Glossary Of African Ethnic Music 

 
     
   

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A

Afrobeat
Fela Anikulapo Kuti used this term to describe his fusion of West African with black American music. 
Apala
 talking drum percussion from Nigeria.
Axe
or "life force" a Yoruba word , used to describe the Bahian style of Brazilian pop music popular in that country.

B

Benga
Western Kenyan, originating from the Luo people of from , this style is widely popular throughout the country.

C

Chimurenga
A music genre from the Shona people of Zimbabwe. Often refered to as mbira-based music. 
(Thomas Mapfumo)

D

 

E

 

F

Fuji
Nigerian percussion and Yoruba voice style using original African percussion instruments.

G

Gnawa
Descended from the music of the slaves brought from Mali to Morocco. It  features the stringed instruments sintir or gimbri, singing in unison, and hand clapping.
Griot
Collquial term for a West African ,oral- historian, minstrel or storyteller.

H

Highlife
Ghanian and Eastern Nigerian dance music , originating from the popular kpanlogo rhythm which developed in Ghana during the 60's.

I

Iscathamiya
A Zulu call-and-response acappella choral music sung by men from South Africa.  
(Ladysmith Black Mambazo)

J

Jali
Manding word for a West African oral historian-cum-minstrel; a storyteller.
Jit
Hard, fast percussive Zimbabwean dance music, influenced by mbira-based guitar styles.
Jive
 A colloquial South African term for popular music.

K

Kwaito
This very popular music is a South African style, an ecletic brew of House music, R&B, Hip-Hop and Ragga influence. A difficult one to describe but one not easily forgotten - perhaps a product of a Rainbow Nation.
(Arthur)(TKZee)( Bongo Maffin)(Boom Shaka)(Abashante)(M'Du)( Skeem)
Kwassa Kwassa
An athletic type dance style begun in Congo in the late 80's 
(Kanda Bongo Man)
Kwela
South African pennywhistle music.

L


M

Makossa
A Cameroonian dance rhythm. 
(Manu Dibango)

Marabi
South African three-chord township music of the 1930s-1960s, which gave birth to modern day "African Jazz".
Mbalax(M'balah)
Percussion music from Senegal characterized by a sweet, funky combination of Afro-Cuban rhythms, Wolof drumming, and American pop.
(Youssou N'Dour)

Mbaqanga
 A distinctive South African sound originating from the sixties -"Township Jive"   
(Mahlathini  and the Mahatolla Queens)

Morna
A "sad", soulful style of music, sung Creole-Portuguese from Cape Verde. Typified by the use of acoustic guitar, cavaquinho, violin, accordian, and clarinet.

N




O

 

P

Palm Wine
A light and etheral style originally played on acoustic guitar accompanied by traditional percussion instruments.The style gets its name from palm wine which is a sweet brew drunk in the bars and dance halls of Sierra Leone.

Q

 

R

Rai
Algerian pop style. Characteristic in the use of themes of drinking and love, and often contraversial in this predominantly Islamic country. 
Reggae
Originating in Jamaica, this distinctive sound is characterict bya predominant use of  bass, drums , and guitar chops is associated with the Rastsafarian religion, the "Freedom Struggle", and Marijuana.  
(Lucky Dube)

S

Soukous
A blend of Cuban rhumba ,the kwassa kwassa dance rhythm with zouk and rhumba from the Congo.

T


U

 

V

 

W

Wassoulou
A musical style from Mali with a distinctive Arabic feel. 
Were
A Muslim style of music performed  most often during Ramadan celebrations.

X

 

Y

Yoruba
a language spoken in southwestern Nigeria, Benin and Togo.

Z

Zouk
Modern hi-tech Antillean music produced mostly in Paris. Zouk gets its name from the Creole slang word for "party." 

 

   
   

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