African Diaspora Music


Introduce your topic: What is the general topic(s) of your project?

Introduce your research question/problem: What specific issue will you be addressing? Clearly define what the project is really about.

Provide only as much background on the music, artists, history, and/or contexts of your specific topic as necessary for me to understand how your question and your topic relate to each other.

Clearly explain your research findings. Did you answer your research question? If not, what insights were gained or new questions posed? What did you learn?

Provide evidence of your claims.

Provide a conclusion that summarizes your argument, and/or provides direction for further questioning and research.

Minimum requirements for citations are these: 3 peer-reviewed articles, one academic book, one mass-media/print source, and one audio/video source.

Sample paper

African Diaspora Music

Research question: What are the general characteristics of African music?


Music has been part of human life for centuries and has played an important role in transferring messages and information from one generation to another. According to studies, there are different genres of music across the world that are significantly influenced by the social and cultural background of a community. Research shows that the African music is one of the most popular music in the history of humanity. Research goes further to state that the different genres of music associated with the African countries and communities did not develop in a vacuum considering that they were substantially influenced by foreign music traditions. For example, most countries in the northern part of Africa can attribute the characteristics of their traditional music to the Greeks and Romans who once controlled the region (“Music of Africa – New World Encyclopedia”). Further studies show that each part of Africa developed traditional music based on foreign communities that occupied these regions which means that the continent is rich in different genres of music. While the north part of the continent was highly influenced by the Romans and the Greeks, the eastern part of the country that comprises of countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania was highly influenced by the Indian and Arabic cultures considering that Arabs ruled the region centuries ago. On the other hand, southern, central and west African music has been heavily influenced by North American and western Europe traditions and cultures (Malone 37).

Problem of statement

The music of Africa is as wide and varied as the continent’s many religions, countries, and ethnic groups. Studies have shown that the diversity of the African music largely comes from the vast cultures of the people in this region who have flowered in many indigenous forms as well as being shaped by external forces from other countries. Some scholars have gone forth to state that the different culture in the region significantly influences the different types of the music in the region and suggests that it is extremely difficult to create and develop similar music with similar characteristics. On the other hand, there are those who feel that irrespective of the different cultures that influence the different genres of music in the region,  there are a number of common characteristics and elements that separates the African music from that of other continents and other regions. Malone (73) feels that the idea of music in Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa is different from that of other regions and cultures in the continent but bears similar characteristics to most of the music genres in other regions (Malone 73). It is the middle of this debate that the scholar finds it necessary to conduct this research to identify and describe the common characteristics that differentiate African music from other genres of music from the rest of the world.

Research objectives

The general objective of this study is to identify and describe the different characteristics that define and differentiates the African music from the rest.

The specific objectives of the study include:

  1. To Examine the effect of rhythm on the creation and development of the African music.
  2. To examine the effect of beats on the creation and development of the African music.
  3. To examine the effect of the call and response arrangement on the designing of the African music.

Research questions

  1. How does rhythmic culture affect African music?
  2. How do beats influence the African music?
  3. How does the call and response arrangement affect the African music?

Literature review

No music African music is more pure than the music that comes from Sub-Saharan Africa. Irrespective of the fact that most of the music in the region has been influenced by external forces such as traditions and cultures from other parts of the world, Sub-Saharan music remains quintessentially African. Research shows that the African integration of music with its social perspective identifies the basic social perspective, despite the diversity of the culture in the region and musical circumstances. In the same manner, the notion of rhythm is diversified owing to the different cultures in the region (Kindall-Smith, et al. 385). Further research shows that the rhythm of the African music substantially depends on the level of music, the general features of different African music traditions, the instruments used as well as the nature and style of vocals used in a song. According to Renzaho, et al. (595) despite the fact that all African music has different rhythmic structure, they have one thing common and that is the fact that they have a complex rhythm that is hard to comprehend.  In his study, the author concludes that rhythm is the base foundation of the African music and it is the rhythm that differentiates African music from the European music. Additionally, the author is of the opinion that the importance of the rhythm to the African music can only be compared with the importance of harmony to the European music. The western approach to rhythm is widely known as divisive since the music into standard units of time (Renzaho, et al. 599). Studies continue to show that African melodies stress the importance of rhythm even if African conceptions of tonal relationship might be off compared to that of the western music.  Notably, the African music is often made up of at least two rhythms. As a result of this technique used by the African composers, most of the western and European composers often describe the musical beats used in African music as fanatical. Additionally, they define African composers as rhythmic genius considering that it is difficult for outsiders or foreign people to understand how a song can have two different rhythms. Therefore, it is safe to state that one of the major characteristics of the African music is the use of complex rhythm that can only be understood by the native Africans (Renzaho, et al. 600).

