Music at School


African Music

African Music and Jazz

Here is a recording of some drumming music by Year 8 pupils.

Leave a comment below and answer the following questions;

  1. In lesson it was said that African people play African Music and African-American people often play Jazz. What is the connection between African music and Jazz?
  2. What musical characteristics are used in both African music and Jazz?
  3. How do you think one developed into the another?

Cross-rhythms on djembe drums

This is a recording from a year 8 lesson. We’ve been working on producing cross-rhythms using djembe drums. A cross-rhythm is where there are two or more rhythms that are played in different metre (i.e. one in duple time and one in triple time, or triples over quavers). We often refer to this as”3 over 2″. It is a common element of both West African music and Jazz.

This recording is the product of 3 lessons and involves 8 players playing a “3 over 2” cross rhythm

African music Overview

African Music PowerPoint

Here are some PowerPoint presentations that were done by some year 10 students. They are not COMPLETLY accurate (note the banjo slide) but are good to refresh you memory. Here’s the link:


The term “ostinato” actually means “stubborn”. It is a musical device that can be either rhythmic or melodic and doesn’t go away. Typically an ostinato will stay the same even though chords are changing underneath it. The ostinato at the beginning of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” lasts for nearly 5 minutes without change.

Kora Music

A Kora is an African stringed instrument (like a very complicated guitar). It has between 10-23 strings and is one of the most melodic instruments of Western Africa.

It was originally used by the Griot family to accompany folk songs.

 The simple repetitive rhythms and improvisations that are used are called brimintingo

The word used to describe the melody that is played on the Kora is kumbengo however, when there are two melodies the main melody is called the kumaura and the secondary melody is called the kutsinhira

African Vocal Music

African vocal music is wide ranging in it’s style and use of conventions but generally, African languages are tone languages. This means that the way the words are said can be related to pitches (high or low). Therefore the melodies and rhtyhms of a song often come directly from the way they talk, as the pitches match the meaning of the words.

Another important phrase (other than “tone language”) is “isicathamiya” which is the traditional vocal music of the Zulus in South Africa

Another word that you need to learn is “vocables”. These are effects made by the voice that sound like “eh”, “ah”, “oh”

African Rhythms

African rhythms can be complex, but you don’t have to know how they work to be able to answer the questions. These are common answers you’ll be expected to know:

  • Interlocking rhythms
  • Cross Rhythms
  • Polyrhythms
  • Rhythmic counterpoint

Describe a Talking Drum …

A Talking Drum or Donno is ….

  • double headed
  • held under the arm
  • squeezed to tighten the skin
  • mimics tribal language
  • changes tone

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