Africa Music and Dance

African Dance


African Music

By “African music” is usually meant the music traditions in sub-Saharan Africa. So you exclude North Africa, whose music is closer to the Arab world than the rest of Africa. Traditional music in Africa exhibits a diversity, which must be understood in the light of the great differences in climate and landscape types, social forms and languages. In diversity, however, there are common features, which is why the study of African music is a study of at once unity and variety.

According to, most African languages ​​lack a general term for music as distinct from dance. The term used often denotes a complex of song, instrumental music and dance. The traditional musicis, like dance, almost always socially entrenched and linked to the activities that are most basic in culture. Singing, instrumental music and dance rarely occur independently, but are included as an essential part of important events in the individual or group’s life – birth, initiation, marriage, burial, hunting, sowing and harvesting etc. Music is also used in daily work, in legal and political context and for recreation, as it can be anything from completely informal to intense musical drama. It is performed by spontaneous groups or is socially organized through cult groups and secret or open societies. Music at rituals, ceremonies, or parties is usually associated with dance into a device, especially when music and dance are means to connect with ancestors and spirit worlds. The dancer often appears with mask, and the dance can be individualistic or, like the music, express community community and shared experience. However, the emphasis on group participation does not exclude solo performances or professionalism and specialization.

Country Number of residents Population
Algeria 43 053 054 (2019) araber ca 80%, berber ca 20%
Angola 31 825 295 (2019) ovimbundu 37%, mbundu 25%, bakongo 13%, other 25% (estimate)
Benin 11 801 151 (2019) fon (39 percent), adja (15 percent), yoruba (12 percent), bariba (10 percent), fulani (9 percent); small groups of fulbe, otamari, dendi, somba, mina, goun, indian, lebanese etc.
Botswana 2 303 697 (2019) majority of tswana people, minorities of kalanga, bushmans, khalagari, europeans and others
Burkina Faso 20 321 378 (2019) mossi, fulani, tuareger, bobo, mande, gurunsi, bwa, lobi, senufo and more
Burundi 11,530,580 (2019) ca 85% hutu, ca 14% tutsi, 1% twa
Central African Republic 4 745 185 (2019) the savannahs banda and baya are the largest – the savannahs also include sara and mboum. Among the river people are yakoma, ngbaka, sango, nzakara and azandé
Comoros 850 886 (2019) almost all have mixed origins, mainly Arabic and African (Bantu people)
Djibouti 973,560 (2019) issa 50–60%, afar 35–40%, others 5–15%
Egypt 100 388 073 (2019) 100,000,000 (2020) 2
Equatorial Guinea 1 355 986 (2019) catch 80–85%, smaller groups of bubi, fernandins, bujeba and others
Ivory Coast 25 716 544 (2019) baulé, bété, senufo, malinké, mande, dioula, agni m fl
Eritrea 3 213 972 (2011) tigers about 50%, tiger talking about 30%, other groups (afar, saho, beja, blin, kunama, baria, rashaida) about 20%
Ethiopia 112 078 730 (2019) oromo 34.5%, amharer 26.9%, somalier 6.2%, tigreaner 6.1%, sidama 4.1%, guragie 2.5%, welaita 2.3%, hadiya 1.7%, afar 1 , 7%, gamo 1.5%, others 12.5% (census 2007)
Gabon 2 172 579 (2019) about 40 Bantu people, of whom fang is the largest; minorities of mérié, mbede, bakota, myéné etc.
Gambia 2 347 706 (2019) mandinka (ca 50%), fulani, wolof, diola m fl
Ghana 30 417 856 (2019) akan (including ashanti and fanti), mole-dagbani, ewe, ga-adangbe
