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African Music History

Have you ever wondered why Africa has always been in the big picture? Some believe that it is due to poverty in Africa, some others are of the opinion that the world is attracted towards African jewellery.

Blame it on the education in Africa, the food in Africa, the children in Africa, African art pictures or even HIV AIDS in Africa; the fact remains that Africa is the focal point in the history of events. Another distinguished feature which is as delightful as travelling in West Africa is the African music.

Africa is a country rich in its distinct musical traditions and the best way to absorb the tang of African music is by going through African music history.

Observations have proved that music in Africa particularly East Africa is influenced by Arabic music, music of India and Indonesia. Music in eastern region includes the music of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Madagascar etc.


In the 7th century, Arabs reached North Africa and influenced their culture. North African music is therefore closely associated with Middle Eastern music.

The range of North African music which varies from music in ancient Egypt to the Berber of the desert nomads also includes the music of Sudan and of the Horn of Africa. African music and Arab music shares a certain degree of similarity which also extends to their musical instruments.


The most significant instrument in African culture is the drum which is played by hands or sticks. Drums were considered as a means of communication during ancient times in Africa.

African Musical instruments are made out of any material that can produce sound. Flutes, Finger bells, musical bow, thumb piano, trumpets, xylophones, horns, Udo pot are some of the musical instruments in Africa.

The journey of African music began as a medium in the daily life of human being to convey news, to teach, to tell a story and for religious purposes.

A singing technique which is universally known as the call and response is Africa's contribution towards vocal music. In "call and response" technique a person plays the lead by singing a phrase to which a group of singers answer.

Music in Southern, central and West Africa come under the Sub-Saharan musical tradition. Marabi, originally a humble form of music from South Africa later evolved into a dance form and became similar to Jazz when the rich blacks adopted it.

The varying dance and music forms of the early African slaves have influenced African popular music to a great extent. Music in Africa usually emerged in black urban centres where different tribes meet.

Ghana's highlife, Nigeria's juju, Zimbabwe's Jit and South Africa's mbaqanga which struggled through rapid urbanisation and independence of the country are African gifts created by innumerable composers.

The list of african composers include Le Chevalier de Saint Georges, Afro-French composer and a colonel of blacks during French revolution, afro American composer and popular band leader Frank B Johnson, Samuel Coleridge Taylor the Afro British composer who created magic with his musical blockbuster Hiawatha's Wedding Feast in 1898.

This site covers all areas for Music History of the World.


Ottoman Empire History