music of Madagascar

           Characterized by gently rippling guitar work, organ or keyboards and sometimes accordion as well as powerful vocal harmonies


           Kabary oratory performed by a troupe

           Merina ethnic group


           Malagasy country music

           Fast (people in that region talk fast), rowdy dance-pop genre has developed in beach-side towns in the poor, neglected South of Madagascar


Instruments of Madagascar



           Known as: tube zither

           Fact: made from local bamboo


           Known as: square-shaped string instrument

           Fact: homemade lute

      Jejy voatovoo

           Known as: three stringed instrument

           Fact: long-necked sitar piece with two sets of three strings stretched across a large open gourd


           Known as: wood flute

           Fact: used in popular and traditional folk music of Madagascar



The highly diverse and distinctive music of Madagascar has been shaped by the musical traditions of Southeast Asia, Africa, Arabia, England, France and the United States as successive waves of settlers have made the island their home. Traditional instruments reflect these widespread origins: the mandoliny and kabosy owe their existence to the introduction of the guitar by early Arab or European seafarers, the ubiquitous djembe originated in mainland Africa and the valiha—the bamboo tube zither considered the national instrument of Madagascar—directly evolved from an earlier form of zither carried with the first Austronesian settlers on their outrigger canoes.


Malagasy music can be roughly divided into three categories: traditional, contemporary and popular music. Traditional musical styles vary by region and reflect local ethnographic history. For instance, in the Highlands, the valiha and more subdued vocal styles are emblematic of the Merina, the predominantly Austronesian ethnic group that has inhabited the area since at least the 15th century, whereas among the southern Bara people, who trace their ancestry back to the African mainland, their a cappella vocal traditions bear close resemblance to the polyharmonic singing style common to South Africa. Foreign instruments such as the acoustic guitar and piano have been adapted locally to create uniquely Malagasy forms of music. Contemporary Malagasy musical styles such as the salegy or tsapika have evolved from traditional styles modernized by the incorporation of electric guitar, bass, drums and synthesizer. Many Western styles of popular music, including rock, gospel, jazz, reggae, hip-hop and folk rock, have also gained in popularity in Madagascar over the latter half of the 20th century.


Music in Madagascar has served a variety of sacred and profane functions. In addition to its performance for entertainment or personal creative expression, music has played a key part in spiritual ceremonies, cultural events and historic and contemporary political functions. By the late 19th century, certain instruments and types of music became primarily associated with specific castes or ethnic groups, although these divisions have always been fluid and are continually evolving.


Traditional music

Distribution of Malagasy musical forms


Malagasy music is highly melodic and distinguishes itself from many traditions of mainland Africa by the predominance of chordophone relative to percussion instruments. Musical instruments and vocal styles found in Madagascar represent a blend of widespread commonalities and highly localized traditions. A common vocal style among the Merina and Betsileo of the Highlands, for instance, does not preclude differences in the prevalence of particular instrument types (the valiha among the Merina, and the marovany and kabosy among the Betsileo). Similarly, the practice of tromba (entering a trance state, typically induced by music) is present on both the western and eastern coasts of the island but the vocal styles or instruments used in the ceremony will vary regionally. Music in Madagascar tends toward major keys and diatonic scales, although coastal music makes frequent use of minor keys, most likely due to early Arab influences at coastal ports of call. Malagasy music has served a wide range of social, spiritual and mundane functions across the centuries.


Vocal traditions


Vocal traditions in Madagascar are most often polyharmonic; southern vocal styles bear strong resemblance to South African singing (as exemplified by groups such as Salala or Senge), whereas Highland harmonies, strongly influenced in the past two hundred years by European church music, are more reminiscent of Hawaiian or other Polynesian vocal traditions. In the Highlands, and particularly in the 19th century, vocal performance by large groups called antsa was favored, while in the south and western coastal regions singing was performed with more elaborate ornamentation and in small groups.     Musical performance in Madagascar has often been associated with spiritual functions. Music is a key component in achieving a trance state in tromba (or bilo) spiritual rituals practiced in several regions of the island, as it is believed that each spirit has a different preferred piece of music. The association between music and ancestors is so strong on the eastern coast that some musicians will put rum, cigarettes or other valued objects inside an instrument (through the tone hole, for instance) as an offering to the spirits to receive their blessings.     Similarly, music has long been central to the famadihana ceremony (periodic reburial of ancestors’ shroud-wrapped mortal remains)


Musical instruments


European origins


Instruments in Madagascar were brought to the island by successive waves of settlers from across the Old World.     Over 1500 years ago, the earliest settlers from Indonesia brought the oldest and most emblematic instruments, including the tube zither (valiha) which evolved into a box form (marovany) distinct to the island. Later settlers from the Arabian Peninsula and the eastern coast of Africa contributed early lutes, whistles and other instruments that were incorporated into local musical traditions by the mid-16th century. The influence of instruments and musical styles from France and Great Britain began to have a significant impact on music in Madagascar by the 19th century.




The most emblematic instrument of Madagascar, the valiha, is a bamboo tube zither very similar in form to those used traditionally in Indonesia and the Philippines.     The valiha is considered the national instrument of Madagascar. It is typically tuned to a diatonic mode to produce complex music based on harmonic, parallel thirds accompanied by a melodic bass line.     The strings are traditionally cut and raised from the fibrous surface of the bamboo tube itself, although a contemporary form also exists that instead uses bicycle brake cables for strings to give the instrument a punchier sound.



Strings may be plucked with the fingernails, which are allowed to grow longer for this purpose. The instrument was originally used for rituals and for creative artistic expression alike. However, beginning in the mid-19th century, playing the instrument became the prerogative of the Merina aristocracy to such an extent that possessing long fingernails became symbolic of nobility.     While the tubular valiha is the most emblematic form of the instrument most likely due to its popularization by the 19th century Merina aristocracy, other forms of the instrument exist across the island. In the region around the eastern port city of Toamasina, for instance, valiha used in tromba ceremonies may take a rectangular box form called marovany. While some regions construct their marovany from wood, near Toamasina the box is constructed of metal sheeting with much thicker and heavier strings that produce a different sound from the bamboo and bicycle cable valiha of the Highlands.


The kabosy (or kabosa) is a four to six-stringed simple guitar common in the southern Highlands moving toward the east, particularly among the Betsimisaraka and Betsileo ethnic groups. The soundbox, which is typically square or rectangular today, was originally circular in form, first made from a tortoise shell and later from wood carved into a rounded shape.     Mandolina and gitara are the Antandroy names of a popular Southern chordophone similar to the kabosy but with nylon fishing line for strings and five or seven movable frets that facilitate modification of the instrument’s tuning.


The jejy voatavo is a chordophone that traditionally has two sisal strings, three frets and a calabash resonator, although modern versions may have as many as eleven or thirteen strings, typically made of steel.     A maximum of four of these are strung over the frets, while the rest are strung lengthwise down the sides of the neck and are strummed with the fingers in accompaniment to the primary melody which is played with a bow. This more elaborate jejy voatavo is especially popular among the Betsileo of the southern Highlands and the Betsimisaraka of the southeast, who play it in accompaniment to their sung epic poems, called rija. In 19th-century Highlands’s society under the Kingdom of Imerina, the jejy voatavo was considered to be a slave instrument which only mature men were permitted to play. The lokanga, an evolved jejy with the sound box carved to resemble a three-stringed fiddle, is popular among the Southern Antandroy and Bara ethnic groups. The simplest form of instrument in this family is the jejy lava (musical bow), believed to have been brought to Madagascar by settlers from mainland Africa.


The piano was introduced to the royal Merina court in the early 19th century by envoys of the London Missionary Society, and soon afterward, local musicians began creating their own compositions for piano based on valiha technique. Piano compositions reached their peak with the Kalon’ny Fahiny style in the 1920s and 1930s before declining in the 1940s.     Today, the compositions of this period by pianist theatrical composers like Andrianary Ratianarivo (1895–1949) and Naka Rabemananatsoa(1892–1952) form part of the canon of classical Malagasy music and feature in the repertoire of Malagasy students of piano.


When the modern acoustic guitar was first popularized in Madagascar, it was adopted by the lower classes who were inspired by the Kalon’ny Fahiny piano style but for whom the purchase of a costly piano was out of reach.     Early guitarists adapted the piano style (itself based on valiha style) to this novel stringed instrument to create a genre that came to be known as ba-gasy. Soon afterward, the guitar was widely disseminated throughout the island, producing an explosion of regionally distinctive Malagasy guitar styles inspired by the music played on local traditional instruments.     Finger picking is the favored technique and guitarists frequently experiment with original tunings to obtain the desired range. One of the most common tunings drops the sixth string from E to C and the fifth string from A to G, thereby enabling the guitarist to capture a range approximating that of a vocal choir.     The Malagasy acoustic guitar style has been internationally promoted by such artists as Erick Manana and pioneering Bara artist Ernest Randrianasolo (better known by his stage name D’Gary), who blends the rhythms of tsapiky with innovative open tunings to approximate the sounds of the lokanga, valiha and marovany.




The sodina, an end-blown flute, is believed to be one of the oldest instruments on the island.     There exists the more common and well-known short sodina, about a foot long with six finger holes and one for the thumb, and another similar end-blown flute over two feet long with three holes at the far end. Both are open-ended and are played by blowing diagonally across the near opening. The master of sodina performance, Rakoto Frah, was featured on the 1000 Malagasy franc (200 ariary) banknote after independence in 1960 and his death on September 29, 2001 prompted national mourning.


The conch shell (antsiva or angaroa) is a similarly ancient instrument believed to have been brought over by early Indonesian settlers. Mainly played by men, it features a lateral blow hole in the Polynesian style and is typically reserved for ritual or spiritual uses rather than to create music for entertainment.     The fipple flute is a simple aerophone brought to Madagascar after 1000 CE by immigrants from Africa.


The two-octave diatonic accordion (gorodo), popular across Madagascar, is believed to have been imported by French colonists after 1896.     In the 20th century, the instrument was commonly performed during tromba spirit possession ceremonies in a style called renitra. In the 1970s, the renitra was incorporated for the performance of electrified salegy music. This accordion style was also integrated into the performance of tsapika, while also inspiring the style used by the guitarists in these bands. Although today the sound of the accordion is most often replicated by a synthesizer in salegy or tsapika bands due to the expense and rarity of the instrument, accordions continue to hold a privileged place in the performance of tromba ceremonial music.     Artists like half-brothers Lego and Rossy have gained success as accordion players. Régis Gizavo brought the contemporary style of renitra to the world music scene, winning several international awards for his accordion performance.


A variety of European aerophones were introduced in the 19th century under the Merina monarchy. These most notably include bugles (bingona) and clarinets (mainty kely), and less frequently the trombone or oboe (anjomara). Their use today is largely restricted to the Highlands and the hira gasy or mpilalao bands that perform at famadihana (reburials), circumcisions and other traditional celebrations. Metal and wood harmonicas are also played.




Various types of membranophones, traditionally associated with solemn occasions, are found throughout the island. In the Highlands, European bass drums (ampongabe) and snare drums introduced in the 19th century have replaced an earlier drum (ampongan’ny ntaolo) traditionally beat to accentuate the discourse of a mpikabary speaker during a hira gasy or other formal occasions where the oratory art of kabary is practiced. Only men can play the ampongabe, while women and men may both play the smaller langoroana drum.     The hazolahy (“male wood”) drum produces the deepest sound and is reserved for the most significant occasions such as famadihana, circumcision ceremonies and the ancient festival of the royal bath.




Bamboo shakers (kaiamba) filled with seeds are integral to the performance of tromba on the eastern coast of the island, although modern items such as empty insecticide tins or sweetened condensed milk cans filled with pebbles increasingly take the place of traditional bamboo. Shakers of this sort are used throughout Madagascar, commonly in conjunction with tromba and other ceremonies.     During the slave trade era, another idiophone—a scraper called the tsikadraha—was popularized in Madagascar after being imported there from Brazil where it is known as a caracacha.


Early forms of xylophone such as the atranatrana are found throughout the island and are believed to have come across with the original Indonesian settlers.     The earliest of these is played uniquely by a pair of women, one of whom sits with her legs outstretched together and the bars of the xylophone resting across her legs rather than on a separate resonator box. Each woman strikes the atranatrana with a pair of sticks, one keeping the beat while the second plays a melody. The xylophone bars range from five to seven in number and are made of differing lengths of a rot-resistant wood called hazomalagny. A similar xylophone called katiboky is still played in the southwest among the Vezo and Bara ethnic groups.


Contemporary music


Contemporary music comprises modern-day compositions that have their roots in traditional musical styles and have been created for entertainment purposes, typically with the intent of eventual mass dissemination via cassette, compact disc, radio or internet. Modern forms of Malagasy music may incorporate such innovations as amplified or imported instruments (particularly electric guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer and drum kit), blend the sounds of new and traditional instruments or use traditional instruments in innovative ways. As contemporary artists adapt their musical heritage to today’s market, they manage to preserve the melodic, chordophone-dominated sound that distinguishes traditional Malagasy music from the more percussion-heavy traditions of mainland Africa.




In the 1950s and 1960s, a variety of bands in the Highlands (in the area between and around Antananarivo and Fianarantsoa) were performing covers of European and American hits or adapting mainland African tunes for local audiences. Madagascar got its first supergroup in the 1970s with Mahaleo, whose members blended traditional Malagasy sounds with soft rock to enormous and enduring success. Rossy emerged as a superstar shortly afterward, adapting the instrumentation, rhythms and vocal styles of the hira gasy to create a distinctly Malagasy radio-friendly sound. His open and enthusiastic support for then-President Didier Ratsiraka assured his band regular performances in association with Presidential functions, and his band came to define the Ratsiraka epoch for many.


Other important contemporary musicians from the Highlands include Justin Vali and Sylvestre Randafison, both valiha virtuosos; Rakoto Frah, who could play two sodina simultaneously; Solo Miral, featuring guitar played in the style of a valiha; Tarika, a Malagasy fusion band based in England; Olombelona Ricky, a highly accomplished solo vocalist, and Samoëla, a roots artist whose blunt social and political critiques propelled his group to popularity.


Coastal styles



Distinct contemporary forms of music, rooted in local musical traditions, have emerged in the coastal regions since the 1960s. Chief among these are two up-tempo dance music styles that have become especially popular across Madagascar and have achieved crossover success: salegy, a 6/8 style that originated in the northwest around Mahajanga and Antsiranana, and tsapika, a 4/4 style centered in the southwest between Toliara and Betroka.     Other key coastal styles include basesa of Diego-Suarez and the northeast coast as popularized by Mika sy Davis, kilalaky of Morondava and the southwestern interior performed by such groups as Rabaza, mangaliba of the southern Anosy region, kawitry of the northeast as popularized by Jerry Marcoss, the southern beko polyharmonic tradition performed by bands like Senge and Terakaly, and kwassa-kwassa and sega music from neighboring Reunion Island and Mauritius.




Salegy: Salegy today, as it has been popularized by originators like Jaojoby and Mily Clément or relative newcomers Ninie Doniah, Wawa, Vaiavy Chila or Dr. J.B. and the Jaguars, is a funky, energetic form of dance music dominated by ringing electric guitars, accordion (real or synthesized), and call-and-response polyphonic vocals, propelled by heavy electric bass and a driving percussion section typically including a drum kit, djembe and shakers. Salegy represents an electrified version of the antsa musical style that was traditionally performed at Betsimisaraka and Tsimihety rituals as performed by Mama Sana.


Jaojoby performing salegy for an audience in Paris


In addition to their commonalities in tempo, vocal style, and tendency toward minor keys (which some attribute to an Arab influence, and which stands in contrast to the major key dominance of Highland music), the salegy shares the antsa’s structure in that it always features a middle section called the folaka (“broken”) which is primarily instrumental—voice serves only to urge on more energetic dancing—and during which the vocalists (and the audience) will launch into intricate polyrhythmic hand-clapping to the beat of the music.


Tsapika: Like the salegy, tsapika (or tsapiky) is an energetic form of dance music that originated from the traditional music of the southwestern region around Toliara and that has recently been adapted to contemporary instruments such as electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit. Generally even more rapid than the salegy, this 4/4 form of music features a guitar performance style inspired by traditional marovany compositions, but the influence of South African township music is evident in both the guitars and polyharmonic vocals, often performed by female singers who repeat variations on a short refrain throughout the song.     Tsapika music is performed at all manner of ceremonial occasion in the South, whether a birthday celebration, community party, or funeral. While salegy had risen to national popularity by the mid-1980s (some would argue the 1970s), tsapika only truly began to garner a similar level of widespread appreciation by the mid-1990s. It was not until the 2000 release of the “Tulear Never Sleeps” compilation album that the genre achieved international exposure on a major label.     This compilation, however, showcases “traditional” tsapika, such as might have more commonly been performed in rural villages twenty years ago, rather than the amplified, synthesized and remixed style in heavy rotation on radio stations performed by national stars like Tearano, Terakaly, Jarifa, and Mamy Gotso.


There are many more regional styles of contemporary music that have yet to achieve the level of national recognition attained by salegy and tsapika just as there are many nationally and internationally acclaimed musicians who draw upon the musical traditions of the coastal regions in their compositions. Of note are Hazolahy (a largely acoustic roots band from the Southeast that plays mangaliba), D’Gary (an acclaimed acoustic guitarist from the inland South near Betroka), and Toto Mwandjani (who popularized Congolese ndombolo-style guitar, and whose band performs a fusion of Central/East African and Malagasy dance styles).


Popular music


A wide range of foreign music styles have been popularized in Madagascar, including French chanson performed by artists such as Poopy, reggae, gospel music, and pop rock performed by bands such as Green and AmbondronA.     Jazz has been popularized by artists such as Nicolas Vatomanga. Malagasy hip hop broke into the mainstream in the mid-nineties and has since skyrocketed to popularity through artists such as Da Hopp and 18,3. More recently bands like Oladad are experimenting with the fusion of hip-hop and traditional Malagasy musical styles and instruments.


Music has long served a variety of secular and sacred purposes in Madagascar. Song may accompany daily tasks, provide entertainment, preserve history or communicate social and political messages. Music is likewise integral to the experience of spiritual ritual among many ethnic and religious groups on the island.


Secular performance


Among some ethnic groups music would help advance a repetitive or arduous task. Geo Shaw, a missionary to Madagascar in the 19th century, described observing Betsileo and Merina serfs singing in the rice fields, “timing the music to the movements of their bodies, so that at each accented note they plant a stalk.” Similarly, songs may accompany the paddling of dugout canoes on long journeys. Music may also accompany another form of entertainment, such as songs chanted by female spectators at matches of moraingy, a traditional form of full-body wrestling popular in coastal regions.


The preservation of oral history may be achieved through musical performance in Madagascar. Among the Betsileo, for instance, oral histories are retold through a form of musical performance called the rija, which in its current form may represent a combination of the original, single-verse rija and an epic poem called the Isa The Betsileo rija is performed by two men who each play a jejy while singing very loudly with a strained pitch in the soprano range. The structure of the song is complex and, unlike other Malagasy musical styles, parallel thirds are not predominant in the harmony. Other Southern ethnic groups also perform simplified variations of the rija featuring for example a solo musician who strums rather than fiddles his accompanying instrument and sings at a lower, more natural pitch. While the Betsileo rija can address diverse themes, those performed by other southern groups are almost always praise songs recalling a favorably memorable event.



Endogenous musical styles may also serve as a form of artistic expression, as in the highly syncopated ba-gasy genre of Imerina. The ba-gasy emerged in conjunction with the French introduction of operetta and the subsequent rise of Malagasy theater at the Theatre Municipale d’Isotry beginning in the late 1910s. The vocal style used in ba-gasy is characterized by female use of angola, a vocal ornamentation delivered in a nasal tone, offset by the fasiny (tenor) and rapid-moving beno (baritone) line sung by the men. Ba-gasy inspired the musical duet style Kaolon’ny Fahiny, popularized in Imerina during the final two decades of the colonial period, in which the ba-gasy vocal sensibilities are applied to love themes and accompanied by a syncopated composition for piano or occasionally guitar.


Musical performance in the Highlands took on a distinctly political and educative role through the hira gasy (hira: song; gasy: Malagasy). The hira gasy is a day-long spectacle of music, dance, and a stylized form of traditional oratory known as kabary performed by a troupe or as a competition between two or more troupes. While the origins of the hira gasy are uncertain, oral history attributes its modern form to 18th century Merina king Andrianampoinimerina, who reportedly employed musicians to gather the public together for royal speeches and announcements (kabary) and to entertain them as they labored on public works projects such as building dikes to irrigate the rice paddies surrounding Antananarivo. Over time, these musicians formed independent troupes who used and continue to use the non-threatening performance format to explore sensitive social and political themes in the public arena.


Hira gasy performance of kabary in Antananarivo, 1999


The hira gasy troupes of today are remnants of a tradition of court musicians that persisted through the end of the 19th century. Under Queen Ranavalona III, the final monarch in the Merina dynasty, there were three official groups of state musicians: one for the queen, one for her prime minister, and another for the city of Antananarivo. The queen’s troupe consisted of over 300 musicians. Until slavery was abolished, musicians in these groups were members of the slave class (andevo) directed by a Hova (free Merina). Each year at Christmas, the directors of each group would arrange a performance before the queen of a new original composition; the queen would select a winner among the three. While court musicians (and therefore the earliest hira gasy troupes) originally performed using traditional instruments – namely the sodina, jejy voatavo and drums – over the course of the 19th century the increasing European influence led court musicians and hira gasy troupes alike to make increasing use of foreign instruments such as violins, clarinets, trombones and trumpets. The tradition of the court musician died out with the abolition of the monarchy in Madagascar after French colonization, but the hira gasy tradition has continued to thrive.


Musical styles from abroad have been merged with pre-existing Malagasy musical traditions to create distinctly Malagasy sounds with foreign roots. An example of this is the Afindrafindrao, a tune based on the French quadrille that was popularized in the Malagasy court in the 19th century. A specific form of partner dance accompanies this piece, in which dancers will form a long chain of male-female pairs with the woman at the front of each pair, both facing forward holding each other’s hands while advancing to the rhythm of the music. From its origins as a courtly dance, the afindrafindrao today is a quintessentially Malagasy tradition performed at the beginning of a social event or concert to kick off the festivities.

Sacred performance


Music is a common element of spiritual ritual and ceremonies throughout the island. For instance, members of hira gasy troupes are traditionally invited to perform at the famadihana reburial ceremonies of central Madagascar.     In coastal regions, music is crucial to helping a medium enter a trance state during a tromba ritual. While in a trance, the medium is possessed by an ancestral spirit. Each spirit is believed to prefer a particular tune or style of music and will not enter the medium unless the suitable piece of music is performed at the ceremony.


British missionaries of the London Missionary Society (LMS) arrived in Antananarivo in 1820 during the reign of King Radama I. The subsequent spread of Christianity in Madagascar was coupled with the introduction of solfège as missionaries developed Malagasy-language hymns for their nascent church.     The first wave of missionaries was obliged to depart Madagascar under Ranavalona I in 1836, but the hymns they developed became anthems for early Malagasy converts persecuted under the Queen’s traditionalist policies. In 1871, an LMS missionary (J. Richardson) improved the rhythm and harmony of these original hymns, which were considerably influenced by European musical styles such as quadrilles and waltzes. Originally, church music was performed by slaves seated in groups of four to five at the front of the church. By the 1870s a more European congregational style had been adopted with all members of the church rising to their feet to sing together.







Ethnic Groups of Malawi


The Sena People

The Sena People are located in the lower shire area of Malawi and are also found in parts of Zimbabwe.


The Nyungwe People

                The Nyungwe people are located in the lower shire area of Malawi and are also found in parts of Mozambique.


The Akhokola People

The Akhokola people are located in the southeastern region of Malawi and are also found in parts of Mozambique.


The Alomwe People

                The Alomwe people are located in the southeastern region of Malawi and are also found in areas of Mozambique.


The Yao People

                The Yao people are located in the southeastern region and are among the Wayao ethnic group.    


Genres of Malawi



           Dance style

           Of the Mang’anja people


           Long narrative texts sung

           Yao ethnic group


           Dance genre

           Normally played at beer parties and other social events

      Nyimbo za uzimu

           Religious genre

           Found in the southern highlands


Instruments of Malawi



           Known as: 14- or 16-string instrument

           Fact: Found in Sena ethnic group

      Nyakatangali and nyakazeze

           Known as: bows

           Fact: Found in the lower shire area

      Valimba (or ulimba)-

           Known as: xylophone

           Fact: Found in the lower shire


           Known as: mouth-resonated musical bow

           Fact: played exclusively by women


Malawi music has historically been influenced through its triple cultural heritage (British, African, American). Malawians have long been travelers and migrant workers, and as a result, their music has spread across the African continent and blended with other music forms. One of the prime historical causes of the Malawian musical melting pot was World War II, when soldiers both brought music to distant lands and also brought them back. By the end of the war, guitar and banjo duos were the most popular type of dance bands. Both instruments were imported. Malawians working in the mines in South Africa and Mozambique also led to fusion and blending in music styles, giving rise to music styles like Kwela.


During the colonial period, Malawi saw rise to very few well-known singers due to the oppressive colonial regime of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. One such singer was Tony Bird a folk rock singer-songwriter who was born in Nyasaland and performed anti-colonial music about life for regular Malawians during the colonial period. His music is described as a fusion of Malawian and Dutch, and Afrikaner traditions. His popular style led him to tour with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the 1980s.


During the Banda years (post colonialism), a lot of Malawian musicians could not express their artwork, due to repression of the arts in Malawi. The repression and censorship in music was largely due to lyrics of a political, controversial, or sexual nature in a largely conservative country. This led to few internationally renowned artists entering the international arena from 1964-1994. Music during this period was restricted to praising Kamuzu Banda and non-political, non-controversial messages. After multiparty elections, however, many artists could now practice their art publicly, and Malawian music began to grow and develop into the music forms that can be heard coming out of Malawi now.


Since the fall of Banda regime, from 1994 onwards, the country has seen a steady growth in its music industries and in its local celebrities. Due to the period of music suppression, many of Malawi’s new and up-and-coming artists are young. Artists like Young Kay are being supported by the veterans in the industry and are working together to give Malawian music a distinct new identity.


Many local artists are also making headway internationally. Contemporary well-known international artists from Malawi are Wambali Mkandawire, Erik Paliani, Lucius Banda, Tay Grin and Esau Mwamwaya.


Music of Malawi




In the late 1960s, South African kwela music was popular in Malawi. The country produced its own kwela stars that were not as popular as the South African counterparts, but contemporary Kwela artists like Daniel Kachamba & His Kwela Band have enjoyed popularity. It is a little-known fact that South African Kwela music though had its roots in Malawi from the Malawian immigrants that went to work in South Africa and fused their music with the local sounds, creating Kwela. The word, ‘Kwela’, in Chichewa means ‘to climb’ which is similar to the South African definition, which means to “get up” or “rise”.


Malawian jazz


Malawian jazz bands also became popular. In spite of the name, Malawian jazz has little in common with its American namesake. Rural musicians played acoustic instruments, often in very traditional ways. These performers include Jazz Giants, Linengwe River Band, Mulanje Mountain Band and Chimvu Jazz. By the beginning of the 1970s, electric guitars had become common and American rock and roll, soul and funk influences the music scene, resulting in a fusion called afroma. New Scene, led by Morson Phuka, was the most well-known exponent of afroma.


Contemporary Malawian Jazz artists include, Wambali Mkandawire, South African based Ray Phiri and US based Masauko Chipembere Jr.


Jazz concerts can be seen throughout Malawi. Many Malawian Jazz band perform regularly at local hotels and clubs. Sunday Jazz is a popular event in many lodges and hotels in Malawi, where it is a social event for people in the suburban areas to meet and listen to Jazz music on Sundays.


Malawian kwasa kwasa


Influenced by the 1980s music from the Congo, Malawi’s own kwasa kwasa music grew. The 1980s saw soukous from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) become popular, and result in a Malawian variety called kwasa kwasa.


Malawian hip-hop/rap


Malawian urban music really began with the popular group Real Elements.     The group consisted of Marvel (Loius Chikuni), Plan B (Kimba Anderson-Mutaba), Stix (Jerome Kalinani), and Q (Quabaniso Malewezi).     They brought to Malawi the urban American sound with chichewa lyrics. They were featured on channel O and performed in Malawi and opened in the UK for hip hop artists like blak twang. They inspired a new genre of Malawian music in the form of the urban hip-hop and rap music styles that was uniquely Malawian.


Since the days of the Real Elements, the Malawian hip-hop genre has grown. This includes Young Kay, Third Eye a.k.a. Mandela Mwanza, Phyzix, Dominant 1, Incyt, Cyclone, A.B, The Basement,Pittie boyz, The Daredevilz, Lomwe, the Legendary Barryone, Nthumwi Pixy, Biriwiri, Renegade & Pilgrim, Jay-T Pius Parsley & Unique squard international stars like Tay GrinSouth African based St Bosseratti, and Ireland based/award winning rapper Pop Dogg. Best Artiste Male 2011 and Best Song Collaboration-2011.


Malawian gospel music


Gospel music is one of Malawi’s most popular music forms. It became popular in the 1990s. The Pope’s 1989 visit did much to inspire the rise in gospel music, which was also fueled by the country’s economic conditions and poverty. Popular Malawian gospel artists include Ndirande Anglican Voices, Ethel Kamwendo-Banda, Grace Chinga, Lloyd Phiri, George Mkandawire and the Chitheka Family.


As some secular artists become ‘born again’, Malawi has seen a rise in the diversification of gospel music, particularly in the urban genre. Early hip hop rappers include Chart Rock and The Strategy. Currently, David (formerly Stix from Real Elements, KBG and Gospel (Aubrey Mvula) are now the leaders in this form of gospel rap.


As we continue analyzing the impact and growth of gospel hip hop or urban music, we cannot just go without mentioning two other up-coming members in this section; based in Lilongwe, the popularly known area 18 youthful crew, the Brothers In Christ (BIC) and the King of Malawi Gospel House beatz DJ Kali have taken the spreading of the gospel to greater heights.


Malawian R&B


Malawi’s genre R& B is growing and has been made popular with artists like Maskal, and Dan Lu. There has also been other new upcoming Artists like Young Luv, Theo Thomson, Kumbu and Sonye.


Malawian reggae


Reggae has always been popular in Malawi. Malawian reggae has become immensely popular in recent years, especially amongst the Malawian Rastafarians and along the tourist-filled lakefront. Music groups such as the Black Missionaries have become one of the most popular reggae bands in Malawi. Individual artists like Lucius Banda, and Evison Matafale helped to bring the Malawian music scene on the national and international scene. The reggae music of Malawian reggae artists has been music of resistance and of struggle. Many of the themes in the music center around injustice, corruption and equality for all people of Malawi.


Traditional Malawian music


Traditional Malawian music has also found some commercial success, like the folk fusionists Pamtondo, whose music uses rhythms from the Lomwe, Makuwa and Mang’anja peoples. There have also been more traditionalist performers, like Alan Namoko.


Malawian pop/fusion


Malawian artists have been known to creatively mix rock, R&B, and the American urban sound to create vibrant fusion music. One such artist is Esau Mwamwaya whose music fuses traditional Malawian, and pop and urban sounds.


International music scene


There is a Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, and frequent listeners to “Radio One” will know that Malawian’s favorite foreign artists are Don Williams, Shaggy, and South Africans Lucky Dube and Brenda Fassie.

Music festivals


In 2004, Englishman Will Jameson started Lake of Stars Music Festival which has international artists and Malawians performing together. It currently has been voted by the British newspapers The Independent and the Times as one of the top 20 Music festivals in the world.


Notable Malawian musicians


      Black Missionaries

      Lucius Banda

      Tony Bird

      Erik Paliani

      Masauko Chipembere Jr

      Tay Grin (Limbani Kalinani)

      Evison Matafale

      Esau Mwamwaya

      Real Elements

      Wambali Mkandawire

      Ray Phiri


      Joe Gwaladi







The Music of Mali is, like that of most African nations, ethnically diverse, but one influence predominates; that of the ancient Mali Empire of the Mandinka (from c. 1230 to c. 1600). Mandé people (Bambara, Maninke, Soninke) make up 50% of the country’s population, other ethnic groups include the Fula (17%), Gur-speakers 12%, Songhai people (6%), Tuareg and Moors (10%) and another 5%, including Europeans. Mali is divided into eight regions; Gao, Kayes, Koulikoro, Mopti, Ségou, Sikasso, Tombouctou and Bamako (the eighth region, Kidal, was created in 1991).


Salif Keita, a noble-born Malian who became a singer, brought Mandé-based Afro-pop to the world, adopting traditional garb and styles. He says he sings to express himself, however, and not as a traditional jeli or praise-singer. The kora players Sidiki Diabaté and Toumani Diabaté have also achieved some international prominence as have the late Songhai/Fula guitarist Ali Farka Touré and his successors Afel Bocoum and Vieux Farka Touré, the Tuareg band Tinariwen, the duo Amadou et Mariam and Oumou Sangare. Mory Kanté saw major mainstream success with techno-influenced Mandé music.


While internationally Malian popular music has been known more for its male artists, domestically, since at least the 1980s, female singers such as Kandia Kouyatés are ubiquitous on radio and television, in markets and on street-corner stalls. Fans follow them for the moralizing nature of their lyrics, the perception that they embody tradition and their role as fashion trend-setters.



National music


The national anthem of Mali is “Le Mali”. After independence under President Modibo Keita orchestras were state-sponsored and the government created regional orchestras for all seven then regions. From 1962 the orchestras competed in the annual “Semaines Nationale de la Jeunesse” (“National Youth Weeks”) held in Bamako. Keita was ousted by a coup d’état in 1968 organized by General Moussa Traoré, most of Keita’s support for the arts was cancelled but the “Semaines Nationale de la Jeunesse” festival, renamed the “Biennale Artistique et Culturelle de la Jeunesse”, was held every 2 years starting in 1970. Notable and influential bands from the period included the first electric dance band, Orchestre Nationale A, and the Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali, comprising 40 traditional musicians from around the country and still in operation today.


Mali’s second president, Moussa Traoré, discouraged Cuban music in favor of Malian traditional music. The annual arts festivals were held biannually and were known as the Biennales. At the end of the 1980s public support for the Malian government declined and praise-singing’s support for the status quo and its political leaders became unfashionable. The ethnomusicologist Ryan Skinner has done work on the relationship of music and politics in contemporary Mali.


Traditional music


The Malinké, Soninke – Sarakole, Dyula and Bambara peoples form the core of Malian culture, but the region of the Mali Empire has been extended far to the north in present-day Mali, where Tuareg and Maure peoples continue a largely nomadic desert culture. In the east Songhay, Bozo and Dogon people predominate, while the Fula people, formerly nomadic cattle-herders, have settled in patches across the nation and are now as often village and city dwelling, as they are over much of West Africa. Historical interethnic relations were facilitated by the Niger River and the country’s vast savannahs. The Bambara, Malinké, Sarakole, Dogon and Songhay are traditionally farmers, the Fula, Maur, and Tuareg herders and the Bozo are fishers. In recent years, this linkage has shifted considerably, as ethnic groups seek diverse, nontraditional sources of income.




