Indigenous African musical and dance expressions are maintained by oral tradition. This is stylistically different from the music and dance of the Arabic cultures of North Africa and the western population of southern Africa.

Traditions give emphasis to singing being used as an avenue of communication. Many African languages are tone languages, that is, pitch and level determine to mean. The melodies and rhythms of the songs follow the intonations, contours and rhythms of the song texts.

To accompany the singing and dancing, the indigenous people of Africa have developed a variety of African musical instruments as set out below:


* The Moropa drum was found amongst the Pedi and the Shona

* The Ngoma drum originated in Uganda

* Traditional drums were hand carved from the trunks of old-growth hardwood trees

* They had rawhide heads held by hardwood pegs

* Hand percussion instruments


* This is a musical instrument of Africa are made of 2 turned rods of tempered Sneezewood

* It is played by striking one with the other to produce a click.

* These have a lower sound

* These musical instruments of Africa are made from hollow turned Kiaat wood and have a Meranti wood beater

* They produce a warm ‘thock’ sound

Tone Blocks

* This sounds like the traditional temple blocks

* It has a tempered Sneezewood sounding board on a tuned Kiaat sound box

* It’s supplied with a turned Sneezewood beater


* These are woven and incorporate a hardboard disk

* They produce 2 distinctive and contrasting sounds

Nyanga Pan Pipes

* These are 4 instruments

* They were called Nyanga by the Nyunwe people

* Playing them involves blowing and singing interlocking rhythmic patterns while dancing intricate steps

Xhosa Uhadi Bows

o This requires a shift in western, musical perceptions

o The scale is built up from harmonic series which come from the overtones of 2 fundamental notes played on a single string

o The overtones are separated and made louder by changing the position of the instrument

o It looks like a bow with a gourd attached

These are only some of the African musical instruments. There are many more originating from various tribes. Among these are the Akadinda, or xylophone as it is known in Western society, the mucapata or thumb piano, whistles made by the Nuna people, the harp originating from the Zanda people, and the Kudu Horns. Africa has a rich and varied musical culture.