Music by regions
North Africa and the Horn of Africa
North Africa is the seat of ancient Egypt and Carthage, civilizations with strong ties to the ancient Near East and which influenced the ancient Greek and Roman cultures. Eventually, Egypt fell under Persian rule followed by Greek and Roman rule, while Carthage was later ruled by Romans and Vandals. North Africa was later conquered by the Arabs, who established the region as the Maghreb of the Arab world.
Like the musical genres of the Nile Valley and the Horn of Africa (sky-blue and dark green region on map), its music has close ties with Middle Eastern music and utilizes similar melodic modes (maqamat). North African music has a considerable range, from the music of ancient Egypt to the Berber and the Tuareg music of the desert nomads. The region's art music has for centuries followed the outline of Arabic and Andalusian classical music: its popular contemporary genres include the Algerian Raï.
With these may be grouped the music of Sudan and of the Horn of Africa, including the music of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. Somali music is typically pentatonic, using five pitches per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale. The music of the Ethiopian highlands uses a fundamental modal system called qenet, of which there are four main modes: tezeta, bati, ambassel, and anchihoy. Three additional modes are variations on the above: tezeta minor, bati major, and bati minor. Some songs take the name of their qenet, such as tizita, a song of reminiscence.
West, Central, Southeast and South Africa
The ethnomusicological pioneer Arthur Morris Jones (1889–1980) observed that the shared rhythmic principles of Sub-Saharan African music traditions constitute one main system. Similarly, master drummer and scholar C. K. Ladzekpo affirms the "profound homogeneity" of sub-Saharan African rhythmic principles.
African traditional music is frequently functional in nature. Performances may be long and often involve the participation of the audience. There are, for example, little different kinds of work songs, songs accompanying childbirth, marriage, hunting and political activities, music to ward off evil spirits and to pay respects to good spirits, the dead and the ancestors. None of this is performed outside its intended socialess context and much of it is associated with a particular dance. Some of it, performed by professional musicians, is sacral music or ceremonial and courtly music performed at royal courts.
Musicologically, Sub-Saharan Africa may be divided into four regions:
- The eastern region (light green regions on map) includes the music of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as the islands of Madagascar, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Comor. Many of these have been influenced by Arabic music and also by the music of India, Indonesia and Polynesia, though the region's indigenous musical traditions are primarily in the mainstream of the sub-Saharan Niger–Congo-speaking peoples.
- The southern region (brown region on map) includes the music of South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia and Angola.
- The central region (dark blue region on map) includes the music of Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia, including Pygmy music.
- West African music (yellow region on map) includes the music of Senegal and the Gambia, of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Liberia, of the inland plains of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the coastal nations of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo as well as islands such as Sao Tome and Principe.
Southern, Central and West Africa are similarly in the broad Sub-Saharan musical tradition. They also have several ancillary influences, from the Muslim regions of Africa, and in modern times, the Americas and Western Europe.
Azande song from the Congo performed with xylophone.
West African music has regional variations, with Muslim regions incorporating elements of Islamic music and non-Muslim regions more influenced by indigenous traditions, according to the historian Sylviane Diouf and ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik. According to Diouf, traditional Muslim West African Music incorporates elements of the Islamic call to prayer (originating from Bilal ibn Rabah, an Abyssinian African Muslim in the early 7th century), including lyrics praising God, melody, note changes, "words that seem to quiver and shake" in the vocal chords, dramatic changes in musical scales, and nasal intonation. According to Kubik, the vocal style of Muslim West African singers "using melisma, wavy intonation, and so forth is a heritage of that large region of West Africa that had been in contact with the Arabic-Islamic world of the Maghreb since the seventh and eighth centuries." In terms of instrumentation, Kubik notes that stringed instruments (including ancestors of the banjo) were traditionally favored by Muslim West Africans, while drumming was traditionally favored by non-Muslim West Africans.