Guinea 12 771 246 (2019) fulani just over 33 percent, malinké just over 29 percent, susu just over 21% and smaller people such as kissi, kpelle, toma etc. (uncertain figures)
Guinea-Bissau 1 920 922 (2019) balante, fulani, malinke, mandjako, pepel and more
Cameroon 25 876 ​​380 (2019) the country houses over 250 ethnic groups, the largest of which are bamiléké and fulani
Cape Verde 549 935 (2019) creoles 71%, black 28%, white 1% (estimate 2000s)
Kenya 47 564 296 (2019) kikuyu 17%, luhya 13.6%, kalenjin 12.6%, luo 10.3%, kamba 9.7%, others 36.7 (2009 census)
Congo-Brazzaville 5,380,508 (2019) Congolese countries about 50%, mean about 20%
Congo-Kinshasa 86 790 567 (2019) luba, kongo, mongo, mangbetu-azande and more
Lesotho 2 125 268 (2019) basotho
Liberia 4 937 374 (2019) kpelle 20%, bass 13%, grebo 10%, gio 8%, mano 8%, others about 40% (census 2008)
Libya 6 777 452 (2019) araber, berber, tuareger, tubuer
Madagascar 26 969 307 (2019) 18 official ethnic groups, of which merina, betsimisaraka and betsileo are among the largest; in addition, small groups of Europeans and Asians
Malawi 18,628,747 (2019) clear majority of chewa
Mali 19 658 031 (2019) bambara, fulani, senufo, bozo, mossi, songhai, dogon, tuareger, morer m fl
Morocco 36 471 769 (2019) araber ca 65%, berber ca 35%
Mauritania 4,525,696 (2019) majority of mores; groups of wolof, tukulor, fulani, soninké etc.
Mauritius 1 265 711 (2019) Indomaurites make up about two thirds of the population, Creoles, French Mauritians, Sinomaurites and more
Mozambique 30,366,036 (2019) bantu peoples makua-lomwe, tsonga, shona m fl
Namibia 2 494 530 (2019) ovambo make up about half the population; nama / damara comprises about 11 percent; the Africans (the whites) make up around 10 percent, kavango about 9 percent and herero around 7 percent
Niger 23 310 715 (2019) hausa 55.4%, songhai-djerma 21%, tuareger 9.3%, fulani (peulh) 8.5%, kanuri-manga 4.7%, others 1.1% (census 2001)
Nigeria 200 963 599 (2019) hausa-fulani (about one-third), yoruba (just over one-fifth), igbo (just under one-fifth), otherwise ijaw, kanuri, ibibio, tiv
Rwanda 12 626 950 (2019) about 85 percent hutuer, about 15 percent tutsier, 1 percent twa (pygmy)
São Tomé and Príncipe 215 056 (2019) majority of people of mixed African and Portuguese descent; Africans, Europeans (mainly Portuguese)
Senegal 16 296 364 (2019) wolof 38.5%, fulani and tukulor 27%, serer 15%, mandinka 5%, diola 4%, soninke 2.3% (official statistics)
Seychelles 97 625 (2019) creoles
Sierra Leone 7 813 215 (2019) temne, mende, sherbo, limba, krio m fl
Somalia 15 442 905 (2019) a majority of Somalis, as well as Bantu and other minority groups
Sudan 42 813 238 (2019) up to half the population counts themselves as Arabs, the second largest ethnic group is Dinka
Swaziland swazier
South Africa 58 558 270 (2019) Africans / blacks 80.8%, coloreds 8.8%, Europeans / whites 7.8%, Asians 2.6%. (official estimate, 2020)
South Sudan 11 062 113 (2019) dinka, nuer, shilluk, azande, jurchol, acholi and more
Tanzania 58 005 463 (2019) Bantu people 80–85%; in addition, Arab, Nilotic, Cushite, Asian, and European minorities
Chad 15 946 876 (2019) about 200 different ethnic groups, of which Arabs are the largest and sara the second largest
Togo 8 082 366 (2019) 20-40 ethnic groups, the largest is ewe, then kabré. Other groups are gurma, watchi, kotokoli, moba, mina m fl
Tunisia 11,694,719 (2019) Arabs 98%, Berbers 1%, others 1%
Uganda 44,269,594 (2019) baganda 17%, banyankole 10%, basoga 8%, bakiga 7%, iteso 6%, langi 6%, acholi 5% and just over 30 other groups (census 2002)
Zambia 17 861 030 (2019) over 70 bantu people of which bemba, nyanja and tonga are the largest 10
Zimbabwe 14 645 468 (2019) shona about 70-80%, ndebele about 15-20%, small minorities of other bantu people, whites and asians


