All Music in the World is African

7 min


List of Music Genres in Africa

There’s more to African music than it just being “African”! Music genres are plentiful on this continent. Here’s a short list of just a few of them: Photo: Courtesy of Joss Widdowson

Fela Kuti created Afrobeat by fusing traditional Nigerian music, jazz and highlife. Today, it is often mixed with hip hop or makossa and well known even outside Africa.

Apala is a percussion-based style of the Muslim Yoruba people in Nigeria, West Africa.

Assiko is a rhythmic dance from Cameroon.

This dance music developped from the traditional music of the Beti in Cameroon. The sexy dance moves remind of the popular Mapouka from the Ivory Coast. 

Benga music
Popular music in Kenya. The electric bass guitar imitates the melodies of the traditional Kenyan eight-string lyre called Nyatiti.

Bongo Flava (Tanzania)

Cabo-Love (Cape Verde)

Chimurenga music
Popular style from Zimbabwe. The melodies played by modern instruments are based on the traditional Mbira music of the Shona people.

Coladeira (Cape Verde)

Pop music from the Ivory Coast/France with danceable percussion and deep bass. This style is said to help Ivorians through tough times and difficult political situations.

Desert Blues
The people living in the Sahara desert have been making blues music long before it got famous in the West. This sounds absolutely brilliant!

Popular music genre from Nigeria, based on traditional Muslim Yoruba music.

Music style and dance from Cape Verde based on the accordeon.

Gbema (Liberia)

Highlife is a genre from Ghana and popular in all of English-speaking West Africa. 

Hipco (Liberia)

Fun and extremely popular among Ghana’s youth is the fusion of highlife and hip hop. 

Harmonious and gentle a cappella sung by all male choirs from the South African Zulu.

Kizomba means “party” in an Angolan language. The same named dance style is becoming inccreasingly popular in Europe and North America. (More about Kizomba on Wikipedia)

South Africa‘s black youth loves this new mix of house music and African sounds.

Kwassa Kwassa (Congo)

This urban dance music from the capital city of Cameroon reminds of Soukous.

Maringa (Sierra Leone)

Mapouka (Ivory Coast)

Senegal’s most popular music style. Mbalax is a brilliant fusion of traditional griot praise songs and sabar rhythms with modern Western elements.

Melancholic music style from Cape Verde.

Ndombolo (Congo)

Palm-Wine Music (Liberia)

Music style from Angola. This music and partner dance is the origin of the increasingly popular Kizomba music and dance style.

Soukous (Congo)

Taarab (Kenya/Tanzania)

Tcha tcho
This Congolese dance music was created by Koffi Olimide. It’s a more sensual and melancholic subform of Soukous.

TrapCo (Liberia)

What’s YOUR Favorite African Music Genre?

The above list is still incomplete. Which genre is missing? Tell us something about your favorite African music style:

Think your favourite music genre. Beyonce, Nas, Eminem, Avicii, Frank Sinatra and many more owe their success to Africa’s music prowess.

Fat Joe is Right, All Music is African

You need not look further than some of the music’s great genres such as rock, soul, and hip-hop to understand the impact it has had on the world music scene. All Music has African origins.

The success of the Ndlovu your choir or The Lion King soundtrack is a depiction of how Africa has been shaping the global music landscape. 

Conventional wisdom has cast musical greats such as Elvis Presley and Eminem in a long line of craven white exploiters of black musical culture for whom African Americans should have nothing but contempt.

In a recent interview, American hip-hop artist, Fat Joe, made the sensational claim that all music is African and he has been in touch with Afro-beats throughout his career. In the interview, Elvis was addressing the claim but a large section of hip-hop that castigates Latinos for crossing the cultural boundary into “black” music.

Well, for starters, what is termed black music would not have been there without African music. Yes, African Americans cannot exist without Africa. Therefore, to understand how music’s great genres have come to be, we have to understand the music scene in Africa.

African music is not as homogeneous as many presume. Sub-saharan Africa has tremendous cultural diversity that also translates into rhythm diversity as music played a central role in African society. This role is seen in how the African American society has always been passionate about music from the “Kumbaya” days to the current days of “Illmatic.”

