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glossary of African music styles
May 21, 2003
Afrobeat is a combination of American jazz, funk and Nigerian beat.
It was created by Africa’s most outspoken artist, the late Fela
Ransome Anikulapo of Nigeria in the early 70s at the time British
rock and American soul music was dominating most of Africa’s music
scene. Fela introduced his brand of style to stop the British musical
Afropop as certain people call some of the new popular music of
Africa is spiced with elements of carious African and western rhythms.
One reason western countries have been able to recognize somewhat
the compelling influence of African music is that in the 70s and
80s many African artists and musicians migrated to Europe and to
America to pursue a professional career. In doing so they reintroduced
African music in its contemporary form, with many variations and
styles. Utilizing all the new recording technology available to
them they were able to create new sounds.
Bikutsi the late addition to Cameroon popular dance music, the
style created by five musicians from that west African country to
react to zouk style dance music from Martinique that had monopolized
Cameroon airwaves int he early nineties.
Benga Beat is the gigh-level electric guitars sound from Kenya
East Africa identifiable with heavy drum cadence and vocal harmony.
Chimurenga is the liberation war music of Zimbabwe. It is a
mix of the traditional mbira music with electric guitar use as a
tool of the liberation struggle by this country’s internationally
known artist Thomas Mapfumo.
Fuji Garbage comes from Nigeria. It is a drums based Yoruba
music, with guitars; accordions and talking drums.
Jit Jive and True Jit are another styles from Zimbabwe, popularized
by a group of young musicians right after the independence of this
country in the early eighties. The Bhundu Boys (Bush Boys) were
the early ambassadors of that style. It was created after the liberation
war when many youths migrating from the villages to Harare the capital
city found themselves without any employable skills, they formed
many bands across the city for recreational purposes.
Highlife is the Ghanaian and Nigeria ball room music from West
Africa. It is indeed this style of African dance music that first
introduced African popular music to Europe and America. Among the
early pioneers are King Bruce and his Black beat, E.T. Mensah and
his Ramblers dance band, Roy Chicago,.......
Makossa another Cameroonian popular dance music "dance
till you drop’. The great saxophonist Manu Dibango put the style
on the map with his legendary jazzy sound of "soul makossa"
that became the theme of African music in Europe and in America
in the 70s. There are multitude of Cameroonian artists performing
the new style in its true African rhythms and colors, among them
Prince Eyango,Guy Lobe, Charlote Mbango, Eppe&Koum, Moni Bile
and many more...
Mbalax it the Senegalese contemporary music, highly percussive
sound dominated by the goat-skinned Sabar drum. Best example of
this music is Youssou Ndour, Baaba Mal, Ismael Lo and lately many
newcomers on the Senegalese music scene.
Mapouka is the latest dance craze and musical style out of Cote
d’Ivoire, west Africa. Originally performed by the women of the
high society on the southwest region of the country,Mapouka was
introduced on the popular club scene in the late 90s by a new generation
of young women who turned it into an erotic dance style. Though
banned by the government Mapouka continues to be extremely popular
outside its country of origin. The not-so erotic style is being
performed by both many male and female groups in Cote d’Ivoire.
Mbaquanga is the name given to South African black music and
dance from Soweto. The style is named after a soup popular among
the people of the black township. It served as the liberation struggle
music. Some of the artists to check out are the Soul Brothers ,
Malatini and the Mahottela Queens, Juluka, Soul Ryders.
Soukous from the Congo is the most popular music and dance craze
style today in all of sub-Sahara Africa. The Slow rumba music of
the 50s and 60s developed into an electrifying high octave rhythm
performed by some of Africa’s best guitarists. The name comes from
the French word "secouer" which means to shake, it was
translated to "soukous" through the street of Kinshasa
the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Crisp lightening
guitars sound and vocal harmony of soukous music is irresistible.
You may be familiar with Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Wenga Musica,
Soukous Stars, Diblo Dibala, Kanda Bongo Man. In the mid 90s Soukous
music evolved to a new style called "Ndombolo", it is
the main musical menu at many African parties.
Taarab is the music from the spice island of the far east coast
of Africa Zanzibar. The name taarab derives from the Arabic word
tariba meaning to be "restless or agitated." The style
undeniably reflects the combination of both Arabic and African roots.
Zoblazo is the handkerchief dancing style of Cote d’Ivoire from
most of the coastal region of this country. The foremost exponent
and creator of this style is the extraordinary showman and great
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