Humanities Role of Music in Africa Role Essay

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Role of Music in Africa

Role of Music and Musical Instruments in Africa

Role of Music and Musical Instruments in Africa

Music has always played an important role in the life of Africans. The oldest record of any musical instrument in the world is also in Africa, namely "bone flute" found in Haua Fteah (McBurney, 1969). In the traditional African Culture, every aspect of life was associated with the specific music that accompanied telling of a story. Unlike people of other countries, African people are not only listeners but almost everyone in Africa sings or is expert in playing musical instruments.

If we look at the history, we find out that music was so important in African culture that it was part of the routine language and talking of the people. There are around 700 languages spoken in Africa due to which the music of Africa is also very diverse (Ammons, 2003). Due to differences in the culture, music is used by different people differently.

In some of the African cultures, the language spoken was in tones and the meaning of the words and sentences changed with the alteration in the tones. Similarly, music was also used to convey information to the people. Songs were use to describe the history, culture, events or for making an announcement and even to encourage group or a team for achieving a task. Due to this significant role of music in African history, music is called the first form of popular culture in Africa that is deeply examined and studied outside the African continent (Barber, 1997).

Even today, music plays an important role in all aspects of African people. Whether they are at home, at work, doing shopping or at a social gathering; music is always with them. In fact, music is also part of African political, ceremonial and even religious activities. It is not only used for happy moments but it is also played in funerals and other sad occasions as it gives healing affect to the Africans.

African Music and Children

Music is not only liked by the adults but it also has a significant impact on the lives of African children. It is played in all the daily life entertainment activities of children like games and gatherings. Excluding the few occasions that children of Africa are not allowed to attend, they take active part in all events. African children not only sing and dance in the ceremonies of their elders but also borrow musical instruments from adults and play them. African adults are experts in singing, dancing and playing instruments because they take interest in music, musical instruments and follow their elders from childhood. The music addicted people of Africa believe that rhythm is something naturally present in their bodies and souls. Music is basic form of communication for them which is also very well rooted in their blood.

Making of Musical Instrument

In African culture, the musical instruments are made from natural materials like wood and animal skins. Turtle shells, horns and other parts of animal bodies are also used very creatively. Moreover, manmade objects are also used for making musical instruments; for instance the scrap material of old vehicles or oil containers and oil drums.

African Blacksmiths are very creative and well trained in instrument making. They even make customized instruments for important people and special groups. These artists not only create fantastic instruments from scrap but are also expert in decorating these instruments in such a way that they look beautiful and seem a work of art.

Musical Instruments of Africa

Unlike America and other places, African musicians hardly stand calmly on the stage. They move and dance with the audience while playing the instrument. African history shows several musical instruments that produce different sounds. The interesting thing about these instruments is that most of them have a definite pitch which gives an affect of instruments talking to each other. Following are some of the world wide famous musical instruments in Africa.


Africans use a range of different kinds of drums for playing music. Indeed, drum is the fundamental musical instrument for most of the African music, especially in the East and Southern Africa (Agordoh, 2005). Drums can be found in several sizes in Africa. They can be as small as the size of the hand or as tall as 10 feet. Different groups of people use a different type of drum…[continue]

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