Mali’s literary tradition is largely oral, mediated by jalis reciting or singing histories and stories from memory. Amadou Hampâté Bâ, Mali’s best-known historian, spent much of his life recording the oral traditions of his own Fula teachers as well as those of Bambara and other Mandé neighbors. The jeliw (sing. jeli, fem. jelimusow, French griot) are a caste of professional musicians and orators, sponsored by noble patrons of the horon class and part of the same caste as craftsmen (nyamakala). They recount genealogical information and family events, laud the deeds of their patron’s ancestors and praise their patrons themselves, as well as exhorting them to behave morally to ensure the honour of the family name. They also act as dispute mediators. Their position is highly respected and they are often trusted by their patrons with privileged information since the caste system does not allow them to rival nobles. The jeli class is endogamous, so certain surnames are held only by jeliw: these include Kouyaté, Kamissoko, Sissokho, Soumano, Diabaté and Koné.


Their repertoire includes several ancient songs of which the oldest may be “Lambang”, which praises music. Other songs praise ancient kings and heroes, especially Sunjata Keita (“Sunjata”) and Tutu Jara (“Tut Jara”). Lyrics are composed of a scripted refrain (donkili) and an improvised section. Improvised lyrics praise ancestors, and are usually based around a surname. Each surname has an epithet used to glorify its ancient holders, and singers also praise recent and still-living family members. Proverbs are another major component of traditional songs.


These are typically accompanied by a full dance band the common instruments of the Maninka jeli ensemble are;


  • kora (21-24 string lute-harp, classified by the manner of playing as well as the bridge structure)


  • bala (slat xylophone with small gourd resonators)


  • n’goni (4-7 string lute)


  • dununba (large mallet drum hung from one shoulder and played with a curved stick, accompanied by a bell played with the opposite hand)


  • n’taman (hourglass-shaped talking drum or tension drum, large and small variants)


  • tabale (tall conga-shaped drum played with long, thin flexible sticks)


Since the 1950s the jeli have added the guitar to their repertoire. Most modern touring musicians mix traditional instruments with guitar, electric bass, keyboards and drum set.


The political and historical aspects of the jeli’s task fall largely, but not exclusively, within the male jeli’s realm, as does the playing of most instruments. The only instrument played by jelimusow traditionally was the karinya, though now some have taken up playing drums, kora, and even ngoni.


Mandé music


The Mandé people, including the Mandinka, Maninka and Bamana, have produced a vibrant popular music scene alongside traditional folk music and that of professional performers called jeliw (sing. jeli, French griot) The Mandé people all claim descent from the legendary warrior Sunjata Keita, who founded the Mandé Empire. The language of the Mandé is spoken with different dialects in Mali and in parts of surrounding Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Senegal and The Gambia.




The kora is by far the most popular traditional instrument. It is similar to both a harp and a lute and can have between 21 and 25 strings. There are two styles of playing the kora; the western style is found mostly in Senegal and The Gambia, and is more rhythmically complex than the eastern tradition, which is more vocally dominated and found throughout Mali and Guinea. Ngoni (lutes) and balafon (xylophones) are also common. Mandé percussion instruments include the tama, djembe and dunun drums. Jeli Lamine Soumano states: “If you want to learn the bala go to Guinea or Mali. If you want to learn the kora go to Gambia or Mali. If you want to learn the n’goni you have only to go to Mali.” Each area has developed a speciality instrument while still recognizing that the roots of the related forms come from Mali.



The traditional djembe ensemble is most commonly attributed to the Maninka and Maraka: it basically consists of one small dunun (or konkoni) and one djembe soloist. A djembe accompanist who carries a steady pattern throughout the piece has since been added, as have the jeli dununba (also referred to as the kassonke dunun, names derived from the style of playing, not the physical instruments), and the n’tamani (small talking drum). Many ethnic groups, including the Kassonke, the Djokarame, the Kakalo, the Bobo, the Djoula, the Susu, and others, have historical connections with the djembe.


Most vocalists are female in everyday Mandé culture, partially due to the fact that many traditional celebrations revolve around weddings and baptisms, mostly attended by women. Several male and female singers are world renowned. Although it once was rare for women to play certain instruments, in the 21st century women have broadened their range.




Bamana-speaking peoples live in central Mali: the language is the most common in Mali. Music is simple and unadorned, and pentatonic. Traditional Bamana music is based on fileh (half calabash hand drum), gita (calabash bowl with seeds or cowrie shells attached to sound when rotated),the karignyen (metal scraper), the bonkolo drum (played with one open hand and a thin bamboo stick), the kunanfa (large bowl drum with cowhide head, played with the open hands, also barra or chun), the gangan (small, mallet-struck dunun, essentially the same as the konkoni or kenkeni played in the djembe ensemble).


The melodic instruments of the Bamana are typically built around a pentatonic structure. The slat idiophone bala, the 6-string doson n’goni (hunter’s lute-harp) and its popular version the 6-12 string kamel n’goni, the soku (gourd/lizard skin/horse hair violin adopted from the Songhai, soku literally means “horse tail”), and the modern guitar are all instruments commonly found in the Bamana repertoire. Bamana culture is centered around Segou, Sikasso, the Wassalou region and eastern Senegal near the border of Mali’s Kayes region.


Well-known Bamana performers include Mali’s first female musical celebrity, Fanta Damba. Damba and other Bamana (and Maninka) musicians in cities like Bamako are known throughout the country for a style of guitar music called Bajourou (named after an 18th-century song glorifying ancient king Tutu Jara). Bamana djembe (“djembe” is a French approximation of the Maninka word, with correct English phonetic approximation: jenbe) drumming has become popular since the mid-1990s throughout the world. It is a traditional instrument of the Bamana people from Mali (This is incorrect, the instrument is a Maninka/Maraka instrument adopted by the Bamana).



The Mandinka live in Mali, The Gambia and Senegal and their music is influenced by their neighbors, especially the Wolof and Jola, two of the largest ethnic groups in the Senegambian region. The kora is the most popular instrument.




Maninka music is the most complex of the three Mandé cultures. It is highly ornamented and heptatonic, dominated by female vocalists and dance-oriented rhythms. The ngoni lute is the most popular traditional instrument. Most of the best-known Maninka musicians are from eastern Guinea and play a type of guitar music that adapts balafon-playing (traditional xylophone) to the imported instrument.


Maninka music traces its legend back more than eight centuries to the time of Mansa Sunjata. In the time of Mali Empire and his semi-mythic rivalry with the great sorcerer-ruler Soumaoro Kante Mansa of the Susu people, Sunjata sent his jeli Diakouma Doua to learn the secrets of his rival. He finds a magical balafon, the “Soso Bala”, the source of Soumaoro’s power. When Soumaoro heard Diakouma Doua play on the bala he named him Bala Fasseke Kwate (Master of the bala). The Soso Bala still rests with the descendents of the Kouyate lineage in Niaggasola, Guinea, just across the modern border from Mali.


Tuareg music

Further information: Berber music and Tuareg people Music


Tinariwen is thought to be the first Tuareg electric band, active since 1982. They played at the Eden project stage of the Live8 concert in July 2005.


Fula music


The Fula use drums, the hoddu (same as the xalam, a plucked skin-covered lute similar to the banjo) and the riti or riiti (a one-string bowed instrument, in addition to vocal music. “Zaghareet” or ululation is a popular form of vocal music formed by rapidly moving the tongue sideways and making a sharp, high sound.


The Mansa Sunjata forced some Fulani to settle in various regions where the dominant ethnic groups were Maninka or Bamana. Thus, today, we see a number of people with Fula names (Diallo, Diakite, Sangare, and Sidibe) who display Fula cultural characteristics, but only speak the language of the Maninka or Bamana.

Songhay music


The Songhay are not an ethnic or a linguistic group but one that traces its history to the Songhai Empire and inhabits the great bend of the mid River Niger. Vieux Farka Toure, son of Ali Farka Toure, has gained popularity after playing in front of an estimated 1 billion viewers worldwide at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. He has also been called, “the Hendrix of the Sahara”, since his music explores the affinity between West African song and Afro-American blues guitar.


20th century popular music


Bwa xylophone


After World War 2 the guitar became common throughout Africa, partially resulting from the mixing of African, American and British soldiers. Dance bands were popular in Mali, especially the town of Kita’s orchestra led by Boureima Keita and Afro-Jazz de Ségou, the Rail Band and Pioneer Jazz. Imported dances were popular, especially rumbas, waltzes and Argentine-derived tangos. By the 1960s, however, the influence of Cuban music began to rise. After independence in 1960, Malians saw new opportunities for cultural expression in radio, television and recordings. Cuban music remained popular in Mali throughout the 1960s and remains popular today.


Old dance bands reformed under new names as part of the roots revival of Moussa Traoré. Especially influential bands included Tidiane Koné’s Rail Band du Buffet Hôtel de la Gare, which launched the careers of future stars Salif Keita and Mory Kanté, and Super Biton de Ségou. Bajourou also became popular, beginning with Fanta Sacko’s Fanta Sacko, the first bajourou LP. Fanta Sacko’s success set the stage for future jelimusow stars which have been consistently popular in Mali; the mainstream acceptance of female singers is unusual in West Africa, and marks Malian music as unique. In 1975, Fanta Damba became the first jelimuso to tour Europe, as bajourou continued to become mainstream throughout Mali.


Not all bands took part in Traoré’s roots revival. Les Ambassadeurs du Motel formed in 1971, playing popular songs imported from Senegal, Cuba and France. Les Ambassadeurs and Rail Band were the two biggest bands in the country, and a fierce rivalry developed. Salif Keita, perhaps the most popular singer of the time, defected to Les Ambassadeurs in 1972. This was followed by a major concert at which both bands performed as part of the Kibaru (literacy) program. The audience fell into a frenzy of excitement and unity, and the concert is still remembered as one of the defining moments in 1970s Malian music.


The mid-70s also saw the formation of National Badema, a band that played Cuban music and soon added Kasse Mady Diabaté who led a movement to incorporate Maninka praise-singing into Cuban-style music.




Both the Rail Band and Les Ambassadeurs left for Abidjan at the end of the 1970s due to a poor economic climate in Mali. There, Les Ambassadeurs recorded Mandjou, an album which featured their most popular song, “Mandjou”. The song helped make Salif Keita a solo star. Many of the biggest musicians of the period also emigrated—to Abidjan, Dakar, Paris (Salif Keita, Mory Kanté), London, New York or Chicago. Their recordings remained widely available, and these exiles helped bring international attention to Mandé music.



Les Ambassadeurs and Rail Band continued recording and performing under a variety of names. In 1982 Salif Keita, who had recorded with Les Ambassadeurs’ Kanté Manfila, left the band and recorded an influential fusion album, Soro, with Ibrahima Sylla and French keyboardist Jean-Philippe Rykiel. The album revolutionized Malian pop, eliminating all Cuban traces and incorporating influences from rock and pop. By the middle of the decade, Paris had become the new capital of Mandé dance music. Mory Kanté saw major mainstream success with techno-influenced Mandé music, becoming a #1 hit on several European charts.


Another roots revival began in the mid-1980s. Guinean singer and kora player Jali Musa Jawara’s 1983 Yasimika is said to have begun this trend, followed by a series of acoustic releases from Kanté Manfila and Kasse Mady. Ali Farka Touré also gained international popularity during this period; his music is less in the jeli tradition and resembles American blues.



The region of Wassoulou, south of Bamako, became the center of a new wave of dance music also referred to as wassoulou. Wassoulou had been developing since at least the mid-70s. Jeliw had never played a large part in the music scene there, and music was more democratic.


The modern form of wassoulou is a combination of hunter’s songs with sogoninkun, a type of elaborate masked dance, and the music is largely based on the kamalengoni harp invented in the late 1950s by Allata Brulaye Sidibí. Most singers are women. Oumou Sangaré was the first major wassoulou star; she achieved fame suddenly in 1989 with the release of Moussoulou, both within Mali and internationally. Wasulu region of southwest Mali. The soku is a traditional Wassoulou single string fiddle, corresponding to the Songhai n’diaraka or njarka, which doubles the vocal melody.


Since the 1990s, although the majority of Malian popular singers are still jelimusow, wassoulou’s popularity has continued to grow. Wassoulou music is especially popular among youth. Although western audiences categorize wassoulou performers like Oumou Sangaré as feminists for criticizing practices like polygamy and arranged marriage, within Mali they are not viewed in that light because their messages, when they do not support the status quo of gender roles, are subtly expressed and ambiguously worded, thus keeping them open to a variety of interpretations and avoiding direct censure from Malian society.





Ethnic groups of Mauritania


The Maures People

                  The Maures People are located in a concentrated group inside Mauritania. The entertainers of this group are called ighyuwa.


The Zenaga People

The Zenaga people are located throughout Mauritania and are skilled craftsman and entertainers.


The Soninke People

The Soninke people are in the western region of Mauritania and the Speak the language of Azayr.


The Toucouler People

                  The Toucouler people are located along the Senegal River.     The Toucouler people are founders of the ancient kingdom of Takrur.


The Fulbe People

                  The Fulbe people are located in the southern region of Mauritania. The Fulbe are known as cattle farmers.


Genres of Mauritania



           Dance music

           Amplified tidinit and rhythmic drive of folk music to classical Moorish melodies


           Drumming religious genre

           Performed by Haratin





           Known as: 4-stringed lute

           Fact: soundboard made of skin, unfretted neck


           Known as: kora-like instrument

           Fact: performed by women

               10-14 strings, usually tuned to pentatonic


           Known as: rattle

           Fact: Long hollowed-out gourd covered by a net of beads


           Known as: rim-blown flute

           Fact: instrument of soninke ethnic group


The music of Mauritania comes predominantly from the country’s largest ethnic group: the Moors. In Moorish society musicians occupy the lowest caste, iggawin. Musicians from this caste used song to praise successful warriors as well as their patrons. Iggawin also had the traditional role of messengers, spreading news between villages. In modern Mauritania, professional musicians are paid by anybody to perform; affluent patrons sometimes record the entertainment, rather than the musicians themselves, and are then considered to own the recording.




Traditional instruments include an hourglass-shaped four-stringed lute called the tidinit and the woman’s kora-like ardin. Percussion instruments include the tbal (a kettle drum) and daghumma (a rattle).


Types of Mauritanian music


There are three “ways” to play music in the Mauritanian tradition:


      Al-bayda – the white way, associated with delicate and refined music, and the Bidan (Moors of North African stock)

      Al-kahla – the black way, associated with roots and masculine music, and the Haratin (Moors of Sub-Saharan stock)

      l’-gnaydiya – the mixed or “spotted” way


Music progresses through five modes (a system with origins in Arabic music): karr, fagu (both black), lakhal, labyad (both white, and corresponding to a period of one’s life or an emotion) and lebtyat (white, a spiritual mode relating to the afterlife). There are further submodes, making for a complicated system, one to which nearly all male musicians conform. Female musicians are rare and are not bound by the same set of rules.




In spite of the rarity of female musicians in Mauritania, the most famous Moorish musician is a woman, Dimi Mint Abba. Dimi’s parents were both musicians (her father had been asked to compose the Mauritanian national anthem), and she began playing at an early age. Her professional career began in 1976, when she sang on the radio and then competed, the following year, in the Umm Kulthum Contest in Tunis.


Another popular female musician is Malouma, who is also a respected social activist (“Desert of Eden,” Shanachie Records, 1998).




The music of Mauritius is known for sega music, alongside the nearby Réunion Island, though reggae, zouk, soukous and other genres are also popular. Well-known traditional sega singers from Mauritius include Ti Frére, Marlene Ravaton, Serge Lebrasse, and Michel Legris. and Fanfan.


The Sega is usually sung in Creole (mother tongue of Mauritians). Many singers had thought of also bringing forward the English version of the Sega songs but later resolved not to proceed with it so as to preserve the uniqueness and cultural richness of the local music of Mauritius. The original instruments are fast disappearing, making way for the more conventional orchestra ensemble. However, all along the coastal fishing villages, the traditional instruments such as the “Ravanne”, “Triangle”, the “Maravanne” and the traditional guitar are still being used.




The sega is one of the most popular form of music and dance of Mauritius. The traditional instrumentation includes the ravann, a goat-skin covered drum, the triangle, and the maravann.


It is not clear when sega originated. Most claim that sega music and dance origins are found in the slavery epoch, but research has not established this as a fact. Nowadays, Mauritians sing sega as a form of self-expression. Rural forms of music include Mauritian bhojpuri songs, kawals, which date from the epoch of indentured labour and remained popular in Mauritian villages but are now fast disappearing.


Popular sega


The past fifty years have been a vibrant period of sega music, much of which has not been documented. In the past twenty years, Mauritian music has been revitalized by a fusion of reggae and sega, known as seggae. This new wave emerged from one of poorer suburbs of Port Louis, known as Roche Bois, with the musician Kaya (Joseph Reginald Topize) and his group Racinetatane as the first major proponent. It gained much popularity among Rastafarians and then more widely among the youths of Mauritius in the late 1980s and early 1990s.


Kaya died in murky, and still unexplained, circumstances while in police custody in 1999. He was detained at the time for allegedly smoking a joint at a (pro-marijuana) public rally organized by an aspiring politician. Kaya’s death sparked a three-day riot, which started with a revolt against police brutality when Kaya was discovered dead in high-security police cells with over 30 marks of violence on his body. The riots ended with a shift towards communal conflict that threatened the social fabric of Mauritius. During the riots, another talented seggae musician, Berger Agathe, was shot and killed by the police, then by dealing a double-blow to the Mauritian music scene within a few days. Despite all this, seggae music survives as one of Kaya’s legacy and is often viewed as a voice exposing the angst and hopes of many of the poorest Mauritians.


Asian music in Mauritius


Indian immigrants have brought many of their own styles of music and dance, along with instruments like the sitar and tabla. Mauritian-based Bhojpuri music has always been popular with people of Indian-descent, but is now gaining mainstream appeal through the work of artists such as The Bhojpuri Boys and Neeraj Gupta Mudhoo. Their fusion of bhojpuri lyrics, sega beats, and more traditional Indian, as well as Bollywood-style, music has won the hearts of many Mauritians and given rise to major hits such as Langaroo (by The Bhojpuri Boys) and, more recently, Dragostea Din Te. Chinese immigrants have also infused Mauritian culture with elements from distinctly Chinese musical traditions.


Rock music in Mauritius


Rock music has recently become very popular in Mauritius, many bands have become famous, including XBreed Supersoul, Skeptikal, and Reborn Orlean which is nearer to metal/hard rock.





Ethnic groups of Morocco


The Berber People

                  The Berbers are located in a concentrated area in the northern region of Morocco. This group is an indigenous group throughout North Africa.


The Masmuda People

                  The Masmuda people are located throughout Morocco.     They are the Berber tribal confederacy of Morocco.


The Ait Atta People

                  The Ait Atta are located in the South-Eastern region of Morocco.     They originate as a political entity in Jbel Saghro.


The Soussis People

                  The Soussis people are located in the South central region of Morocco and speak a tachelhit and Tamazirt dialect.


Genres of Morocco


      Gnawa music

           Islamic spiritual songs and rhythms

           Ritual poetry with traditional music and dancing

           One key musical trait is the use of the flat three, often found in blues music


           Consists of multifarious forms of Moroccan folk music

           Originally performed in markets


           Melodic poem genre

           Played in the streets of Morocco

      Classical Sufi

           Spiritual tradition to reach a trance state


Instruments of Morocco



           Known as: heavy iron castenets

           Fact: associated with Gnawa music

      hajhuj (gimbri)

           Known as: three string lute

           Fact: associated with Gnawa music


           Known as: reed flute

           Fact: associated with Berbers


           Known as: double-reed oboe like instrument

           Fact: used by Master Musicians of Jajouka


Berber Music (the Berbers of Morocco and other countries)

The Berber people is the indigenous and major ethnic group inhabiting North Africa (west of Egypt) and part of West Africa (north of Senegal).     Berbers call themselves “imazighen”. Those who lived in northwest Africa were called “Libyans” by the Greeks, “Africans”, “Numidians” and “Moors” by the Romans and early Europeans, and dubbed “Berbers” by the modern Europeans and Arabs.


The Berber culture probably dates back more than 5,000 years and the Berbers were inhabitants of North Africa long before some Arab tribes arrived. The Berber language belongs to the Afro-Asiatic group linguistically and has many closely related dialects and accents. Their music is widely varying across the area they inhabit, but is best known for its place in Moroccan music, the popular Kabyle and Chaoui music of Algeria and the widespread Tuareg music of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.


Ancient Berber culture is stylistically diverse with music ranging from oboe and bagpipes to pentatonic music and all these combined with African rhythms and an important stock of oral literature. These ancient traditions of music have been kept alive by small bands of musicians travelling from village to village to entertain at weddings and other social events with their songs, tales, and poetry. The real core of Berber music remains within traditional, community contexts. The Berber language is related both to Semitic languages, among them Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic, and to ancient Egyptian, Coptic, and the Cushitic languages spoken in Ethiopia and Somalia.


Much of the most interesting Berber music is not pop at all, but rather village and urban folk music. Aesthetics and style aside, it is important to understand that the whole subject of Berber music and culture is inevitably colored by Berber people’s longstanding struggle to achieve basic language rights and identity recognition in modern North African societies.


Musical/Vocal Styles


Berber music is well known for its use of folk oral traditions, as well as particular scales and rhythmic patterns, which include pentatonic music and African rhythms.     All these tunes are combined together to form one of the main sources of entertainment in Berber social ceremonies like marriages, verses, tales and songs.


Berber vocal styles in Morocco consist of two main types. The first, called Ahwash, is exclusively village music, probably unchanged for centuries or longer. Ahwash texts emphasize the submission of the individual to the community. Typically, it consists of two large choruses engaging in call-and-response vocals, accompanied by instrumentalists and dancers. Since this music requires anywhere from 20 to 150 participants, it is not easily portable and so rarely heard in the cities.


The second, called Raiss, is performed by smaller groups of professional musicians who blend dance, comedy, and sung poetry. Raiss songs tend to honor orthodox Islam, but with notable dashes of syncretist belief. In these songs, things like sacrifices and evil eyes are justified in terms of Islam. Instruments typically include the rebab, a one-stringed fiddle, the lotar lute, hand drums, and a bell. One notable feature of rwais (rais, singular) melodies is the way they leap up and down in large intervals.


The region of Kabylie in Algeria has a very large Berber-speaking population. Vocalists are usually accompanied by a rhythm section, consisting of “tbel” (tambourine) and “bendir” (frame drum), and a melody section, consisting of a “ghayta” (bagpipe) and “ajuag” (flute).


The Berber music of the Tuareg region uses rhythms and vocal styles similar to the music of other Berber, Iberian, and Arab music, while West African call-and-response-style singing is also common. In contrast to many of the region’s peoples, among the Tuareg, music is mostly the domain of women, especially the imzhad, a string instrument like a violin. Tuareg weddings feature unique styles of music, such as the vocal trilling of women and special dances (ilkan) of slaves marking the occasion.




The Berber people are spread out over a large part of Africa, but seem to have a dense concentration within the northwestern part of Africa. The people have a vast array of instruments, both melodic and percussive. The following instruments take part in the accompaniment in dance and song both secular, and sacred.


The taghanimt is an end-blown reed flute. Used mostly to accompany songs rather than dance, the taghanimt is said to have a rich, breathy texture.


The mizwid is a type of bagpipe; the term literally means “bag” or “food pouch”.


The zukrah of Tunisia has a large role in societal performances along with the ghaytah of Morocco. In both countries, these instruments are combined with several percussive instruments to create large ensembles which may perform at public festivals or such occasions.


The nafir is a long natural horn, a type of valveless trumpet. This instrument is used mostly as a signaling instrument to send out messages to large masses, although it also has some performance value.


The Moroccan ginbri is a stringed instrument with a long fretless neck. The box of the instrument is covered in skin, and is used in several varying occasions. Most ensembles have at least one ginbri, although it is not always limited to one. In addition to the ginrbri is the rabab, a long necked-fiddle with a large box which is covered in skin. This instrument has only one string, usually of horse-hair horse hair, and is commonly played alongside the ginbri.


In percussion, the tabl (Berber: e’ṯbel) is a cylindrical double-sided drum. Although it has similar use and spelling to the tabla of India, there is no direct correlation found between the two. The qas’ah is a large shallow kettledrum found mostly in Tunisia. Similar to the qas’ah is the Naqqarah, two ceramic kettledrums played simultaneously by both hands.


In Moroccan Berber music, a series of snare frame-drums of bandirs may be played simultaneously. These provide the main percussive rhythm for Berber music as the above mentioned drums are more artistic than bandirs.


The qaraqib is a metal clacker which has resemblance of a castanets. There is one in each hand and may be used to mark rhythm or may also have its own type of melody.


Algeria Berber


The region of Kabylie in Algeria has a very large Berber population. Traditional Kabyle music consists of vocalists accompanied by a rhythm section, consisting of t’bel (tambourine) and bendir (frame drum), and a melody section, consisting of a ghaita (bagpipe) and ajouag (flute).


Kabyle music has been famous in France since the 1930s, when it was played at cafés. As it evolved, Western string instruments and Arab musical conventions, like large backing orchestras, were added. After the independence of Algeria and Kabyle culture was oppressed, many musicians began to adopt politicized lyrics. The three most popular musicians of this era were Ferhat Mehenni, Lounis Ait Menguellet and Idir, who’s “A Vava Inouva” (1973) brought international attention for Kabyle music and laid the groundwork for the breakthrough of raï.


By the time raï, a style of Algerian popular music, became popular in France and elsewhere in Europe, Kabyle artists were also moving towards popular music conventions. Hassen Zermani’s all-electric Takfarinas and Abdelli’s work with Peter Gabriel’s Real World helped bring Kabyle music to new audiences, while the murder of Matoub Lounes inspired many Kabyles to rally around their popular musicians.


Modern singers include Djur Djura and many chawi singers and groups as: Houria Aichi, Les Berberes, Amirouch, Massinissa, Amadiaz, Numidas, Mihoub, Massilia, Merkunda, Thiguyer, Salim Souhali (Thaziri), Dihya, Messaoud Nedjahi and others.


Kabylie is a region east of the capital Algiers, inhabited mostly by speakers of Kabyle, first regional language, and one of the indigenous languages of North Africa. Kabyle folk music has achieved some mainstream success outside of its homeland, both in the rest of Algeria and abroad.


In the 1930s, Kabyles moved in large numbers to Paris, where they established cafes where musicians like Cheikh Nourredineadded modern, Western instruments like the banjo, guitar and violin to Kabyle folk melodies. Slimane Azem was a Kabyle immigrant who was inspired by Nourredine and 19th century poet Si Mohand Ou Mohand to address homesickness, poverty and passion in his songs, and he soon (like many Kabyle musicians) became associated with the Algerian independence movement.


By the 1950s, Arab classical music, especially Egyptian superstars like Umm Kulthum, had become popular and left a lasting influence on Kabyle music, specifically in lush orchestration. Cherif Kheddam soon arose with the advent of a Kabyle branch of Radio Algiers after independence in 1962. Female singers also became popular during this period, especially Cherifa, Djamilla and Hanifa.


Algerian independence did not lead to increased freedom for Kabyle musicians, and these Berbers soon included often covert lyrics criticizing the Ben Bella government. Many of these musicians were inspired by other singer-songwriters, including Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, Víctor Jara and Silvio Rodríguez. Abranis (pop rock amazigh music concept) Idir, a Kabyle geology student, sang Kabylie’s first major hit, which sold an unprecedented amount in Algeria and abroad, “A Vava Inouva” (1973). Ferhat, known for his politically uncompromising lyrics, and Aït Menguellet, known for his poetic and inspired lyrics, also became popular during the 1970s.


During the 1980s, Kabyle music evolved into sentimental, pop-ballads performed by groups like Takfarinas. Some of the inspiration for this evolution was the popularity of pop-rai internationally.


Modern singers include Djur Djura and Houria Aichi.


Morocco Berber


Berbers are a solid majority of Morocco’s population, but are nevertheless politically marginalized. Their most famous musical output is likely Ammouri M’barek Singer and Song writer (Considered to be, the john lennon- Beatles in the Berber World, singing since the early 1960s and now; Nekk dik a nmun (1978) Cd Album). Usman (Ousmane) – Music Band 1960s and 1970s. Najat Aatabou, a singer whose debut cassette, “J’en ai Marre”, sold an unprecedented half a million copies in Morocco. Internationally, the Master Musicians of Jajouka are also well known, as a result of their collaboration with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and William S. Burroughs. Another recording group from Jajouka is Master Musicians of Joujouka, formerly managed by the late painter Mohamed Hamri. In 2009 the first R&B songs in a Berberian language were released by Ahmed Soultan in his second album Code. Besides there exist diverse projects of different fusion styles with Berber music based in the European countries like Hindi Zahra, Khalid Izri, Hassan Idbasaid, Thidrin, Med Ziani, Hassan Hakmoun, Imtlaa and Houssaine Kili.


      Ammouri Mbarek Singer, Songwriter

      Fatima Tabaamrant – singer, song


Non Algerian Tuaregs


Music of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso


The Tuareg who live in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso have produced internationally renowned bands in Tartit and Tinariwen. Their traditional music uses rhythms and vocal styles similar to the music of other Berbers and Arab music, while West African call-and-response-style singing is also common. In contrast to many of the region’s peoples, among the Tuareg, music is mostly the domain of women, especially the imzhad, a string instrument like a violin.


Berber Dance


Ethnic dance is becoming increasingly uncommon in Morocco. When it was active, it could be seen at the Marrakesh Folk Festival.


Within the past 4 years, Morocco has seen a lot of change. Most of that change has come with the use of the satellite receiver. It has been added to almost every household in Morocco. Out of 300 channels, 30 of them are religious. Because of these religious channels, women are no longer permitted to dance in public. Islamists consider this to be dishonorable to herself and her family, thus imposing fundamentalist Arab Muslim beliefs on the Berber peoples.


Some parts of North Africa, near Eastern, still have some Berber Dance traditions.


Guedra is the form of Berber Dance in Tuareg. Guedra is what they call the ritualistic dance only when the woman is doing the dance on her knees. If she stands up at all during the performance, it’s called T’bal. The reason for the different names, even though dances are done very similar is unknown. In this culture, Guedra is not just a dance, but a ritual that everybody can participate in. It is mostly done by women, but sometimes men and children also participate. Guedra is performed to create good energy, peace and spiritual, not carnal, love.


Gnawa Music (popular in Morocco)


Gnawa music is a rich repertoire of ancient African Islamic spiritual religious songs and rhythms. It’s well preserved heritage combines ritual poetry with traditional music and dancing. The music is performed at ‘Lila’s’, entire communal nights of celebration, dedicated to prayer and healing, guided by the Gnawa Maalem and his group of musicians and dancers. Though many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to sub-Saharan West-Africa, its traditional practice is concentrated in Morocco and the Béchar Province in South-western Algeria.


The word ‘Gnawa’, plur. Of Gnawi, is taken to be derived from the Hausa-Fulani word “Kanawa” for the residents of Kano, the capital of the Hausa-Fulani Emirate, which was a close ally of Morocco for centuries, religiously, economically, and in matters of defence. (Opinion of Essaouira Gnawa Maalems, Maalem Sadiq, Abdallah Guinia, and many others). Moroccan language often replaces “K” with “G”, which is how the Kanawa, or Hausa people, were called Gnawa in Morocco. The Gnawa’s history is closely related to the famous Moroccan royal “Black Guard”, which became today the Royal Guard of Morocco.


A short browsing of the Moroccan and Hausa contexts will suffice to show the connections between both cultures, religiously -as both are Malikite Moslems, with many Moroccan spiritual schools active in Hausaland- and artistically, with Gnawa music being the prime example of Hausa-sounding and typical Hausa articulation of music within Morocco, its local language, and traditions.


Gnawa music is one of the major musical currents in Morocco. Moroccans overwhelmingly love Gnawa music and Gnawas ‘Maalems’ are highly respected, and enjoy an aura of musical stardom.



Gnawa Music


In a Gnawa song, one phrase or a few lines are repeated over and over, so the song may last a long time. In fact, a song may last several hours non-stop. However, what seems to the uninitiated to be one long song is actually a series of chants, to do with describing the various spirits (in Arabic mlouk (sing. melk)), so what seems to be a 20-minute piece may be a whole series of pieces – a suite for Sidi Moussa, Sidi Hamou, Sidi Mimoun or the others. But because they are suited for adepts in a state of trance, they go on and on, and have the effect of provoking trance from different angles.


The melodic language of the stringed instrument is closely related to their vocal music and to their speech patterns, as is the case in much African music. It is a language that emphasizes on the tonic and fifth, with quavering pitch-play, especially pitch-flattening, around the third, the fifth, and sometimes the seventh. This is the language of the blues.

Krakebs or Qraqab


Gnawa music is characterized by instrumentation. The large heavy iron castanets known as Qraqab (or krakebs large iron castanets) and a three -string lute known commonly as a hajhuj (or gimbri) are central to Gnawa music.     The rhythms of the Gnawa, like their instrumentations are distinctive. Particularly Gnawa is characterized by interplay between triple and duple meters. The “big bass drums” mentioned by Schuyler are not typically featured in a more traditional setting.


Gnawa have venerable stringed-instrument traditions involving both bowed lutes like the gogo and plucked lutes like the gimbri (also called hajhuj or “sentir”), a three-stringed bass instrument. The Gnawa also use large drums called tbel in their ritual music. The Gnawa hajhuj has strong historical and musical links to West African lutes like the Hausa halam, a direct ancestor of the banjo.


Gnawa hajhuj players use a technique which 19th century American minstrel banjo instruction manuals identify as “brushless drop-thumb frailing”. The “brushless” part means the fingers do not brush several strings at once to make chords. Instead, the thumb drops repeatedly in a hypnotically rhythmic pattern against the freely-vibrating bass string producing a throbbing drone, while the first two or three fingers of the same (right) hand pick out, percussive patterns in a drum-like, almost telegraphic manner.




Gnawas perform a complex liturgy, called lila or derdeba. The ceremony recreates the first sacrifice and the genesis of the universe by the evocation of the seven main manifestations of the divine demiurgic activity. It calls the seven saints and supernatural entities (mluk) represented by seven colors, as a prismatic decomposition of the original light/energy. The derdeba is jointly animated by a maâlem (master musician) at the head of his troop and by moqadma or shuwafa (clairvoyante) who is in charge of the accessories and clothing necessary to the ritual.


