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be found in abundance). The embellishment of these basic scales with an infinite
number of graduated pitches of both tempered and non-tempered microtonal varieties are related to the development that occurred with the evolution of the blues
melody. The unique micro-tonic pitch system makes African melody subtle and can
be disorienting to those accustomed to hearing performances of tempered scales that
are fixed and standardized. Both conjunct and disjunct scale patterns are utilized,
as are scales composed of equal intervalic relationships (isotonic). It must be noted
that these African scales, pitch sets, etc., should not be hastily linked with similar
European theoretical notions.
We find, therefore, that traditional African scales involve a diverse set of horizontal
arrangements, varying in range and in number of units. Certain musical elements
and styles are unique to a given district or village. Hugh Tracey in his study Chopi
Musicians delineates five such scales corresponding to four villages within the Zavala
district of Kenya: Chisiko, Mavila, Banguza, and Zandemela.62 Of course, Africans
developed many of these scales, patterns, and traditions long before the Greek era. Dr.
A. N. Tucker remarked that his work was complicated “by the Nilotic intervals not
being quite the same as those of our pentatonic.”63 While making recordings of music
of the Nilo-Hamitic people, he realized that “the scale intervals of the native’s singing
voice should be truer than those on the piano.”64 This implies that Nilo-Hamitic
tuning may involve just-intonation (in accordance with the natural overtone series)
rather than based upon even temperament (originally a Western concept of tuning).
Form, in some varieties of African music, is often based on the immediate repetition of a musical phrase sustained throughout a piece (litany type) or on strophic
forms (such as the verse forms found in Ghana). Two or more melodies may be
combined to form larger sectional formations, with formal contrast being achieved
through a series of musical movements or “acts,” each consisting of a section repeated
several times.65
Musical Instruments
African instruments may be classified as chordophones (stringed instruments), idiophones (instruments that are struck or shaken), membranophones (instruments
covered with skin), aerophones (wind instruments), and electrophones (electrical
instruments). The latter category includes amplified instruments (such as the electric
guitar) found in urban cafes, night clubs, ballrooms, and other places or entertainment where the “highlife” of West Africa, the kwella of South Africa, and the popular
music of the Congo use Western musical concepts and instrumentation to create new
forms of art music. Musical instruments can also be classified as instruments with
melodic functions and instruments with rhythmic functions.
Traditional African Music • 43