With its strong beats and hearty rhythm, traditional African music is ripe for inspiration. The historical and cultural importance of instruments can be infused into your next song with one of these four instruments.
The ngoni is a traditional lute from Mali. It’s made from a canoe-like wooden body with a piece of animal skin stretched over the top like a drum. It adds an interesting component to the usual string section of guitar and bass.
Try adding a melody like this one to your next ballad.
The percussive balafon is a wooden xylophone. Like the ngoni, the balafon originated in Mali. It has between 16 and 27 keys and plays melodic tunes. The high-pitched percussion will provide a contrast to the beat of a drum.
This balafon tune is almost reminiscent of a techno beat.
The mbira is a metal thumb piano. Hailing from Zimbabwe, it has 22 to 28 metal keys that are mounted on a wooden soundboard. The chime-like percussion pairs beautifully with soft vocals.
Emulate this artist’s style by reimagining a song with this traditional instrument.
The djembe is a West African goblet drum. It is rope-tuned and covered with animal skin. The light percussion of the djembe will add a unique percussive element to your music.
Incorporate a djembe beat like this one into a hip hop track to add a fresh beat.
Unless you know a musician who can play one of these instruments, finding one who can may be difficult. Instead, try sampling from songs or videos who’s artists you obtain permission from. By incorporating traditional African instruments into your next song, you will blend together the historical importance of music across national boundaries.
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Kristen Harris enjoys listening to a wide range of music, from Taylor Swift to, on occasion, Celtic instrumental. She also spends her time writing, reading, and baking.