During the ceremony, the clairvoyante determines the accessories and clothing as it becomes ritually necessary. Meanwhile, the maâlem, using the guembri and by burning incense, calls the saints and the supernatural entities to present themselves in order to take possession of the followers, who devote themselves to ecstatic dancing.


Inside the brotherhood, each group (zriba) gets together with an initiatory moqadma, the priestess that leads the ecstatic dance called the jedba, and with the maâlem, who is accompanied by several players of krakebs.


Preceded by an animal sacrifice that assures the presence of the spirits, the all-night ritual begins with an opening that consecrates the space, the aâda (“habit” or traditional norm, during which the musicians perform a swirling acrobatic dance, playing the krakebs.


The mluk (sing. melk) are abstract entities that gather a number of similar jinn (genie spirits). The participants enter a trance state (jedba) in which they may perform spectacular dances. By means of these dances, participants negotiate their relationships with the mluk either placating them if they have been offended or strengthening an existing relationship. The mluk are evoked by seven musical patterns, seven melodic and rhythmic cells, who set up the seven suites that form the repertoire of dance and music of the Gnawa ritual. During these seven suites, seven different types of incense are burned and the dancers are covered by veils of seven different colors.


Each of the seven families of mluk is populated by many “characters” identifiable by the music and by the footsteps of the dance. Each melk is accompanied by its specific color, incense, rhythm and dance. These entities, treated like “presences” (called hadra) that the consciousness meets in ecstatic space and time, are related to mental complexes, human characters, and behaviors. The aim of the ritual is to reintegrate and to balance the main powers of the human body, made by the same energy that supports the perceptible phenomena and divine creative activity.


Later, the guembri opens the treq (“path”), the strictly encoded sequence of the ritual repertoire of music, dances, colors and incenses, which guide in the ecstatic trip across the realms of the seven mluk, until the renaissance in the common world, at the first lights of dawn.


Almost all Moroccan brotherhoods, such as the Issawa or the Hamadsha, relate their spiritual authority to a saint. The ceremonies begin by reciting that saint’s written works or spiritual prescriptions (hizb) in Arabic. In this way, they assert their role as spiritual descendants of the founder, giving themselves the authority to perform the ritual. Gnawa, whose ancestors were neither literate nor native speakers of Arabic, begin the lila by recalling through song and dance their origins, the experiences of their slave ancestors, and ultimately redemption.

Gnawa music today


During the last few decades, Gnawa music has been modernizing and thus becoming more profane. However, there are still many lilas organized privately, which conserves the music’s sacred, spiritual status.


Within the framework of the Gnaoua World Music Festival of Essaouira (“Gnaoua and Musics of the World”), the Gnawa play in a profane context with slight religious or therapeutic dimensions. Instead, in this musical expression of their cultural art, they share stages with other musicians coming from the four corners of the world.


As a result, Gnawa music has taken a new direction by fusing its core spiritual music with similar genres like jazz, blues, reggae, and hip-hop. Every summer for four days in June, the Festival welcomes famous musicians that come to participate, exchange and mix their own music with Gnawa music, creating one of the largest public festivals in Morocco as well as one of the best jam sessions on the planet. Since its debut in 1998, the free concerts have drawn a festival audience that has grown from 20,000 visitors to over 200,000 in 2006 including 10,000 visitors from around the world.


Past participants have included Randy Weston, Adam Rudolph, The Wailers, Pharoah Sanders, Keziah Jones, Omar Sosa, Doudou N’Diaye Rose, and the Italian trumpet player Paolo Fresu.


There are also projects such as “The Sudani Project”, a jazz/gnawa dialogue in collaboration between saxophonist/composer Patrick Brennan, Gnawi maâlem Najib Sudani, and drummer/percussionist/vocalist Nirankar Khalsa. Brennan has pointed out that the metal qraqeb and gut bass strings of the guembri parallel the cymbal and bass in jazz sound.


In the 1990s young musicians from various backgrounds and nationalities started to form modern Gnawa bands. Gnawa Impulse from Germany is an example. These groups offer a rich mix of musical and cultural backgrounds, fusing their individual influences into a collective sound. They have woven elements of rap, reggae, jazz and rai into a vibrant musical patchwork.


These projects incorporating Gnawa and Western musicians are essentially Gnawa fusions.


List of Gnawa maâlems


A 19th century Gnawa musician


      Mahmoud Guinia (“the King”) or Gania (as spelled in passport) – He played with the likes of Pharaoh Sanders and Carlos Santana, to name but two. Contrary to popular myth, guitarist Jimi Hendrix did not spend a few months in his house to take some lessons. He is the son of the late Maâllem Boubker Gnaia, and his two brothers Abdelah and Mokhtar are also distinguished maâllemin (masters). The Gania family also includes Zaida Gania, a very popular medium and clairvoyant at the nights of trance (leelas) as well as the head of a group of female gnawas, The Haddarate of Essaouira.


      Hasna el Becharia – Born and resident in the town of Béchar in southern Algeria, she is a well-known Gnawa musician, having released the albums Djazair Johara and Smaa Smaa.


   Brahim Belkane (“The traditionalist”) – He has played with Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant, Adam Rudolph, Randy Weston, and Jimmy Page. He says: “There are many colors on earth: red, green, blue, and yellow. You have to find these when you play, to be bright like the sun.”


      Hamid El Kasri – He now lives in Rabat but his origins are in the northern town Ksar El Kbir, thus the nickname Kasri (i.e. the one from Ksar). He is one of the biggest stars on stage and is particularly renowned in Morocco for his great voice. In his youth Maâllem Hamid was much associated with the gnawa scene in Tangier and masters such as Abdelwahab “Stitou”. He began his apprenticeship at the age of seven. He has the gift of being able to fuse the music of the north with that of the south: gharbaoui from Rabat, marsaoui from Essaouira and soussi or Berber from the south of Morocco.


      H’mida Boussou (“The grand master”) – As a child H’mida immersed himself in Gnawi culture as taught to him by the Maâlem Ahmed Oueld Dijja, and became a Maâlem himself at the age of 16. He also worked with Maâlem Sam from 1962 to 1968. Maalem H’mida Boussou died on 17 February 2007, but his son, Maalem Hassan Boussou continues the gnaoua tradition and played a concert in homage to his late father at the 10th Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival in June 2007.


      Chérif Regragui (“The communicator”) – He became a Maâlem by the age of 18. He worked with Tayeb Saddiki in theatre andhe was behind the group Taghada.


      Mahjoub Khalmous – His skills took him to many festivals in Europe. In 1993 he formed his own group and became a Maâlem. He has worked for several years with Professor Bertrand Hell, head of the anthropology department at Besançon University in France.


      Allal Soudani (“The dreamer”) – His grandparents M’Barkou and Barkatou were brought from Sudan as slaves. “When I play I no longer feel my body, I empty myself. And when I reach the state of trance I become nothing more than a leaf on a tree blowing at the mercy of the wind,” he says, describing his trance moments.


      Abdellah El Gourd – He learned Gnawa music as a young man, while working as a radio engineer in his hometown of Tangier. He has collaborated with jazz musicians Randy Weston and Archie Shepp and blues musician Johnny Copeland. With Weston, he co-produced The Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco, which received a 1996 Grammy Award nomination for Best World Music Album.


      Omar Hayat (“The showman”) – He was taught by Mahmoud Guinea and the late Maâllem Ahmed. He formed his own group in 1991. His style is particularly influenced by reggae, but Omar Hayat nonetheless plays true gnawa and is a great source of inspiration for the young gnaoui in Essaouira. He participated recently at the festival of Avignon and has also been working and touring with the German circus Afrika! Afrika!.


      Abelkebir Merchane (also known as Cheb) – He is from an Arab family, none of whom are gnawa. His style is a mixture of marsaoui (Essaouira) and Marrakchi (Marrakech). He was taught by Maâllem Layaachi Baqbou and he possibly has the greatest voice in Moroccan gnawa today. His son Hicham is also a gnawa master.


      Abdeslam Alikkane and Tyour gnawa – He is a Berber from the region of Agadir. He learnt to play the krakebs at the age of nine. He is particularly interested in the healing aspect of gnawa. He has performed at many international festivals, playing with Peter Gabriel, Gilberto Gil (currently Brazil’s minister of Culture) and Ray Lema fr:Ray Lema.


      Abderrahman Paca – He is one of the founding members of the group Nass El Ghiwane. In 1966 he briefly joined the Living Theatre, then two years later met the legendary Jimi Hendrix.


      Mohamed Kouyou – In 1984 he played at the opening of the Moroccan Pavilion at Disney World. He also plays in Essaouira’s gnawa festival.


      Mokhtar Gania – Son of the great Maâlem Boubker. He is the younger brother of the legendary Mahmoud. He has played at the great Roskilde Festival in Denmark in 2003 sharing the stage with Bill Laswell, Jah Wobble, Gigi, Sussan Deyhim and others. He is currently considered one of the hottest gimbri players around.


      Mohamed Daoui – He teaches the younger generation of future maâlems, for which he has a widespread reputation.


      Abdelkader Benthami – He owes his education to some of the greatest Maâlems, such as Zouitni. He lives in Casablanca, and showed his strength on albums such as Bill Laswell’s Night Spirit Masters. His sons are both masters, and the youngest, Abderrahim, debuted in 2007 at the Festival d’Essaouira.


      Si Mohamed Ould Lebbat – At the age of 18 he began to play with Maâlem Sam, whom he accompanied to festivals in France.


      Ahmed Bakbou – He has worked with some of the great Maâlems: Ba Ahmed Saasaa, El Hachimi Ould Mama, Homan Ould el Ataar, Si Mohamed Ould el Fernatchi. He is the first son of Maâllem Layaachi Baqbou, and he is known as “the talking gimbri”, and even though he sings, he often plays the gimbri with close friends such as Abdelkebir Merchane or his brothers Mustapha and Aziz singing.


      Essaïd Bourki – His origins are in the south of Morocco. He performed with his group in Belgium in 1990. He is considered the secret master of Essaouira.


      Abdellah Guinea (“The Marley”) – He became a Maâlem at the age of 16. His nickname is due to his dreadlocks and fondness of reggae. He is the middle son of Maâllem Boubker Gania. Today Abdelah is by many considered one of the greatest maâllemin in Essaouira.


      Mohamed Chaouki – Formerly a horse trainer once worked in the stud farms of Rabat. At the age of 19 he became a maâlem. He formed a group with his brother, sons and nephews with whom he has performed in Europe 18 times.


      Saïd Boulhimas – He is the youngest Gnawi to play at the 7th (2004) gnawa festival. Saïd was taught by Abdelah Gania and is almost considered the son of the maâllem. He won the Festival de Jeunes Talents (Festival of young talents) in 2006 and is also part of the French/Moroccan Band of Gnawa with Louis Bertignac and Loy Erlich.


      Hassan Hakmoun – By the age of four, he was performing alongside snake charmers and fire-breathers on Marrakech streets. His mother is known throughout the city as a mystic healer. He worked with Peter Gabriel. He is currently based in New York.


      Fath-Allah Cherquaoui (Fath-Allah Laghrizmi) – One of the youngest Masters of Gnawa music, Fath-ALLAH was born in 1984 into a well-known family in Marrakech, Morocco. His eyes were opened to the ceremonies of Gnawa music by his grandmother, lmqadma lhouaouia. As a Moqadma or Shuwafa (clairvoyant), she would organize the Gnawa ceremony, or derdeba, two or three times a year with a renowned Master named Lmansoum. Thus, the entire family, including young children, developed a deep appreciation and interest in this genre of spiritual music. By the age of 19, his elder cousin, Maallem Lahouaoui, became a Master and began to play in the ceremonies for their grandmother. At seven years old, Fath-Allah was able to sing nearly all of the ritual repertoire, and play the qraqeb (iron castanets). By the age of eleven, he decided to build his own version of the instrument known as the gembry, using a glow bin, a broom handle, and an electric cable for strings. Five years later, he and his younger brother purchased their first gembry, and he began learning and practicing finger placement, as well as how to distinguish the correct tones. Although his father advised him to spend more time on his schoolwork, and cautioned him against the dangers and hardships of the music industry, Fath-Allah remained dedicated to teaching himself the instruments and music of Gnawa. After some time, he was invited to join his cousin Maallem Lahouaoui’s band, playing the castanets, dancing and singing. But he dreamed of playing the gembry in a real derdeba. His chance finally came on a night when his cousin asked him to stand in for him and finish playing what was left of the ceremonial songs. It was the first time Fath-Allah had ever played in front of a crowd, and during an actual Gnawa ceremony. The audience was amazed at how the youngest member of the band could so easily replace the Master, and actually play as well as him and many other Masters. This was the beginning of the Maallem Fath-Allah. His favorite Masters include: Maallem Lahouaoui, Maallem Mustapha Baqbou, Maallem Hmida Boussou and Maallem Abd Elkader Amili.




Malhun or milhun, meaning “the melodic poem”, is a traditional music from Maghreb that borrows its modes from the Andalusian music. It is a kind of urban, sung poetry that comes from the exclusively masculine working-class milieu of craftsmen’s guilds.




The melhun, originally a pure literary creation, emerged as a poetic art today known in Morocco under the name of “qasida” (meaning “poem”) or “zajal”.




The qasida of the malhun is based on two essential elements: the overtures preceding it and the parts of which it is composed. Aqsam verses sung solo interrupted by the harba refrain (meaning launch). Harba, the origin of which goes back to the 16th century, is a refrain taken up between the verses by the sheddada, a group of singers and instrumentalist-singers). Another refrain called dridka is a simplified form of the harba, taking off from an accelerated rhythm to announce the end of a qassida.


The qasida however preserved the division of the text in stanzas as in the Andalusian song: the verse (ghson, meaning “branch”) can include from eight to sixteen verses, a short refrain or harba offers an alternation which makes it possible to break the monotony of the musical discourse of the Malhoun song. This gave rise to the suruf, subsidiary procedures employed by singers to produce an even greater effect on the audience and above all to correct the rhythm. Abdelaziz al-Maghrawi (16th 17th centuries) created from “dān”, a word that has no meaning, verses which were used as the basis for verse writing by Maghreb folk poets. (e.g. Dān dāni yā dāni dān dān yā dān).


Famous figures


Among the former authors of melhoun, there is Abdelaziz al-Maghrawi and Abderrahman El Majdoub (died 1568) who was famous for his mystical quatrains. In 18th and 19th centuries, Morocco knew a great number of poets who, from Fez, Meknes or Marrakech spread popular poetry who adopted the melhoun. Examples are Kaddour El Alamy and Thami Midaghri. In modern days, Haj Houcine Toulali (1924–1998) was the most prominent figure in the malhun music.






The native folk music of Mozambique has been highly influenced by Portuguese forms. The most popular style of modern dance music is marrabenta. Mozambican music also influenced another Lusophone music in Brazil, like maxixe (its name derived from Maxixe in Mozambique), and Cuban music like Mozambique.


Culture was an integral part of the struggle for independence, which began in 1964. Leaders of the independence movement used cultural solidarity to gain support from the common people, while the Portuguese colonialists promoted their own culture. By the time independence came in 1975, Mozambican bands had abandoned their previous attempts at European-style music, and began forging new forms based out of local folk styles and the new African popular music coming from Zaire, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa.


In 1978, the Ministry of Education and Culture organized a National Dance Festival that involved more than half a million people, and led to the creation of numerous organizations and festivals promoting Mozambican music.




The Chopi people of the coastal Inhambane Province are known for a unique kind of xylophone called mbila (pl: timbila) and the style of music played with it, which “is believed to be the most sophisticated method of composition yet found among preliterate peoples. “Ensembles consist of around ten xylophones of four sizes and accompany ceremonial dances with long compositions called ngomi which consist of an overture and ten movements of different tempos and styles. The ensemble leader serves as poet, composer, conductor, and performer, creating a text, improvising a melody partially based on the features of the Chopi’s tone language, and composing a second countrapuntal line. The musicians of the ensemble partially improvise their parts according to style, instrumental idiom, and the leader’s indications. The composer then consults with the choreographer of the ceremony and adjustments are made. (Nettl 1956, p. 18-19)



Marrabenta is the best-known form of music from Mozambique. It is urban in origin, and meant for dancing. Marrabenta was born as a fusion of imported European music played on improvised materials. The word marrabenta derives from the Portuguese rebentar (arrabentar in the local vernacular), meaning to break, a reference to cheap guitar strings that snapped quickly. Instruments were fashioned out of tin cans and pieces of wood. Lyrics were usually in local languages, and included songs of social criticism as well as love. Additionally, there are songs whose lyrics are in Portuguese, the official language of Mozambique, for nationwide and international promotion of the songs to other CPLP nations. The late 1970s saw tremendous innovation in marrabenta, as 1001 Music Productions recorded artists and staged large concerts. The compilation album Amanhecer was released, followed by more such LPs under the title Ngoma.


The most influential early marrabenta performer was Fany Pfumo, whose fame began after the success of “Loko ni kumbuka Jorgina”. He recorded in South Africa on HMV and later incorporated South African kwela into his music. The group Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Moçambique formed in 1979, led by long-time performer Wazimbo. The group toured Europe and other parts of the world, and soon brought international recognition to marrabenta.


Many of the most popular musicians in modern Mozambique spent time with Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Moçambique, including Stewart Sukuma, Chico António, Neyma, José Mucavel and Mingas, while other popular bands include Ghorwane.




Pandza is the newest and most-popular style of Mozambican music, credited to be invented by Ziqo and Dj Ardiles in Maputo. Pandza is especially popular amongst Mozambican youths and is a mix of Marrabenta and Ragga. The roots of Pandza originate from Marrabenta but Pandza has a faster tempo with major influences from Ragga and some Hip Hop. Most of Pandza is mostly song in Portuguese and the Shangaan language from Maputo and its lyrics most of the time, elaborate the social daily lifestyles of young Mozambicans. The most notable Pandza singers in Mozambique today include Rosalia Mboa, Lizha James, Ziqo, Dj Ardiles, MC Roger, and Denny Og.



Marrabenta Genre


Marrabenta is a popular style of Mozambican dance music combining traditional Mozambican dance rhythms with Portuguese folk music. It was developed in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, during the 1930s and 1940s.




The name may be derived from the Portuguese word rebentar (arrabentar in the local vernacular), which means “to break”. This may refer to the cheap musical instruments used in this music, which are often played energetically until they fall apart. Vocalist Dilon Djindje claims this refers to the energetic performances he delivered while on tour across Mozambique, as the intensity and vitality of his shows led audiences to believe that he was ‘breaking’ the emotional limits of those in attendance. The musicians who played Marrabenta came to be called arrabenta. Over time, the name Marrabenta has grown in popularity and continues to be used today.





Marrabenta gained national popularity in Mozambique during the 1930s and 1940s while the nation was still under Portuguese colonial rule. Before the popularity of Marrabenta, Portuguese musicians in Mozambique played fado, a type of traditional Portuguese folk music. These musicians introduced the traditional orchestration and other influences of fado, such as the use of guitars, mandolins, drum sets, and other conventional Western instruments, to Mozambique. The Catholic Church, as a site for cultural interaction, also played a role in the development of the new genre, contributing influences of tonal harmony and the basic use of progressions like I-IV-V. Mozambican musicians combined the influences of church music, secular Western music, and African rhythms to create an entirely new genre.


Dance rhythms are a primary feature of traditional African music. In trying to duplicate these traditional sounds on new western instruments, Mozambican musicians created a new style of dance music, which quickly gained popularity among the youth in the 1940s. In 1977, Mozambique experienced a civil war. While Marrabenta’s popularity began to decline during the Mozambican Civil War, it never disappeared. Fleeing the war to seek a better life and economic opportunities, many Mozambicans, including several Marrabenta musicians, migrated to South Africa. This introduced South African musical styles such as Kwela and Xangana to the Marrabenta style, adding rhythmic variety to the genre.


Upon gaining independence from Portuguese colonial rule, Mozambique came under the control of a socialist regime, resulting in new musical influences from communist Cuba. When Mozambique ceased to be a socialist country in the 1980s, Western musical influences flooded the country. These included rock and pop mainly from the United States. During this time, Marrabenta underwent significant transformation as musicians started using distortion and electronic instruments, while retaining the fundamental character of the music.



The Marrabenta style is a blend of traditional Mozambican rhythms and Portuguese folk music with influences from Western popular music that were brought over by radio.     Early Marrabenta artists, such as Fany Pfumo, Dilon Djindji, and Wazimbo, were crucial in establishing the genre, which has evolved over time into its modern form. This evolution can be seen in Marrabenta bands such as Eyuphuro and Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Moçambique. In its contemporary form, it has combined with other pop genres. The Mozambican band Mabulu mixes marrabenta and hip hop music. The genre is celebrated annually in the Marrabenta Festival in Maputo.


Contemporary Form


Today, Marrabenta reflects global influences, including rhythm & blues, reggae, and blues. This has led to the emergence of a number of sub-genres within Marrabenta, including pandza, which is a mix of reggae and Marrabenta and is currently very popular among the Mozambican youth. Marrabenta has also spread to other parts of Africa and the world.

Marrabenta Artists


      340ml (Afro-dub band, whose work is influenced by Marrabenta)

      Alexandre Langa

      Rosalia Mboa

      Kellens Band


      Gito Baloi

      Dilon Djindji




Ethnic Groups Namibia


The Kavango People

                  The Kavango people are located in the North-Eastern region of Namibia. The Kavango people are traditionally fishers, cattle herders, and farmers.


The Bushman People

                  The Bushman people are located in the southern region of Namibia.     The term Bushmen is sometimes viewed as a pejorative, some prefer to be called the San people.


The Ovambu People

                  The Ovambu people are located in the northern region of Namibia.     There are eight tribes of this group in northern Namibia at present with a total population of around 700 000.


The Himba People

                  The Himba people are located in the Northern region of Namibia.     The Kimba are mostly semi-nomadic pastoral people.


Genres of Namibia


      Ma/ gaisa

           Popular dance music

           Known as Damara Punch


           Traditional dance music

           Oshiwambo’s genre


           Hip hop and kqito genre

           Established by Sunny Boy


           Popular music influenced by European folk music

           More popular in the white communities




The kwaito genre is the most popular and successful music genre in Namibia. It’s believed to be the biggest industry in Namibia’s music and the only that is heavily supported by the youth. This is so because of socio-economic issues, as many artists enter the music industry with hopes of strengthening self-employment and making a living out of it. Namibian kwaito has been strengthened and directly influenced by the South African kwaito style. However, over the years Namibia introduced a different type of kwaito, which makes it slightly different from the South African tradition. The difference lies in production; Namibian producers focus their production on party oriented music. Pioneers of the Namibian kwaito include Matongo Family of Katutura. The trio was the first to embark on the Namibian stage with kwaito, they’ve been famous since 1998, and were the only established kwaito musicians until 2002. Other early kwaito performers include Pablo and Guti Fruit. The Dogg, Legg-Ghetto, and Gazza are also considered as one of the earliest and pioneers of the Namibian kwaito genre. The Dogg and Gazza helped change and shape the genre to what it is today. Soon after their arrival in the Namibian music industry, the focus on international artists declined. For this reason the two are not only acknowledged for their contribution to the kwaito genre but to the Namibian music at large. Other remarkable figures include Sunny Boy, EES, Qonja, Bone Chuck, Uno Boy, and Dollar 6 who entered the industry following The Dogg and Gazza. The genre has grown big and it contains more artists than any other genre in Namibia. Other popular kwaito artist include Tre Van Die Kasie, OmPuff, Chipolopolo, Zanele, OmZoo, T-Kop7, PDK, and Max. The Dogg’s debut album, Shimaliw’ Osatana is considered the blueprint of Namibia’s kwaito, due to the fact that it became the first kwaito album released in Namibia by an Namibian artist. Other albums that helped shape the Namibian kwaito genre include, Zula II Survive (Gazza), Take Out Yo Gun (Dogg), Koek n Jam (Qonja), and Y. B. G. (Sunny Boy). A large number of kwaito musicians remains underground due to lack of promotion and support.


Traditional Namibian dance occurs at events such as weddings and at Traditional Festivals, such as the Caprivi Arts Festival. Folk music accompanies storytelling or dancing. The Namaqu use various strings, flutes and drums while the Bantu use xylophones, gourds and horn trumpets.


      The Herero people’s oviritje is popularly known as konsert. Otjiherero is the primary language of Oviritje music. Oviritje was made popular by Kareke Henguva as a pioneer of Modern Oviritje Music, when he together with the likes of Kakazona Kavari, Meisie Henguva and Oomzulu Pietersen introduced the keyboard element as prior to the introduction of the keyboard Oviritje Music was just performed with vocals only. Prior to Kareke coming into the picture people like Matuarari Kaakunga and BELLA KAZONGOMINJA must be remembered for their contribution to the Oviritje genre. Today in recognition of his contribution to the Oviritje Music KAREKE HENGUVA has been accorded the title of DR. of Modern oviritje music. Other groups that took over from DR. Kareke Henguva and made this music popular are (The Wild Dogs) from the Okakarara area with their hit song “Kaondeka” (A praise song about the Waterberg Mountains): other artists include Okazera from the Omaheke Region, the first group to include a San-speaking member, Bullet ya Kaoko, based in Opuwo in the Kunene Region, Tuponda, Katja, Millenium, Kareke and the United Kingdom-based oviritje queen Kakazona ua Kavari.


      Ma/gaisa, the popular dance music genre commonly known as Damara Punch, has produced household names like Stanley, Phura and Raphel & Pele (Marurus di /Gereseb), all with Welwitchia Music Production, Swakopmund, Axue and Om Backos. The genre was derived from Damara traditional music and is mainly sung in Khoekhoegowab or Nama/Damara. Castro, an Oshiwambo native speaker, is one of the few non-Damara singers to experiment with it.


      Shambo, the traditional dance music of the Oshiwambo-speaking people, derives its name from “Shambo Shakambode” – “music”. In the late nineties Yoba Valombola blended existing Oshiwambo music widely popularised by folk guitarist Kwela, Kangwe Keenyala, Boetie Simon, Lexington and Meme Nanghili na Shima. Later Setson and the Mighty Dread Band combined these and other Namibian styles and this was the birth of Shambo shakambode music. Yoba based Shambo on a dominant guitar, a rhythm guitar, percussion and a heavy “talking” bassline. Themes range from love to war and history. Young Namibian musicians contributed sampled tracks backed by a blend of house music and Kwaito. Prominent shambo musicians include Tunakie, Tate Kwela and D-Naff, also a gospel musician. Kwiku mixes shambo with Kwassa kwassa. The genre was made popular by Tate Buti and his sister Janice with Faizel MC on the song “Kwiku”. It is listened to by most Namibians including Basters and Coloureds. In 2005 it was recognized by the Namibia Society of Composers and Authors of Music (NASCAM) as one of Namibia’s folk music genres. The annual Sanlam-NBC Music Awards also included it as one of their awarding genres in 2005. Other kwiku artists include trio PDK, Olavi, Killa B, Castro, Faizel MC, Tunakie, and the late YT de Wet.


      Hikwa or hip hop/kwaito is genre established by Sunny Boy. According to Sunny Boy, hikwa is a combination of hip hop and kwaito. The lyrical artist established the genre through his album Young, Black en Gifted to accommodate his rhythmical rapping with slow tempo kwaito beats. Most kwaito songs are characterized by singing, chant, rhythmic-screaming, repetitive verses and chorus, and occasional rapping. Sunny Boy’s songs structures are identified by a chorus and separate verses, similar to hip hop. Beats have a slower tempo than kwaito but faster than hip hop. Other artists who use a similar style include Tre VDK and OmPuff, from Sunny Boy’s former label, Mshasho, Chipolopoolo, Qonja, Mappz, and Exit & Mushe. Hikwa also has award category both at the Namibian Music Awards and Sanlam Music Awards.


Instruments of Namibia



           Known as: stamping tube



           Known as:



           Known as: whistles

           Fact: used mostly during dancing and wedding ceremonies


           Known as: single string instrument

           Fact: belong to the group of monochords


           Known as: boat shaped hallow resonator

           Fact: originally made from the omunghete tree and the strings made from the hair of the elephant tail.





Ethnic Groups of Niger


The Hausa People

                  The Hausa people are located in the southeastern region of Niger.     Most Hausa people are Muslim.     99% of Hausa people are Muslim.    


The Djerma Sonrai People

The Djerma Sonrai are located in the western region of Niger.     The language that they speak is a branch of the Songhai language.


The Tuareg People

                  The Tuareg people are located in the northern region of Niger.     The Tuareg people were traditionally nomadic pastoralist people.    


The Peuhl People

                 The Peuhl are located in the southwestern region of Niger.     The Peuhl People are a subgroup of the Fula people.


The Toubou People

                  The Toubou people are located in the northern region of Niger.     The Toubou people are herders and nomads.


Genres of Niger


      Niger Blues

      Tuareg Blues

           Romantic informal spoken love poetry

           Includes lutes, flutes, fiddles, tindie and one string violin


Instruments of Niger



           Known as: one string stick fiddle

           Fact: most commonly used by Hausa


           Known as: plucked lute

           Fact: found in Hausa ethnic group

      Tinde drums

           Known as: drums

           Fact: accompany women’s songs


           Known as: lute

           Fact: griot traditional instrument


The music of Niger has developed from the musical traditions of a mix of ethnic groups; Hausa, the Zarma Songhai people, Tuareg, Fula Kanuri, Toubou, Diffa Arabs and Gurma.


Most traditions existed quite independently in French West Africa but have begun to form a mixture of styles since the 1960s. While Niger’s popular music has had little international attention (in comparison with the music of neighbors Mali or Nigeria), traditional and new musical styles have flourished since the end of the 1980s.


Traditional musical styles


The Hausa, who make up over half of the country’s population, use the duma for percussion and the molo (a lute) in their Griot traditions, along with the Ganga, alghaïta (shawm) and kakaki (trumpet) for martial, state, and ceremonial occasions. These uses are typified by the ceremonial usage of large trumpets to mark the authority of the Sultanate of Damagaram in the southeast Zinder area.


Over 20% of Niger’s population are Zarma people, while the Tuareg and Fulani both number around a million in the early 21st century, somewhat less than 10% each. The Kanuri are just over 4% while the Toubou, Diffa and Gurma are all small populations of less than a half percent each.


The Zarma inhabit the region around the capital, Niamey. They play, generally solo, a variety of lutes (xalam or molo), flutes and fiddles and, like the Fula, carry on the griot tradition of caste-based praise singers and musicians. Songhai traditional music was the topic of extensive study in the late colonial and early independence period.


The Tuareg of the north are known for romantic, informal sung/spoken love poetry performed by both men and women, with voices accompanied by clapping, tinde drums (in women’s songs) and a one-stringed viol (in men’s songs).


The Fula and Wodaabe, a nomadic desert subgroup of Fula, practice group singing accompanied by clapping, stamping and bells. The Wodaabe Gerewol festival is one example of this repeating, hypnotic and percussive choral tradition. The Beriberi too are known for complex polyphony singing.


Modern Nigerien music in Niger

Nigerien Tuareg musician Moussa ag Keyna performing in 2007.


Music for the purpose of entertainment has not been readily accepted by the Nigerien government, though restrictions have loosened since the death of Seyni Kountché in 1987. A competitive music festival called the Prix Dan Gourmou helped inspire a musical renaissance in the country, led by people like Alassane Dante. The Centre for Musical Training and Promotion was founded in 1990, furthering this process, using a grant from the European Development Fund. Musicians formed bands to seek fame both domestically and internationally, with the most successful being the group Takeda, formed by Reggae singer Adams Junior, Saâdou Bori, Fati Mariko, Mamoudou Abdousalam, Sani Aboussa, John Sofakolé, Moussa Poussy and Yacouba Moumouni.


In the mid-1990s, internationally renowned record producer Ibrahima Sylla travelled to Niamey and ended up signing Poussy and Saadou Bori. He has since also helped release records from Adam’s Junior and from Mamar Kassey, perhaps the best known Nigerien group outside the country, who combine traditional Songhai styles and modern jazz.


The band Etran Finatawa (“the stars of tradition”), consisting of Tuareg and Wodaabe members, formed in 2004 at the Festival in the Desert.



Since 2008 Tal National have been the most popular modern band in Niger. They are based in Niamey. Their 2008 album A-Na Waya reached the top of the charts in Niger and earned the band numerous awards. In 2013 they signed a worldwide record deal with Fat Cat Records for the album “Kaani”.


“Tuareg Blues”


Tuareg Blues is perhaps the most internationally known of Tuareg musical styles. Growing out of the refugee camps to the 1990s Tuareg insurgencies, Tuareg Blues have been exported to Europe, most notably by the Malian band Tinariwen. Niger born Tuareg Blues artists include the pioneering guitarist Abdallah ag Oumbadougou from Agadez and his band Takrist n’Akal, Group Bombino also from Agadez, Moussa ag Keyna’s group Toumast, Mdou Moctar, and the performer Mouma Bob.







The music of Nigeria includes many kinds of Folk and popular music, some of which are known worldwide. Styles of folk music are related to the multitudes of ethnic groups in the country, each with their own techniques, instruments, and songs. Little is known about the country’s music history prior to European contact, although bronze carvings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries have been found depicting musicians and their instruments. The largest ethnic groups are the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. Traditional music from Nigeria and throughout Africa is almost always functional; in other words, it is performed to mark a ritual such as a wedding or funeral and not for pure entertainment or artistic enjoyment. Although some Nigerians, especially children and the elderly, play instruments for their own amusement, solo performance is otherwise rare. Music is closely linked to agriculture, and there are restrictions on, for example, which instruments can be played during different parts of the growing season.


Work songs are a common type of traditional Nigerian music. They help to keep the rhythm of workers in fields, river canoes and other fields. Women use complex rhythms in housekeeping tasks, such as pounding yams to highly ornamented music. In the northern regions, farmers work together on each other’s farms and the host is expected to supply musicians for his neighbors.


The issue of musical composition is also highly variable. The Hwana, for example, believe that all songs are taught by the peoples’ ancestors, while the Tiv give credit to named composers for almost all songs, and the Efik name individual composers only for secular songs. In many parts of Nigeria, musicians are allowed to say things in their lyrics that would otherwise be perceived as offensive.


The most common format for music in Nigeria is the call-and-response choir, in which a lead singer and a chorus interchange verses, sometimes accompanied by instruments that either shadow the lead text or repeat and ostinato vocal phrase. The southern area features complex rhythms and solo players using melody instruments, while the north more typically features polyphonic wind ensembles. The extreme north region is associated with monodic (i.e., single-line) music with an emphasis on drums, and tends to be more influenced by Islamic music.


Epic poetry is found in parts of Nigeria, and its performance is always viewed as musical in nature. Blind itinerant performers, sometimes accompanying themselves with a string instrument, are known for reciting long poems of unorthodox Islamic text among the Kanuri and Hausa. These, and other related traditions, may be descended from similar Maghrebian and European traditions. The Ozidi Saga found in the Niger Delta is a well-known epic that takes seven days to perform and utilizes a narrator, a chorus, percussion, mime and dance.


