Defining African traditional musical traits: Resource material for African art music composition

  • O O Bateye


A unique peculiarity of African art music is the employment of traditional musical elements as resource materials. This paper aimed at presenting the bedrock of an analytical framework for the determination of a genuine African traditional content in the literary compositions of African art music composers, attempted to highlight, define and describe some of the traditional musical elements. The discussion included melody, vocal/instrumental polyphony, descending melodic line, the pentatonic and non-pentatonic scales, speech inflected melody, melisma and embellishment, preference for thirds, form, lack of modulations and texture. It could be concluded that indigenous African music has a potential for development from a utilitarian (functional) to an abstract (art for art's sake) art form if those elements are properly used and in their originally conceived forms.

Nigerian Music Review Vol. 6 2005: pp. 61-74

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eISSN: 1116-428X