Ensemble music is the dominant form in which singing, clapping and rhythmic pounding are mixed with different types of instrumental music. The flora of instruments is extremely rich, from various percussion instruments such as drums, wear drums and xylophones to all kinds of wind and string instruments. Significantly, these are often played with percussive attack, such as the tump piano (sansa, mbira, likembe, limba), an instrument unique to Africa, consisting of a series of metal tongues attached over a bridge by a board or a sound box. The most striking feature of African music is the rhythmic element. The rhythmic structure is often extremely complex and reflects a highly developed ability to perform several rhythmic patterns simultaneously, so-called poly-rhythmic; this is typical especially for West Africa. Another prominent feature is polyphony, polyphony. This can take the form of parallel therses, quarters and quarters, heterophony, burgundy or usually overlapping antiphony (alternation) between singers and chorus-to-call ratio. The melody is simple and often consists of short repetitive motifs, which form the background to improvisation, poetic recitation and rhythmic variation. The African music cultures have many different tones, but so much emphasis is not always placed on precise interval intonations. Floating intervals are common e.g. in the vocal music.

New forms of popular dance music have emerged in modern Africa’s urban environments, mixing African style elements with influences from West Indian, African American and Latin American music. South Africa has been dominated by various forms of Afro jazz such as kwela and jive, while Congolese popular forms of music such as rhumba, krikri and soukous are spread throughout East and Central Africa. In West Africa, highlife, a form of music originating from Ghana and Nigeria, dominates, and, farther west, African west coast jazz and maningo.

The leading trend in art music has been the use of traditional material within the framework of symphonic, opera and church musical forms, which can be exemplified by the work of four composers: Ephraim Amu and JHK Nketia from Ghana and Fela Sowande and Akin Euba from Nigeria. In the field of dance, the new music environments have given rise to a folk-music based scenic ballet, represented by, for example, Senegal Ballet and African Dance Company of Ghana.


African Dance

A common characteristic of the dance in sub-Saharan Africa is that separate and partially independent centers of the body move simultaneously. This bodily polycentric is similar to the musical polyrhythmic. The centers are highlighted optically or sound by, for example, rattles, colors or jewelry. Due to the use of football bells and the stomp, the movements of the dancers become an organic part of the musical ensemble, and in many places it is precisely with the dancers that one finds the basic pulse of the polyrhythmic network.

The regional division of the continent’s dance style coincides largely with the musical and is based on the dance’s use of space, its relation to the music and its choice of movement centers.

In the Sahara area, the dance is dominated by longitudinal or vertical jumps performed with a straight body. There is very little movement in the room and the dances are solo. In the Sudan area, group dances are dominant, and they appear both as ranks and as circles. The movement starts from the legs again, but is now directed downwards like the stomp in the ground. In the West African coastal country, the group dances form a great soloistic virtuosity. The movements are still centered in the legs, but are acrobatic and characterized by the refined professional language that belongs to the area. Both in the Sudan style and in West Africa, the body posture is characterized by a slight forward bend in the pelvis, which releases the shoulders, chest or upper body. In Central Africa you find the true polycentric, where the different centers of movement are completely equal and completely liberated from each other. The East African region cannot be uniquely characterized. It contains features from many of the other regions as well as the Arab cultural area and is relatively inhomogeneous. Southern Africa dances in formations, and powerful kicks and punches dominate, among other things. at the Zulus.

Across Africa there are dances that require disguise and masking. For example, the suits and masks can represent an allegorical figure, spirit or deity. This can be seen, for example, at Yoruba in Nigeria and at Makonde in Tanzania.

There is often a smooth transition from dance to more sporty movement patterns such as wrestling and various types of throws, jumps and lifts.