It permeates African life and has a function, a role to play in society; songs are used for religious ceremonies and rituals, to teach and give guidance, to tell stories, to mark the stages of life and death and to provide political guidance or express discontent.
Music is an integral part of African ethnic life, accompanying many kinds of events, including childbirth, marriage, hunting, and even political activities. Many cultures use song and dance to ward off evil spirits, and pay respects to good spirits, the dead, and ancestors.
Jazz music, blues music, and gospel music all grew from African roots. Spirituals, work calls, and chants coupled with makeshift instruments morphed into blues rhythms and ragtime. Ragtime paved the way for jazz, and elements from all these styles influenced rock and roll and hip hop music.
Music has shaped cultures and societies around the world, passed down from generation to generation. It has the power to alter one’s mood, change perceptions, and inspire change. While everyone has a personal relationship with music, its effects on the culture around us may not be immediately apparent.
There are eight characteristics that define African music: Polyrhythms, ostinato, the use of percussion, background shimmer, close connection with the music and language, participatory nature of the arts, a close connection with the performing arts, responsorial form.
African music is also highly improvised. A core rhythmic pattern is typically played, with drummers then improvising new patterns over the static original patterns. Traditional music in most of the continent is passed down orally (or aurally) and is not written.
Reasons for creating music include ceremonial purposes, recreational purposes, and artistic expression.
Major and minor migrations of African peoples brought musical styles and instruments to new areas. The single and double iron bells, which probably originated in Kwa-speaking West Africa, spread to western Central Africa with Iron Age Bantu-speaking peoples and from there to Zimbabwe and the Zambezi River valley.
Anthropologists define culture as a “way of life” learned, not natural. Music culture is a groups total involvement with music. It consists of ideas, actions, institutions, and material objects.
Notable among the practical values of music are social value, entertainment value, therapeutic value, functioning-enhancement value, and self-affirmation value. The relation between the practical and the musical values a piece of music can possess is somewhat complicated, and varies from case to case.
Music is composed and performed for many purposes, ranging from aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, or as an entertainment product for the marketplace.
Music exerts a powerful influence on human beings. It can boost memory, build task endurance, lighten your mood, reduce anxiety and depression, stave off fatigue, improve your response to pain, and help you work out more effectively.
Music is often seen as an integral part of our self identity, and this continues into later life. Music is closely linked with personal memories, and it is thought that we remember most the music from our teenage years and early twenties; this is seen as our reminiscence ‘peak’.