The Diverse Music of the African Continent

Laura Lee
May 28, 2023

African music is varied, with many different regional and national musical traditions, reflecting the continent’s size. Amapiano, Jùj, Fuji, Afrobeat, Highlife, Makossa, Kizomba, and other styles of music are examples of African music. African musical traditions have had different degrees of influence on the music and dance of the African diaspora, which also includes various Caribbean genres like calypso (see kaiso) and soca as well as American music like Dixieland jazz, blues, and jazz. African popular music has been affected by Latin American music genres such as conga, rumba, son cubano, salsa, bomba, cumbia, samba, and zouk, which were established on the music of enslaved Africans.

It is a very rhythmic melody, much like the music of Asia, India, and the Middle East. A polyrhythm is a complicated rhythmic pattern that frequently involves playing one rhythm against another. The most typical polyrhythm plays a triplet against straight notes by layering three beats on top of two. Various percussion instruments, such as xylophones, djembes, drums, and tone-producing instruments like the mbira or “thumb piano,” are often used in Sub-Saharan African music traditions.

African music is known for its call-and-response style, in which one voice or instrument performs a brief melodic line, to which another voice or instrument responds. The beat is also call-and-response in that one drum will play a rhythmic pattern, which is then repeated by another drum. African music is largely improvised as well. Drummers often play a basic rhythmic pattern and improvise new patterns over the fixed initial ones.

Because so many other civilizations have studied African music throughout the years, it has had a significant impact on many others. For instance, the Swiss Society for Ethnomusicology organized a number of symposia in December 2002 in an effort to research Ghanaian music. The ethnomusicologists who participated in the study sought to understand customs and historical eras via music. Furthermore, certain ethnomusicologists, like John Collins, sought to investigate more focused facets of Ghanaian music, such as the role of Christianity in popular music.