Audio

On West African Instrumentation

In this article we dive into the various instruments and sounds of West Africa.


West Africa is no stranger to dope instrumentation. Legends like Fela Kuti and Toumani Diabate influenced the world by creating unique rhythms and melodies using the instruments of their home countries. Body-moving clicks, hits and rattling frequencies represent themselves throughout their arrangements, but what are these sounds and how are they made? Down below we dive into the instruments of West Africa, touching on sounds from Cameroon to Mali and everywhere in between. Check out the videos to hear the instruments and see how they’re played.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Kora

The Kora is a 21-stringed instrument constructed from a large Calabash Gourd and covered with cow skin to act as a resonator. Though little Western classification can be placed to it, some associate it with the harpsichord family, calling it a "double-bridge-harp-lute." Its beautiful range can be heard across West Africa in various countries such as Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso amongst others.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Shekere

The Shekere is a dried vine gourd covered in woven beads to produce a rattling sound when shaken. Although many variations and names of the instrument are made across West Africa, the Shekere is predominately associated with Nigeria.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Balafon

The Balafon is a wooden-keyed percussion instrument similar to a xylophone or vibraphone. It can be either be played in a fixed key (attatched to a wooden frame with Calabashes hung beneath) or free key (having wooden keys on any surface). Its rich sound is derived from the strike of a padded mallet to its carefully shaped individual keys. The inception of this instrument is linked to many West African countries such as Mali, Senegal, Cameroon, and Gambia just to name a few.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Akuba

Akuba seen at 3:08 in this Fela footage.

Akuba is the name given to three small Yoruba congas which are played together in a complementary style. Played with sticks and hand alike, the Akuba drums often assume the lead role in the afrobeat sound, giving the musician the freedom to improvise and even direct dancers on stage. Also used in connection with the Nigerian Yoruba language, the drums help in complimenting the various tones of the spoken idiom.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Soku

The Soku is a single stringed fiddle native to Mali.

"SA Rappers Out Here Killing Y'all," M.I Abaga On Nigerian Rappers

M.I has fueled a debate about the state Nigerian hip-hop with his latest song, "You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Life."

Nigerian star M.I Abaga is back with a punch and taking aim at all of his fellow Nigerian rappers.

The track—which sees M.I. drop lines like "none of you rappers is real enough... that's why these fans are not feeling ya'll," "SA rappers out here killing ya,ll," and "rappers are singing now just to get popular, yuck"—has sparked a debate across social media on the current state of Nigerian hip-hop.

There's been some calling out M.I for not supporting young Nigerian rappers like big rappers do in South Africa. These years have seen the likes of Cassper Nyovest and other big SA stars supporting younger talent.

Others, however, have taken up the challenge and started responding to M.I's track over the "Fix Up Your Life" instrumental. M.I's been retweeting the responses and, in a way, the track's been getting a lot of the young rappers M.I calls out some more attention.

M.I and his label Chocolate City have also been in the news lately over suing Nas for not delivering a good verse.

What do you think? Is Nigerian hip-hop in decline?

See some choice tweets below.

Video: Looking at the Roots of IsiPantsula Culture Through Some of Its Leading Voices

This new video shows us why South African Pantsula is much more than just a dance move.

Pantsula is more than just a dance, it's a cultural movement and it's being revived through enthusiastic South African youth.

Keep reading... Show less

In Photos: Migos' Culture Tour in Johannesburg

ATL trio Migos' Culture Tour had two South African stops–in Durban on Friday and Johannesburg on Saturday.

We attended the Joburg leg of the tour, and the group didn't disappoint, although the event itself was unacceptably disorganized. South African rappers Riky Rick and Nasty C gave great performances, especially the latter.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.