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Traditional Music and Dance in Africa

Musical Techniques Commonly Found in African Music

The vastness and high presence of differentiated cultures in the African continent have given rise to copious musical styles and settings, which have not only attracted global attention but have also survived decades of modifications. The African continent is highly recognized for its unique musical techniques characterizing various regions and contemporary communal structures. Syncopation which entails the disproportionate transferal of the initial rhythmic brogues, which leads to distraction of the audience’s expectations and consequent causation of desires to feel the metric ordinariness, is regarded as the most prevalent musical technique (Temperley 19). Another musical technique predominantly applied in African traditional music is call-and-response, which is primarily aimed at spanning the gap between the performers and the listeners in a particular setting. Involvement of the crowd has long been considered an important process in the dissemination of music since the traditional African setup is majorly characterized by music as an essential tool for socialization and preservation of traditions.

Music as an Expression of Community Well-being in African Cultures

African traditional customs and societal occurrences are deeply engrained in their preserved cultural performances, such as the musical crusades and story-telling mechanisms, which are considered ageless and genderless. The overriding role of music within the traditional African setup is the deliverance of exotic entertainment to the audience, both local and international depending on their preferred taste and rhythmic styles (Achieng 327). Music in the African customary setup is seen as a clear expression of the well-being of the community since it does not only provide artistic elements to the audiences but also details the social happenings of the society both in the past and the current. Throughout the performances of various traditional songs, community values, norms, failures, and even achievements of the society are shared between the performer of the music and the rest of the community present in the gathering for one reason or another. The setup of the African traditional music also contributes to its usefulness in expressing the current well-being of the societies since it takes place on social grounds where individuals have great opportunities to share their thoughts and concerns about one another.

Use of Dance as a Mode of Social Expression in African Cultures

Pervasive inspection and assessment of the African traditional dance moves have elicited mixed reactions from many scholars and explorers as it reveals the purest forms of decades of traditions that have withstood the test of time. African traditional dance moves have significant benefits both to the dancers and the society in general since it not only preserves the cultural parameters but also raise monetary benefits at times when performed for political or entertainment reasons (Djebbari 353). Through the use of specific body and facial movements, African traditional dance is used to portray social expressions such as loss, failure, and even happiness due to certain accomplishments or discoveries. Dance moves such as those witnessed in the Dogon dancing teams and masked societal dancing systems are used to express religious functionalities, economic schemes, and even the status of the society as they encompass the use of the particular dressing, which depicts the emotional and socio-physical state of the society at that moment. Dances are also utilized in the deliverance of motivational messages to the members of the society who have been faced with challenges or those getting ready to endure certain difficult times ahead.

Relationship between West African Musical Traditions and Afro-American Musical Styles

The relationship between West African traditional musical techniques and Afro-American musical style has continuously elicited debates, with many Euro-American scholars dismissing its existence; however, there are several relationships that connect them to each other. One of the most prevalent relationships is the presence of extreme musical densities in comparatively squat musical spaces, which results in the profusion of musical activities leading to the stratification that is usually encompassed in instrumental music. Another relationship that exists is the presence of amplification of the stratified musical lines through exerting increased emphasis on the independent timber of every single voice resulting in similarities between the two regions. Environmental similarity also contributes to the relationship as most operations that are performed, such as tapping of the feet and utilization of the physical elements in the surrounding, are similar (Billups 88). West African musical techniques have great similarities with Afro-American ones based on their overall structures and formats applied every time an artist performs or dances.

Afro-American Musical Origins

The origin of Afro-American music due to its primeval nature has caused heightened confusion and problems for the historians and musical scholars attempting to derive its ultimate origin. Exploration and determination of the origin have become problematic owing to several historical modifications that happened in the past, such as the interruptions of colonization, which resulted in various slave performances and forcefully human geographical dislocations (Szwed 464). The problem arises from conflicting opinions gathered on the influence of Europeans on the cultures of Africans and the ability of Africans to form adaptation bonds with the new environments without necessarily eliminating their customs and conducts.

Works Cited

Achieng’Akuno, Emily. “Postlude: Singing Africa.” Music Education in Africa. Routledge, 2019. 327-332.

Billups, Kenneth B. “The other side of black music.” Music in American Society 1776–1976. Routledge, 2019. 87-94.

Djebbari, Elina. “Decolonizing culture, staging traditional dances, creating a new music-dance genre: the National Ballet of Mali’s postcolonial agency.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 31.3 (2019): 352-368.

Temperley, David. “The origins of syncopation in American popular music.” Popular Music 40.1 (2021): 18-41.

Szwed, Joh N. F. “Musical Adaptation among Afro-Americans.” Man in Adaptation. Routledge, 2017. 463-470.

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StudyKraken. "Traditional Music and Dance in Africa." December 30, 2022.


StudyKraken. 2022. "Traditional Music and Dance in Africa." December 30, 2022.


StudyKraken. (2022) 'Traditional Music and Dance in Africa'. 30 December.

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