Roughly between 1200 and 1900, a succession of ancient African empires with centralized governments flourished across West Africa, with various kingdoms, such as the Kingdom of Songhai and the Ashanti Kingdom, covering much of contemporary Mali, Ghana and Nigeria. Large ensembles of royal musicians accompanied the trade of gold, ivory and salt between these empires, serving as sonic symbols of the kings’ power and prestige . As a result, musicians across West Africa became aware of the different musical traditions in existence throughout the region, and began to incorporate elements of these traditions into one another. One sign of the unifying effect this had on music in West Africa is the incredible similarities between certain rhythms found in the music of Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Central African Republic. Of course, there exist a plethora of different musical traditions both between and within these nations, and these differences continue despite their influences on one another. Though these are countries with vast spaces between them, and yet they have come to embrace some of the same characteristics in music making.
Popular Western instruments, including guitars, harmonicas, accordions and brass instruments, were introduced along the Western coast of Africa during the 19th century, with the arrival of European traders and missionaries. Cosmopolitan cities accommodated an increased flow of people...
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West African music has been influenced by a wide range of Western popular music, such as jazz, soul, funk and hip hop, largely through the flow of ideas and exchanges of culture that has resulted from modern day globalisation. Musicians of West Africa have been incorporating aspects of other music into their own, resulting in new and original forms of musical styles.
Charry, Eric. Hip Hop Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012
Collins, E.J. ‘Post-war popular band music in West Africa’, African Arts 10 (1977) 53-60.
Salm, Steven J. ‘Globalisation and West African Music’, History Compass (2010) 58-76.
Stone, Ruth M. Music in West Africa. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Veal Michael E. Fela. The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000.
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