Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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Regional variation in African Negro music
We have noted the fact that each African tribe has its own songs and music, and that each tribe may differ in its musical style from its neighbors. On the other hand, we have also given a number of char­acteristics present in African Negro music as a whole. The point is, of course, that these characteristics are not equally pronounced in each tribe or each area. Just as there are culture areas in Africa there are also music areas, regions in which the musical style is more or less homogeneous, and which contrast with their neighboring areas in some specific way. The music areas coincide, on the whole, with the culture areas, and this is not surprising when we consider the essen­tial roles of music in the culture as a whole. Thus, Merriam9 recog­nizes the following music areas: the Khoi-San area (Bushmen and Hottentots), East Africa, Central Africa (mainly the Congo region), the West Coast, plus several areas in the northern part of the conti­nent that are largely under the influence of Islamic musical culture. The four areas we have mentioned comprise the main body of Afri­can Negro music. To them should be added the style of the Pygmies, who live in various isolated parts of central Africa surrounded by Negro groups, but whose music is a distinctive unit. The differences among these groups are expressed not in clear-cut dichotomies but rather in statistical terms. What may be found in one area is also present in another, but perhaps with a markedly different degree of frequency, or complexity.
The main characteristics of the West Coast are the metronome sense and the accompanying concept of "hot rhythm," the simulta­neous use of several meters, and the responsorial form of singing with overlap between leader and chorus. The Central African area is distinguished by its great variety of instruments and musical styles and by the emphasis, in polyphony, on the interval of the third. East Africa has, for centuries, been somewhat under Islamic influ­ence, though by no means to as great an extent as the northern half of Africa. Vertical fifths are more prominent here, and rhythmic structure is not so complex, nor are percussion instruments so promi­nent. The Khoi-San music area is evidently similar in style to East
9 Merriam, "African Music," p. 77.

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