According to Kindall-Smith, et al. (380), most of the African music fall on what is widely known as the off-beat. According to the authors, the African music is widely influenced and characterized by the nature and the speed of the beats of the music.  The articles go ahead to give an example of Agbekor which is one of the spectacular African dance which can be played both in slow and fast variations. To maintain the African culture, the dancers or the performers of this type of dance must change from one variation to another in the course of their performance (Kindall-Smith, et al. 380). Notably, most of the African music is widely defined by four beats of the rattle pattern. These beats comprise of the primary beats for the performers and the audience to clap their hands; the beat of the drum of the master drummer playing the music as well as the performer’s basic stepping which is steady to the beats of the song. The author concludes that based on the notation, it is safe to state that none of the drums in the African music play a dominant fee beat on the first and third rattle beat. However, the song’s free beat influences the second and fourth rattle beats. Therefore, to understand the African music, it is necessary for an individual to understand when the composers are playing around the beat, or when playing on the offbeat (Kindall-Smith, et al. 374).

Another significant characteristic of the African music is the engagement of the audience during the performance in the call-response management. According to Locke (25), while different rhythms in a song may identify a panorama beat, in most of the African music, there is an overriding aspect of repetition created from an overriding conversation with a clear defined alternation. This conversation in the song swings back and forth from solo to chorus to an stressed instrumental response. This back and forth arrangement which is often embraced by the audience is widely known as the call and response arrangement or ethnomusicology which is common in most if not all African music (Locke 22). Despite the fact that this arrangement is also present in some of the western songs, in African music, the chorus is a rhythmic phrase which recurs regularly. The author concludes that the rhythms of the lead singer vary from that of the respondents. Therefore, the repetition of the response is widely used by most African composers to create a rhythm and harmony for their music.

Research findings

Based on the above-detailed discussion, it is safe to state that the research fully answered the research question. Based on the above details it is easy to point that one of the most important characteristics of the African music is the complex rhythm. The study shows that unlike the western or the European music that substantially emphasizes the importance of harmony, most of the African composers find it easy to develop sophisticated rhythms to preserve the African culture. In most of the traditional African songs, composers used more than one rhythm to their music to identify themselves with a particular group or region in Africa (Locke 35).

The study also emphasizes the role and importance of the beats on the creation and development of the African music. According to the study, African music often has four rattles of beat that include the primary beats for the performers and the audience to clap their hands; the beat of the drum of the master drummer playing the music as well as the performer’s basic stepping which is steady to the beats of the song. Notably, these beats determine the speed of the music as well as the variations that must be performed in the course of the song (“Music of Africa – New World Encyclopedia”). Finally, the call and response arrangement widely known as the repetition defines the African music considering that it helps to involve the audiences in the performance of the music. Unlike the western music that has simple ethnomusicology, African music is defined by the variation of the rhythm of the lead singer and the respondents. These findings show that the study fully answered the research question and attained the objectives of the study to determine the primary characteristics of the African music.

Conclusion and recommendation

Based on the study, African music is used to preserve different African cultures which in turn leads to the composer of different genres of music in the continent. Despite the diversity in culture and ethnic groups, there are three common characteristics that different African music from the rest of the music. These characteristics include complex rhythms, musical beats, and Ethnomusicology. However, it is worth noting that different cultural groups in the continent have varied effects on the nature of the music, but for music to qualify to be associated with Africans, it must have the above-identified characteristics (Locke 16). Besides, it is through music that most African communities are able to preserve community heritage as well as traditions and teachings from one generation to another.


  1. The above results were obtained from a limited scope and field of study considering that most of the data collected and resources used in the study originated from North Africa. Despite the notion that Sub-Saharan African which is mostly made of the North African countries has the pure African music, other regions have African music that can be studied to identify its characteristics. Therefore, future studies should widen the area of study.
  2. The study widely concentrated on three major characteristics. However, based on African studies, there are more than ten elements that characterize the African music, thus differentiating it from the rest of the world. Therefore, future studies should seek to widen the scope of the study to include more components that define the African music.

Works Cited

Kindall-Smith, Marsha, et al. “Challenging exclusionary paradigms in the traditional musical canon: Implications for music education practice.” International Journal of Music Education, vol. 29, no. 4, 2011, pp. 374-386.

Locke, David. “Simultaneous multidimensionality in African music: musical cubism.” African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music, vol. 8, no. 3, 2009, pp. 8-37.

Malone, Bill C. Music. U of North Carolina P, 2008.

“Music of Africa – New World Encyclopedia.” Info:Main Page – New World Encyclopedia,

Renzaho, A. M., et al. “Maintenance of traditional cultural orientation is associated with lower rates of obesity and sedentary behaviours among African migrant children to Australia.” International Journal of Obesity, vol. 32, no. 4, 2008, pp. 594-600, doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.2.


Political Implications