Dance, music, and story-telling are among the ancient art forms that have flourished for many centuries in Africa. Music and dance are terms that we will use to denote the musical practices of African people. Ancient African society did not separate their everyday life activities from their music and other cultural experience. African Music Influences Other Genres

African has been and will continue to influence many other types of music. Varying from rock and roll, jazz, the blues, and even modern pop, African music has traces in all kinds of music. In fact, there are not many genres that do not have even just a little bit of African ancestry.Rock and Roll

Rock and roll is a genre that was started in the late 1940s and became especially large in the 1950s. Many artists contributed to the fame of this infamous genre like Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis but by far the person that made it so big was the famous Elvis Presley. Rock and roll practically owes itself to African music because of how much it contributed. If you added a perfect amount swing and boogie-woogie with a deep African rhythm and blues, you’d get rock and roll. Without its African traces, rock and roll would’ve never really been a thing which would literally mean that there would be no other types of rock genres today like rock opera from Queen, glam rock from David Bowie, psychedelic rock from Jimi Hendrix, or even folk-rock from artists like Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. This just shows how important African music is in every music sets of history.The Blues

Well, rock and roll was the kind of music that started most of the music that we have today, but do you know what mainly started rock and roll? The blues. I’d say that the blues may be the most influential musicians of all time. Starting with just a simple percussion beat and a slow bass line, the blues doesn’t just have traces of African music in it, it was started in Africa back in the early 1900s. The reason that so many people in Africa loved the blues and to write more blues songs because the blues is a way to get out what is bothering you or angering you hence the name the blues. The blues have grown so much since then to make so many different music types like rock and roll. As you can see, African music is so influential in all music types of the world.Hip Hop and Rap

Many people confuse these two different forms although there are distinct differences between them. Rapping literally means “to converse” and predates the phenomenon known as hip hopping by centuries. Consequently, rapping has been used as chanting or speaking art form (as a rhyming lyrical form accompanying Reggae music as well) with or without accompaniment and can be very powerful as a tool of self-expression. Depending on how you define it, Rap may very well date back to early African tribes and their practice of chanting in a rhythmic fashion to induce trance states.House

House is an electronic form of music that originated in Chicago in the 1980’s catering to African American and Latino clientele desiring high energy danceable music. House borrows elements liberally from Rhythm and Blues, Soul as well as Funk and disco but infuses an element of electronica into the mix. Some House music also samples pieces of bass lines from earlier Disco tunes and combines vocals or other effects in for good measure. Consequently, House is a synthesis of various components of different types of music but with the goal of creating a high energy environment for movement and dance. Regardless of the fact that House incorporates electronic elements into the mix, its origins are deeply seated in Funk and Soul and this is evident in the groove and feel of the music, especially when you’re out on the dance floor.Techno

Techno music was founded in Detroit Michigan in the early 1980s by three African American musicians and friends interested in both Funk as well as more electronic bands such as Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, and Giorgio Moroder. Initially, techno was played in small groups and local parties but eventually found broader and broader audiences as local clubs began to cater to interested crowds of party goers and dance-a-holics. The growing popularity of DJs and their ability to collate and synthesize select groups of songs also helped to launch the popularity of Techno to International degrees helping it along to the popularity that it enjoys today. And although Techno adheres to Western forms of composition (i.e simple 4/4 time, major scales, etc) much of it is simply cleverly programmed drum samples with cool effects.Gratitude

Whether Western instruments have evolved from ancient African forms, or we have adopted knowledge in terms of rhythms and cross-rhythms, various scale patterns, or simply the evolution of melody and harmony, Western music undoubtedly owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to our African brothers and sisters for their wisdom, insight, and creativity.


Music is a monumental part of all cultures because it has the power to unify people and cross borders. Just one song can have the power to bring millions of people from different backgrounds together. Many genres of music originate from communities that have visible roots in Africa. In North America,, it was a way that the early slaves could express themselves and communicate when they were being forcibly relocated and when there were restrictions on what cultural activities they could pursue. In a time where their world was being turned upside down, music served as an escape and form of communication/expression for early black communities. The ability of music to act as a binding factor provides all culture’s with a strong sense of connectivity. Loosely termed black music with no specificity with regards to genre as a definition in the United States started with its roots embodied in slave spirituals and gospel music.

The term for many coming from places of “black” origin can be perceived in a derogatory manner by cultures who see the term as a blurring of lines which ignores the true roots of certain peoples and their specific traditions. To refer to musical genres with strong African-American influence, such as hip hop music, is very limited in scope and is not adopted by academic institutions as a true category.

List of musical genres of the African diaspora

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to navigationJump to searchMain article: Music of the African diaspora

  • Siddi music

See also


Main article: List of musical genres of the African diaspora

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