The Hausa

Hausa music


The people of the North are known for complex percussion instrument music, the one-stringed goje, and a strong praise song vocal tradition. Under Muslim influence since the 14th century, Hausa music uses free-rhythmic improvisation and the Pentatonic scale, similar to other Muslim Sahelian tribes throughout West Africa, such as the Bambara, Kanuri, Fulani and Songhai. Traditional Hausa music is used to celebrate births, marriages, circumcisions, and other important life events. Hausa ceremonial music is well known in the area and is dominated by families of praise singers. The Hausa play percussion instruments such as the tambura drum and the talking drum. The most impressive of the Hausa state instruments, however, is the elongated state trumpet called Kakaki, which was originally used by the Songhai cavalry and was taken by the rising Hausa states as a symbol of military power. Kakaki trumpets can be more than two meters long, and can be easily broken down into three portable parts for easy transportation.


The Hausa are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Sudan, Cameroon and in many West and Central African countries. Their folk music has played an important part in the development of Nigerian music, contributing such elements as the goge, a one-stringed fiddle. There are two broad categories of traditional Hausa music: rural folk music and urban court music.


Ceremonial music (rokon fada) is performed as a status symbol, and musicians are generally chosen for political reasons as opposed to musical ones. Ceremonial music can be heard at the weekly sara, a statement of authority by the emir which takes place every Thursday evening.


Courtly praise-singers like the renowned Narambad, are devoted to singing the virtues of a patron, such as a sultan or emir. Praise songs are accompanied by kettledrums and kalangu talking drums, along with the kakaki, a kind of long trumpet derived from that used by the Songhai cavalry.


Rural folk music includes styles that accompany the young girls’ asauwara dance and the bòòríí or Bori religion both well known for their music. It has been brought as far north as Tripoli, Libya by trans-Saharan trade. The bòòríí cult features trance music, played by calabash, lute or fiddle. During ceremonies, women and other marginalized groups fall into trances and perform odd behaviors, such as mimicking a pig or sexual behavior. These persons are said to be possessed by a character, each with its own litany (kírààrì). There are similar trance cults (the so-called “mermaid cults”) found in the Niger Delta region.


Popular Hausa music includes Muhamman Shata, who sings accompanied by drummers, Dan Maraya, who plays a one-stringed lute called a kontigi, Audo Yaron Goje, who plays the goje, and Ibrahim Na Habu, who plays a small fiddle called a kukkuma.



The Igbo of Nigeria

Igbo music


The Igbo people live in the south-east of Nigeria, and play a wide variety of folk instruments. They are known for their ready adoption of foreign styles, and were an important part of Nigerian highlife. The most widespread instrument is the 13-stringed zither, called an obo. The Igbo also play slit drums, xylophones, flutes, lyres, udus and lutes, and more recently, imported European brass instruments.


Courtly music is played among the more traditional Igbo, maintain their royal traditions. The ufie (slit drum) is used to wake the chief and communicate meal times and other important information to him. Bell and drum ensembles are used to announce when the chief departs and returns to his village. Meal times may include pie, and other dessert foods for the holidays.


Igbo music (Igbo: Egwu nkwa ndi Igbo) is the music of the Igbo people, who are indigenous to the southeastern part of Nigeria. The Igbo traditionally rely heavily on percussion instruments such as the drum and the gong, which are popular because of their innate ability to provide a diverse array of tempo, sound, and pitch. Igbo music is generally lively, upbeat, and spontaneous which creates a variety of sounds that enables the Igbo people to incorporate music into almost all the facets of their daily lives. Some very popular Igbo music styles are Highlife, Odumodu and Waka.




When examining the impact that music has on the culture of the Igbo people, one would have to look no further than the earliest accounts of the vast history of Igbo in Nigeria. Igbo people were most likely descendents of the people of the Nok culture that inhabited much of Nigeria from 500 BC to 200 AD. The Nok civilization is very popular because of the vast amount of colorful artifacts that they left behind, which include an array of musical instruments. It is from these humble beginnings that the first vestiges of Igbo music sprung up and began to influence and shape the culture in many ways.


Cultural Impact


Traditionally music has been used to:


      Enhance celebrations, such as during the New Year, weddings, birthday parties, childbirth and naming ceremonies

      To bring about a historically sacred ambiance at church services, funerals, and eulogies

      For pleasure, such as when lullabies are sung by parents to their children

      For sports and labor

      To guide historians as they recount stories





The drum is the most important musical instrument for Nigerians, and especially the Igbo people. This instrument is extensively used during celebrations, rites of passage, funerals, war, town meetings and an array of other events. Since this instrument is so diverse, many types of drums have been crafted and perfected over the years.

Pot Drum


The pot drum instrument is called the Kim- Kim or Udo. It is typically dumb-bell shaped, and is around 27 cm-29 cm in height with an opening at the top that is about three to five centimeters. The base of the drum is about 13 cm- 15 cm wide, and the head is around eight to nine centimeters wide. This instrument is typically used to produce bass. To achieve a low and deep sound, a minimal amount of water is added. To maintain a higher sound, a considerable amount of water is added to the pot. To play this instrument, the musician will brace it between her legs and grip the neck with her left hand. In order to produce a sound, the musician will cup her hand and beat the opening very rapidly. Usually, this instrument has been played by women and is used for traditional rites of passage, weddings, and community club meetings.

Talking Drum


The Udu is the most common and popular drum. This instrument is also known as Nkwa, Egwe, or Egede, depending on the part of the country. These drums are also known as the talking drums because they produce a sound which is tonal, syncopated, and accented in ways that are very similar to way in which the Igbo people speak. The body of the drum is usually constructed from a hollowed out pear or cotton tree which is very durable yet malleable. The drum is then covered with antelope or cow skin. The hide is fastened tightly to the top and bottom of the instrument with seven to eight studs, and with rope in a decorative manner. The studs are able to be adjusted for tuning purposes and sound accommodation. If the studs are tightened a high pitch is emitted. The opposite effect is heard if the studs are loosened. Typically, more than one Igba is played by several drummers at a time. The drum can be played by using four fingers from each hand. The right hand is used to beat the head of the drum, and the left hand is used to stop the vibration. If the musician stops the vibration closer to the edge of the drum head, a low pitch will be emitted. If the musician stops the vibration closer to the center, then a higher pitch will be emitted. The Igba can also be played using a curved drum stick, which can be found wrapped in fiber to produce a soft sound, or “naked” to produce hard sound. This drum is very versatile and is usually played during celebrations, festivals, weddings, male and female rites of passage, and sometimes funerals.


Slit Drum (Ekwe)


The slit drum called the Ekwe is also very popular amongst the Igbo. This drum is constructed from a hollowed out palm, bamboo, or pear tree trunk. Once the trunk has been cleaned, two horizontal slits are carved into the base as well as a narrow slit connecting the two. This drum is played using a “naked” wooden drum stick to strike the head. The Ekwe produces a distinct sound and for this reason is usually used for signaling an emergency, community meetings, or warning of intruders’ presence.



Illustration of an Ogene metal gong


These instruments are another important part of Igbo music. While not as important as the drum, these instruments do provide much needed rhythm and accompaniment.


The most prominent Gongs are the Olu and the Ogene. The Olu is a large Gong, about four feet long. The Ogene is smaller Gong and is about eight inches long. The Olu and Ogene are played by rhythmically beating the base of these instruments in cadence with the rest of the ensemble. The Ogene is used mostly for complimenting drums and other percussion instruments. It is also very useful in helping dancers time their movements and gestures. The Olu produces a very distinct sound and is mostly used to warn the community of any danger or as a call for attention in case of an important announcement.


Other instruments


Other instruments include a woodblock known as okpola, a wind instrument similar to the flute, called an oja and the ichaka. The Igbo also have a style of music called Ikorodo, which is when all the musical instruments are played together with vocal accompaniment.




The instrument is played by hand and produces a special and unique bass sound by quickly hitting the big hole. Furthermore the whole corpus can be played by fingers (some experienced players also use toes). Today it is widely used by percussionists in different music styles.

Igbo Music Today


Though Igbo music remains very traditional, it has undergone some changes in old times. In the 60’s and 70’s a new genre of music was born called High-Life. This was a fusion of traditional West African Music and music from Western cultures. It combined fast tempo Latino beats and colorful Reggae, with rhythmic West African sounds. Recently, Nigerian rappers have also brought changes to the palates of the Igbo people with the infusion of hip-hop. This music is a cross between American rap beats and Igbo lyrics.


Notable Igbo Musicians


Some popular Igbo musicians include: Sir Warrior (Head of Highlife), Oliver de Coque (King of Highlife), Celestine Ukwu, Onyeka Onwenu, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, Bright Chimezie (Duke of Highlife), Nico Mbarga, Oriental Brothers (Stars of Music), Faze, Dr Alban, Lemar and Nnenna Freelon.



Yoruba music


The Yoruba have a drumming tradition, with a characteristic use of the dundun hourglass tension drums. Ensembles using the dundun play a type of music that is also called dundun. These ensembles consist of various sizes of tension drums, along with kettledrums (gudugudu). The leader of a dundun ensemble is the iyalu, who uses the drum to “talk” by imitating the tonality of Yoruba Much of Yoruba music is spiritual in nature, and is devoted to their God.


Yoruba music has become the most important component of modern Nigerian popular music, as a result of its early influence from European, Islamic and Brazilian forms. These influences stemmed from the importation of brass instruments, sheet music, Islamic percussion and styles brought by Brazilian merchants. In both the Nigeria’s most populous city, Lagos, and the largest city of Ibadan, these multicultural traditions were brought together and became the root of Nigerian popular music. Modern styles such as Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s fuji, Salawa Abeni’s waka and Yusuf Olatunji’s sakara are derived primarily from Yoruba traditional music.     Yoruba music have now come of age and the new generation of Nigerian music now sing in their native language. 9ice is one of many that broke into the industry with Gongo Aso and many more artist followed. Listening to Timi Korus Babe mi Jowo denotes artist home and abroad now rap and sing in Yoruba and not forgetting their heritage.


The music of the Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin are perhaps best known for an extremely advanced drumming tradition, especially using the dundun hourglass tension drums. Yoruba folk music became perhaps the most prominent kind of West African music in Afro-Latin and Caribbean musical styles. Yorùbá music left an especially important influence on the music used in Lukumi practice and the music of Cuba Omele ako, batá and two dunduns. Yoruba drummers in Kwara state.


Folk music


Ensembles using the dundun play a type of music that is also called dundun. These ensembles consist of various sizes of tension drums along with special band drums (ogido). The gangan is another such. The leader of a dundun ensemble is the oniyalu who uses the drum to “talk” by imitating the tonality of Yoruba. Much of Yoruba music is spiritual in nature, and this form is often devoted to Orisas.

Rhythmic structure

Iron agogô bells.


The most commonly used key pattern, or guide pattern in traditional Yoruba drumming is the seven-stroke figure known in ethnomusicology as the standard pattern. The standard pattern is expressed in both a triple-pulse (12/8 or 6/8) and a duple-pulse (4/4 or 2/2) structure. The standard pattern is often sounded on an iron bell.

Standard pattern in duple-pulse (4/4) and triple-pulse (12/8) form.


The strokes of the standard pattern coincide with: 1, 1a, 2& 2a, 3&, 4, 4a.




1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a ||

X . X . X X . X . X . X ||




1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a ||

X . . X . . X X . . X . X . . X ||


A great deal of Yoruba drum music is based in cross rhythm. The following example shows the five-stroke form of the standard pattern (known as clave in Afro-Latin music) on the kagano dundun drum (top line). The dunduns on the second and third lines sound an embellishment of the three-over-four (3:4) cross-rhythm—expressed as three pairs of strokes against four pairs of strokes.


Yoruba dundun ensemble.

Popular music


Yorùbá music is regarded as one of the more important components of the modern Nigerian popular music scene. Although traditional Yoruba music was not influenced by foreign music the same cannot be said of modern day Yoruba music which has evolved and adapted itself through contact with foreign instruments, talents and creativity. Interpretation involves rendering African, here Yoruba, musical expression using a mixture of instruments from different horizons.


Yoruba music traditionally centered around folklore and spiritual/deity worship, utilizing basic and natural instruments such as clapping of the hands. Playing music for a living was not something the Yoruba’s did and singers were referred to in a derogatory term of Alagbe, it is this derogation of musicians that made it not appeal to modern Yoruba at the time. Although, it is true that music genres like the highlife played by musicians like Rex Lawson, Segun Bucknor, Bobby Benson, etc., Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat and King Sunny Adé’s juju are all Yoruba adaptations of foreign music. These musical genres have their roots in large metropolitan cities like Lagos, Ibadan, and Port Harcourt where people and culture mix influenced by their rich culture.


Some pioneering juju musicians include Tunde King, Tunde Nightingale, Why Worry in Ondo and Ayinde Bakare, Dele ojo, Ik Dairo Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala). sakara played by the pioneers such as Ojo Olawale in Ibadan, Abibu Oluwa, Yusuf Olatunji, Sanusi Aka, Saka Layigbade.


Apala, is another genre of Yoruba modern music which was played by spirited pacesetters such as Haruna Ishola, Sefiu Ayan, Ligali Mukaiba, Kasumu Adio, Yekini (Y.K.) Ajadi, etc.


Fuji, which emerged in the late 60s/early 70s, as an offshoot of were/ajisari music genres, which were made popular by certain Ibadan singers/musicians such as the late Sikiru Ayinde Barister, Alhaji Dauda Epo-Akara and Ganiyu Kuti or “Gani Irefin.


Another popular genre is waka music played and popularized by Alhaja Batuli Alake and, more recently, Salawa Abeni, Kuburat Alaragbo, Asanat Omo-Aje, Mujidat Ogunfalu, Misitura Akawe, Fatimo Akingbade, Karimot Aduke, and Risikat Abeawo. In both Ibadan (Nigeria’s largest city), and Lagos (Nigeria’s most populous city), these multicultural traditions were brought together and became the root of Nigerian popular music.

Musical instruments


      Agbe: a shaker

      Ashiko: a cone-shaped drum

      Batá drum: a well decorated traditional drum of many tones, with strong links to the deity Shango, it produces sharp high tone sounds.

      Goje: sort of violin like the sahelian kora

      Sekere: a melodic shaker; beads or cowrie shells beautifully wound around a gourd, shaken, beaten by fists occasionally and thrown in the air to create a festive mood.

      Gudugudu: a smaller, melodic bata

      Sakara drum: goatskin istretched over clay ring

      Agogô: a high-pitched tone instrument like a “covered” 3-dimensional “tuning fork”

      Saworo: like agogo, but its tone is low-pitched

      aro: much like a saworo, low-pitched

      Seli: a combination of aro, saworo and hand-clapping

      Agidigbo, a thumb piano instrument wound round the neck and stabilized by the player’s chest.

      Dundun, consisting of iya ilu or gbedu, main or “mother” drum and omele, smaller drums, played as an accompaniment to bata drums to create a base for their sharp beats.

      Bembé, bass drum, kettle drum. (Caribbean membranophones)





Nigerian Theatrical music


Nigerian theatre makes extensive use of music. Often, this is simply traditional music used in a theatrical production without adaptation. However, there are also distinct styles of music used in Nigerian opera. Here, music is used to convey an impression of the dramatic action to the audience. Music is also used in literary drama, although its musical accompaniment is more sparingly used than in opera; again, music communicates the mood or tone of events to the audience. An example is John Pepper Clark’s The Ozidi Saga, a play about murder and revenge, featuring both human and non-human actors. Each character in the play is associated with a personal theme song, which accompanies battles in which the character is involved.


Traditional Nigerian theatre includes puppet shows in Borno State and among the Ogoni and Tiv, and the ancient Yoruba Aláàrìnjó tradition, which may be descended from the Egúngún masquerade. With the influx of road-building colonial powers, these theatre groups spread across the country and their productions grew ever more elaborate. They now typically use European instruments, film extracts and recorded music.


In the past, both Hubert Ogunde and Ade Love, of blessed memories, produced soundtracks of their movies using very rich Yoruba language. Modern day Yoruba film and theater music composers among whom Tope Alabi is the flagbearer have variously accompanied dramatic actions with original music.


Children’s music


Children in Nigeria have many of their own traditions, usually singing games. These are most often call-and-response type songs, using archaic language. There are other songs, such as among the Tarok people that are sexually explicit and obscene, and are only performed far away from the home. Children also use instruments like un-pitched raft zithers (made from cornstalks) and drums made from tin cans, a pipe made from a pawpaw stem and a jaw harp made from a sorghum stalk. Among the Hausa, children play a unique instrument in which they beat rhythms on the inflated stomach of a live, irritated pufferfish.


Traditional instruments


Although percussion instruments are omnipresent, Nigeria’s traditional music uses a number of diverse instruments. Many, such as the xylophone, are an integral part of music across West Africa, while others are imports from the Muslims of the Maghreb, or from Southern or East Africa; other instruments have arrived from Europe or the Americas. Brass instruments and woodwinds were early imports that played a vital role in the development of Nigerian music, while the later importation of electric guitars spurred the popularization of jùjú music.



Drummers in Ojumo Oro, Kwara State


The xylophone is a tuned idiophone, common throughout west and central Africa. In Nigeria, they are most common in the southern part of the country, and are of the central African model. Several people sometimes simultaneously play a single xylophone. The instruments are usually made of loose wood placed across banana logs. Pit- and box-resonated xylophones are also found. Ensembles of clay pots beaten with a soft pad are common; they are sometimes filled with water. Although normally tuned, untuned examples are sometimes used to produce a bass rhythm. Hollow logs are also used, split lengthways, with resonator holes at the end of the slit. They were traditionally used to communicate over great distances.


Various bells are a common part of royal regalia, and were used in secret societies. They are usually made of iron, or in Islamic orchestras of the north, of bronze. Struck gourds, placed on a cloth and struck with sticks, are a part of women’s music, as well as the bòòríí cult dances. Sometimes, especially in the north, gourds are placed upside-down in water, with the pitch adjusted by the amount of air underneath it. In the south-west, a number of tuned gourds are played while floating in a trough.


Scrapers are common throughout the south. One of the most common types is a notched stick, played by dragging a shell across the stick at various speeds. It is used both as a women’s court instrument and by children in teasing games. Among the Yoruba, an iron rod may be used as a replacement for a stick. Rattles are common, made of gourds containing seeds or stones are common, as are net-rattles, in which a string network of beads or shells encloses a gourd. Rattles are typically played in ritual or religious context, predominantly by women.


Drums of many kinds are the most common type of percussion instrument in Nigeria. They are traditionally made from a single piece of wood or spherical calabashes, but have more recently been made from oil drums. The hourglass drum is the most common shape, although there are also double-headed barrel drums, single-headed drums and conical drums. Frame drums are also found in Nigeria, but may be an importation from Brazil. An unusual percussion instrument is the udu, a kind of vessel drum.

String instruments


The musical bow is found in Nigeria as a mouth-resonated cord, either plucked or struck. It is most common in the central part of the country, and is associated with agricultural songs and those expressing social concerns. Cereal stalks bound together and strings supported by two bridges are used to make a kind of raft-zither, played with the thumbs, typically for solo entertainment. The arched harp is found in the eastern part of the country, especially among the Tarok. It usually has five or six strings and pentatonic tuning. A bowl-resonated spike-fiddle with a lizard skin table is used in the northern region, and is similar to central Asian and Ethiopian forms. The Hausa and Kanuri peoples play a variety of spike-lutes.

Other instruments


A variety of brass and woodwind instruments are also found in Nigeria. These include long trumpets, frequently made of aluminum and played in pairs or ensembles of up to six, often accompanied by a shawm. Wooden trumpets, gourd trumpets, end-blown flutes, cruciform whistles, transverse clarinets and various kinds of horns are also found.

Popular music


Many African countries have seen turbulence and violence during their forced transition from a diverse region of folk cultures to a group of modern nation states. Nigeria has experienced more difficulty than most African countries in forging a popular cultural identity from the diverse peoples of the countryside. From its beginnings in the streets of Lagos, popular music in Nigeria has long been an integral part of the field of African pop, bringing in influences and instruments from many ethnic groups, most prominently including the Yoruba.


The earliest styles of Nigerian popular music were palm-wine music and highlife, which spread in the 1920s among Nigeria and nearby countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana. In Nigeria, palm-wine became the primary basis for jùjú, a genre that dominated popular music for many years. During this time, a few other styles such as apala, derived from traditional Yoruba music, also found a more limited audience. By the 1960s, Cuban, American and other styles of imported music were enjoying a large following, and musicians started to incorporate these influences into jùjú. The result was a profusion of new styles in the last few decades of the 20th century, including waka music, Yo-pop and Afrobeat.


Palm-wine and the invention of jùjú

Palm-wine music


By the start of the 20th century, Yoruba music had incorporated brass instruments, written notation, Islamic percussion and new Brazilian techniques, resulting in the Lagos-born palm-wine style. The term palm-wine is also used to describe related genres in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana. these varieties are better-known than Nigerian palm-wine. However, palm-wine originally referred to a diverse set of styles played with string instruments, characteristically, guitars or banjos) with shakers and hand drums accompanying this urban style was frequently played in bars to accompany drinking (hence the name, which is derived from the alcoholic palm wine beverage).


The first stars of palm-wine had emerged by the 1920s, the most famous of whom was Baba Tunde King. King probably coined the word jùjú — a style of music he helped to create — in reference to the sound of a Brazilian tambourine; alternatively, the term may have developed as an expression of disdain by the colonial leaders (any native tradition was apt to be dismissed as ‘mere joujou, French for “nonsense”). By the early 1930s, British record labels such as His Master’s Voice had started to record palm-wine, and more celebrities emerged, including Ojoge Daniel, Tunde Nightingale and Speedy Araba. These artists, along with Tunde King, established the core of the style which was called jùjú, and remained one of the most popular genres in Nigeria throughout the 20th century. Some Jùjú musicians were itinerant, including early pioneers Ojoge Daniel, Irewole Denge and the “blind minstrel” Kokoro.




Apala is a style of vocal and percussive Muslim Yoruba music. It emerged in the late 1930s as a means of rousing worshippers after the fasting of Ramadan. Under the influence of popular Afro-Cuban percussion, apala developed into a more polished style and attracted a large audience. The music required two or three talking drums (omele), a rattle (sekere), thumb piano (agidigbo) and a bell (agogo). Haruna Ishola was the most famous apala performer, and he later played an integral role in bringing apala to larger audiences as a part of fuji music.

The 1950s, ’60s and ’70s


Following World War II, Nigerian music started to take on new instruments and techniques, including electric instruments imported from the United States and Europe. Rock N’ roll, soul, and later funk, became very popular in Nigeria, and elements of these genres were added to jùjú by artists such as IK Dairo. Meanwhile, highlife had been slowly gaining in popularity among the Igbo people, and their unique style soon found a national audience. At the same time, apala’s Haruna Ishola was becoming one of the country’s biggest stars. In the early to mid-1970s, three of the biggest names in Nigerian music history were at their peak: Fela Kuti, Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Adé, while the end of that decade saw the start of Yo-pop and Nigerian reggae.


Although popular styles such as highlife and jùjú were at the top of the Nigerian charts in the ’60s, traditional music remained widespread. Traditional stars included the Hausa Dan Maraya, who was so well known that he was brought to the battlefield during the 1967 Nigerian Civil War to lift the morale of the federal troops.


Modernization of Jùjú

I.K. Dairo


Following World War II, Tunde Nightingale’s s’o wa mbe style made him one of the first jùjú stars, and he introduced more Westernized pop influences to the genre. During the 1950s, recording technology grew more advanced, and the gangan talking drum, electric guitar and accordion were incorporated into jùjú. Much of this innovation was the work of IK Dairo & the Morning Star Orchestra (later IK Dairo & the Blue Spots), which formed in 1957. these performers brought jùjú from the rural poor to the urban cities of Nigeria and beyond. Dairo became perhaps the biggest star of African music by the ’60s, recording numerous hit songs that spread his fame to as far away as Japan. In 1963, he became the only African musician ever honored by receiving membership of the Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry in the United Kingdom.


Dispersion of highlife


Among the Igbo people, Ghanaian highlife became popular in the early 1950s, and other guitar-band styles from Cameroon and Zaire soon followed. The Ghanaian E. T. Mensah, easily the most popular highlife performer of the 1950s, toured Igbo-land frequently, drawing huge crowds of devoted fans. Bobby Benson & His Combo was the first Nigerian highlife band to find audiences across the country. Benson was followed by Jim Lawson & the Mayor’s Dance Band, who achieved national fame in the mid-’70s, ending with Lawson’s death in 1976. During the same period, other highlife performers were reaching their peak. These included Prince Nico Mbarga and his band Rocafil Jazz, who’s “Sweet Mother” was a pan-African hit that sold more than 13 million copies, more than any other African single of any kind. Mbarga used English lyrics in a style that he dubbed panko, which incorporated “sophisticated rumba guitar-phrasing into the highlife idiom”.


After the civil war in the 1960s, Igbo musicians were forced out of Lagos and returned to their homeland. The result was that highlife ceased to be a major part of mainstream Nigerian music, and was thought of as being something purely associated with the Igbos of the east. Highlife’s popularity slowly dwindled among the Igbos, supplanted by jùjú and fuji. However, a few performers kept the style alive, such as Yoruba singer and trumpeter Victor Olaiya (the only Nigerian to ever earn a platinum record), Stephen Osita Osadebe, Oliver De Coque, Celestine Ukwu, Oriental Brothers, Sonny Okosun, Victor Uwaifo, and Orlando “Dr. Ganja” Owoh, whose distinctive toye style fused jùjú and highlife.


Birth of fuji

Fuji music


Apala, a traditional style from Ogun state, one of Yoruba state in Nigeria, became very popular in the 1960s, led by performers like Haruna Ishola, Sefiu Ayan, Kasumu Adio, and Ayinla Omowura. Ishola, who was one of Nigeria’s most consistent hit makers between 1955 and his death in 1983, recorded apala songs, which alternated between slow and emotional, and swift and energetic. His lyrics were a mixture of improvised praise and passages from the Quran, as well as traditional proverbs. His work became a formative influence on the developing fuji style.


The late 1960s saw the appearance of the first fuji bands. Fuji was named after Mount Fuji in Japan, purely for the sound of the word, according to Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. Fuji was a synthesis of apala with the “ornamented, free-rhythmic” vocals of ajisari devotional musicians and was accompanied by the sakara, a tambourine-drum, and Hawaiian guitar. Among the genre’s earliest stars were Haruna Ishola and Ayinla Omowura; Ishola released numerous hits from the late ’50s to the early ’80s, becoming one of the country’s most famous performers. Fuji grew steadily more popular between the 1960s and ’70s, becoming closely associated with Islam in the process.


Fuji has been described as jùjú without guitars; ironically, Ebenezer Obey once described jùjú as mambo with guitars. However, at its roots, fuji is a mixture of Muslim traditional were music ‘ajisari songs with “aspects of apala percussion and vocal songs and brooding, philosophical sakara music”; of these elements, apala is the fundamental basis of fuji The first stars of fuji were the rival bandleaders Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and Ayinla Kollington Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister started his fuji career in the early 1970s with the Golden Fuji Group”, although he had sung Muslim songs since he was 10 years old. He first changed his group’s name to “Fuji Londoners” when he came back from a trip to London, England. After a very long time — with hits such as “Orilonise”, Fuji Disco/Iku Baba Obey”, “Oke Agba”, “Aye”, and “Suuru” — he later changed the group’s name to “Supreme Fuji Commanders” with a bang!, “Orelope” that went platinum instantly. Ayinde’s rival was Ayinla Kollington, “Baba Alatika”, known for fast tempo and dance-able brand of fuji, who also recorded hit albums like “ko bo simi lo’run mo e, in the 80s he released “ijo yoyo, Lakukulala and American megastar” to mention few of his successful albums. With all due respect Ayinla Kollington is a coherent social commentator. He was followed in the 1980s by burgeoning stars such as Wasiu Ayinde Barrister.


Ade and Obey


Ebenezer Obey formed the International Brothers in 1964, and his band soon rivalled that of IK Dairo as the biggest Nigerian group. They played a form of bluesy, guitar-based and highlife-influenced jùjú that included complex talking drum-dominated percussion elements. Obey’s lyrics addressed issues that appealed to urban listeners, and incorporated Yoruba traditions and his conservative Christian faith. His rival was King Sunny Adé, who emerged in the same period, forming the Green Spots in 1966 and then achieving some major hits with the African Beats after 1974’s Esu Biri Ebo Mi. Ade and Obey raced to incorporate new influences into jùjú music and to gather new fans; Hawaiian slack-key, keyboards and background vocals were among the innovations added during this rapidly changing period. Ade added strong elements of Jamaican dub music, and introduced the practice of having the guitar play the rhythm and the drums play the melody. During this period, jùjú songs changed from short pop songs to long tracks, often over 20 minutes in length. Bands increased from four performers in the original ensembles, to 10 with IK Dairo and more than 30 with Obey and Ade.


1980s and ’90s


In the early 1980s, both Obey and Ade found larger audiences outside of Nigeria. In 1982, Ade was signed to Island Records, who hoped to replicate Bob Marley’s success, and released Juju Music, which sold far beyond expectations in Europe and the United States. Obey released Current Affairs in 1980 on Virgin Records and became a brief star in the UK, but was not able to sustain his international career as long as Ade. Ade led a brief period of international fame for jùjú, which ended in 1985 when he lost his record contract after the commercial failure of Aura (recorded with Stevie Wonder) and his band walked out in the middle of a huge Japanese tour. Ade’s brush with international renown brought a lot of attention from mainstream record companies, and helped to inspire the burgeoning world music industry. By the end of the 1980s, jùjú had lost out to other styles, like Yo-pop, gospel and reggae. In the 1990s, however, fuji and jùjú remained popular, as did waka music and Nigerian reggae. At the very end of the decade, hip hop music spread to the country after being a major part of music in neighboring regions like Senegal.


Yo-pop and Afro-jùjú (1980s)

Yo-pop and Afro-juju


Two of the biggest stars of the ’80s were Segun Adewale and Shina Peters, who started their careers performing in the mid-’70s with Prince Adekunle. They eventually left Adekunle and formed a brief partnership as Shina Adewale & the International Superstars before beginning solo careers. Adewale was the first of the two to gain success, when he became the most famous performer of Yo-pop.


The Yo-pop craze did not last for long, replaced by Shina Peters’ Afro-juju style, which broke into the mainstream after the release of Afro-Juju Series 1 (1989). Afro-juju was a combination of Afrobeat and fuji, and it ignited such fervor among Shina’s fans that the phenomenon was dubbed “Shinamania”. Though he was awarded Juju Musician of the Year in 1990, Shina’s follow-up, Shinamania sold respectively but was panned by critics. His success opened up the field to newcomers, however, leading to the success of Fabulous Olu Fajemirokun and Adewale Ayuba. The same period saw the rise of new styles like the funky juju pioneered by Dele Taiwo.





Afrobeat is a style most closely associated with Nigeria, though practitioners and fans are found throughout West Africa, and Afrobeat recordings are a prominent part of the world music category found throughout the developed world. It is a fusion of American funk music with elements of highlife, jazz and other styles of West African music. The most popular and well-known performer, indeed the most famous Nigerian musician in history, is undoubtedly Fela Kuti.


Fela Kuti began performing in 1961, but did not start playing in his distinctive Afrobeat style until his exposure to Sierra Leonean Afro-soul singer Geraldo Pino in 1963. Although Kuti is often credited as the only pioneer of Afrobeat, other musicians such as Orlando Julius Ekemode were also prominent in the early Afrobeat scene, where they combined highlife, jazz and funk. A brief period in the United States saw him exposed to the Black Power movement and the Black Panthers, an influence that he would come to express in his lyrics. After living in London briefly, he moved back to Lagos and opened a club, The Shrine, which was one of the most popular music spots in the city. He started recording with Africa ’70, a huge band featuring drummer Tony Allen, who has since gone on to become a well-known musician in his own right. With Africa 70, Kuti recorded a series of hits, earning the ire of the government as he tackled such diverse issues as poverty, traffic and skin-bleaching. In 1985, Kuti was jailed for five years, but was released after only two years after international outcry and massive domestic protests. Upon release, Kuti continued to criticise the government in his songs, and became known for eccentric behavior, such as suddenly divorcing all twenty-eight wives because “no man has the right to own a woman’s vagina”. His death from AIDS in 1997 sparked a period of national mourning that was unprecedented in documented Nigerian history.


In the 1980s, Afrobeat became affiliated with the burgeoning genre of world music. In Europe and North America, so-called “world music” acts came from all over the world and played in a multitude of styles. Fela Kuti and his Afrobeat followers were among the most famous of the musicians considered world music.


By the end of the ’80s and early ’90s, Afrobeat had diversified by taking in new influences from jazz and rock and roll. The ever-masked and enigmatic Lágbájá became one of the standard-bearers of the new wave of Afrobeat, especially after his 1996 LP C’est Une African Thing. Following a surprise appearance in place of his father, Fela, Femi Kuti garnered a large fan base that enabled him to tour across Europe.

Femi Kuti

Waka music


The popular songstress Salawa Abeni had become nationally renowned after the release of Late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed in 1976, which was the first Nigerian recording by a woman to sell more than a million copies. In the 1980s, she remained one of the nation’s best-selling artists, creating her own unique variety of music called waka; she was so closely associated with the genre that a royal figure, the Alaafin of Oyo, Obalamidi Adeyemi, crowned her the “Queen of Waka Music” in 1992. Waka was a fusion of jùjú, fuji and traditional Yoruba music. Waka music is coming back into the new age with fresh artist like Tila man Timi Korus and Dollar billz bringing back the old school into new school. In an interview granted by Timi Korus he acknowledge that Waka Music was made popular to younger generations during the time of salawa abeni but waka music has been in the industry in a long time.


Reggae and hip hop

Nigerian reggae, Nigerian gospel, and Nigerian hip hop


When talking about reggae music in Nigerian, this brand of music was started by a musician simply called “Terakota”. By the 80s, Nigerian reggae stars included The Mandators, Ras Kimono, Majek Fashek, whose 1988 cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, became an unprecedented success for reggae in Nigeria. Like many later Nigerian reggae stars, Fashek was a part of the long-running band The Mandators, who toured and recorded incessantly during the mid to late 1980s and early ’90s. Later prominent reggae musicians included Jerri Jheto and Daddy Showkey.


