West African Musical Instruments Its Role in Developing Music in West Africa.3 min read

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West Africa is no doubt known for its special kinds of music and musical instruments. These instruments and music are listed below. Meanwhile, while talking about West Africa music, there are legends that contributed to its significant influence in the music world. These legends includes the popular Fela Kuti who created the afro beat by the use of fusing traditional Nigerian music, jazz and highlife. Following him is also a remarkable music figure Mapouka who is known for creating the dance move of Bikutsi. Koffi Olimide is another musical figure who created the popular Congolese Tcha tcha. There are various other music legends popular in the history of West Africa music but with respect to time, let’s proceed to look at the various music genres in West Africa.




Fuji music is a genre of music associated with the people of Nigeria which is based on traditional Muslim Yoruba music.  Benga music is a popular music in Kenya, it is an electric bass guitar which is almost the same melody with that of traditional Kenyan Eight-string lyre called Nyatiti. Funana music style and dance is associated with Cape Verde based on the accordion. Highlife is a music genre from Ghana and popular in all the English speaking West Africa countries. Maringa music is associated with the people of Sierra Leone. Mapouka music is popularly associated with the people of Ivory Coast. Morna is a melancholic music style associated with the people of Cape Verde.

Since we have known the various music and the countries associated with it, let’s at the various musical instruments which had aided to its sound production. These instruments includes the Kora which is one of the most popular stringed instruments in West Africa. It has a shape of a Guitar but with 21 strings with its front covered with animal skin to help aid its melodic sound. It can be found in Ivory Coast, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin and Mali.

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The Kalimba is another instrument found in some part of West Africa, it is a thumb piano, made up of strips and a sound is produced by plucking threads of the flexible strings. The original Kalimba is made from a bamboo tree. Another musical instrument popularly found in West is the talking drums. They are hour shaped drums usually placed under the arm. They are usually found in countries like Nigeria, Mali, Ghana, Togo and Benin. Following that is the Balofon which can be found in countries like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso. It is made by wooden planks bound by strings and placed over large gourd to help produce sounds when hit with clubs.

The Shekere is another significant instrument in West Africa music. The instrument is made up of closely woven beads that forms a net which is placed round a gourd to produce sounds when shaked or slammed against the hands. The shekere are mostly found in Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Ghana and many others. Another Instrument is Udu which is a type of drum popular in Nigeria. It looks like a water jar and is made from clay. The sound it produces is influenced by a hollow. Finally, the Algaita is another type of musical instrument found in West Africa. It is made from reeds and comes with a wider opening at the base as well as open finger holes. It is usually found in Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Benin and other West Africa region.

In conclusion, the various music and instruments found in the various countries of West Africa has slight similarities which was influence by the early contacts that took place between fellow creators of this various music and musical instruments.

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