Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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AFRICAN MUSIC SOUTH OF THE SAHARA 135
however, is also repeated with improvised variations. This sort of structure is similar, of course, to that of much Western music, espe­cially of popular or folk provenience; and Africans in the cities, who have come under the influence of Western popular music, have com­posed songs in which the African sort of accompaniment, by an ostinato figure, with a very short stanza by the singer, is used. We will have occasion to discuss the results of combining Western and African elements in the New World; but here is an example of the same sort of thing in modern Africa. In both places, those features in African music which are highly developed but which have a similar feature in its European counterpart seem to be preserved in the acculturated music of the Negroes.
Instruments
One of the characteristics of Negro Africa is its enormous va­riety of musical instruments. Far from being a land of drums, as it is pictured by some early sources, it is an area in which instruments and instrumental music play a role equal to that of the voice and vocal music. There is in all areas a great deal of music for soloanstru-ments, and there are instrumental ensemble groups consisting of un­related instruments, or of several instruments of the same type. Also, accompanied singing is widespread,
The importance of rhythm in African music can be seen in the percussive quality of much of the instrumental sound. Percussion instruments—drums, rattles, and melodic percussion instruments such as the xylophone—occupy a major role. Among the wind instru­ments, those in which each pipe performs only one note (panpipes or hocket-type performance on flutes or horns) are important. Among string instruments, those that are plucked are more prominent than the bowed ones. The percussive nature of much of the instrumental sound as well as the absence of the possibility of legato in the playing of most of the instruments are probably caused by the desire for strong rhythmic articulation.
It is impossible to describe or even to name all African instru­ments; but some of the most important ones are discussed briefly in the next few paragraphs. Among the idiophones (instruments whose bodies vibrate in order to produce sound), the xylophone is one of







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III