Music at School


Area of Study 4

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”

Indian Structure

  • There are lots of terms assoicated with Indian Structure (how the music is organised). Here are some important terms:
  • Alap – generally the first section. Slow and in free time. The raag is introduced through improvisations on the sitar. This helps to set the mood of the music. The sitar is often accompanied by the tambura that plays a drone.
  • Jhor – the beat starts (not neccesarily the drums) – just a regular sense of pulse. The music that had been improvised not starts to become more rhythmic. The music also becomes more elaborate and the tempo increases to a moderate pace.
  • Jhala – this is a fast section that has exciting drum patterns. This section is often used to show off the abilities of the players.
  • Gat- the final section which gets faster and faster to the end. This is where the drums introduce the rhythm cycle known as the tala and where the composition is “fixed”. / Bandish – this will replace the Gat it there is a singer. Musical dialogue takes place between the singer and the instrument. The sarangi ( violin type instrument) often accompanies the singer

They are the main sections, but within those sections you can also expect to hear rhythmic structures such as:

  • Vibhag
  • Vibhag Khali

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

African Instruments

African instruments are divided into groups such as “idiophones” (instrumsnts that resonate) , “Aerophones” (instruments that require wind), “chordophones” (instruments with strings), and “membranophones” (instruments that have a skin).

Here are some African Instruments that you should know about:

  • Talking drum or Donno (membranophone)
  • Djembe Drum (membranophone)
  • Kagan Drum (membranophone)
  • Kidi Drum (membranophone)
  • Shekere (idiophone)
  • Mbira (idiophone)
  • Agogo (idiophone)
  • Xylophone (idiophone)
  • Kora (chordophone)
  • Zither (chordophone)
  • Ocarina (aerophone)
  • Voice
  • Dundun (membranophone)

African music is also filled with body percussion such as hand claps, foot stamps and body slaps.

Indian Instruments

Here are some indian instruments that you should know about:

  • Tabla Drums
  • Dhol drum
  • Sitar (plays meend & tan techniques)
  • Tambura (bass Sitar)
  • Voice
  • Surangi (looks like a violin and is played when there is a voice)
  • Bansuri (flute)

Blog at

Up ↑