Hip hop music was brought to Nigeria in the late 1980s, and grew steadily popular throughout the first part of the 1990s. The first acts included Sound on Sound, Emphasis, Ruff Rugged & Raw, SWAT ROOT, De Weez and Black Masquradaz. Moreover, mainstream success grew later in the decade, with attention brought by early hits like The Trybesmen’s “Trybal Marks” (1999) and the trio The Remedies’ “Judile” and “Sakoma”. One of The Remedies, Tony Tetuila, went on to work with the Plantashun Boiz to great commercial acclaim. The 1999 founding of Paybacktyme Records by Solomon Dare, popularly known as Solodee, Kennis Music by Kenny Ogungbe, Dove Records by Nelson Brown, and Trybe Records by eLDee helped redefined and establish a Nigerian hip hop scene. Also, the general rapid growth of the entertainment scene with support from the media helped popularized Hip hop music in Nigeria. Television Programs like Video wheels, HipTV, Music Africa, the MTN Y’ello show, Music Africa, Nigezie, and Sound city played a major role. Other prominent Nigerian hip-hop musicians include Ruggedman, former member of The Remedies Eedris Abdulkareem (who had a well-publicized spat with the American star 50 Cent), Weird MC, Naeto C, Twin-X, Young Paperboyz, Jay ‘Ikwan a.k.a The MegaJay and P-Square.


Music at festivals and holidays


Durbar festivals are held in many parts of North-west Nigeria; durbar is meant to honour the Emir during the culmination of the Islamic festivals Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, and Sallah for the well-known Katsina durbar, and is sometimes also used to honour visiting dignitaries IslamOnline. Although the principal attraction of the durbar festivals is displays of traditional horsemanship, performances by drummers, trumpeters and praise-singers are an important part of the celebration Africa Travel. Other holidays in which music plays an important role include drumming and dances performed at Christmas, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. 9ice is also one of the upcoming artiste (he sings both Yoruba and English pop) gongoaso is one of his top single.


Classical music


In the 20th century, Nigeria produced a number of classical composers; these include Fela Sowande, Joshua Uzoigwe, Akin Euba, and Godwin Sadoh. Sowande was one of the first and most famous African composers in the Western classical tradition, and founder of the Nigerian art music tradition. Sowande was also an organist and jazz musician, incorporating these and elements of Nigerian folk music into his work.







The music of Rwanda encompasses Rwandan traditions of folk music as well as contemporary East African Afrobeat and Congolese ndombolo, and performers of a wide variety of Western genres including hip-hop, R&B, gospel music and pop ballads.


Traditional music


Traditional music and dance are taught in “amatorero” dance groups, which are found across the country. The most famous of these is the Ballet National Urukerereza, which was created in the early 1970s to represent Rwanda in international events. Also famous were the Amasimbi n’amakombe and Irindiro dance troupes.


The ikinimba is perhaps the most revered musical tradition in Rwanda. It is a dance that tells the stories of Rwandan heroes and kings, accompanied by instruments like ingoma, ikembe, iningiri, umuduri and inanga. The inanga, a lyre-like string instrument, has been played many of Rwanda’s best-known performers, including Rujindiri, Sebatunzi, Rwishyura, Simparingoma, Sentoré, Kirusu, Sophie and Viateur Kabarira, and Simon Bikindi.


Jean-Paul Samputu, along with his group Ingeli, won two Kora awards (African Grammy awards) for “Most Inspiring Artist” and “Best Traditional Artist” in 2003 for their performance of neo-traditional Rwandan music. The group tours the world spreading the Christian message of peace and reconciliation, and helps raise money for the many orphans of Rwanda. In 2007 Samputu brought twelve of these orphans, known as Mizero Children of Rwanda, to tour the U.S. and Canada. Cyprien Kagorora was nominated for a 2005 Kora Award in the category of “Best Traditional Artist”. He is among the most recognizable male vocalists in Rwanda.

Contemporary artists


In the post-colonial period, Rwanda produced popular local bands like Imena, Nyampinga, Les 8 Anges, Les Fellows, Impala, Abamarungu, Los Compagnons de la Chanson, Bisa, Ingenzi, and Isibo y’Ishakwe. They took influences from across Africa, especially the Congo, as well as Caribbean zouk and reggae.


Socio-military unrest and violence led many Rwandans to move overseas in the late 20th century, bringing their country’s music to cities like Brussels and Paris. For many years, Rwandan-Belgian Cécile Kayirebwa was arguably the most internationally famous Rwandan musician, until the late 1990s arrival of Rwandan-Canadian Corneille and Jean-Paul Samputu.


The Rwandan genocide temporarily disrupted music production within Rwanda. In recent years music has gradually returned to the country, led by Rwandan youth. A crop of new stars has emerged, including such names as Kamichi, Aimé Murefu, Mani Martin, Tom Close, Urban Boyz, Miss Jojo, King James, Knowles, Dream Boys, Kitoko, Riderman, and Miss Shanel.

Local music industry


The music industry in Rwanda is gradually growing and becoming more professionalized. An increasing number of companies are investing in the development of new talent, including the production of major music festivals like Kigali Up! and Primus Guma Guma Super Star, and the music competition television show, Ishusho K’umuziki Nyarwanda.




Soa Tome and Principe


São Tomé and Príncipe is an island country off the coast of Africa. Culturally, the people are African but have been highly influenced by the Portuguese rulers of the islands.


São Toméans are known for ússua and socopé rhythms, while Principe is home to the dêxa beat. Portuguese ballroom dancing may have played an integral part in the development of these rhythms and their associated dances.


Tchiloli is a musical dance performance that tells a dramatic story. The danço-congo is similarly a combination of music, dance and theatre.

Popular music


The godfathers of São Toméan popular music was the band Leoninos, which was founded in 1959 by Quintero Aguiar. The group were well known as spokesmen for the people of São Tomé and Príncipe, and were champions of their culture. Leoninos was banned by the Portuguese radio station after he released “Ngandu”, which criticized the Portuguese colonialists.


Leoninos broke up in 1965, but were followed by Os Úntués, led by Leonel Aguiar, who added American, Argentinian, Congolese and Cuban musical influences, and introduced the electric guitar and other innovations. Popular music from the islands began to diversify, as bands like Quibanzas and Africa Negra. Among these groups was Mindelo, who fused São Toméan rhythms with rebita, an Angolan style, to form puxa.


In the latter part of the 20th century, songwriters like Zarco and Manjelegua found a domestic audience, and São Toméan-Portuguese musicians like Camilo Domingos, Juka, Filipe Santo, Açoreano, Gapa established a Lisbon-based scene.




Angolan pop music is called Kizomba and was born out of Zouk music. Kizomba supports a fairly large number of artistes singing in both English and Portuguese.





Ethnic Groups of Senegal


                 The Wolof of Senegal are mainly located in the Central part of Senegal.     They are the largest ethnic group of Senegal and they are also located in Gambia.   This group descended from the cayor, waalo, and jolof tribes.    

The Wolof have a distinctive musical tradition.     Their music has been influenced greatly by a number of other tribes that a nearby. The Fulani, Tukulor, Serer, Jola, and Mandinka cultures, have all greatly contributed to their style of music. Wolof music takes its roots from the Serer musical tradition, particularly from the Serer pre-colonial Kingdom of Saloum. Virtually all Wolof musical terminology including musical instruments come from the Serer language.

                Wolof musicians were traditionally drawn from the griots (géwél), or of the blacksmith caste (tëgg), who were masters of drumming. Griots taught history, ethics and religion using their songs and recitations, and were employed by powerful members of the community as praise-singers and historians.

After the 19th century conversion of major Wolof kingdoms to Islam, the tagg, or ode song in Wolof, was reused in an Islamic Nasheed tradition an important integration of pre-Islamic style into the new Muslim paradigm.

Wolof musicians were traditionally drawn from the griots (géwél), or of the blacksmith caste (tëgg), who were masters of drumming. Griots taught history, ethics and religion using their songs and recitations, and were employed by powerful members of the community as praise-singers and historians.

Wolof music has unique dance rhythms. Farwoudiar (in Serer) is a women’s dance with a distinct tama accompaniment in which women celebrate their prospective husbands (based on Serer marital tradition).

Wolof folk instruments include the xalam or halam, which is a five-stringed lute.     These are very important in Wolof folk music, the sabar drums, an ensemble of seven different drums, each differently tuned, and the hourglass talking drum called a tama. The Qadiriyyah Sufi which are order use tabla drums.


Modern Wolof musicians have incorporated instruments usually associated with the neighboring Serer, Fula and Mandinka, including the Fula flute, the Mandinka balafon, the Maures tabla drums, the Mandinka kora (a West African harp), the riiti (a Fula single-stringed bowed instrument), the Serer instruments i.e. tama, the sabar, the junjung, and the Serer motifs and genres i.e. mbalax (from Serer-njuup), mbeng mbeng, baka, tassou, etc.


The Serer people are known especially for their rich knowledge of vocal and rhythmic practices that infuse their everyday language with complex overlapping cadences and their ritual with intense collaborative layerings of voice and rhythm… Many Serer communities are known for their longstanding preservation of traditional healing practices, nature-based sorcery and soothsaying, love of inter-community traditional wrestling (Senegalese wrestling) matches, and intense familiarity with the complex rhythms of the African talking drum called Tama and the dance and song that accompany it.




           Located: Near the Senegal River Valley

           Fact: traditionally nomadic


           Located: Southwestern region

           Fact: Originated with the Kingdom of Sine


           Located: southwestern region

          Fact: rice farmers and fisherman


           Located: western region near Gambia

           Fact: Descendants of Mali Empire


           Located: eastern region

           Fact: Islam is their primary religion


Genres of Senegal



           Ndut initiation rite



           National popular dance music

           Traditional Senegal drumming with jazz, soul, Latin, rock, and sabar


           Serer women’s dance


Instruments of Senegal



           Known as: Cylinder with drum heads on both sides

           Fact: used for Serer Kings and warriors went to war


           Known as: Lead drum

           Fact: normally played with sabar and tama


           Known as: rhythm drum

           Fact: normally played with sabar and tama


           Known as: talking drum

           Fact: normally played with sabar and tama

      Xalam or halam

           Known as: five stringed lute

           Fact: used by Wolof ethnic group


Traditional music


Ethnically the population of Senegal is 43.3% Wolof, 23.8% Fula, 14.7% Serer, 14.7% Jola, 3% Mandinka and 1.1% Soninka, with 1% European and Lebanese and 9.4% classed as “other” Senegalese music has been influenced by that of the Malian Empire though it tends to be fast and lively whereas the sounds of Malian griots are sedate, classical.


Mbalax (meaning “rhythm” in Wolof),derives its from accompanying rhythms used in sabar music of the Serer people of the Kingdom of Sine and spread to the Kingdom of Saloum whence Wolof migrants brought it to the Wolof kingdoms. The Nder (lead drum), Sabar (rhythm drum), and Tama (talking drum) percussion section traces some of its technique to the ritual music of Njuup. The Serer people infuse their everyday language with complex overlapping cadences and their ritual with intense collaborative layerings of voice and rhythm.” The Njuup was also progenitor of Tassu, used when chanting ancient religious verses. The griots of Senegambia still use it at marriages, naming ceremonies or when singing the praises of patrons. Most Senegalese and Gambian artists use it in their songs. Each motif has a purpose and is used for different occasions. Individual motifs may represent the history and genealogy of a particular family and are used during weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals etc.





The Seychelles, which is an independent island chain in the Indian Ocean, formerly a colony of both Britain and France has a distinct kind of music. Folk music incorporates multiple influences in a syncretic fashion, including English contredanse, polka and mazurka, French folk and pop, sega from Mauritius and Réunion, taarab, zouk, soukous moutya and other pan-African genres of and Polynesian, Indian and Arcadian music. A complex form of percussion music called Kanmtole is popular, along with combinations of Sega and Reggae called Seggae and combinations of Moutya and Reggae called Mouggae, as is Montea, a fusion of native folk rhythms with Kenyan benga developed by Patrick Victor. Jean Marc Volcy is another famous Seychellois musician who has brought a modern touch to traditional music. He has several albums including Sove Lavi.


The growth of Seychelles music has since seen the adoption of a blend of contemporary reggae and mainstream, international popular music. Such acts as “Mercenary” or Mersener.




Sierra Leone

Ethnic Groups of Sierra Leone



           Located: North and Western Province

           Fact: Rice farmers, fisherman, traders

           Mostly Muslim


           Located: South and Eastern Provinces except in the Kono district

           Fact: Mandé- Mende-Halemo, Kpowa


           Located: Northern Province

           Fact: Rice farmers, traders, and hunters


           Located: southeastern region

           Fact: Diamond rich district


           Located: Freetown

           Fact: also known as Krio

               Descendants of slaves resettled from Nova Scotia, West Indies, United States, Jamaica (maroons) and England


Genres of Sierra Leone



           Krio (Creole) people

           Primarily vocal and percussive

      Milo-jazz (Gumbe)

           named for a brand of chocolate powder, empty cans of which were filled with stones to form a core percussion instrument for this style

           Dr. Olo is a widely acknowledged innovator of Milo-jazz

      Palm- Wine or Maringa

           Caribbean/Trinidadian calypso

           Guitar, trumpet, mandolin, and cornet

           1950s and 60s



           Congolese music, funk, soul


Instruments of Sierra Leone



           Known as: plucked skin-covered lute (banjo)

           Fact: Fula instrument

      Riti or Riiti

           Known as: one string bowed instrument

           Fact: Fula instrument


           Known as: twenty-one-stringed guitar-like instrument

           Fact: Mandingo instrument


           Known as: wooden and gourd xylophone instrument

           Fact: Mandingo and Susu instrument


Sierra Leone’s music is a mixture of native, French, British and Creole influences.


Palm wine music is representative, played by an acoustic guitar with percussion in countries throughout coastal West Africa. Gumbe (goombay), a genre more closely associated with the music of West Africa, has also had a long presence in the form of milo-jazz


Sierra Leone, like much of West Africa is open to Rap, Reggae, Dancehall, R&B, and Grime (music).


National music


The national anthem of Sierra Leone, “High We Exalt Thee, Realm of the Free”, was composed by John Akar with lyrics by Clifford Nelson Fyle and arrangement by Logie E. K. Wright. It was adopted upon independence in 1961.

Traditional music


The largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone (2008) is that of the Mel-speaking Temne people, 35% of the population. Next, at 31%, the Mandé, along with 2% Mandingo, have music traditions related to Mandé populations in neighboring countries. Other recorded populations were the Limba (8%), the Kono (5%), the Loko (2%) and the Sierra Leone Creole people (2%), while 15% were recorded as “others”.


The wars and civil conflict throughout West Africa, have resulted in a decrease in the presence of the traditional music artists.


Popular music


Palm-wine music


Sierra Leonean palm wine music is known as maringa, and it was first popularized by Ebenezer Calendar & His Maringar Band, who used styles Caribbean styles, especially Trinidadian calypso. Calendar played the guitar, trumpet, mandolin and the cornet, while also penning some of the most oft-played songs in Sierra Leonean music in the 1950s and 60s. His most popular song was “Double-Decker Bus”, commissioned by Decca to promote the launching of a double-decker bus line. He eventually moved towards socially and spiritually aware lyrics.




Gumbe (goombay), a genre more closely associated with the music of West Africa, has also had a long presence in the form of milo-jazz, a distinctly Sierra Leonean style named after a brand of chocolate powder, the empty cans of which, filled with stones, form a core percussion instrument. Dr. Oloh is the most widely-acknowledged innovator of milo-jazz.




Beginning in the 1970s, rumba, Congolese music, funk and soul combined to form a popular kind of Afropop. Major bands of this era included Sabannoh 75, Orchestra Muyei, Super Combo and the Afro-National. Sierra Leoneans abroad have created their own styles, such as Seydu, Ansoumana Bangura, Abdul Tee-Jay, Bosca Banks, Daddy Rahmanu, Patricia Bakarr and Sidike Diabate and Mwana Musa’s African Connexion.




The internet has encouraged the youth to new styles of music. Many songs have political and social themes, informing the populace and checking politicians. The independent film, Sweet Salone, displays many of these artists, fans, and their music.


Mwana Musa (Musa Kalamulah) and the band African Connexion married Sierra Leone, Congolese and jazz rhythms. Mwana Musa was an able composer who worked with musicians such as David Toop, Steve Beresford, Ray Carless, Ugo Delmirani, Robin Jones, Mongoley (Lipua Lipua) Safroman (GO Malebo)Len Jones one of Sierra Leones finest guitarists, Lindel Lewis, Ayo-Roy MAcauley leading guitarist from Sierra Leone, Kevin Robinson, Paapa Jay-Mensah etc. African Connexion was signed to Charlie Gillet’s Oval Records and produced “C’est La Danse”, “Moziki”, “City Limits”, “Midnight Pressure”, “Dancing On The Sidewalk”, a soca-tinged soukous, and “E Sidom Panam” – typical Sierra Leone dance music. One of the newest celebrities to emerge from Sierra Leone is new urban artist iGniTer or “Lj”.





The music of Somalia refers to the musical styles, techniques and sounds of Somalia.



Somali oud player Nuruddin Ali Amaan.


Somalia has a rich musical heritage centered on traditional Somali folklore. Most Somali songs are pentatonic. That is, they only use five pitches per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale. At first listen, Somali music might be mistaken for the sounds of nearby regions such as Ethiopia, Sudan or Arabia, but it is ultimately recognizable by its own unique tunes and styles. Somali songs are usually the product of collaboration between lyricists (midho), songwriters (lahan), and singers (‘odka or “voice”).


Instruments prominently featured in Somali music include the kaban (oud), often with accompaniment by small drums in the background. Bands such as Waaberi and Horseed have gained a small following outside of the country. Others, like Ahmed Ali Egal and Maryam Mursal, have fused traditional Somali music with rock and roll, bossa nova, jazz, and other modern influences.



Somali singer Sado Ali Warsame receiving a Gold Record, Lifetime Achievement Award.


The first major form of modern Somali music began in the mid-1930s, when northern Somalia was a part of the British Somaliland Protectorate. This style of music was known as dhaanto, an innovative, urban form of Somali folk dance and song. This period also saw the rise of the Haji Bal Bal Dance Troupe, which became very influential over the course of its long career.

Somali women performing the traditional dhaanto dance-song.


Somali popular music began with the balwo style, which was created by Abdi Sinimo. This style began in Dilla, and then spread throughout the area. It was a mixture of modern poetry and Somali dance music.


Abdullahi Qarshe rose to fame in the early 1940s as part of the qaraami style. Many qaraami songs from this era are still extremely popular today. This musical style is mostly played on the kaban (oud). The first Somali kaban players were: Ali Feiruz, Mohamed Nahari, and others in 1950s.


During the Siad Barre regime, music was suppressed except for a small amount of officially-sanctioned music. There were many protest songs produced during this period.

Music institutions


The first radio station in Somalia to air popular Somali music was Radio Somali, based in Hargeisa. Nowadays, Somali music is also available for download on popular online Somali music portals.


List of Somali musicians


      Aar Maanta

      Abdi Sinimo

      Abdullahi Qarshe

      Ali Feiruz

      Hasan Adan Samatar

      Hassan Sheikh Mumin

      Jiim Sheikh Muumin

      Khadija Qalanjo



      Maryam Mursal

      Mohamed Mooge Liban

      Mohamed Nuur Giriig


      Sulekha Ali

      Waayaha Cusub



South Africa


The South African music scene includes both popular (jive) and folk forms. Pop styles are based on four major sources, Zulu isicathamiya singing and harmonic mbaqanga.


Christian missions provided the first organized musical training in the country, bringing to light many of the modern country’s earliest musicians, including Enoch Sontonga, who wrote the national anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. By the end of the nineteenth century, South African cities like Cape Town were large enough to attract foreign musicians, especially American ragtime players. African American spirituals were popularised in the 1890s by Orpheus McAdoo’s Jubilee Singers.


The 1920s



In the early twentieth century, governmental restrictions on blacks increased, including a nightly curfew which kept the night life in Johannesburg relatively small for a city of its size (then the largest city south of the Sahara). Marabi, a style from the slums of Johannesburg, was the early ‘popular music’ of the townships and urban centers of South Africa.


Marabi was played on pianos with accompaniment from pebble-filled cans, often in shebeens, establishments that illegally served alcohol to blacks. By the 1930s, however, marabi had incorporated new instruments, guitars, concertinas and banjos, and new styles of marabi had sprung up. Among these were a marabi/swing fusion called African jazz and jive, a generic term for any popular marabi style of music.


South African popular music began in 1912 with the first commercial recordings, but only began booming after 1930 when Eric Gallo’s Brunswick Gramophone House sent several South African musicians to London to record for Singer Records. Gallo went on to begin producing music in South Africa, beginning in 1933. His company, Gallo Record Company, remains the largest and most successful label in South Africa, having had acclaimed artists such as Solomon Linda, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba, Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens and many more pass through the recording studios.



In the early twentieth century, Zionist Christian churches spread across South Africa. They incorporated African musical elements into their worship, thus inventing South African gospel music which remains one of the most popular forms of music in the country today.

The 1930s

A cappella


The 1930s also saw the spread of Zulu a cappella singing from the Natal area to much of South Africa. The style’s popularity, finally producing a major star in 1939 with Solomon Linda’s Original Evening Birds, who’s “Mbube” (“The Lion”) was probably the first African recording to sell more than 100,000 copies. It also provided the basis for two further American pop hits, The Weavers’ “Wimoweh” (1951) and The Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (1961). Linda’s music was in a style that came to be known as mbube. From the late 1940s to the 1960s, a harsh, strident form called isikhwela jo was popular, though national interest waned in the 50s until Radio Zulu began broadcasting to Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State in 1962.


Also formed in this era, the Stellenbosch University Choir, part of the University of Stellenbosch, is the oldest running choir in the country and was formed in 1936 by William Morris, also the first conductor of the Choir. The current conductor is Andre van der Merwe. They specialize in a cappella music and consist of students from the University.

Afrikaans music


Afrikaans music was primarily influenced by Dutch folk styles, along with French and German influences, in the early twentieth century. Zydeco-type string bands led by a concertina were popular, as were elements of American country music, especially Jim Reeves. Bushveld music based on the Zulu were reinterpreted by such singers as Marais and Miranda. Melodramatic and sentimental songs called trane trekkers (tear jerkers) were especially common. In 1973, a country music song won the coveted SARI Award (South African Music Industry) for the Song of the Year – “My Children, My Wife” was written by renowned South African composer Charles Segal and lyricist Arthur Roos. In 1979 the South African Music scene changed from the Tranetrekkers to more lively sounds and the introduction of new names in the market with the likes of Anton Goosen, David Kramer, Koos du Plessis, Fanie de Jager, Flaming Victory and Laurika Rauch. Afrikaans music is currently one of the most popular and best-selling industries on the South African music scene.


After World War I, Afrikaner nationalism spread and musicians like Jewish pianist and composer Charles Segal and accordionist Nico Carstens were popular.


The 1950s

Bantu Radio and the Music Industry


By the 1950s, the music industry had diversified greatly, and included several major labels. Innovative musician and composer, Charles Segal was the first white musician to work with the indigenous African people, recording tribal performers and promoting African music overseas starting in the 1950s. Charles Segal was also the first white musician to write in the indigenous African style and to bring the African music genre into the commercial market. His single “Africa” was a hit amongst the diverse South African population in the 1960s and he continued to produce, record and teach his own unique style of African music, which was a mix of African and Jazz influences. These compositions include “Opus Africa”, “African Fantasy”, “Kootanda” and many more. In 1962, the South African government launched a development program for Bantu Radio in order to foster separate development and encourage independence for the Bantustans. Though the government had expected Bantu Radio to play folk music, African music had developed into numerous pop genres, and the nascent recording studios used radio to push their pop stars. The new focus on radio led to a government crackdown on lyrics, censoring songs which were considered a “public hazard”.

Pennywhistle jive


The first major style of South African popular music to emerge was pennywhistle jive (later known as kwela). Black cattle-herders had long played a three-holed reed flute, adopting a six-holed flute when they moved to the cities. Willard Cele is usually credited with creating pennywhistle by placing the six-holed flute between his teeth at an angle. Cele spawned a legion of imitators and fans, especially after appearing in the 1951 film The Magic Garden.


Groups of flautists played on the streets of South African cities in the 1950s, many of them in white areas, where police would arrest them for creating a public disturbance. Some young whites were attracted to the music, and came to be known as ducktails,

The 1960s


In the 60s, a smooth form of mbube called cothoza mfana developed, led by the King Star Brothers, who invented isicathamiya style by the end of the decade.


By the 1960s, the saxophone was commonplace in jive music, the performance of which continued to be restricted to townships. The genre was called sax jive and later mbaqanga. Mbaqanga literally means dumpling but implies home-made and was coined by Michael Xaba, a jazz saxophonist who did not like the new style.


The early 1960s also saw performers like bassist Joseph Makwela and guitarist Marks Mankwane add electric instruments and marabi and kwela influences to the mbaqanga style, leading to a funkier and more African sound.


Mbaqanga developed vocal harmonies during the very early 1960s when groups like The Skylarks and the Manhattan Brothers began copying American vocal bands, mostly doo wop. Rather than African American four part harmonies, however, South African bands used five parts. The Dark City Sisters were the most popular vocal group in the early 1960s, known for their sweet style. Aaron Jack Lerole of Black Mambazo added groaning male vocals to the female harmonies, later being replaced by Simon ‘Mahlathini’ Nkabinde, who has become perhaps the most influential and well-known South African “groaner” of the twentieth century. Marks Mankwane and Joseph Makwela’s mbaqanga innovations evolved into the more danceable mgqashiyo sound when the two joined forces with Mahlathini and the new female group Mahotella Queens, in Mankwane’s backing group Makhona Tsohle Band (also featuring Makwela along with saxophonist-turned-producer West Nkosi, rhythm guitarist Vivian Ngubane, and drummer Lucky Monama). The Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens/Makhona Tsohle outfit recorded as a studio unit for Gallo Record Company, to great national success, pioneering mgqashiyo music all over the country to equal success.


1967 saw the arrival of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, an mgqashiyo female group that provided intense competition for Mahotella Queens. Both groups were massive competitors in the jive field, though the Queens usually came out on top.

Soul and jazz


The late 1960s saw the rise of soul music from the United States. Singers like Wilson Pickett and Percy Sledge were especially popular, and inspired South African performers to enter the field with an organ, a bass-and-drum rhythm section and an electric guitar.


In the 1960s jazz split into two fields. Dance bands like the Elite Swingsters were popular, while avant-garde jazz inspired by the work of John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins was also common. The latter field of musicians included prominent activists and thinkers, including Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim (formerly known as ‘Dollar Brand’), Kippie Moeketsi, Sathima Bea Benjamin, Chris McGregor, Johnny Dyani and Jonas Gwangwa. In 1959, American pianist John Mehegan organized a recording session using many of the most prominent South African jazz musicians, resulting in the first two African jazz LPs. The following year saw the Cold Castle National Jazz Festival, which brought additional attention to South African jazz. Cold Castle became an annual event for a few years, and brought out more musicians, especially Dudu Pukwana, Gideon Nxumalo and Chris McGregor. The 1963 festival produced a LP called Jazz The African Sound, but government oppression soon ended the jazz scene. Again, many musicians emigrated or went into exile in the UK or other countries.


While the African Jazz of the north of South Africa was being promoted in Johannesburg, musicians in Cape Town were awakening to their jazz heritage. Pianist Charles Segal, who had moved from Pretoria to Cape Town, brought an enthusiasm for Jazz after several trips to the USA, where he met and was influenced by the Jazz great Oscar Peterson. The port city had a long history of musical interaction with seafaring players. The rise of the Coon Carnival and the visionary talent of Abdullah Ibrahim (‘Dollar Brand’) and his sax players, Basil Coetzee and Robbie Jansen led to Cape Jazz. It was an improvised version of their folk songs with musical reference to European and American jazz which would go on some 20 years later to be South Africa’s most important Jazz export.

The 1970s

Mgqashiyo and Isicathamiya


By the 1970s, only a few long-standing mgqashiyo groups were well-known, with the only new groups finding success with an all-male line-up. Abafana Baseqhudeni and Boyoyo Boys were perhaps the biggest new stars of this period. The Mahotella Queens’ members began leaving the line-up around 1971 for rival groups. Gallo, by far the biggest record company in South Africa, began to create a new Mahotella Queens line-up, recording them with Abafana Baseqhudeni. Lead groaner Mahlathini had already moved to rival label EMI (in early 1972), where he had successful records with backing team Ndlondlo Bashise and new female group the Mahlathini Girls. The new Mahotella Queens line-up over at Gallo found just as much success as the original Queens, recording on-and-off with new male groaners such as Robert Mbazo Mkhize of Abafana Baseqhudeni.


Ladysmith Black Mambazo, headed by the sweet soprano of Joseph Shabalala, arose in the 1960s, and became perhaps the biggest isicathamiya stars in South Africa’s history. Their first album was 1973’s Amabutho, which was also the first gold record by black musicians; it sold over 25,000 copies. Ladysmith Black Mambazo remained popular throughout the next few decades, especially after 1986, when Paul Simon, an American musician, included Ladysmith Black Mambazo on his extremely popular Graceland album and its subsequent tour of 1987.


With progressive jazz hindered by governmental suppression, marabi-styled dance bands rose to more critical prominence in the jazz world. The music became more complex and retained popularity, while progressive jazz produced only occasional hits, like Winston Ngozi’s “Yakal Nkomo” and Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Mannenburg”.


Punk Rock


During the Punk Rock boom of the late 1970s, UK and American Punk influenced South African bands like Wild Youth and Powerage gained a cult following, focused in Durban whilst in and around Johannesburg bands such as Dog Detachment and The Radio Rats and Young Dumb & Violent had a similar following on the fringes of the music scene. Cape Town Punk had a big following with Safari Suits, Housewife’s Choice, The Lancaster Band, The News and Permanent Force (aka Private File after BOSS intervention) taking the lead, soon followed by The Rude Dementals, The Zero’s, Fred Smith Band, Red Army, Riot Squad, Injury Time and The Vipers. In Cape Town many gigs took place at ‘Scratch’ Club (run by Gerry Dixon and Henry Coombes), 1886, UCT, Off The Road, numerous town halls and other local venues. Some of the aforementioned bands passed through on tours. The ‘RIOT ROCK’ tour of December ’79 being a culmination of the period.



In the middle of the 70s, American disco was imported to South Africa, and disco beats were added to soul music, which helped bring a halt to popular mbaqanga bands such as the Mahotella Queens. In 1976, South African children rebelled en masse against apartheid and governmental authority, and a vibrant, youthful counterculture was created, with music as an integral part of its focus. Styles from before the 1970s fusion of disco and soul were not widely regarded, and were perceived as being sanctioned by the white oppressors. Few South African bands gained a lasting success during this period, however, with the exception of the Movers, who used marabi elements in their soul. The Movers were followed by the Soul Brothers, and the instrumental band The Cannibals, who soon began working with singer Jacob “Mpharanyana” Radebe. The colored (not black) band Flames also gained a following, and soon contributed two members (Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar) to American band The Beach Boys. Harari arose in their place, eventually moving to an almost entirely rock and roll sound. One of Harari’s members, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse became a superstar in the 1980s.



There was a thriving, mostly white, rock music scene in Cape Town in the 70’s. The album McCully Workshop Inc. from the psychedelic rock band McCully Workshop is a good example the genre on Trutone Records. The Trutone label was owned by South African company Gallo (Africa) Limited an internationally recognized music producer.


The 1980s

Alternative rock and Afrikaans


The early 1980s brought popular attention on alternative rock bands like The Usual and Scooter’s Union. In and around Johannesburg the growth of the independent music scene led to not just a surge of bands ranging from big names (relatively speaking) Tribe after Tribe, The Dynamics, The Softies and the Spectres through to smaller hopefuls What Colors, Days Before and No Exit, but also to the growth of a vibrant DIY fanzine scene with “Palladium” and “One Page to Many” two titles of note.


South African alternative rock grew more mainstream with two leading bands, Asylum Kids from Johannesburg and Peach from Durban having chart success and releasing critically acclaimed albums. The burgeoning music scene around Johannesburg saw a surge of small bands, inspired and informed by the UK DIY punk ethic, form and start performing at a growing number of venues from clubs the likes of Metalbeat, Bluebeat, King of Clubs, DV8 and Dirtbox to student run venues such as GR Bozzoli Hall and later the Free People Concert on the University of the Witwatersrand campus.


One artist of specific note to come from this era was James Phillips who was involved with several influential and important bands including Corporal Punishment; Cherry Faced Lurchers; and his Afrikaans alter ego Bernoldus Niemand (roughly translates as Bernard Nobody). With his Bernoldus Niemand character, James managed to cross the language division and influence a whole range of Afrikaans speaking musicians to the same punk ethic that had inspired him, and an important Afrikaans alternative rock scene grew from this influence.


During this period, the only Afrikaners to achieve much mainstream fame were Anton Goosen, a rock singer-songwriter, and Bles Bridges, an imitator of American lounge singer Wayne Newton.


Gothic rock


In 1983, Dog Detachment was one of the earliest groups which combined Post-Punk music with elements of Gothic rock. South Africa’s first Gothic rock band was No Friends of Harry, formed in the mid-1980s. Other notable bands from the second half of the 1980s are The Gathering (not to be confused with the Dutch Metal band), The Death Flowers of No-cypher, Lidice, The Attic Muse, The Autumn Ritual, The Elephant Celebes and Penguins in Bondage.


In 1995, The Awakening was formed by vocalist, guitarist and producer Ashton Nyte. The band is credited in major national press as “South Africa’s most successful Gothic Rock act and one of the top bands in the far broader Alternative scene” and headlined major national festivals throughout South Africa, including the country’s largest music festival Woodstock, in addition to Oppikoppi and RAMFest. With more than a dozen top ten national singles between 1998 and 2007, The Awakening were the first goth-styled act to have major success in South Africa.


Another notable goth artist was The Eternal Chapter, which had a hit with the cover “Here comes the man” originally by Boom Boom Room.

International attention


The original Mahotella Queens line-up reunited with Mahlathini and the Makgona Tsohle Band in 1983, due to unexpected demand from mgqashiyo and mbaqanga fans. Ladysmith Black Mambazo took their first step into the international arena via Paul Simon on his Graceland album in 1986, where a series of reissue albums by US label Shanachie sold very well. Mambazo became world travelers, touring the world and collaborating with various Western musicians to massive success. “Graceland” won many awards including the Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year. A year later, Simon produced Black Mambazo’s first U.S. release, Shaka Zulu, which won the Grammy Award, in 1988, for Best Traditional Folk Album. Since then, and in total, the group has received fifteen Grammy Award Nominations and three Grammy Award wins, including one in 2009. The Graceland album not only propelled Mambazo into the spotlight, but paved the way for other South African acts (including Mahlathini and the Queens, Amaswazi Emvelo, Moses Mchunu, Ray Phiri and Stimela, and others) to become known worldwide as well.


Johnny Clegg got his start in the 1970s playing Zulu-traditional music with Sipho Mchunu, and became prominent as the only major white musician playing traditional black music, achieving success in France as “Le Zoulou Blanc” (The White Zulu). The 1980s also saw a resurgence in rock and roll bands like The Helicopters, Petit Cheval, Sterling and Tellinger.



