African Music Styles

Afrobeat is a combination of American jazz, funk and Nigerian beat. It was created by Africa’s most outspoken artist, the late Fela Ransome Anikulapo (Kuti) of Nigeria in the early 70s at the time British rock and American soul music was dominating most of Africa’s music scene. Fela introduced his brand of style to stop the British musical invasion.

Afropop as certain people call some of the new popular music of Africa is spiced with elements of carious African and western rhythms. One reason western countries have been able to recognize somewhat the compelling influence of African music is that in the 70s and 80s many African artists and musicians migrated to Europe and to America to pursue a professional career. In doing so they reintroduced African music in its contemporary form, with many variations and styles. Utilizing all the new recording technology available to them they were able to create new sounds.

Bikutsi the late addition to Cameroon popular dance music, the style created by five musicians from that west African country to react to zouk style dance music from Martinique that had monopolized Cameroon airwaves int he early nineties.

Benga Beat
Benga Beat is the gigh-level electric guitars sound from Kenya East Africa identifiable with heavy drum cadence and vocal harmony.

Chimurenga is the liberation war music of Zimbabwe. It is a mix of the traditional mbira music with electric guitar use as a tool of the liberation struggle by this country’s internationally known artist Thomas Mapfumo.

Fuji Garbage
Fuji Garbage comes from Nigeria. It is a drums based Yoruba music, with guitars; accordions and talking drums.

Jit Jive
Jit Jive and True Jit are another styles from Zimbabwe, popularized by a group of young musicians right after the independence of this country in the early eighties. The Bhundu Boys (Bush Boys) were the early ambassadors of that style. It was created after the liberation war when many youths migrating from the villages to Harare the capital city found themselves without any employable skills, they formed many bands across the city for recreational purposes.

Highlife is the Ghanaian and Nigeria ball room music from West Africa. It is indeed this style of African dance music that first introduced African popular music to Europe and America. Among the early pioneers are King Bruce and his Black beat, E.T. Mensah and his Ramblers dance band.

Makossa another Cameroonian popular dance music “dance till you drop’. The great saxophonist Manu Dibango put the style on the map with his legendary jazzy sound of “soul makossa” that became the theme of African music in Europe and in America in the 70s. There are multitude of Cameroonian artists performing the new style in its true African rhythms and colors, among them Prince Eyango,Guy Lobe, Charlote Mbango, Eppe&Koum, Moni Bile and many more.

Mbalax it the Senegalese contemporary music, highly percussive sound dominated by the goat-skinned Sabar drum. Best example of this music is Youssou Ndour, Baaba Mal, Ismael Lo and lately many newcomers on the Senegalese music scene.

Mapouka is the latest dance craze and musical style out of Cote d’Ivoire, west Africa. Originally performed by the women of the high society on the southwest region of the country,Mapouka was introduced on the popular club scene in the late 90s by a new generation of young women who turned it into an erotic dance style. Though banned by the government Mapouka continues to be extremely popular outside its country of origin. The not-so erotic style is being performed by both many male and female groups in Cote d’Ivoire.

Mbaquanga is the name given to South African black music and dance from Soweto. The style is named after a soup popular among the people of the black township. It served as the liberation struggle music. Some of the artists to check out are the Soul Brothers , Malatini and the Mahotella Queens, Juluka, Soul Ryders.

Soukous from the Congo is the most popular music and dance craze style today in all of sub-Sahara Africa. The Slow rumba music of the 50s and 60s developed into an electrifying high octave rhythm performed by some of Africa’s best guitarists. The name comes from the French word “secouer” which means to shake, it was translated to “soukous” through the street of Kinshasa the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Crisp lightening guitars sound and vocal harmony of soukous music is irresistible. You may be familiar with Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Wenga Musica, Soukous Stars, Diblo Dibala, Kanda Bongo Man. In the mid 90s Soukous music evolved to a new style called “Ndombolo”, it is the main musical menu at many African parties.

Taarab is the music from the spice island of the far east coast of Africa Zanzibar. The name taarab derives from the Arabic word tariba meaning to be “restless or agitated.” The style undeniably reflects the combination of both Arabic and African roots.

Zoblazo is the handkerchief dancing style of Cote d’Ivoire from most of the coastal region of this country. The foremost exponent and creator of this style is the extraordinary showman and great performer Meiway.

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