Sunday, April 28, 2013

Music From Around the World: Sub-Saharan Africa

     This week our selection from around the world comes from beautiful Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa has two distinct musical traditions, with northern African music influenced greatly by the music of the Middle East that we studied last week. The Sub-Saharan portion of the continent has its own rich and dynamic musical traditions, and this is the music we'll be listening to this week.

     In many ways, the music of central and southern Africa sounds familiar to our American ears. We recognize the complex rhythmic structures, the rich harmonies, and deep, longing melodies from our own experiences with today's jazz, ragtime, blues, and rock music. The influence of African music on the development of these American genres simply cannot be understated.

    Traditional African music is bound tightly to all of a community's activities. There is a song and dance for nearly every occasion, from weddings and funerals to births and rights of passage. African music is both communal and ceremonial, and there is little distinction between watching and participating. 

     Most African music is highly improvised (made up on the spot), and features complex rhythms, vocalization, and dancing. Unlike many of our previous selections, harmony is common in African music, particularly vocal harmonies. 

    Here are this week's words to remember:

1) Hemiola: A rhythmic pattern of three over two. For example, playing two eighth notes in one hand and an eighth note triplet in the other.
2) Polyrhythm: Playing two or more conflicting rhythms at once.(A repeated hemiola pattern.)
3) Djembe: A traditional African skin drum.
4) Call and Response: A style of singing where one group or person sings a musical idea and a second group or individual echoes or answers. 
5) Ostinato: A repeating pitch or pattern played under a melody.
6) Polyphony: Two melodies being performed at the same time. This overlapping often creates harmony with all parts being of equal importance.

   Here are some additional selections of this fabulous musical tradition to tickle your ears:


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