The most lasting change, however, may have been the importation of reggae from Jamaica. Following international superstar Bob Marley’s concert celebrating Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, reggae took hold across Africa. Lucky Dube was the first major South African artists; his style was modelled most closely on that of Peter Tosh. Into the 1990s, Lucky Dube was one of the best-selling artists in South African history, especially his 1990 album Slave. The 90s also saw Jamaican music move towards ragga, an electronic style that was more influential on kwaito (South African hip hop music) than reggae. A group from the Free State called Oyaba also emerged during this period. Their best known hit songs are Tomorrow Nation, Paradise and Love Crazy. Reggae became quite popular and there was also a singer from KwaZulu-Natal, Sipho Johnson known as Jambo who gave the likes of Lucky Dube quite a scare.



Bubblegum was a form of pure South African pop music that arose in the middle of the 1980s, distinctively based on vocals with overlapping call-and-response vocals. Electronic keyboards and synthesizers were commonplace. Dan Tshanda of the band Splash was the first major bubblegum star, followed by Chicco Twala. Twala introduced some politically oriented lyrics, such as “We Miss You Manelo” (a coded tribute to Nelson Mandela) and “Papa Stop the War”, a collaboration with Mzwakhe Mbuli.


The late 1980s saw the rise of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, beginning with her 1984 hit “I’m In Love With a DJ”, which was the first major hit for bubblegum. Her popularity rose into the 1990s, especially across the rest of Africa and into Europe. Chaka Chaka’s first major rival was Brenda Fassie, whose popularity began with 1993’s Amagents; since becoming embroiled in numerous scandals as well as drug problems before her death in 2004. Jabu Khanyile’s Bayete and teen heart-throb Ringo have also become very popular.


The Voëlvry movement


Afrikaans-language music saw a resurgence in the 1980s as the Voëlvry (“free as a bird” or “outlawed”) movement reflected a new Afrikaans artistic counter-culture largely hostile to the values of the National Party and conservative Afrikanerdom. Spearheaded by the singer-songwriter Johannes Kerkorrel and his Gereformeerde Blues Band, the movement (which was named after Kerkorrel’s 1989 regional tour) also included musicians Bernoldus Niemand (aka James Phillips) and Koos Kombuis. Voëlvry tapped into a growing dissatisfaction with the Apartheid system amongst white Afrikaans speakers, and thus Voëlvry represents the musical branch of opposition that was paralleled by literature and the arts.


The 1990s

New rhythms


In 1994, South African media was liberalized and new musical styles arose. Prophets of Da City became known as a premier hip hop crew, though a South Africanized style of hip hop known as kwaito soon replaced actual hip hop groups. In kwaito, synthesizers and other electronic instruments are common, and slow jams adopted from Chicago house musicians like The Fingers, Tony Humphries and Robert Owen are also standard. Stars of kwaito include Trophies, Bongo Maffin and Boom Shaka. The band Tree63 also emerged, first known for their hit single, “A Million Lights” and then further popularised by their version of Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name”.




The biggest star of 1990s gospel was Rebecca Malope, whose 1995 album Shwele Baba was extremely popular. Malope continues to record, in addition to performers such as Lusanda Spiritual Group, Barorisi Ba Morena, Amadodana Ase Wesile, Vuyo Mokoena and International Pentacoastal Church Choir, Lundi, Joyous Celebration, and the upcoming Scent From Above who have performed in Botswana occasionally. In 2000’s Deborah Fraser has emerged as the best-selling Gospel artist. Her albums have been audited to be in Top 5 selling in the country. In her album Isililo, Deborah Fraser sang in all South African languages like Venda, Shangaan, Sotho, Zulu and Xhosa. The industry has also been joined by the likes of Hlengiwe Mhlaba (whose Aphendule is popular) and Solly Moholo.


Afrikaans music


The period after 1994 saw a dramatic growth in the popularity of Afrikaans music. Numerous new young Afrikaans singers (soloists and groups) released CDs and DVDs and attracted large audiences at “kunstefeeste” (art festivals) such as the “Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees – KKNK” in Oudtshoorn, “Aardklop” in Potchefstroom and “Innibos” in Nelspruit.


Apart from dozens of new songs being introduced into the Afrikaans music market, it became popular for modern young artists to sing old Afrikaans songs on a stage or in a pub, with crowds of young admirers singing along. The reason for the dramatic increase in the popularity of Afrikaans music can only be speculated about. One theory is that the end of Apartheid in 1994 also meant the end of the privileged position that the Afrikaans culture had in South Africa. After losing the privileged protection and promotion of the language and the culture by the State, the Afrikaans-speaking community seems to have spontaneously started embracing and developing their language and culture. This was due to pop artists like Steve Hofmeyr, Nádine, Kurt Darren, and Nicolis Louw bringing a new fresh sound in Afrikaans Music. Many of the songs sung and/or written by these artists are similar in sound to Euro dance music. Critics would claim that all an Afrikaans pop artist needs for a song to be popular is a catchy tune and an easy beat. This is due to the massive popularity of a form of couples dancing called “langarm” or “sokkie”. The dance halls where this takes place could be considered as night clubs but they play almost exclusively Afrikaans pop music. The Afrikaans pop music market therefore generates tremendous demand for new material.




The 1990s could be seen as the genesis of a vibrant alternative music scene in South Africa. The Voëlvry movement was a major influence in establishing the scene, but subject material markedly shifted from protest to more the abstract and personal. Major festivals like Oppikoppi and Woodstock were started and grew steadily, firmly cementing the niche under predominantly white university students exploring a newfound intellectual independence after the fall of apartheid. The first band to reach any major recognition was Springbok nude girls established in 1994 whose most recognizable song is the ballad ‘Blue Eyes’. Other notable acts established in this decade were Fetish, Wonderboom (est. 1996), Boo! (est. 1997), The Awakening (est. 1996), Henry Ate, Just Jinger (est. 1996), Fuzigish and Battery 9.




In the early & mid 80’s there were bands like Black Rose, Stretch, Razor, Lynx, Pentagon, Montreaux and Osiris. Then came the new breed of South African metal with a band called Ragnarok, who were labelled as South Africa’s Metallica and the only metal band at that time to have a cult following. They formed in South Johannesburg in 1986 playing covers for a short while and then moving on to original music only. Through the late 80s and into the early 90s, South Africa grew a well-supported metal scene, marked by the release of Johannesburg based Odysseys’ self-titled album in 1991. There was a burgeoning crossover punk/metal scene in the major centers, particularly spurred on by Cape Towns’ Voice Of Destruction and Johannesburg based Urban Assault in the very late 80s. Johannesburg developed an extreme metal scene in1992 with rising grindcore/death metal act Retribution Denied, Boksburg based macabre/death metal act Debauchery followed by Pretoria doom metal band Funeral, Christian metal act Abhorrence closely followed by Insurrection, Metalmorphosis, Sacrifist and Agro the latter two acts of whom still perform today. The Cape Town metal scene was on a high in the mid-’90’s, driven largely by Pothole and Sacraphyx. Pothole would release two critically acclaimed albums on South Africa’s most successful punk/metal label, Way-Cool Records – their debut “Force-Fed Hatred” is still the top selling South African metal album to date. Whilst many of the acts failed to find commercial success in terms of CD sales, there was a devout following nationally and local metal bands soon opened the national touring circuit to a higher extent than most other genres. It also attracted international artists to tour the country almost immediately after the demise of apartheid, with some of the most respected international artists having seen fit to visit the country since.



The first South African live techno bands were the Kraftreaktor and The Kiwi Experience. Jay Sonton and Ruediger Keller from Kraftreaktor and the Kiwi Experience performed at several raves, playing mainly electronic body music. Their music was mainly influenced by European artists, but included a unique South African touch. They mainly integrated African samples to localise their sound.


The 2000s

Blues Rock


The Blues Rock scene has dramatically emerged In South Africa. Albert Frost, Dan Patlansky, The Black Cat Bones, Crimson House and Boulevard Blues band are some of the most prominent blues acts in South-Africa. Figures like Piet Botha and Valiant Swart have largely contributed to the South-African Blues and Rock scene.




Kwaito is based on house music beats, but typically at a slower tempo and containing melodic and percussive African samples which are looped, deep basslines and often vocals, generally male, shouted or chanted rather than sung or rapped. Many consider it South Africa’s unique implementation of hip hop.




In a resurgence that has been linked by some to freedom from Apartheid guilt, Afrikaans music saw a surge in new artists, album releases and sales after 2000… In 2004 an Afrikaans album (by balladeer Steve Hofmeyr) was named best-selling album of the year. The massive purchasing power of the Afrikaner minority is partly to thank for this.


In 2007 an Afrikaans song about Boer War general Koos de la Rey by Bok van Blerk became a hit amid fierce debate on whether it represented a call to arms for the reinstatement of Afrikaner rule or just expressed cultural nostalgia.


While the boom in the Afrikaans pop industry has continued from the previous decade through the popularity of arts festivals and dance halls, other Afrikaans music genres experienced a revival of sorts in the new millennium. Rock and alternative Afrikaans music had stagnated somewhat after the heady days of the “Voëlvry” tour and the alternative movement. Signs of a revival could be found in the arrival of Karen Zoid on the music scene due to her distinct alternative sound.


Shortly afterwards, a band of young rockers called “Fokofpolisiekar” became the first group to create alternative rock in Afrikaans. Their controversial name (translated as Fuckoffpolicecar), statements and behavior drew much public attention, making them a symbol of the Afrikaans Rock revival movement. Lead singer Francois Van Coke and songwriter Hunter Kennedy have gone on to explore other genres of music also not previously popular in Afrikaans and have ventured into more commercial routes.


Shortly after the arrival of this and other rock acts, the first Afrikaans television music channel was opened which focused mainly on rock music. The Afrikaans (and English) rock and alternative music scene has been booming ever since. Bands like Battery9, Terminatrix, NuL, K.O.B.U.S. and Thys Nywerheid continue to reinvent alternative Afrikaans music, while Jack Parow has continued the Cape’s development of Afrikaans rap from pioneers Brasse vannie Kaap, finding success as far afield as Holland with his 2009 single “Cooler as Ekke”.

Bellville Rock City


2009 Breakthrough Experimentalism


From 2009 into 2010, two unique and eclectic but thoroughly South African groups in particular received high acclaim from international music media, and both groups challenged traditional genre descriptions. They significantly increased global recognition of contemporary South


African music culture.


BLK JKS’ experimental Afro-rock took inspiration from The Mars Volta to blend their Zulu heritage and township origins with modern sounds and equipment and an approach to music-making that seems entirely devoid of boundaries, while maintaining the sweet melodies and rhythmic qualities of South Africa’s traditional music. They received an important boost after performing in Opening Ceremony of 2010 FIFA World Cup.


Die Antwoord has challenged conventions of hip-hop through its blend of English, Afrikaans and local slang, and sparse House-influenced production, reflecting the new ‘Zef’ counter-culture in its cheap-and-dirty values. The band achieved worldwide attention with their self-published debut thanks to two striking and humorous YouTube music videos released in 2010 that rapidly reached viral proportions. The highly polarized international response to their music helped them secure an album deal with Cherrytree Records, an imprint of Interscope.


Drum and bass


The South African drum and bass scene began in the mid-nineties. In 2000, events such as Homegrown became a prominent fixture in Cape Town and a launching platform for international and local artists such as Counterstrike, SFR, Niskerone, Tasha Baxter, Anti Alias and Rudeone. Other regular events include It Came From The Jungle in Cape Town and Science Friksun in Johannesburg.


A weekly Sublime drum and bass radio show is hosted by Hyphen on Bush Radio.

Psychedelic trance


South African psytrance is a form of darker psychedelic trance music that started and is produced mostly in South Africa. Unlike the Russian dark psytrance, South African psytrance is more rhythmic, melodic and danceable, yet keeps the ‘nasty-like’ attitude.

South African music today


The South African music scene has continued to flourish in the 2000s. The decade has seen the rise of Xhosa singer Simphiwe Dana, whose success has seen her hailed as the “new Miriam Makeba”, with her unique combination of jazz, pop, and traditional music. Another similar young singer is Thandiswa Mazwai, originally a kwaito singer with Bongo Maffin. Thandiswa combined local hip-hop rhythms with traditional Xhosa sounds, creating a rich textured style. 2006 saw the rise of Shwi Nomtekhala, a duo combining mbaqanga rhythms and maskandi sounds. The duo has become one of the most influential new acts on the music scene today, outselling even kwaito artists. Their debut album Wangisiza Baba was a major hit in the country. Cape Town based female artist Verity has been recognised internationally for innovation in the music industry for selling 2000 copies of her album Journey before it was actually recorded. Another up and coming group “2 and a Half Secondz” is on the rising from Delft in Cape Town in 2009. In addition Willim Welsyn, part of the Afrikaans rock band Willim Welsyn en die Sunrise Toffies, was nominated and won multiple awards in the Afrikaans Alternative categories. He is also the photographer, features writer and podcast host for the South African Rolling Stone magazine.


Nianell, the South African Superstar, is also another internationally recognised artist in modern South African music, combing Folk, Classical, Pop, Country, and Celtic music that make her own unique sound. She has released 7 albums with songs that switches back and forth in Afrikaans and English. Her first platinum hit that sold over 2 million copies was “Who Painted The Moon” that was also covered by international superstar [Hayley Westenra]. In early 2011, she made her initial debut in the U.S. with her U.S. compilation album “Who Painted The Moon”.


Ladysmith Black Mambazo remain one of the world’s most popular choral groups and still retain popularity in South Africa, with their latest offering being the highly praised Ilembe (2007/2008). The legendary group boasts three Grammy wins. The Mahotella Queens also remain high-selling, and – with the death of long-time groaner Mahlathini in 1999 – have recorded several new albums, including their 2007 release Siyadumisa (Songs of Praise). 2008 has also seen the return of a former singer with the Mahotella Queens, Irene Mawela. Mawela appeared on thousands of mbaqanga and mgqashiyo recording sessions well throughout the 1960s and the 1970s, recording mainly for Gallo Record Company, often as part of the line-ups of the Mahotella Queens, the Mgababa Queens, Izintombi Zomgqashiyo, and also under her own name (though sometimes as Irene & The Sweet Melodians, or Irene & The Zebra Queens). In 1983 she left the company to record as a solo artist, with a successful Venda-traditional release Khanani Yanga. Mawela left the music business in the late 1980s, but returned in November 2007 with a brand-new album called Tlhokomela Sera, which combines modern contemporary sounds with pure gospel music, making what Mawela calls “gospel jive”.


The music scene in South Africa is focused around 4 major areas, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein. One of the characteristics of the scene is the strong sense of community which sees artist, promoters and venues all actively involved in developing the local talent. Bloemfontein’s music focus is centered predominantly around the metal and Afrikaans genres. Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are far more wide ranging in the genres of music covered by bands and artists. Cape Town is a hot bed for the underground music scene, generally held to be more experimental than the music produced in the other centers. Potchefstroom seems to be the newest development ground for Afrikaans rock music, with various bands like Straatligkinders making their start here.


The introduction of the South African Music Awards (SAMA), intended to recognize accomplishment in the South African recording industry has raised the awareness of local artists and bands. The awards are given in various categories, including album of the year, best newcomer, best artists (male and female) and the best duo or group. South African Music Award winners include Karen Zoid, Freshlyground, Tasha Baxter and Seether.


Uniquely African music aside, the South African music scene has, to a large extent, been characterized by bands seeking to emulate popular genres abroad. However, recent years have seen South African music begin to develop a truly original sound.


South Africa has several annual music festivals including Woodstock South Africa, MotherFudd, Oppikoppi, Rocking the Daisies and Splashy Fen. The music festivals cater to different genres and styles of music. Motherfudd is an exclusively metal festival held early in the year. The 2008 Motherfudd festival had a line-up of 30 bands with 2 stages and took place near Hartebeespoort. The Oppikoppi festival started in 1994 and is held in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, near the mining town of Northam. Originally a rock festival, Oppikoppi has expanded to include other genres. Splashy Fen is an annual Easter festival held on a farm near Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal, with a focus on rock and reggae music. Rocking the Daisies is an annual music festival which is held outside Cape Town in Darling on the Cloof wine estate. It was established in 2005 with a focus upon rock music & is a ‘green’ festival for which it has garnered awards.


South Africa has a growing field of music journalism. Print based publications focused on South African music are SAM (South African Music & Entertainment tabloid), and SA Music News. Internet based journalism can be found on SA Music News; SA Music, Speakerbox, Strum, The Rock Finder, More Than Music, Amplify and Sixlove.


New Indie/ish scene: Al Bairre, Shortstraw, The Plastics, Jeremy Loops, December Streets and many many more. The SA music industry has so much unseen potential today it’s frightening.


Neo-traditional styles


Traditionally styled music is generally appellated as “Sotho-traditional” or “Zulu-traditional”, and has been an important part of the South African music business since the 1930s. Vocal and concertina records were released with a call-and-response style and a concertina used as a counterpoint to the lead vocal. Following World War 1, cheap imported concertinas arrived in South Africa, especially the Italian brand Bastari.



The Sotho musician Tshwatlano Makala was the first traditional musician to achieve widespread commercial success. He helped to set the stage for the subsequent rise of Letsema Mat’sela’s band, Basotho Dihoba, which used styles from his native Lesotho to develop a genre called mohobelo.


By the 1970s, the concertina of Sotho-traditional music was replaced with an accordion and an electric backing band. This wave of neo-traditional performers was led by Tau Ea Mat’sekha.




The Zulu people adopted the guitar following its introduction by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, and was locally and cheaply made by the 1930s. John Bhengu was the first major Zulu guitarist, earning a reputation in 1950s Durban for his unique ukupika style of picking (as opposed to traditional strumming). Bhengu’s song format, which includes an instrumental introduction (izihlabo), a melody and spoken praise (ukubonga) for a clan or family, was widely used for a long time in Zulu-traditional music. Bhengu, however, switched to the electric guitar in the late 1960s and began recording as “Phuzushukela” (Sugar Drinker). His popularity exploded, and Zulu-traditional music entered a boom.


Since the 1970s, the concertina has returned to Zulu-traditional music, while diverse influences from pop music and drum and bass were added. Vusi Ximba’s Siyakudamisa (1992) was perhaps the most memorable Zulu-traditional album of the later twentieth century, and drew controversy for racy, comedic lyrics.



Tsonga traditional music was first recorded in the 1950s by Francisco Baloyi for Gallo, and showed a largely African style influenced by Latin rhythms. Mozambiquan musicians Fani Pfumo and Alexander Jafete became prominent studio performers in the 1950s and into the next decade, making a style called Portuguese Shangaan. In 1975, however, Mozambique became independent and a Shangaan radio station was opened by Radio Bantu, leading to the abandonment of Portuguese elements from this style.


More modern Tsonga bands, such as General MD Shirinda & the Gaza Sisters play a style called Tsonga disco, featuring a male lead vocalist backed by female singers, a guitar, keyboard or synth and disco rhythms. Thomas Chauke & the Shinyori Sisters (Tusk Records) have become probably the best-selling band of any neo-traditional style. The most popular Tsonga musician, however, has arguably been either the pop singer Peta Teanet or the equally successful Penny Penny. Paul Ndlovu is another artist who has contributed a lot in this genre, with his popular hit, hi ta famba moyeni.




Pedi-traditional music is principally harepa and is based on the harp. The German autoharp arrived in South Africa in the nineteenth century, brought by Lutheran ministers proselytising among the Pedi. Harepa has not achieved much mainstream success in South Africa, though there was a brief boom in the 1970s, led by Johannes Mohlala.




Venda-traditional music was also recorded when black music in South Africa was being recognised. The late 1960s (and, more significantly the late 1970s) saw a boom in Venda-speaking artists. This was mainly influenced by the launch of a Venda radio station.


Irene Mawela (who had been singing in the 1960s and 1970s with groups like Mahotella Queens, Sweet Sixteens and the Dark City Sisters) significantly impacted traditional and contemporary Venda music, despite vocal recordings in Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa languages. Mawela’s 1983 release, Khanani Yanga, was one of the most successful Venda-traditional music albums of that year. After some lean years, Mawela returned to the South African music scene with Tlhokomela Sera, released in December 2007. Mawela’s recent numbers like Mme Anga Khotsi Anga and Nnditsheni are very popular. Solomon Matase is known for his hits Ntshavheni and Vho i fara Phele.


Alpheus Ramavhea, Mundalamo, Eric Mukhese, and Adziambei Band are also famous for their contributions to Venda music. The latter band still continues to produce music with great success, including a recent album release. Colbert Mukwevho has been involved with Venda music for over 20 years, starting with 80s hits like “Kha tambe na thanga dzawe,” “i do nera rothe” and “saga-saga.” In 2006 his comeback album Mulovha namusi na matshelo, included hit songs “ndo takala hani and zwa mutani wavho” which remain popular with Venda and Pedi’s. He grew up in a family of music. His father Christopher Mukwevho, then leader of the popular band Thrilling Artist, used to feature him at young age. Rudzani Shurflus Ragimana of shurflus was well known for ‘muthu wanga a thi mulitshi, shango lo vhifha muvhilini known for venda regae music together with Khakhathi and friends Tshganzha, Ntshenge, Regae music is well played by a lot of artists for tshivenda


Others performers include TAKZIT, Humbulani Ramagwedzha, Jahman Chiganja, Khakhathi and Friends, Maduvha Madima, Takalani Mudau, Rapson Mbilummbi Rambuwani, TMan Gavini, Mizo Phyll, Killah Gee, Jininka, Paul Mulaudzi, Malondo Ramulongo, Burning Doctor, Just ice, Lufuno Dagada & Tshidino Ndou.


Another singer making a name for himself in the South African music market is Tshidino Ndou, a reggae artist who is also owner of Vhadino Entertainment Music Company. Tshidino was born and bred in Tshakhuma, a rural village in South Africa in the Limpopo Province. So far he has two albums, Ndi do fa na inwi (2009) – Till death do us part and Nne Ndi Nne (2010) – I am what I am. His song “Ni songo nyadza” meaning “do not undermine other people’s religions” featuring a Venda reggae icon Humbulani Ramagwedzha of thivhulungiwi fame is gaining extensive media exposure through Phalaphala FM, Soweto TV, Makhado FM and Univen radio.


Tshidino entered the music scene as a founder member of Vhadino House Grooves group which he established alongside his brother, Arthur Ndou in 2008. They released their debut hot album titled Ro Swika meaning we have arrived. The album contains a controversial song “Ri ya groova” widely known as “Ndo Fara Mudifho”. He has just released a hot single “Ri khou phusha life” which has already made a mark on radfios and newspapers. The full album is planned to be released in 2012 and will feature other two giants Takalani Mudau of baby fusheani fame and the Burning Doctor of A lu na mutwe fame.


Tshidino is not just a musician but also a prominent film producer who is more popular in the Vendawood film industry in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. He plays the character of Vho-Mulingo in Vho-Mulingo comedy. Other movies he produced include Mathaithai, Hu do dzula nnyi, Mphemphe i a netisa and Hu bvuma na fhasi.


Tshidino is currently busy with his long awaited movie called The Fakebook which is already on everybody’s lips. The highly rated Vendawood filmmaker told Mo Flava in the Morning Flavaw show on YFM radio station of South Africa that the movie has already created hype and is expected to cause havoc in the film industry as it deals with Facebook issues. Tshidino is the owner of Dzhatsha Films and Vhadino Entertainment companies. For more about Tshidino contact Vhadino Entertainment on 073 6120 155 or visit



Perhaps the best known neo-traditional South African music, internationally anyway, is the music of Amampondo and the solo work of their leader and founder, Dizu Plaatjies. He and his group took traditional Xhosa music from the hills of Pondoland and the Eastern Cape and put is on stage world-wide. The success of the genre was how the exponents combined their music with their stage performances and dance.




Sudan has a rich and unique musical culture that has been through chronic instability and repression during the modern history of Sudan.


Beginning with the imposition of strict sharia law in 1989, many of the country’s most prominent musicians and poets, like poet Mahjoub Sharif, were imprisoned while others, like Mohammed el Amin and Mohammed Wardi, fled to Cairo (Mohammed el amin returned to Sudan in 1991 and Mohammed Wardi returned to Sudan in 2003). Traditional music suffered too, with traditional Zār ceremonies being interrupted and drums confiscated. At the same time, however, the European militaries contributed to the development of Sudanese music by introducing new instruments and styles; military bands, especially the Scottish bagpipes, were renowned, and set traditional music to military march music. The march March Shulkawi No 1, is an example, set to the sounds of the Shilluk. Sudan is very diverse, with five hundred plus ethnic groups spread across the country’s territory, which is the largest in Africa. The country has been a crossroads between North, East and West Africa for hundreds of years, and is inhabited by a mixture of Sub-Saharan Arabs and Africans.


Folk and traditional music



The Sufi Dervishes are a mystical sect that use music and dance to achieve an altered state of consciousness in a tradition called zikr. The drumming sessions of the women’s Zār sect are a prominent part of Dervish music. The Sufi orders engage in ritualized dhikr ceremonies. Each order or lineage within an order has one or more forms for group dhikr, the liturgy of which may include recitation, singing, instrumental music, dance, costumes, incense, meditation, ecstasy, and trance. Dhikr in a group is most often done on Thursday and/or Sunday nights as part of the institutional practice of the orders.

Southern Sudanese folk music


South Sudan has rich folk music that reflect the diverse cultures of the region. For example; the folk music of the Dinka people include poetry, while the Azande are known – beside many other traditions and beliefs – for story-telling that feature a good wizard figure prominently.


Radio Juba, under control of the current Sudanese regime has erased the unique tapes of Yousif Fataki, a renowned southern singer.


Due to the many years of the civil war, the culture is heavily influenced by the countries neighboring South Sudan. Many South Sudanese fled to Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda where they interacted with the nationals and learnt their languages and culture. For most of those who remained in the country, or went north to Sudan and Egypt, they greatly assimilated Arabic culture.


It is also worth noting that most South Sudanese kept the core of their culture even while in exile and diaspora. Traditional culture is highly upheld and a great focus is given to knowing one’s origin and dialect. Although the common languages spoken are Arabi Juba and English, Kiswahili is being introduced to the population to improve the country’s relations with its East African neighbors. Many music artists from South Sudan use English, Kiswahili, and Arabi Juba, their dialect or a mix of all. Popular artists like Yaba Angelosi sings Afro-beat, R&B, and Zouk; Dynamiq is popular for his reggae releases; and Emmanuel Kembe who sings folk, reggae and Afro-beat


There are few female artists however that South Sudan has produced so far. Reflections BYG is a beautiful fresh voice rocking the Zouk floor with her first single Ng’ume which means Smile, was a big hit in just a few days of its release. She has an amazing strong voice for the popular Jazz as well as Afrobeat and Hip Hop; De-vine singing R&B and Zouk; Nyaruach on the Afro-beat and pop; Queen Zee is known for her rap music..



The Nuba live between the north and south of Sudan, and have long been caught in the middle of the Sudanese civil war. The traditional band Black Stars are affiliated with the SPLA, while other well-known singers include Jamus, Jelle, Tahir Jezar and Ismael Koinyi.




Modern Northern Sudanese music has its roots in haqibah (pronounced hagee-ba). It originated in the early 1920s, and was originally derived from the Muslim musical style known as madeeh. Haqibah is essentially an harmonic a cappella and vocal style, with percussion coming from the tambourine-like riq and from other instruments. Occasionally tonal instruments such as the piano and the qanun (a stringed instrument) are used.

Northern Sudanese lyrical music


Northern Sudan has a tradition of lyrical music that utilizes oblique metaphors, and has historically been used as part of the Sudanese independence movement and in other political movements. The tambour, or tanbūra, (a lyre) was originally used as accompaniment, but this was replaced by the oud when it was imported from Arabia. The method of playing the oud continues to use a plucking method developed with the tambour, making a distinctive and characteristic sound. Especially well-known is the late Nubian composer, oud player, tar player, and vocalist Hamza El Din.


In the 1930s, a number of music companies opened in Sudan, among them the Gordon Memorial College Musical company, which included Mohamed Adam Adham, who’s Adhamiya was one of the earliest formal Sudanese compositions, and is still often played.


The early pioneers were mostly singer-songwriters, including the prolific Karoma, author of several hundred songs, the innovative Ibrahim al-Abadi and Khalil Farah, who was active in the Sudanese independence movement. Al-Abadi was known for an unorthodox style of fusing tradition wedding poetry with music. Other songwriters of the era included Mohammed Ahmed Sarror, Al-Amin Burhan, Mohamed Wad Al Faki and Abdallah Abdel Karim. al Faki was one of many musicians from the area around Kabou-shiya, a region known for folk music.


Popular music


Northern Sudanese popular music evolved into what is generally referred to as “post-Haqibah”, a style dominating in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. This period was marked by the introduction of tonal instruments from both East and West, such as the violin, accordion, oud, tabla and bongo. A big band style came into existence, mirroring trends in the West. Post-haqibah, like haqibah, was based on the pentatonic scale. Haqibah mixed with Egyptian and European elements is called al-afghani’ al-hadith.


The 1940s saw an influx of new names because of the rise of Omdurman Radio and World War II. Early performers included Ismail Abdul Mennen, Hassan Atya, Ibrahim Al Kashif and Ahmed al Mustafa. One of the most famous pioneers of this era was Ismael Abdul Queen, who was followed by Ahmed Ibrahim Falah and Ibrahim Alkashif (father of modern singing).


In this respect Ismael Abdul Queen was a pioneer who strived to adapt to the new conditions and desert the old style. He was followed by a poet-singer called Ahmed Ibrahim Falah. But both were soon overtaken by Ibrahim Alkashif who became known as the “Father of modern singing”. Al Kashif began to sing under the influence of Haj Mohamed Ahmed Sarour and relied on what Karouma had started, but he renewed singing in three main facets:


The 1960s saw the importation of American pop stars, which had a profound effect on Sudanese musicians like Osman Alamu and Ibrahim Awad, the latter becoming the first Sudanese musician to dance onstage. From the 1970s to the present, Northern Sudanese music saw a further Westernization, with the introduction of guitars and brass instruments; guitars came from the south of the country, from the Congolese guitar styles. Congolese music like soukous, as well as Cuban rumba, exerted a profound influence on Sudanese popular music.


An important shift in modern Sudanese music was introduced by the group Sharhabil and His Band – formed by a group of friends from Omdurman – namely Sharhabil Ahmed, Ali Nur Elgalil Farghali, Kamal Hussain, Mahaddi Ali, Hassan Sirougy and Ahmed Dawood. They introduced modern rhythms relating to popular and soul music using for the first time electric guitars, double bass, and brass instruments, with the emphasis on rhythm section. The lyrics were also informal and popular. Now Sharhabil’s band is one of the leading establishments in Sudanese music.


For the first time in the 1960s, female singers became socially acceptable with the rise of Mihera bint Abboud, Um el Hassan el Shaygiya and Aisha el Fellatiya, who became famous for performing in front of the Sudan Defence Force during World War II. In the 1960s, a wave of female duos became prominent, including Sunai el Samar, Sunai Kordofani and Sunai el Nagam, while a few women with highly-charged erotic images found audiences, including Gisma and Nasraa. Later prominent female musicians include the band Al Balabil, who formed in the early 1970s and became very popular across East Africa. The 1980s also saw the rise of Hanan Bulu-bulu, a singer whose performances were sensual and provocative; she was eventually detained by the authorities and beaten.


Introduced genres have had a profound effect on modern Sudanese music, especially British brass military bands, which attracted many young recruits who carried the model to recreational music. The result was a kind of dance music referred to as jazz, though unrelated to the American style of jazz, similar to analogous styles throughout East Africa. Prominent big bandleaders in the modern era include Abdel Gadir Salim and Abdel Aziz El Mubarak, both of whom have achieved some international fame.


The imposition of sharia law in 1989 came along with the imprisonment of Mahjoub Sharif, a poet and songwriter who continued writing even in prison. The singer Abu Araki al-Bakheit was banned from performing political songs in the early 1990s, but he claimed to prefer remaining silent than not performing the objectionable material; the news of his retirement, prompted intense reactions from his fans, which eventually led him to continue performing in defiance of authorities. The Southern Sudanese celebrated singer Yousif Fataki had all his tapes erased by Radio Umdurman – the official government media. Southern Sudanese popular music was important in the 1970s and 1980s, with the capital Juba hosting nightclub bands like Rejaf Jazz and the Skylarks.


Other popular imported musicians included reggae superstar Bob Marley and American pop singer Michael Jackson, while the funk of James Brown inspired Sudanese performers like Kamal Kayla, to adopt the same style. Other modern popular performers include Abdel Karim el Kabli, with a notably long and diverse history of performance, Mohammed el Amin and Mohammed Wardi.


Hip hop


The hip hop community in Sudan is attempting to utilize its unifying power and global popularity as a universal language to bring unity to the country. Artists, such as the extremely popular Bangs of YouTube fame, see the genre as a way to emancipate themselves from the surrounding culture. Hip hop represents an avenue for peace, tolerance, and literacy for millions of African youth, who are powerful in numbers, but politically neglected, as witnessed with the exploitation of child soldiers. The lyrics have the unique ability to reach child soldiers as an educational tool to imagine a different lifestyle. Sudanese hip hop preaches that through education and peace, there is an opportunity to achieve a better life. The genre combines traditional music with the music of the younger generation, hip hop. It empowers them with the power of a voice in society without being forced to use guns or violence. The genre serves not only as a tool that “makes audiences move, but that moves audiences –toward education, civil action, and peaceful change.” It empowers them with the power of a voice in society without being forced to use guns or violence. According to Jimmie Briggs, author of Innocence Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War, “A music group is not an army, but it can get powerful social messages out before trouble starts.”


Southern Sudanese modern music


The city of Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, was home to the thriving nightlife prior to the current strife in that area. Top local bands of the 1970s and 1980s included the Skylarks and Rejaf Jazz.


Music is one of the most important aspects in South Sudan, because it is used to celebrate their independence. Most of their music is about making pecae and being proud of their country.

Modern tribal music


The Dinka, on the front lines between the north and the south of Sudan, have retained a vibrant folk tradition. The musical Kambala, a harvest festival, is still a major part of Nuba culture. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) include a group called the Black Stars, a unit dedicated to “cultural advocacy and performance”. Members include the guitarist and singer Ismael Koinyi, as well as Jelle, Jamus and Tahir Jezar.





The music of Swaziland is composed of both ethnic Swazi music and varieties of folk music as well as modern genres such as rock, pop and hip hop, which has been popular in Swaziland since the 1990s, headed by bands such as Vamoose. The popularity of hip hop in South Africa, which shares a border with Swaziland, has also helped popularize it.


