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When did African music start?

What is the history of the African music? What genres appeared first and what instruments did people from this region play first? Let’s find out more about this from the article.

History of African musicAfrican music is diverse and unique compared to the music and rhythms of any other parts of the world. Considering the vastness of its territory and numerous people that inhabited it, African music history is pretty long and fascinating.

The history of music of the population of Africa is more complicated than you think it might be. The culture of tribalism makes it difficult for scholars to estimate the date when it all first started. There is an easy answer like for the countries from the West. The history of African music is full of controversial facts that were brought to the display by people never actually lived here.

Africans never separated music and dances. They considered these two components as a whole, so music comes together with dance, unlike other cultures where these two notions existed separately. Dance and music were both a regular part of everyday activities for Africans.  They used music to support whatever they did. Here is what one of the scholars commented on the history of African music: “Honest observers are hard pressed to find the single indigenous group in Africa that has a term congruent to the usual western notion of “music.” There are terms for more official acts like singing, playing instruments, and more broadly performing (dance, games, music); but the isolation of musical sound from other arts proves a Western abstraction, of which we should be aware when we approach the study of performance in Africa.”

The fact is that some of the peoples did not even have two different names for these activities. They had just one single name that included both dancings to the music while working or having rest. Africans used music and dance to tell stories, or express something. They had all types of music at their disposal including folk tales, myths, epics, praise poems and historical accounts of rituals. They used music and dance to accompany events like “the child’s naming ceremonies, child rearing practices, initiation rights, agricultural activities, public ceremonies, war times, religious services and those meant for the dead.”

African music history

However, music traditions are different throughout the continent. Those of the Northern parts are distinct from those of the Southern regions. Here is what New World Encyclopedia says about the music traditions of Egypt: “This region has deep musical connections to the rest of the Arab world, being one of the epicenters of Arab classical and popular music for hundreds of years. While Arabic traditions are more preeminent, a Coptic musical tradition adapted from the music of the ancient Egyptian is also existent. Coptic music is characterized by a strong vocal and the use of cymbals and triangles.”

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Meanwhile, the traditions of Morocco music choices is different from those of Egypt’s. It has more instruments, and orchestra is involved in the process. On top of that, they also played string instruments like rabab, oud, and qanun.

As the scientists familiar with this matter state the Western coast of the African continent is the region with the richest musical heritage. The main countries where the music was produced were Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, and Guinea. The music culture here includes pieces that are at least four thousand years old.

African musical instruments

Considering that the Eastern part is mostly Muslim, the music, its styles, and dances were much influenced by the adherers of this religion. Here is what scientists say about it: “has deep musical connections to the rest of the Arab world, being one of the epicenters of Arab classical and popular music for hundreds of years. While Arabic traditions are more preeminent, a Coptic musical tradition adapted from the music of the ancient Egyptian is also existent. Coptic music is characterized by a strong vocal and the use of cymbals and triangles.”

African musical instruments

The African musical instruments vary depending on the region and country. However, there are instruments that are always associated with Africa and were invented here. They are still wildly popular, and some of them were integrated into the musical traditions of other countries. So here is a list of these instruments:

1.    Algatia

2.    Kalimba

3.    The Kora

4.    Shekere

5.    Jembe

6.    Mbira

7.    The Talking Drum

8.    The Balafon

9.    Udu

10.    Marimba

African music genres list

African music genres list 

And while still on this topic, here is a list of genres that were invented and developed here.  Check out if you can find any of them assimilated into the music culture of other countries.

1.    Afrobeat

2.    Apala

3.    Benga

4.    Congolese rumba

5.    Cape Jazz

6.    Fuji music

7.    Hiplife

8.    Igbo rap

9.    Kadongo Kamu

10.    Kizomba

11.    Kwaito

12.    Kweli

13.    Makossa

14.    Mbube

15.    Ndombolo

16.    Palm-wine

17.    Sega

18.    Seggae

19.    Semba

20.    Soukous

21.    Taarab

22.    Shangaan electro

These are the styles that emerged in the course of development of African music history. You can learn more about each of them later. So far, this is what we wanted to share with you about the history of music and dance of the African continent.

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