The Affect of Music in African Communities

Music unites African communities and allows everyone to join together for the community experience.

By Kaia Bruce

Music is performed at all major and minor African events. Some events include: royal functions, rituals, leisure activities, and festivals like the one shown on the left. Music is provided for entertainment for celebratory, social, and political events to bring the community together as a whole.

Music is created in the community by singing, clapping, dancing, stomping feet, playing instruments, and shaking rattles. It is performed as all gatherings as a way for the community to come together. When music is being created and played, it is often hard to distinguish audience from crowd because everyone joins and participates as a whole.

Music created and played by Africans and African Americans differs from music played in European traditions. European travelers describe African timbre is "weird" and "wild" as African music is unfamiliar with the timbre of European-derived music. African music includes groans and shouts, hand claps and foot stomps, and instruments like the banjo, kora, and the Tamborine.

One major structure of African music is call and response. As presented in the video, a soloist leads while the chorus follows. This is popular in African music as it allows everyone to participate and be included. It lets the whole community come together and creates cohesiveness among the participants.

Rhythm such as syncopation, presented on the right side, and polyrhythm, presented on the left side, is another major structure of music. Syncopation provides rhythmic complexity; it happens when accenting beats fall in between or after the regular one. Polyrhythms have several contrasting rhythms played or sung simultaneously; they are repeated beats without variations. Rhythm increases the intensity of music and allows the crowd and community to be further interested and make music further enjoyable.

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