Two major festivals in Swaziland are Incwala and Umhlanga. The former takes place in December while the latter takes place in August. Umhlanga is known for its dance, performed exclusively by women, and its 5-day ceremony, which involves reed-cutting. Traditional instruments used include: the kudu horn, calabash, rattles, makeyana and reed flute.


Traditional instruments of swaziland


      Makeyana: a single-stringed, gourd-resonated musical bow






The music of Togo has produced a number of internationally known popular entertainers including Bella Bellow, Akofah Akussah, Afia Mala, Itadi Bonney, Wellborn, King Mensah and Jimi Hope.


National music


The Togolese national anthem is Salut à toi, pays de nos aïeux (Land of our forefathers), written by Alex Casimir-Dosseh. From 1979 to 1992 it was replaced by an anthem composed by the party of the Rally of the Togolese People. French is the official and commercial language of Togo.


Traditional music


Togo’s southern plain is its most populous area, where the capital, Lomé, is situated on the Gulf of Guinea but, like its neighbours, Ghana and Benin, its territory extends hundreds of miles northward, passing through a central hill region into the northern savanna that borders Burkina Faso. Its population of over 6 million people, which is 65% rural and agrarian, is composed of about 21 ethnic groups. Approximately 51% of the population has indigenous beliefs, 29% is Christian, and 20% Muslim.


The two most populous language groups are the Ewe in the south (about 32% of the population) and the Kabye in the north (22% of the population). Gen or Mina is the second major language in the south, closely related to Ewe: most southern peoples use these two languages, which are spoken in commercial sectors throughout Togo. Fon, another related language, as well as Aja, are also spoken in the south: the Ewe had entered Togo from the east, and Akan people from the west, several centuries before Europeans arrived.


Folk songs of fishermen in the south may be accompanied by bells such as the gankogui and frikiwa. Folk songs in Ewe and Kabye, are common, Fon and Yoruba songs also occur. Togolese music includes a great variety of percussion-led dance music. All over Togo drums are used, by Christians and Muslims as well, to celebrate all major events of life and for festivals like the Expesoso or Yeke Yeke festival. In the Aneho district alone drums in use include the agbadja, ageche, aziboloe, kple, amedjeame, akpesse, grekon, blekete and adamdom. There are numerous rhythms in Togo, each area having its own special beats.



Look up more about Ewe people, Ewe music, Ewe drumming and put it here


In the central hills Tem and the Ghana–Togo Mountain languages are spoken. Dagomba is the second most common language in the north, where other Gur languages such as Mossi and Gourma are also found. The culture of these northern people extends far into Togo’s neighboring states, Ghana and Burkina Faso. The Dagomba people play stringed instruments such as the kologo (xalam) and the gonjey), flute and voice, with poly-rhythms clapped or played on the talking drum, gourd drums or brekete. The tradition of gyil xylophone music is also common, with several players producing intricate cycling rhythms. Other folk instruments include the bow. Music in the northern styles is mostly set to a minor pentatonic scale and melisma plays an important part in melodic and vocal styles, along with a long history of griot praise-singing traditions.


Togolese dances include Kamou, Soo, Tchimou, the southern royal djokoto, the war dances kpehouhuon and Atsina, the hunters’ dance adewu, the stilt dance tchebe, the miming masseh, as well as regional dances like the coastal sakpate and the kaka.


Popular music


Internationally known performer King Mensah, a former performer at the Ki-Yi M’Bock Theatre in Abidjan, toured Europe and Japan before opening his own show in French Guiana and then moving to Paris and forming a band called Favaneva. Peter Solo The man of Vodoo Game Music from Togo The idea of integrating these haunting lines, sung in honor of the Divinities, to an energetic 70’s Afro-funk was an obvious extension in Peter’s mind of the analogy he found between this voodoo tradition and trance inducers such as Blues, Funk, as well as the Rhythm’n Blues of James Brown, Otis Redding and Wilson Picket. Peter heard this new sound coming through him and named it Vodoo Game.





Tunisia is a North African country with a predominantly Arabic-speaking population. The country is best known for malouf, a kind of music imported from Andalusia after the Spanish conquest in the 15th century. Though in its modern form, malouf is likely very dissimilar to any music played more than four centuries ago, it does have its roots in Spain and Portugal, and is closely related to genres with a similar history throughout North Africa, including malouf’s Libyan cousin, Algerian gharnati and Moroccan ala or Andalusi. During the Ottoman era, malouf was highly influenced from Turkish music. Even now most of malouf examples are very similar to Turkish classical music.


20th century musicians from Tunisia include Anouar Brahem, an oud player, Jasser Haj Youssef, a composer and a violin player, and El Azifet, a rare all-female orchestra, as well as well-known vocalist Raoul Journo, singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef, singer, guitarist and lutenist Nabil Khemir, Lotfi Bouchnak, Khemais Tarnane, Saliha, Saleh Mehdi, Ali Riahi, Hedi Jouini, Fethia Khairi, Chikh El Ofrit, Oulaya and Neema.


Popular singers include Nabiha Karaouli, Sonia Mbarek, Saber el Robbai, Amina, Soufia Sedik, Amina Fakhet, Nawal Ghachem and Latifa, and the late Thekra.


21st century alternative music groups include Neshez, Zemeken, Aspirine, Kerkennah and Checkpoint 303.


Modern music festivals in Tunisia include Tabarka Jazz Festival, Testour’s Arab Andalusian Music Festival and the Sahara Festival in Douz.




Malouf is played by small orchestras, consisting of violins, drums, sitars and flutes. Modern malouf has some elements of Berber music in the rhythms, but is seen as a successor to the cultural heights reached by Muslim Andalusia. Malouf has been called “an emblem of (Tunisian) national identity”. Nevertheless, malouf cannot compete commercially with popular music, much of it Egyptian, and it has only survived because of the efforts of the Tunisian government and a number of private individuals. Malouf is still performed in public, especially at weddings and circumcision ceremonies, though recordings are relatively rare. The term malouf translates as familiar or customary.


Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger is an important figure of modern Tunisian music. He collected the rules and history of malouf, which filled six volumes, and set up the Rachidia, an important conservatory which is still in use.




Malouf is based on qasidah, a kind of classical Arabic poetry, and comes in many forms, including the post-classical muwashshah, which abandons many of qasidah’s rules, shgul, a very traditional form, and zajal, a modern genre with a unique format.


The most important structural element of malouf, however, is the nuba, a two-part suite in a single maqam (an Arab mode organized by quarter-tones), which lasts about an hour. A nuba is a musical form introduced to North Africa with the migration of Muslim inhabitants of Spain in the 13 and 14th Century. It is divided to many parts: Isstifta7 Msader which are instrumental pieces Then come Attouq and the Silsla which introduce to the poems. The sung pieces begin with the Btaihia: A set of poem composed on the Main mode of the Nuba (There are several Modes in Tunisian Music Thaiil raml Sikah tounssia Ispahan Isbaaïn) on a heavy syncoped rhythm called BtaiHi. Then come al barawil, Al khfeiif Al Akhtam which close the Nuba. The rhythms grow fast from a component to anther of the Nuba. Each component of a Nouba has its specific rhythm which are the same in all the 13 Nouba known today.


According to legend, a distinct nuba once existed for every day, holiday and other event, though only thirteen remain. Partway through a nuba, an improvisational section was played in the maqam of the following day to ready the audience for the next performance.




The earliest roots of the malouf can be traced to a court musician from Baghdad named Ziryab. He was expelled from the city in 830, and travelled west, stopping finally at Kairouan, the first Muslim city of great power in Africa. The city was a center for North African (Maghebian) culture, and was the capital of the Aghlabite dynasty. Ziryab crossed the Maghreb and then entered Cordoba during a period of cultural innovation among the diverse inhabitants of the region. He became a court musician again, and used influences from the local area, the Maghreb and his native Middle East to form a distinctively Andalusian style.


Beginning in the 13th century, Muslims fleeing persecution by Christians in what is now Spain and Portugal settled in cities across North Africa, including Tunis, bringing with them their music. Tunisian malouf, and its closely related cousin in Libya, was later influenced by Ottoman music. This process peaked in the middle of the 18th century, when the Bey of Tunisia, Muhammad al-Rashid, a musician, used Turkish-style instrumental compositions in his work and firmly set the structure of the nuba. Though his system has evolved considerably, most of the instrumental sections of modern nubat are derived from al-Rashid.


After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Tunisia became a French protectorate and the declining malouf was revitalized. Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger, a French-naturalized Bavarian living near Tunis, commission a collection of ancient works, working with Ali al-Darwish of Aleppo. Al-Darwish and d’Erlanger’s pioneering study of Tunisian music was presented at the International Congress of Arabic Music, held in 1932. Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger died only a few months after the congress, which revolutionized Arab music across the world. In Tunisia, the meeting inspired the Rachidia Institute, which was formed in 1934 to preserve the malouf. The Rachidia Institute undertook some alterations, revising lyrics that were considered profane, and also constructed two performance spaces in the old city of Tunis. The Institute also helped to transition malouf from being performed by folk ensembles with only a few instrument (including ‘ud, tar, darbuka, rabab and bendir) to symphonic pieces inspired by Western classical music and Egyptian ensembles.


The most influential such orchestra was called the Rashidiyya Orchestra, led by violinist Muhammad Triki. Rashidiyya Orchestra used a large chorus as well as contrabass, cello, violin, nay, qanun and ‘ud sharqi, and followed the developing rules of Arab musical theory and notation. The thirteen surviving nubat were created during this time, distilled from the highly divergent folk forms still in use. Western musical notation was used; along with the popularization of recorded music, the use of improvisation quickly declined. These changes helped to popularize the malouf, though not without critics, and gave the music a reputation as classical art music.


After Tunisian independence in 1957, the country’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, promoted the malouf, recognizing its unifying potential. The then-director of the Rashidiyya Orchestra, Salah el-Mahdi, wrote the Tunisian national anthem, and eventually also became the leader of the music department of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. His musical theories became a major part of the Orchestra, as well as its successor, Institut Supérieur de Musique.




Purely Tunisian music with pop Tunisian touch. Most popular mezwed singers are Heddi Habbouba, Habib el Khal,Samir Loussif, Hedi Donia,Faouzi Ben Gamra, Zina Gasriniya, Fatma Bousseha,Nour Chiba.




Another authentic Tunisian genre, known as Salhi, can be heard on these tracks from 1931, some of which are sung by Ibrahim Ben Hadj Ahmed, and others by another singer called Ben Sassi. The style may be related to Berber music, and is just as ancient and authentic as a facet of the (Tunisian) national identity”




Ethnic Groups of Uganda



           Located: Northeastern region of Uganda

           Fact: Generally don’t use instruments


           Located: Northwestern region of Uganda

           Fact: Rhythms are similar to Nilotic music


           Located: Central and Eastern region of Uganda

           Fact: largest ethnic group


           Located: Northern region of Uganda

           Fact: have polyphonic singing


           Located: Western region of Uganda

           Fact: second largest ethnic group


Genres of Uganda


      Kadongo Kamu

           Guitar-based (genre name means “one guitar”); can also use bass guitar

           Integrates traditional baakisimba rhythmic pattern


           Band music inspired by post-independence bands of the mid-1960s

           Genre name roughly translates to “celebratory party”


           ceremonial dance genre

           Found among the Acooli

      Hip Hop

           Socially conscious themes based on local issues and in local languages

           Rap in Luganda language is called “Lugaflow”

           Ugandan artists share developmental characteristics with Kenyan and Tanzanian artists


Instruments of Uganda



           Known as: side-blown trumpet

           Fact: played in hocketed ensembles of 5 or more; pentatonic tuning


           Known side-blown animal horn trumpet

           Fact: Ngoma means drum, feast, dance, etc., in Ganda and other Bantu languages


           Known as: notched flutes

           Fact: played in groups of 5-6


           Known as: bowl lyre

           Fact: adopted from Soga people, used as accompaniment for praise songs


Ugandan music is as diverse as the ethnicity of its people. The country is home to over 30 different ethnic groups and tribes and they form the basis of all indigenous music. The Baganda, being the most prominent tribe in the country, have dominated the culture and music of Uganda over the last two centuries. The other tribes all have their own music styles passed down from generations dating back to the 18th century.


These variations all make for good diversity in music and culture. The first form of popular music to arise out of traditional music was the Kadongo Kamu style of music, which rose out of traditional Ganda music. Later music genres drew from Kadongo Kamu, making it one of the most influential music styles in Uganda.


Currently, because of the effects of globalization, Uganda, like most African countries, has seen a growth in modern audio production. This has led to the adoption of western music styles like Dancehall and Hip Hop. Current Ugandan popular music is part of the larger Afropop music genre.


Traditional Music


Uganda has well over 30 different ethnic groups referred to as tribes. These tribes are diverse and are spread evenly throughout the country. Although the divide between the Nilotic peoples and the Bantu peoples is evident, with most Nilotic tribes like the Acholi and the Langi found in the northern part of the country while the Bantu tribes like the Baganda are found mostly in the south of the country.


Tribal music in Uganda, like in most African regions, is mainly functional. This means that most music and music activities usually have specific functions related to specific festivities like marriage, initiation, royal festivals, harvests and the like. The music is performed by skilled tribesmen who are good at various instruments and well versed with the stylistic elements of the music of their tribe.


Most music is geared for dancing in the community, hence most tribes have specific dances associated with their music. Call and response style of singing is common and is the many ways vital information is passed on to the listeners.




The Baganda are found in the central region of Uganda and are the largest and most influential ethnic group in the country. The Kingdom of Buganda is the longest existing monarchy in the country. The kingdom is ruled by a king, known as a Kabaka. The kabaka has traditionally been the main patron of the music of Buganda. Musical instruments include various forms of drums, making percussion an integral part of the music.


The massive and sacred royal drums are just one of the many drum types. The ngalabi is another common drum. It is a long round shaped drum with a high pitched sound used in synchronization of both instruments and dances. The drums are used in unison with various other melodic musical instruments ranging from chordophones like the ennanga harp and the entongoli lyre, lamellophones, aerophones and idiophones and the locally made fiddle called kadingidi. The locally made xylophone, called amadinda, is one of the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.


The Baganda have a variety of vibrant dances that go along with the elaborate instrumentation. The bakisimba dance is the most common and most performed. There are others like nankasa and the amaggunju. The amaggunju is an exclusive dance developed in the palace for the Kabaka. The traditional music to-date is still held dear by many people within the region and is promoted and protected by the monarchy and tribal loyalists.

Other tribes


The Basoga are a tribe found in the eastern part of the country and bear many similarities with the Baganda. Their culture, language and music is similar to the baganda. They also have a similar xylophone, called “embaire”, which plays a vital role and is principally used in the busoga court. The compository principles of embaire music are similar to those of the amadinda music of Buganda. The Basoga employ procession style elements in their dances, with females taking a lead role. Vigorous gyrating of the hips and waist is the most common way of dancing.


The Bagisu are also found in the eastern part of the country and their music, called “kadodi”, is one of the most common traditional music styles and is constantly used in festivities around the country even by peoples of different tribes. This is mostly because of its dance oriented nature. It employs very enjoyable percussion styles that encourage “wild” dancing. The music is mainly used in circumcision ceremonies, where young boys are initiated into manhood. Circumcision is called “imbalu”. Other dances of the bagisu include a dance called “mabega” which involves vigorous shaking of the shoulders.


In the west of the country, the Banyankore are the largest tribe. Their music is more graceful when compared to other tribes and involves slow and simplistic percussion. The dancing style involves jumping and gesturing of the arms and is timed to perfection so as to coincide with the drumming. In the west also are the Banyoro and Batoro who employ a music style called “runyege” that involves clangers attached to the feet of male dancers who dance alongside female compatriots in a particular manner so as to create music with their legs.


In the northern part of the country, various tribes like the Acholi and the Langi have their own styles of music. The “okeme”, which is a thumb piano, is popular in this region since having been brought in the early 20th century by Congolese porters. Locally made papyrus flutes are also common. Vocals are delivered in a group by various singers, most times male. Constant stomping and jumping, alongside shaking of the head and neck, are common features of dance from this part of the country.


The above are just some examples of the various tribes and ethnic groups in Uganda with their associated styles of music and dance. There are many more tribes although their music has not been well studied and documented. Uganda has lots of different kinds of music.

Popular Music


Due to Uganda’s turbulent political past, there was never enough time for there to be a thriving pop music industry until relative peace was restored in the late 80’s. By then, musicians like Philly Lutaaya, Afrigo Band and Elly Wamala were the few Ugandan acts to have had mainstream music success. Jimmy Katumba and his music group the Ebonies were also popular at this time, especially towards the 90’s.


The 90’s saw Uganda’s love affair with Jamaican music begin when artists like Shanks Vivi Dee, Ragga Dee and others were influenced by Jamaican superstars like Shabba Ranks. They imported the Ragga music culture into Uganda and although they faced stiff competition from other African music styles and musicians at the time, in particular Soukous from Congo and Kwaito from South Africa, they managed to form the foundation of the pop music industry. But it was not until the 21st century when musicians like Chameleone emerged that a pop music scene really began to emerge.


By around 2007, there were already a number of musicians practicing varied styles of music and the role of western and congolese/South African music had greatly diminished. Today, musicians like Iryn Namubiru and Jamal are just a few of the many pop musicians in a thriving and vibrant pop music scene. The pop music duo of Radio & Weasel, the Goodlyfe Crew, is well known around Africa, being nominated in the continental MTV Base awards as recently as 2010.


Kadongo Kamu


Kadongo Kamu was the first style of popular music to emerge from traditional music in Uganda. The word “kadongo kamu” is a term in the Luganda language that means “one guitar”. The music is given this name because of the role played by the bass guitar, which most times is the solo instrument used in creation of the music. Perhaps the first well known artist of the genre was Fred Masagazi in the 60’s.


Masagazi is considered by many the God father of kadongo kamu. His brand of educative singing won him many fans and he is one of the few musicians who was involved with Uganda’s independence in 1962. Elly Wamala was another of the founders. They were followed by a number of musicians who kept true to the style and sound of the music.


Herman Basudde was a very popular kadongo kamu musician in the 80’s and 90’s. So was Bernard Kabanda. Dan Mugula is one of the few surviving pioneers of the genre. Fred Sebatta and Paulo Kafeero made their mark in the 90’s. Today, the genre is marginalized in favor of more recent styles of music. But because the music is loved by cultural loyalists in the Buganda region, it is certain that there will always be an audience for kadongo kamu.




Kidandali is a music genre that currently is arguably the most popular genre of music in Uganda. However, the term “kidandali” is not universally agreed on as the name of this genre with some local sources preferring instead to use the very simplistic term “Band Music” while others prefer the term Afrobeat, even though the music shares no similarities with Afrobeat. The roots of this genre can be traced back to the bands that sprung up after Uganda got independence in 1962.


The Cranes Band, which later gave birth to Afrigo Band, can be regarded as the first group in the evolution process of this genre. At the very outset, their music was heavily influenced by Soukous and Congolese artists like Franco were notable influences at the time. Jazz was also a notable influence. Along the way there were other bands like Rwenzori Band, Big Five Band and Simba Ngoma Band. But Afrigo Band was the most prominent and most enduring, especially throughout the political unrest of the 70’s to 90’s.


By the mid 90’s Afrigo Band was still heavily influenced by Soukous music, which by then was dominant all over the African continent. Artists like Joanita Kawalya and Rachael Magoola were part of Afrigo Band and helped lay the foundation for modern day Kidandali, alongside other bands like Kaads Band. The turning point, however, came with the formation of the record label Eagles Production which was responsible for producing artists like Mesach Semakula, Geoffrey Lutaaya, Ronald Mayinja and Haruna Mubiru. These artists took the mantle from Afrigo Band and further developed the genre after the turn of the century.


In the 2000s, the genre became identified with the Eagles Production label. The label continued to produce more talent, especially female artists like Cathy Kusasira, Irene Namatovu and Stecia Mayanja. Another turning point was around 2007 when David Lutalo broke through with the hit song Kapapala creating the way for the genre to move beyond the Eagles Production label and for other solo artists to join the fray.


About the same time, technology in audio production had enabled the genre to be reproduced digitally using Audio Workstations and the “band” element had all but disappeared. Recording studios like Kann, Dream Studios, Mozart and Paddyman took center stage. Many other independent solo artists started to practice the genre. Artists like Dr Tee, Martin Angume and even Chameleone achieved success with this genre. The genre is currently at the peak of its evolution with newer artists like Papa Cidy and Chris Evans helping create a dominant force that, alongside Dancehall, is the most popular stylistic genre in Uganda.




Dancehall music in Uganda is modeled after Jamaican Dancehall. It has been the most influential style of music in the Ugandan pop music industry for the better part of the last 2 decades. The style of music is very similar to the Jamaican style and so like all imported genres, the only major difference is in language used. Although most dancehall artists will perform in their local language, in this case Luganda, many of them will every now and then try to mimic Jamaican patois. During the early to mid-90’s when Uganda’s pop industry was just beginning to be formed, the first international music to make an impression on Ugandan artists was the Ragamuffin music in Jamaica at the time. Artists like Shabba Ranks and Buju Banton became the inspiration for Ugandan artists like Shanks Vivi D, Ragga Dee, Menton Krono and Rasta Rob. The predominant beat that was used by these artists was the Dem Bow beat which was created by Shabba Ranks. Locally, this beat is sometimes referred to as “Kadu Kadu”, which is a verbal imitation of the kind of sound it produces. This beat became the foundation on which all of Ugandan dancehall was to be built on later, just like it did with Reggaeton. In the late 90’s new artists like Mega Dee and Emperor Orlando joined the fray.


By the turn of the century, dancehall, or ragga as its was/is commonly called, was already the most popular music genre. New artists like Chameleone, Bebe Cool and Bobi Wine joined the scene and consolidated it. But they didn’t create any marked improvement in the quality and sound of the music they found, as it remained pretty simplistic and heavily based on Dem Bow. From then on, the quality of music became commensurate to the quality of production available. Chameleone was the first dancehall artist to try to fuse this ragga sound with other genres like Soukous and Kadongo Kamu. By around 2006, there were a variety of musicians practicing the genre but also without much advancement in style or sound.


By this time, Jamaican dancehall had already taken a sharp turn away from the harsh “ragga” sound based on chatting over simplistic riddims and there was a new wave of dancehall deejays like Vybz Kartel and Busy Signal who were deejaying over more advanced riddims. Artists like Dr Hilderman came into the scene with new words like Double bed Mazongoto and have continued to grow. It’s not until very recently that we have begun to also see new Ugandan artists like Rabadaba, Sizza and Fidempa create a more modern version of dancehall. Ugandan dancehall artists have reaped big from the industry, many are industrious and live luxurious lives.


Hip Hop/R&B


Hip Hop music in Uganda is modeled after American Hip Hop. There is really not much difference stylistically between Ugandan hip hop and the American version. Because of the digital revolution, there is access to modern production technologies in Uganda hence the “beats” that current local producers are creating are astonishingly of high quality and not so far behind the American ones. The fundamental difference between the two genres is that in Uganda, as in most African countries, most artists will rap in their local language. In Uganda’s case, the language is Luganda. This has created the synonym “Lugaflow” to further define Ugandan rap music. Hip hop is one of the newer genres to be widely practiced in Uganda. The two music groups, Klear Kut and Bataka Squad were the first musical acts to do hip hop back in the late 90’s. Mainstream acceptance for the music genre was almost nonexistent by then. However, a number of the members of the afore mentioned groups persisted with the genre, especially Navio and Babaluku. Others like Sylvester & Abramz also kept creating rap music, focusing on socially conscious themes and topics.


Around the middle of the previous decade, more acts started joining the fray, with Rocky Giant being one of the first rappers to be embraced in the mainstream. But it was not until GNL broke through circa 2008 that the genre really gained steam. GNL made hip hop more acceptable and accessible and many “lugaflow” rappers began to emerge. Since then there has been a flurry of activity on the scene with a sizable number of rappers enjoying relative success in the music industry and on the radio circuit.


As with Hip Hop, R&B in Uganda is modeled after American R&B. There is not much history in Ugandan R&B, with Steve Jean being the first artist to practice the genre around the turn of the century. But it was Michael Ross who really begun the trend circa 2002 with songs like How Do You Love and Sinorita. It was not until circa 2008 that a number of musicians started to embrace the style, with Myco Chris and Baby Joe among those in Diaspora that must be credited. Blu 3 and Aziz Azion are notable practitioners. Recently, artists like Nick Nola, Richy, Pallaso, Woodz and Yoyo have spread the appeal of the genre further.




Early Gospel music in Uganda was modeled mainly after praise and worship music practiced by church choirs and bands, particularly the Pentecostal/Born Again movement, locally referred to as “Balokole”. Artists like Fiona Mukasa in the mid 90’s were responsible for taking praise and worship music out of the churches and onto the streets. Because of the influence of Soukous music at the time, this early gospel had a Soukous sound. Limit X were another gospel group that gained popularity during the 90’s.


Just after the turn of the century, the styles in gospel became more diverse, with various groups like First Love and Sauti adding to the urban sound created by Limit X. Others like George Okudi and Father Musaala had surprising hits on the radio circuit and internationally. However, it was with the breakthrough of Judith Babirye circa 2007 that gospel started to have a notable impact on the music industry. Babirye, whose music was similar to Fiona Mukasa, was an instant hit and her song “Beera Nange” was among the songs of the year in its year of release.


She was followed by Wilson Bugembe, another musician who was readily embraced by the listening public with his songs becoming national hits, cutting across all demographics. Recently, they have been joined by various new artists spanning various genres.


Music Industry


Today, Uganda has a vibrant music industry that plays a fundamental role in the social and economic lives of many. Musicians are the main celebrities in Uganda and all entertainment content from the mainstream media will most times be about music or musicians. The private lives of musicians are closely followed by many Ugandans. Music concerts, most times called “album launches”, are very popular. Many companies spend huge amounts of money on sponsoring these music concerts and advertisements for the concerts are very common on radio and television.


The emphasis on music concerts comes from the fact that very few music artists make a worthwhile income from sales of their music on physical media. The lack of any distribution structure means that there is little to no incentive for capital investment in artist development or music sales. There are no genuine record labels, with most of the companies that are referred to as labels being merely artist management companies. Because of these inadequacies, there is a severe strain placed upon musicians to find profitability and sustainability in making music. However, this somehow does not seem to deter new musicians from developing, as there is a very healthy production rate of young and talented musicians.


There have also been efforts at organizing the music industry, with the Uganda Publishing Rights Society (UPRS) and Uganda Musicians Association being prime examples alongside a number of music awards organizations like PAM Awards. Attempts by some of these organizations to make use of an under-utilized and largely ignored copyright law to generate revenue from music distribution have proved fruitless. These are some of the challenges facing the music industry in the country and indeed are very similar to the ones facing most music industries around the world.




United Republic of Tanzania


The music of Tanzania stretches from traditional African music to the string-based taarab to a distinctive hip hop known as bongo flava.



National anthem


The Tanzanian national anthem is Mungu Ibariki Africa (God Bless Africa), composed by South African composer Enoch Sontonga in 1897. The tune was ANC’s official song and later became the National Anthem of South Africa. The song is also the national anthem Zambia. Swahili lyrics were set to this tune.


Art music


The music industry in Tanzania has seen many changes in the past ten years. With a mix of influences from other countries along with the original feel of local musical traditions, Tanzanian musicians have become some of the best artists in East Africa. From artists such as Dionys Mbilinyi, Sabinus Komba and many others, to new artists in R&B, pop, Zouk, Taarab and dance music.


Art musicians include:


      Mr. Elliot Andy

      Dionys Mbilinyi – Composer, pianist, church organist and choral conductor

      John Mgandu – Composer, pianist, church organist and choral conductor

      Sabinus Komba – Ethnomusicologist, composer and conductor

      Imani Sanga – Composer, ethnomusicologist, church organist and choral conductor

      Washington Mutayoba – Composer and choral conductor

      Amri Hingi – Composer and choral conductor

      Isaac Nyato – Composer and choral conductor

      Aloyce Ng’asi – Pianist

      Dani Simile – Composer and choral conductor

      John Maja – Composer, Church Organist

      Shanel Komba – Composer, Church organist, Choral Conductor

      Innocent Mushi – Composer, Church organist, Choral Conductor

      Dr Basil Tumaini – Composer, church organist

      Onesmo Matei – Composer, Church Organist, Conductor

      Benny Mwalyambi – Composer, Church Organist and Producer

      Lameck Ditto – Songwriter, Singer and Producer


Bongo flava


The Tanzanian artistes have devised a new style going by the name of “Bongo Flava”, which is a blend of all sorts of melodies, beats, rhythms and sounds. The trend among the Tanzanian music consumers has started changing towards favoring products from their local artists who sing in Swahili, the national language.


The name “bongo flava” is a corruption of “bongo flavor”, where “bongo” is the plural form of the Swahili word ubongo, meaning “brain”, and is a common nickname used to refer to Dar es Salaam, the city where the genre originated. In the bongo flava, the metaphor of “brains” may additionally refer to the cunning and street smarts of the mselah.


The term “bongo flava” was coined and first mentioned in 1996 by Radio One’s 99.6 FM (one of the first private radio stations in Tanzania) Radio Dj Mike Mhagama who was trying to differentiate between American R & B and hip hop music through his popular radio show known as ‘DJ Show’ with that of local youngsters music that didn’t have, at that time, an identity of its own. DJ Show was the first radio show that accepted young Tanzanian musicians influenced by American music to express themselves through singing and rapping. He said on air, “After listening to “R & B Flava” titled ‘No Diggity’ from the United States, here comes “Bongo Flava” from Unique Sisters, one of our own.” After he said that on the show, the term “Bongo Flava” stuck.


The earliest and most reliable account of how “Bongo flava” found its way onto Tanzanian airways has Taji Luindi at the heart of the story. Taji Liundi also known as Master T, the original creator and producer of the Dj Show program had already started airing songs by fledgling local artistes since late 1994. Mike Mhagama later joined the popular program as an under-study to Master T. He went on to produce and present the show alone after Master T had left Radio One in 1996. “Bongo flava” existed well before the first audio or video recordings. The youth in Dar es salaam were rapping at beach concerts(organized by Joseph Kusaga who owned Mawingu Discothèque, later Mawingu Studios and now Clouds Media Group), local concert halls and taking part in the first official rap competition called Yo! Rap Bonanza series that were promoted by DJ Kim “And the Boyz” Magomelo.


Some of the youth were organized with fancy names, some were solo or formed impromptu groups at the event to get a chance to grab the mic. An icon of the open performance artistes in the early 1990s was Adili or Nigga One. The first influential dub artiste of the genre was Saleh Jabir who rapped in Kiswahili over the instrumentals of Vanilla Ice’s, “Ice Ice Baby”, he was solely responsible for making Kiswahili a viable language to rap in. His version was so popular, it broke ranks by receiving mild airplay in the conservative National Radio Tanzania. The first official rap song to grace the Tanzanian airwaves.


One of the earliest groups to actually record and deliver a CD to Radio One for airing was Mawingu band, an outfit that became hugely popular in early 1994. They recorded at Mawingu Studios. Its members were Othman Njaidi, Eliudi Pemba, Columba Mwingira, Sindila Assey, Angela, Robert Chuwa, Boniface Kilosa (a.k.a Dj Boni Love) and later Pamela who sang the famous hook of their breakout first RnB/Rap single “Oya Msela”. The song was so popular and ahead of its time that the Msela label stuck. ‘Msela’ is the Swahili word for ‘ruffian’. Mawingu Band was arguably the pioneer of the RnB flavored type of Bongo flava. Dar Young Mob were the first real hip-hop stylized group to record with Mawingu Studios under budding producer Dj Boni Love. They were the first group to have their rap single aired on private radio in Tanzania.




Today, bongo flava is the most popular musical style amongst the Tanzanian youth, something that is also reflected in the vast number of TV and radio programs dedicated to this genre as well as the sales figures of bongo flava albums. Outside of its historical home of Tanzania, Bongo Flava has become a resoundingly popular sound in neighboring, culturally related countries such as Kenya and Uganda. Bongo flava has even found a home outside of the African continent; the most popular artists in the genre have recently begin to address Western markets and the self-proclaimed “best internet station for Bongo Flava, “Bongo Radio, happens to be based out of Chicago, Illinois.


Despite the popularity of Bongo flava and the large number of well-known artistes throughout Tanzania, copying of music is widespread and most artistes are unable to make a living selling their music. They must alternatively rely on income from live performances to support themselves.




While Bongo flava is clearly related to American hip hop, it is also clearly distinguished from its Western counterpart. As the website puts it, “these guys don’t need to copy their brothers in America, but have a sure clear sense of who they are and what sound it is they’re making”. The sound “has its roots in the rap, R&B and hip hop coming from America but from the beginning these styles have been pulled apart and put back together with African hands”.


The typical Bongo flava artiste identifies with the mselah. It is in this sense that, for example, members of the hip hop crew Afande Sele call themselves watu Pori, i.e., “men of the savannah”. A sort of manifesto of mselah ideology is given by the song Mselah Jela by Bongo flava singer Juma Nature, who defines the mselah, amongst other things, as an “honest person of sincere heart”. Following the tradition of western hip hop (as represented by the pioneering hip hop group Afrika Bambaataa), bongo flava lyrics usually tackle social and political issues such as poverty, political corruption, superstition, and HIV/AIDS, often with a more or less explicit educational intent, an approach that is sometimes referred to as “edutainment”. Afande Sele, for example, have written songs that are intended to teach prevention of malaria and HIV.


Notable artists


A pioneer of Tanzanian hip hop is Mr. II (also known as Sugu or 2-Proud), who released the first Bongo flava hit single, Ni Mimi in 1995. Mr. II is still active today (his last recording, Coming of Age, was released in 2007). The first Tanzanian hip hop crew, Kwanza Unit, began in 1993. They originally sung in English but eventually switched to Swahili. One of the former members of the group, Professor Jay, is currently one of Tanzania’s most popular hip hop artistes.


Among today’s most popular Bongo flava artistes are Ali Kiba, Juma Nature, Lady Jaydee, Mzungu Kichaa, Geezy Mabovu, Q Chillah, T.I.D., Diamond Platnumz. Some groups are very popular in their ethnic group; examples include the Maasai X Plastaz (who developed their own sub-genre known as “Maasai hip hop”). Other popular names are Gangwe Mobb, Dully Sykes, and Daz Baba.



Traditional music


Tanzania has a large number of traditional instruments, many of which are specific to particular ethnic groups. The Zaramo people, for instance, perform traditional dance melodies such as “Mitamba Yalagala Kumchuzi” on tuned goblet drums, tuned cylindrical drums, and tin rattles.


The multi-instrumentalist Hukwe Zawose, a member of the Gogo ethnic group, was the 20th century’s most prominent exponent of Tanzanian traditional music. He specialized in the ilimba, a large lamellophone similar to the mbira.


