Essay on African Tribal Music

Essay on African Tribal Music

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African Tribal Music

In our Western culture, we have always been entertained and pleased by the sound of music. Whether listening to the radio or going to a live concert, the music itself is usually considered a form of art or past time for the listener and the performer. While some can connect, relate to, or even "feel" the power of the music, not many westerners can comprehend "living" the music. In African tribal culture, the people have done just that since ancient times. They have spent each day using the music along with their work, daily routines, ceremonies, rituals, and gatherings. To them, the sound that is produced from their instruments and voice is more than a product of creativity of a group of musicians, it is a gift from the Gods which has high symbolic meaning and serves a purpose. In our modern, hi-tech, wireless society, the significance of music is something we have long forgotten, or may have never understood at all, and is certainly something that is taken for granted. As this essay will show you, the connection with and use of music by the African tribal people, in comparison to its purpose in Western culture, has much more valuable spiritual significance.

Let us start with a general overview of the whole original tribal aspect of African music. The word "tribal" "refers to the language spoken, sometimes to political entities, and sometimes to other kinds of groupings of the African people and their boundaries" (Britannica Online). The general idea of a tribe is an attempt to impose identity from the outside, so in a sense, "tribe" could mean "ethnic identity". So basically, a tribe can be a small group of people who live and travel together and have certain customs and rituals unlike any other gr...

... middle of paper ... have music benefit us spiritually, but to me, I stand by the belief that we should acknowledge it as more than art, but as a gift that can inspire, motivate, move, or even heal us as a people.


Britannica Online. Search for "ethnomusicology - Africa" or "African music". Internet:, accessed November 19th, 2000

Amoaku, W. Komla "Toward a Definition of Traditional African Music: A Look at the Ewe of Ghana." In Irene Jackson, ed., More than Drumming, 31-40. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Koetting, James "Africa/Ghana." In Worlds of Music. 2nd ed. New York: Schirmer Books. 1992

Stone, Ruth M. African Music in a Constellation of Arts. "The Garland Handbook of African Music." (Journal) 7-12 p. 2000.

Titon, Jeff Todd. Worlds of Music. 3rd ed. Chapter on Music of Africa by David Locke. Schirmer Books, 1996.

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