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26 May 2014

West Africa is the Home of Music… (26 Mar 2007)

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It would not be totally wrong to say West Africa is the home of music in Africa. The region has produced so many international stars: Youssou N’Dour and Baaba Maal from Senegal, Alpha Blondy from Ivory Coast; Salif Keita and Ali Farka Toure from Mali; Manu Dibango from Cameroon; Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Sade Adu, Seal, King Sunny Ade just to mention a few. 

West African music is as old as the hills themselves. Many West African music traditions begin with a conversation among drums: rhythmic patterns and drums timbres act as voices that complement one another and combine into a dense, disciplined and creatively unified sound. 

There is hardly a region on the continent that can rival the energy, impetus and diversity of West African drumming – Nigeria’s rich Yoruba percussion, Ashanti and Ewe ensembles from Ghana; the Samba stick drumming from Senegal and the electrifying masters of the hand-played Djembe drum of Mali, Guinea, Senegal and other West African countries. There are other various versions of the talking drum, whose tone rises and falls as the player clamps down his arm to squeeze the cords that bind the drum’s head to its hourglass-shaped body.

In many West African societies, music is a dynamic driving force that animates the life of the entire community. Griot is the term used throughout West Africa to describe professional musicians. He is the relater of history, philosophy and mythology, the archive of the peoples’ traditions. 

The West African Region has a long-running cultural conversation with the New World: the U.S., Britain and France, plus the Caribbean via slave trade, colonialism, economic migration amongst other factors. Many even argue that West Africa nurtured the ancestral seeds of blues, jazz, rock-and-roll and reggae, sounds later known and imitated around the world.

Some of the popular genres in West African music today are Gospel, Reggae, High-life, Hip-life, Hip-dia, Afrojuju, Afrobeat, Makossa and others. West African music story cannot be told in one piece, it’s richer than a hot pap, served with bean cake in a Nigerian village.

Oshin F.


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