Roots and Rhythms: A Guide to African Music
Instruments Used for African Music
African music has its own unique sound, which is accomplished with the various instruments the musicians in that genre use. Some of the sweeter-sounding instruments include the xylophone, the bells, the harp, and various string instruments. While these aren't typically the instrument producing the main sound in African music, they play various melodies and create background tones. A few other unique instruments African music has are the fiddle, rattles, and other shakers. These instruments are important to African songs. While other genres of music use these instruments, these few in particular are used to create rhythm and a background beat for a song. Dance is heavily emphasized in this culture, so instruments, such as shakers and rattles, help create that beat for dancers.
Creating a beat is a strong concept in African music, which is why the drum is so important. But there is not just one type of drum, and every type makes its own sound. The drum is used specifically to create the beat and keep the rhythm going throughout a song. Two common types of drums are the bongo and the djembe. Each makes a different sound, and the interesting thing is that even with one type of drum you can make a wide variety of sounds depending on how you hit it. Drummers must be cautious and handle their drums with care. Certain drums can be hit with only certain types of sticks or may be more fragile than other types. Drummers don't just learn how to keep a beat and hit a drum at random; they learn where to hit a drum to match the tone of any given song.
Who can forget to include the voice in this list of instruments? This might be the instrument that makes the biggest difference of them all. The accent and language of singers of African music contributes largely to the tone and content of the music in Africa. Each voice is unique, so any song changes with the voice of its vocalist. Every African song is different from the rest, of course, and these instruments make that distinction.
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