A famous song of Tanzania is “Tanzania Tanzania”


Saida Karoli is a famous traditionalist Tanzanian female singer and performer, who sings in Haya. Karoli’s music is described as natural with mellow vocals and hypnotically rhythmicism. Songs like Ndombolo Ya Solo or Maria Salome were huge hits in Tanzania and the countries around; she was nominated at the 2005 and 2006 Tanzania Music Awards in the Best Folk Album category and for the Best Female Vocalist category.




An mtindo (pl. mitindo) is simply a rhythm, dance or style identified with a particular band. Sikinde, for example, is associated with Mlimani Park, and is derived from the ngoma (musical events held by the Zaramo). Some bands maintain the same mtindo throughout their career, while others change along with personnel or popular preference.




Taarab is a popular genre descended from Islamic roots, using instruments from Africa (percussion), Europe (guitar), Arab Middle East (oud and qanun) and East Asia (taishokoto). It is sung poetry and are a constant part of wedding music, and is associated with coastal areas like Lamu and Zanzibar, as well as with neighboring Kenya.


Taarab is often said to have an Egyptian origin, due to the long-term popular of the Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club. While the Egyptian influence is undeniable, coastal East Africa is a cultural melting pot and has absorbed influences from across the Indian Ocean and even further abroad. The first taarab superstar, indeed the first Swahili superstar, was Siti bint Saad. Beginning in 1928, she and her band were the first from the region to make commercial recordings.


Over the next several decades, bands and musicians like Bi Kidude, Culture Musical Club and Al-Watan Musical Club kept taarab at the forefront of the Tanzanian scene, and made inroads across the world. Kidumbak ensembles grew popular, at least among the poor of Zanzibar, featuring two small drums, bass, violins and dancers using claves and maracas. More recently, modern taarab bands like East African Melody have emerged, as has related backbiting songs for women called mipasho.


The 1960s saw a group called the Black Star Musical Club, from Tanga, modernize the genre and brought it to audiences far afield, especially Burundi and Kenya.


Taarab music is a fusion of pre-Islamic Swahili tunes sung in rhythmic poetic style spiced with general Islamic melodies. It is an extremely lively art form springing from a classical culture, still immensely popular with women, drawing all the time from old and new sources. Taarab forms a major part of the social life of the Swahili people along the coastal areas; especially Zanzibar, Tanga and even further in Mombasa and Malindi along the Kenya coast. Wherever the Swahili speaking people travelled, Tarabu culture moved with them. It has penetrated to as far as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi in the interior of East Africa where taarab groups compete in popularity with other western-music inspired groups.


Tanzania was influenced heavily after the 1960s with the influence of African and Latin music. Tanzanian soldiers brought back with them the music of these cultures, as well as Cuban and European music, when returning from World War II. These musical influences fused and brought together the Tanzanian people. Eventually the country and its people created its own style of music. This style, called “Swahili Jazz” was a mix of beats and styles of Cuban, European, Latin, and African music. Swahili jazz gave Tanzania a sense of independence and togetherness as a country.


These days a taarab revolution is taking place and much heated debate continues about the music which has been changed drastically by the East African Melody phenomenon. Melody, as they are affectionately known by their mostly female fans, play modern taarab, which, for the first time, is ‘taarab to dance to’ and features direct lyrics, bypassing the unwritten laws of lyrical subtlety of the older groups such as Egyptian Musical Club and Al-Wattan Musical Club where meaning to their songs was only alluded to, and never directly inferred. Today, taarab songs are explicit – sometimes even graphic – in sexual connotation, and much of the music of groups like Melody and Muungano is composed and played on keyboards, increasing portability, hence the group is much smaller in number than ‘real taarab’ orchestras and therefore more readily available to tour and play shows throughout the region and beyond.

History of Tanzanian popular dance music (dansi)


Muziki wa dansi


The first popular music craze in Tanzania was in the early 1930s, when Cuban Rumba was widespread. Young Tanzanians organized themselves into dance clubs like the Dar es Salaam Jazz Band, which was founded in 1932. Local bands at the time used brass and percussion instruments, later adding strings. Bands like Morogoro Jazz and Tabora Jazz were formed (despite the name, these bands did not play jazz). Competitions were commonplace, a legacy of native ngoma societies and colonial beni brass bands.


Independence came in 1961, however, and three years later the state patronage system was set up, and most of the previous bands fell apart. Musicians were paid regular fees, plus a percentage of the gate income, and worked for some department of the government. The first such band was the Nuta Jazz Band, which worked for the National Union of Tanzania.


The 1970s saw the popularization a laid-back sound popularized by Orchestre Safari Sound and Orchestre Maquis Original. These groups adopted the motto “Kamanyola bila jasho” (dance Kamanyola without sweating). Maquis hailed from Lubumbashi in southeastern Zaire, moving to Dar es Salaam in the early 70s. This was a common move at the time, bringing elements of soukous from the Congo basin. Maquis introduced many new dances over the years, including one, zembwela, (from their 1985 hit “Karubandika”, which was so popular that the term has become synonymous with dancing.


Popular bands in the 60s, 70s and 80s included Vijana Jazz, who were the first to add electronic instruments to dansi (in 1987) and DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra, led by Michael Enoch. Rivalries between the bands sometimes led to chaos in the scene, as when Hugo Kisima lured musicians from Mlimani Park and disbanded the wildly-popular Orchestra Safari Sound in 1985, forming the International Orchestra Safari Sound. International Orchestra Safari Sound was briefly popular, but the Orchestra Safari Sound was revitalized by Nguza Viking (formerly of maquis), who became bandleader in 1991; this new group lasted only a year.


The most recent permutation of Tanzanian dance music is mchiriku. Bands like Gari Kubwa, Tokyo Ngma and Atomic Advantage are among the pioneers of this style, which uses four drums and a keyboard for a sparse sound. Loudness is very important to the style, which is usually blared from out-dated speakers; the resulting feedback is part of the music. The origin of the style is Zaramo wedding music.

Muziki wa dansi (in Swahili: “dance music”), or simply dansi, is a Tanzanian music genre, derivative of Congolese soukous. It is sometimes called Swahili jazz because most dansi lyrics are in Swahili, and “jazz” is an umbrella term used in Central and Eastern Africa to refer to soukous, highlife, and other dance music and big band genres. Muziki wa dansi can also be referred to as Tanzanian rumba, as “african rumba” is another name for soukous.


Muziki wa dansi began in the 1930s in the Dar es Salaam area (where most dansi bands come from), and it is still popular in Tanzania, although new generations are more likely to listen to bongo flava or other forms of pop music. Notable dansi bands include DDC Mlimani Park, International Orchestra Safari Sound, Juwata Jazz, Maquis Original, Super Matimila, and Vijana Jazz.




In the first decades of the 20th century, soukous bands from Belgian Congo and French Congo were getting very popular across Eastern Africa. This craze brought along dance clubs, especially in major cities like Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, where bands would play live 7 days a week. While some of these bands were actually from Zaire, local bands emerged in Kenya, Tanzania and elsewhere and began to develop their own blend of soukous. In Dar, some of the bands that pioneered the “tanzanian rumba” were Dar es Salaam Jazz Band (founded in 1932), Morogoro Jazz and Tabora Jazz. These early bands were typically big bands based on brass and drums.


After Tanzania became independent (in 1961), a sponsorship system was introduced by Julius Nyerere’s government, whereby bands would be financially supported by government departments or other national institutions. One of the major dansi bands of this era was the NUTA Jazz Band, which was named after its sponsor, the National Union of Tanzania. At the same time, bands gradually came to be managed like profit companies; the band owned the instruments, and musicians were employees, either on wage or salary. NUTA Jazz Band was one of the first bands to adopt this model; soon many others followed, including notable bands such as Orchestra Maquis Original, DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra, Tancut Alimasi and Vijana Jazz. As a consequence of this, the most talented musicians would typically switch back and forth between bands to the best offer, until they had gathered enough money to start their own band. Composers like Muhiddin Maalin and Hassani Bitchuka wrote hit songs for virtually all the major bands of their times. Conversely, a band was more of a “brand” than any specific ensemble of musicians; some bands kept playing for up to 50 years, while their members came and went.


Dansi music flourished through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, with bands such as Orchestra Safari Sound, Orchestra Maquis Original, International Orchestra Safari Sound and DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra battling to get the audience’s favors. Competition was in fact a relevant concept in the development of dansi. Music festivals were usually in the form of contests, and each band typically had its own fan base, much in the venue of sporting teams. Also, a band often had its “nemesis”, i.e., their foremost competitor; for example, the dansi scene in the 1970s was characterized by the rivalry between Orchestra Maquis Original and Orchestra Safari Sound, which was later replaced by that between International Orchestra Safari Sound and Mlimani Park.


Mitindo (in Swahili, “styles”) were a key element in the rivalry between dansi bands. Each band would typically create its own style (mtindo), which was designed to be catchy for the audience and be clearly distinctive of the band. Mitindo were usually associated with, and often named after, some specific dancing style; for example, the name of Orchestra Maquis’ mtindo ogelea piga mbizi means “dive and swim”, as dancers were supposed to move their arms like they were diving. Bands often changed their mtindo when it began to go out of style. Some musicians and composers were specifically renowned as “mtindo makers”.


Mitindo were also important to identify a band irrespective of who was actually playing in that band. When a musician switched from one band to another, he would change his style to reflect the new band’s mtindo. Again, the most appreciated dansi musicians could easily change their style as needed.


Over time, dansi music changed, partly influenced by the evolution of European and American music. Bands in the 1960s and 1970s typically had electric guitars and electric bass guitars; in the 1980s keyboards became commonplace, and later bands even used synthesizers and drum machines (as was the case with Vijana Jazz). The sound of most recent dansi bands like Gari Kubwa, Tokyo Ngma and Atomic Advantage is actually keyboard-based.




Reggae and hip hop

Tanzanian hip hop


After Tanzania gained its independence, the leaders of the country failed in their mission to produce a successful economy. Structural Adjustment Programs were put into place, which mimicked the same colonial practices that the country was trying to free itself from. Tanzanian youths turned to crime in order to survive. “It is not surprising that most Tanzanians viewed these conditions, especially the rise in crime, and the almost simultaneous rise or rap music, as a single phenomenon. The political establishment and older generation did not accept rap music or uhuni music- since it becomes synonymous with disruption and anti-social behavior. Yet for the younger generation, traditional Swahili music did not address contradictions of the ‘liberalized’ Tanzanian economy.”


In 1991, Tanzania hosted a hip hop competition called “Yo Rap Bonanza.” While most rappers were performing American songs word for word; Saleh Ajabry, a Tanzanian, wrote his own Swahili lyrics to a song based on Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby,” and won the competition.


Dar es Salaam’s Kwanza Unit was the first Tanzanian hip hop crew, but technical limitations hindered commercial success. Mr. II and Juma Nature are the most famous Tanzanian rappers; Mr II’s (then known as 2-Proud) “Ni Mimi” (1995) was the first major hit for the field. Groups like X Plastaz have moved away from American-style hip hop and incorporated Maasai vocal styles and other Tanzanian musics. Tanzanian hip hop is often called as Bongo Flava.


Global popular culture, particularly U.S. hip hop, has played a major role in influencing Tanzanian culture since its independence. This is most evident among Tanzanian urban youth, who have absorbed global hip hop music and produced their own varieties. With the increased mediatization of Tanzania in the 1990s, Tanzanian urban youth have had more access to hip hop music, and the incorporation of global culture has become more prevalent and visible in urban Tanzania, not only in the music, but also in fashion, food, dance, and sports. Hip hop has essentially provided Tanzanian urban youth and young adults with a means of expressing themselves and forming an identity, such as the conceptual identity of msafiri (the traveler), a classic subject borrowed from Swahili lore, and a recurrent theme in Dar hip hop. While Tanzania hip hop was influenced by American hip hop it was also distinctly localized. Whereas American Hip Hop is the product of black urban youth and heavily influenced by race, Tanzania bongo flava took root in the in slightly better off part of the city with those that more access to the Western world. Furthermore, Tanzania hip hop artist saw themselves as distinct from American artists in that they focus more on economic issues and less on violence Rapper Sam Stigilydaa put it poignantly when he said, “American rappers talk about crazy things-drinking, drugs, violence against women, American blacks killing blacks. I hope African doesn’t turn crazy”


Other modern styles


Mbaraka Mwinshehe was the most popular and original musician of Tanzania, also there is a greater influx of musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), who were entering the country as refugees and made residence in the country. But in recent years, mainly from the mid-nineties, new generation of musicians has emerged and are coming up with popular tunes which are Tanzanian in composition. Bands like Twanga Pepeta have managed to carve a new tune distinct from imported Zairean tunes, and are competing with Zairean bands in popularity and audience acceptance.


Jah Kimbuteh was the first major reggae star in Tanzania, beginning his career with Roots and Kulture in 1985. Newer artists in the field include the Jam Brothers and Ras Innocent Nyanyagwa, who includes songs in Hehe and Swahili and uses indigenous rhythms.


At present, Ras Nas is considered as one of the most known reggae musician from Tanzania. Ras Nas combines reggae, afro and dub poetry. His latest release “Dar-es-Salaam” contains eight tracks.


Many musicians work in bands that play at a hotel, usually led by a keyboard and including a rock-based sound. The Kilimanjaro Connection is perhaps the most respected of these hotel bands, along with Bantu Group and Tanzanite’s.


Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury, singer born in Tanzania


Freddie Mercury, born Farouk Bulsara into the Indian Parsi community of Stone Town, Zanzibar, later moved to England and rose to worldwide fame as the lead singer, and a songwriter and instrumentalist, of the rock music group Queen. He died on 24 November 1991. Efforts to honour his life and work on the 60th anniversary of his birth were abandoned in September 2006 following the protests of a radical Islamic group on the archipelago, Uamsho, who said he had violated Islam with his openly gay lifestyle. (Zanzibar criminalized gay and lesbian sex in 2004


Distribution and access to music


The mushrooming of FM music stations and reasonable production studios has been a major boost to the music industry in the country. Contemporary artists like Juma Nature, Lady Jaydee, Mr. Nice, Mr. II, Cool James, Dully Sykes, Professor Jay and many others command a huge audience of followers in the country and neighbouring countries.


More information about Tanzanian music and events can be found on the various web portals that have sprung up recently. Tanzania has an enormously high growth rate for internet technologies, estimated at up to 500% per year. Because costs for computers are still quite high, many users share connections at internet cafes or at work. business directory, Movie and Sports information, Arusha locality information all are part of an increasing number of websites dedicated to the region.







Ethnic groups of Zambia



           Located: along the upper Congo basin

           Fact: the Bemba is the largest and more influential ethnic groups.


           Located: live along the western of the Zambezi River border with Zimbabwe.

           Fact: the Tonga is the second largest group


           Located: western region of Zambia

           Fact: who the first to be involved with European Missionaries.


           Located: eastern region of Zambia

           Fact: also found in Mozambique


Genres of Zambia



           Popular music

           Taking traditional music and playing on guitar


           Folk music

           From Bemba ethnic group


           Combination of Jimi Hendrix’s rock and James Brown’s funk

           Emerged in the 1950s


Instruments of Zambia



           Known as: drum

           Fact: generic term for drum


           Known as: Drum

           Fact: found in the Valley Tonga for funeral ceremonies


           Known as: animal horn

           Fact: played in hocket in Valley Tonga


           Known as: musical bow

           Fact: traditionally played by young men to show their availability of marriage


The music of Zambia has a rich heritage which falls roughly into three categories: traditional, popular and Christian.


Traditional music


Traditional Zambian music is rooted in the beliefs and practices of Zambia’s various ethnic groups and has suffered some decline in the last three decades. Traditional Zambian music once had clear ritual purposes or was an expression of the social fabric of the culture. Songs were used to teach, to heal, to appeal to spirits, and for mere enjoyment. Despite the decline of traditional music, its influences can still be heard in many of today’s Zambian musical forms. The ubiquitous African “call-and-response” can be heard in almost every Zambian song no matter what the style. Traditional drum rhythms and polymeters are evident in many different kinds of Zambian music. Contemporary popular forms such as Zambian Kalindula also exhibit traces of traditional music in the finger-picking style used by guitarists.



Traditional Zambian instruments include a variety of membranophones, both stick-struck and hand-struck. Drums are essential for most traditional dances. Ngoma is the generic central African term for drum but Zambian drums come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and purposes and have specific names depending on their tribal origins and functional roles. The budima drums of the Valley Tonga, for example, are used specifically for funeral ceremonies. Budima drums have a goblet shape and come in sizes ranging from large to small. One of the most interesting of drums is the so-called “lion drum” (Namalwa in Tonga) used at traditional funerals. This is a friction drum which is not struck at all but which has a stick inserted through the drum head that is rubbed. The silimba is a large 17-note xylophone from Western Province.


Chordophones and aerophones are less common in traditional Zambian music but exist nonetheless. The Valley Tonga play instruments made from animal horns called nyeele. Nyeele are played using an interlocking technique with individual musicians each playing a single horn and interlocking with other musicians who have nyeele of different pitches. A chordophone called a kalumbu was traditionally played by young men to signal their desire to marry. Called a ‘musical bow’ by ethnomusicologists because of its bow shape, the kalumbu is struck by a stick. Like many other central African countries, Zambia once had a vibrant tradition of so-called “thumb pianos,” each with a different name depending on tribal origins: the Tonga kankobela is one such thumb piano, the Mbunda “kathandi”, the Lozi “kangombio”, the Lunda “chisanzhi”, the Nsenga “kalimba”, etc. Although the use of traditional instruments has declined in recent years, they can still be heard in rural areas of Zambia.


Recordings of traditional Zambian music were made in the mid-twentieth century by Hugh Tracey and Arthur Morris Jones, both well-known ethnomusicologists of African music. Tracey recorded all over Zambia in the 1950s, but also specifically recorded in the Zambezi Valley in 1958 at the request of anthropologist Elizabeth Colson before the creation of the Kariba Dam and Jones did his at Mapanza in Zambia’s Southern Province. Catholic missionaries, J. J. Corbeil and Frank Wafer have also contributed to our knowledge of traditional Zambian music. Father Corbeil collected and documented the instrumental tradition of the Bemba in Northeastern Zambia. Frank Wafer, a Jesuit priest located at Chikuni, has collected and preserved Batonga music. A community radio station dedicated to promoting Batonga music and culture is also part of the Chikuni Mission Station. They organize an annual festival of Batonga music which attracts as many as 10,000 visitors according to the organizers. Recent ethnomusicological work has been done by native Zambians such as Mwesa Isaiah Mapoma, Joseph Ng’andu, John Anderson Mwesa and others. Recent field recordings made by native Zambian Michael Baird in Southern Province have been released on his SWP label.


Popular music


After independence in 1964, the most important source of popular music was the Zambia Broadcasting Service and affiliated bands like Lusaka Radio Band who soon changed their name to The Big Gold Six. Record companies soon formed, with most recordings made at Peter Msungilo’s DB Studios in Lusaka, and records pressed in Ndola by the Teal Record Company.


The northern, copper-producing area of Zambia was known for singers like John Lushi, William Mapulanga and Stephen Tsotsi Kasumali. Their guitar-based music grew gradually into Zamrock, which used mostly English lyrics in rock songs. Bands included the Machine-Gunners and Musi-o-tunya. The most popular band in Zambian history soon emerged, Jaggari Chanda’s Great Witch.


In the late 1970s, President Kenneth Kaunda ordered that 95% of the music on the radio had to be Zambian. He hoped to encourage the formation of a Zambian national identity. Rather than using their folk roots, however, Zambians attempted to become pop stars. By the mid-1980s, the result was kalindula music. Bands included the Masasu Band, Serenje Kalindula and Junior Mulemena Boys. Amayenge is considered one of the best kalindula bands of the past twenty years. An annual concert of traditional bands (not just kalindula) was recently begun by the Chikuni Radio station in Chikuni in the Southern Province. Two of the most popular bands from that festival are Green Mamba and Mashombe Blue Jeans. In addition, artists such as Alfred Chisala Kalusha Jr. based their compositions on “Imfukutu” – Bemba folk music.


In the 1990s, economic problems caused the collapse of the Zambian music industry. Unfettered by rules promoting Zambian music, the airwaves were covered with imported ragga and reggae from Jamaica and hip hop and R&B from the United States.


The most successful record label currently operating in Zambia is Mondo Music Corporation in Lusaka. Their stable of artists includes J.K., Danny, Shatel, and Black Muntu. Sound clips of each of these groups can be heard at their website. The Zambian entertainment industry recognizes popular musicians such as these at its annual Ngoma Awards. The Ngoma Awards amount to a Zambian version of the all-Africa Kora Awards. At the moment K’Millian is a very popular artist.


A unique hybrid form of Zambian music is found in the so-called “banjo” tradition. The Zambian “banjo” (pronounced ‘bahn-jo’) is essentially a homemade guitar. A wide variety of such instruments can be found in different sizes and with varying numbers of strings. Most are played using a two or three finger picking style and the tuning of each instrument is unique to that instrument. The body is made in various shapes from wood or sometimes tin cans, and the strings or ‘wires’ often come from discarded radial tires. Zambian banjos are used in kalindula bands throughout Zambia.


Christian music


Popular influences can also be heard in the newer repertory, some of which is borrowed from urban contemporary gospel, some from so-called “contemporary Christian music” from the United States, and some from Zambian popular idioms. The use of electronic synthesizers and guitars has also made its way into the church. The flow of influence between church music and the popular realm can also be heard in recordings by groups such as The Glorious Band, Zambian Acapella, and Glorious Hosanna Band.


The influence of Euro-American hymnody is also evident in the music of many Zambian congregations. Hymns from British and American hymnals continue to be part of the musical fabric of many churches, and many harmonic practices are derived from Western hymn influences. Among the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a unique system of notation called Tonic Sol-fa is used to transmit hymns. Invented by John Curwen, the system was imported into Africa by the British in the nineteenth century. The Heritage Singers Choir and Heritage Brothers of the SDA church helped popularise this form of harmonious music.





Ethnic Groups of Zimbabwe



          Located: east and southeast of Zimbabwe

           Facts: the subgroup found in Zimbabwe are the Bakalanga


           Located: north to south through western Zimbabwe

           Facts: also called the Matabele


           Located: northwestern part of Zimbabwe

           Facts: originally inhabited southern Mozambique


           Located: southern part of Zimbabwe


               Python dance is a female coming of age ceremonial dance

               Tshikona is a male royal dance

               Tshigombela is a married female dance


Genres of Zimbabwe



           Mbira heavy

           Popular genre for liberation struggle


           Fast guitar riffs and rapid drumming

           Combination of Tanzanian guitar, Congolese rhumba, and mbira melodies on guitar


           Offshoot of rhumba and jit

           Guitar reggae feel


           Combination of jazz, western pop, and rock

           Named by Oliver Mtukudzi


Instruments of Zimbabwe



           Quality: Thumb piano made out of metal keys on top of a wooden board


               Bottle caps and shells placed on instrument for vibration sound. Thought to attract ancestral spirits

           Played for:

               Ceremonial music to call spirits


           Quality: Gourd rattle


               Made from the maranka (dolphin gourd)

           Played for:

               Accompanies the mbira in ceremonial music


           Quality: Panpipes


               Instrument of Shona ethnic group

           Played for:

               Played in ensembles in hocket for entertainment


           Quality: Mouth-resonated braced bow


               Instrument of the Shona ethnic group

           Played for:

               Ceremonial music


Zimbabwean music includes folk and pop styles. Much of the folk music is based around the well-known instrument traditional mbira instruments which are also popular in many other African countries: mbira, Ngoma drums and hosho. An annual Zimbabwe Music Festival is held each year in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. People from all over the world attend this festival and share the experience of Zimbabwean music and culture. Popular genres in Zimbabwe include indigenous Mbira music, Chimurenga music, Sungura music, Sungumba music, Zimbabwean hip-Hop, Zimbabwean Reggae (Dancehall music), Shangara, Jerusarema, Gospel Music, Mhande, Mbaqanga, Afro-Jazz and Rhumba.




The mbira, often called a thumb piano, is an integral part of Zimbabwean music. It is played while in a halved calabash which amplifies the sound and distorts it using shells or bottle caps placed around the edges. Though musicologist Hugh Tracey believed the mbira to be nearing extinction in the 1930s, the instrument has been revived since the 60s and 70s, and has gained an international following through the world music scene. Some renowned mbira players include Dumisani Maraire, Ephat Mujuru, Forward Kwenda, Stella Chiweshe, Chartwell Dutiro, Beauler Dyoko, Cosmas Magaya, Musekiwa Chingodza, Hakurotwi Mude, Chiwoniso Maraire, Tute Chigamba, Wilfred MaAfrica, Albert Chimedza, Hope Ruvimbo Masike, Hector Rufaro Mugani, Tendai Gahamadze


Mbira DzeNjari is an mbira music genre popular along the eastern border of Zimbabwe. The mbira instrument has 32 keys, far more complicated than other types of mbira instruments. Not a lot is known about this type of mbira. Foreign students from University of Washington recorded some of the music during the Zimbabwe liberation war in Zimunya communal lands from prominent musicians in the area like Mombo Chiwanza and Nyika Musabayana Zimunya. The latter recorded one known single at Gramma Records, titled: Adzimai garaimwandichema. Other leading mbira groups include Mbira Dzenharira, Maungira Enharira and Mbira Dzechirorodziva. It is also important to state that it is almost impossible to talk about mbira music without making reference to Thomas Mapfumo (a.k.a Mukanya), whose music comprises a fusion of mbira and modern instruments.


There is also pop music in Zimbabwe that incorporates their indigenous instruments. Although the mbira is traditionally played as ceremonial music to call spirits, there are many who play it in world-fusion music and get successful radio play and album sales in Zimbabwe and other countries in Africa. For example, mbira player Chris Berry with his band Panjea have reached platinum record sales in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, playing a style of music based on traditional mbira rhythms and melodies, but incorporating various other instruments and styles (like hip-hop and dancehall).




This is the local genre of the Zimbabwe music industry. Sungura music became popular in the early 1980s, pioneered by frontman Ephraim Joe and his band Sungura Boys which counted many notable future hit makers as members. Their roll included John Chibadura (guitar) Simon Chimbetu (guitar and vocals) Naison Chimbetu, Ronnie Chataika, Michael Jambo (drums), Ephraim Joe (guitar), Moses Marasha (bass), Never Moyo (lead guitar), Bata Sinfirio (rhythm guitar), System Tazvida (guitar and vocals).


The Khiama Boys emerged as natural successors to the Sungura Boys after their demise during the mid-eighties. Members would include System Tazvida (Rhythm guitar), Nicholas Zacharia (Lead guitar), Alick Macheso (Bass), Silas Chakanyuka (Drums) and Zacharia Zakaria (Sub Rhythm guitar). A great number of these artistes have gone on to forge successful careers with their own bands whilst Nicholas Zacharia has remained as the leader of the band and is still active as of 2008.


James Chimombe, whose romantic ballads and the influential sungura guitar melody, (consisting of Lead, Rhythm and bass,) made him a favorite in the late 80s.


The 90s was dominated by musicians include Leonard Dembo, the effervescent Khiama Boys, veteran Simon Chimbetu and upcoming artistes Alick Macheso, Tongai Moyo and Somadhla Ndebele. The star of the decade was none other than Leonard Zhakata whose musical project was a spinoff of the double play Maungwe Brothers, an act fronted by Zhakata and his cousin Thomas Makion.     Zhakata seems to bemoan the grim state of affairs that characterize the present generation. As anyone can tress through good listening, the rhythm of his lyrics seems vibrate the ground and also seems to have the capacity to resurrect the dead from the graves. Almost his every song articulates his agony, probably the indiscriminate banning of his songs by the Z.M.C. The decade 2000 till presence has been characterized by a wrangle for the crown for the kingship of Sungura between the two great superstars of the decade, Alick Macheso and Tongai Moyo. Having dominated sales, tour and concert attendances, the heckling and counter heckling by the artists at shows and in some recorded material is strong proof that the current feud is far from end.


Other artists to come through this decade include Joseph Garakara, Gift Amuli and Daiton Somanje. And of late, Aleck Macheso has risen to become one of the best singers in the music industry, with his popular dance zoraaa butter.


System Tazvida, Simon Chimbetu, John Chibadura, Leonard Dembo, and Thomas Makion have all died and left us with their sweet melodies.



Afro Jazz (Zimbabwean Jazz)


Afro Jazz is a term used for Zimbabwean music influenced by a style of township rhythm that evolved in a Southern part of Africa over the last century. One can also trace similarities from Kwela, a pennywhistle-based, street music from the southern part of Africa with jazzy underpinnings and a distinctive, skiffle-like beat. It is also closely related to Marabi which was the name given to a keyboard style (often using cheap pedal organs) that had a musical link to American jazz, ragtime and blues, with roots deep in the African tradition. Early marabi musicians were part of an underground musical culture and were typically not recorded. An example of such an artist in the early 1940’s is August Musarurwa of the Skokiaan fame. It has continued to develop and you can even see traits of this music in his grandson Prince Kudakwashe Musarurwa.


Tuku Music


Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi is a prolific recorder who has also appeared in films like Jit. He plays in a plethora of styles, and is known for penetrating lyrics; for example, he wrote a second song about AIDS in Zimbabwe after Paul Matavire’s hit song Yakauya AIDS iriko.

Mokoomba at the music festival “Bardentreffen” 2013 in Nuremberg, Germany

Mokoomba at the music festival “Bardentreffen” 2013 in Nuremberg, Germany



Jit is a generic term for electric guitar-driven pop, and includes wildly popular groups like the New Black Eagles and the Four Brothers. Internationally, The Bhundu Boys are by far the best-known jit performers, and have worked with numerous American and British musicians. Notable recent bands to come up with the Jit sound are Nehoreka who fuse the traditional Jit with funk sounds, there is also Mokoomba and Q Montana.



African Rumba, or ‘Soukos’ is mostly associated with the Democratic Republic of the Congo but its popularity has inspired Zimbabwe’s own brand of rumba in musicians such as Simon Chimbetu and Leonard Karikoga Zhakata. Soukos has been an influence on other artists such as The R.U.N.N. family. Nowadays, Zimbabwean rumba is more popular than imported rumba.




Gospel music became popular in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s with stars like Jordan Chataika, Freedom Sengwayo, Mechanic Manyeruke, and Jonathan Wutawunashe were the first stars of Zimbabwean gospel, and the genre has continued to grow in popularity. Brian Sibalo and Mechanic Manyeruke also became very popular in the early nineties.


The early nineties saw the rising of new gospel stars in the mold of Ivy Kombo – Moyo and Carol Mujokoro of the EGEA gospel Train whose debut album Mufudzi Wangu was released in 1993 and contains tracks such as “Be Thou My Vision”, “Ndotarisa Kumakomo” and “Utiziro” among others. The two went on to pursue successful solo musical careers and released “Ndaidziwanepi Nyasha” and “Ropa RaJesu” as their debut solo albums respectively.


Gospel artists who emerged from the mid-nineties include Lawrence Haisa, Brother Sam with his hits “Makanaka Jesu” and “Cherechedza”, Elias Musakwa, Rita Shinhiwa, The Gospel Trumpet of the “Rose Of Sharon” fame and Shingisai Suluma who only became popular in the early 21st century with the hit song “Mirira Mangwanani”; though she first recorded in the nineties.


In the late-nineties, Charles Charamba, a rising artist, grew in popularity, and currently holds gospel sales records. His music became popular into the first decade of the 21st century, most likely due to his Sungura-based contemporary style.


In the early 21st century, a lot of gospel artists also recorded, though a few really rose to stardom. These include Fungisai Zvakavapano – Mashavave who has risen to become the most dominant female gospel musician in the current era, Stanley Gwanzura (Pastor Gee), Kudzai Nyakudya and gospel a cappella outfits like Vabati VaJehovah and Shower Power.




The Ndebele-dominated region of the southwest of Zimbabwe, including the city Bulawayo, has been instrumental in the development of Zimbabwean music. Seminal 1950s guitarist George Sibanda had a following across Africa, and Dorothy Masuka was a major player on the South African jazz scene, for example. Among the most popular performers of the region within Zimbabwe, however, was 1980s Ndebele pop sensation Lovemore Majaivana. Ndebele musicians who are active are Black Umfolosi, Insingizi Majahawodwa Ndlovu, Sandra Ndebele, Lwazi Tshabangu, Kuxxman, Go Boyz, Achuzi, Beate Mangethe, Vusa Mkhaya, Afrika Revenge and Ramadu. The marginalization of Bulawayo artists in Zimbabwe saw the influence of South African music dominating hence the emergence of kwaito music in Bulawayo pioneered by Go-Boyz in 1996 and more groups like GTI, Achuzi, Amagangsters, etc., emerged. A brand of Jazz was created in Bulawayo, in the 1940s and 1950s, and was made popular by August Musarurwa with his African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia. He recorded the legendary song Sikokiana which went on to be recorded in USA by Louis Armstrong and many others.




Zimbabwean musicians’ lyrics mostly contain encouragement of upholding good social values in the family and society as whole. Such lyrics can be seen in songs by artists like Oliver Mtukudzi, Simon Chimbetu, Louis Mhlanga, John Chibadura, Steve Makoni, Bhundu Boys and many others. Of note however is Thomas Mapfumo, whose lyrics are mainly political and encourage good leadership and rising against bad governance – Most of his albums are named after a word meaning Uprising or War of Liberation, “Chimurenga”. His music has earned him the wrath of the ZANU-PF government resulting in the banning of most of his music on state owned radio and TV. Another outstanding musician with striking lyrics is the late System Tazvida of the Chazezesa Challengers. His lyrics were mainly centered on the subject of “Love” and this gained him popularity with songs like “Anodyiwa Haataure”, “Ukarambwa Usachema”, “Vanotipedzera Mashoko” and “Dai Hanzvadzi Yairoorwa”. With the coming of “Urban Grooves” the lyrics content resembles that of American RnB, Hip Hop and Pop music which the younger generations listen to. One artist Maskiri is known for imitating Eminem’s style of controversial lyrics.


Urban Grooves


Coming on the music scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Urban Grooves takes in American Rap, Hip Hop, R&B, Soul and other international music genres, often melded with traditional Zimbabwean music.


Artists such as Sanii Makhalima, Roy and Royce, David Chifunyise, Leonard Mapfumo, Roki, Stach, Betty Makaya, Extra Large, Maskiri, and Nehoreka laid the groundwork for the new genre, which gained increasing popularity among the youth. The style was helped by the 100% local content policy in effect at the time, which required all radio stations to play only music by


Zimbabwean artists.


A second generation of artists such as Alexio Kawara, Q Montana, Mokoomba and Nehoreka have come to prominence more recently.










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[1]”Music,” Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99. © 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[1]”Musical Notation,” Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99. © 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[1]”Musical Rhythm,” Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99. © 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Figure 1 –


Figure 2 –


Burkina Faso

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