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BBC - African culture terms
Category: History and Culture > African music
Date & country: 25/09/2007, UK
Words: 169


marabi
South African style originating as piano based music played in World War I era slums. Later incorporated by emerging South African jazz bands from the '30s on. Used loosely by various musicians in South Africato mean everything from original piano style to South African jazz in general. Also used more broadly to evoke memories of townshipnight life in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.

marakatu
Afro-Brazilian rhythm of the northeast. Popularized internationally by Chico Science and Nacao Zumbi.

marovany
Deep-toned box zither from the southern part of Madagascar.

masenqo
Ethiopian one-string fiddle with a diamond-shaped sound box covered with goat skin.

mawal
Improvised vocals used in Egyptian shaabi music, the toast of Cairo's working class neighborhoods. Mawal lets the singer show off storytelling abilities and street smarts.

mbalax
Percussion music from Senegal, modernized by Youssou N'Dour and others.

mbaqanga
South African township music popular from the mid-60s to mid-70s.

mbira
Original Shona-language term for a hand-held, metal-pronged instrument used in religious ceremonies to initiate communication with ancestor spirits. Mbira has become a general term for this entire class of instruments--lamellophones--popularly known as 'thumb pianos.'

mbira
Thumb piano of the Shona people in Zimbabwe. Played by plucking metal strips on a wooden slab, often clamped inside a gourd resonator. Used recreationally and to communicate with ancestors.

mbube
Term used to describe South African choral music.

merdoum
Folkloric vocal and drum style made popular by Sudanese singer and bandleader Abdel Gadir Salim.

merengue
High-energy dance beat from the Dominican Republic, very popular throughout the Latin world. Essential percussion instruments are a tambora and guira, with congas added in modern bands. Originally featured accordion; today's bands have keyboards and brass with fast repeated saxophone paterns.

mi-solo
In Congolese three-part guitar arrangements, the middle part. Sometimes doubles lead or accompaniment part.

milo jazz
Sierre Leone street music named after Milo malt drink.

montuno
Section of an Afro-Cuban dance tune using call and response between improvisations by the lead singer and repeated phrases by a vocal chorus.

morna
Song form from Cape Verde characterized by sad, often minor-key haronny and slow, sensuous rhythm.

mqashiyo
What Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens called their style of mbaqanga.

mtindo
In Tanzania, the musical and performance style of each band and the dancing style associated with it.

mutuashi
Dance and rhythm from southeastern Congo, popularized by Tshala Muana.

ngoma
Refers to a combination of music-song-dance in Tanzania and Kenya. Also refers to a specific type of drum, or drums in general.

njarka
From Mali, small, bowed fiddle made from gourd with long neck and one thin gut string.

Nubia
Region of the Nile valley linking Egypt and Sudan, much of it flooded to create the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser. As Nubians have moved into major cities, their music has developed into urban styles and has influenced Cairo's al-jeel sound.

nyatiti
7-stringed lyre played in western Kenya.

orutu
one-stringed fiddle played in western Kenya. Also refers to currently popular Kenyan style which includes this instrument.

oud
Arabic lute consisting of a large, wooden sound box, a small fretless neck, and usually six paired strings with a single bass string.

pachanga
Fast Afro-Cuban dance rhythm popularized in New York in the late 50s.

palm wine
Acoustic guitar music from Anglophone West Africa, named after palm wine drink.

pata pata
South African township dance of the 50s. Song of same name made international hit by Miriam Makeba.

perico ripiao
A rough, rootsy accordion-based acoustic merengue, popular in the 30's. Today sometimes called 'típico.'

plena
A rough, rootsy accordion-based acoustic merengue, popular in the 30's. Today sometimes called 'típico.'

polihet
Traditional girls' dance in the Ivory Coast popularized by Gnaore Djimi whose musichas a driven triplet feel and boisterous percussion breaks.

rai
Popular youth-oriented music from Algeria. Rai's themes of love and drink have brought rai singers in direct conflict with Islamic militants in Algeria.

raks sharki
Dance and music from Egypt performed at weddings and for the public in Cairoclubs. Referred to abroad as 'belly dance music.'

Rastafari
Back-to-Africa movement and religion begun in Jamaica in the 30's. Venerates Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Spiritual basis of reggae music.

reggae
Internationally popular style dominated by melodic bass and spare drums. Originally from Jamaica where it was associated with the politics of the poor and the Rastafari religion. Evolved from older styles, ska and rock steady. Has since evolved into related styles such as dub and raga muffin.

rock steady
Bridge between ska and reggae with ska's tempo cut in half.

rumba
1) Afro-Cuban street drumming and dancing noted for dense, virtuoso percussion and subtle, sexually suggestive dancing. Main formns are guaguanco, yambu and columbia. 2) Congolese dance music of the 1940s-70s, the generation of Dr. Nico, Grand Kalle, and Franco. Strongly influenced by Cuban music. Precursor of soukous.

rumbero
A singer or player of Cuban rumba.

sabar
Senegalese drum played with one stick and one hand, featured in many Senegalese pop bands.

salegy
Fast dance music with a triplet feel from the coast of Madagascar.

Santería
Yoruba-derived Afro-Cuban religion celebrated with music and dance. Also called lucumi.

SAPEUR
Short for Society of Ambienceurs and Persons of Elegance. Spearheaded by Papa Wemba and other Congolese celebrities but picked up by other Africans living in Paris and around the world. General term used throughout much of Africa for stylish, usually male clothes horse.

sax jive
South African township dance music in 60s which developed from 'pennywhistle jive'. See also kwela.

seben
Fast section of modern Zairian song form.

semba
Angolan dance,the antecedent of Brazilian samba.

shaabi
Working-class pop music of Cairo. Surged in popularity with the advent of the cassette revolution in early '70s

Shango
Trinidadian religion drawn from Yoruba tradition. Drumming has influenced modern soca rhythm.

shebeen
Illegal drinking establishment that sold liquor to black South Africans. Musical performances also tookplace in shebeens.

sintir
Large plucked-string lute played by Gnawa musicians, mostly in Morocco. The instrument has a single fat string, a drum-like sound box, and a removable resonator that adds a buzzing sound to its low, resonant notes.

soukous
Generic term for modern Congolese dance music. Said to come from the French verb 'secouer', 'to shake.'

soundama
Dance craze in Zaire, based on folk music.

spraying
Term used in West Africa for showing appreciation of a musician by placing money on them while performing. Lucrative additional source of income for musicians. Also called dashing.

Swahili
Language widely spoken in East Africa. Also refers to the Islamic Swahili people who live along the Kenyan and Tanzanian coast of East Africa.

tama
Wolof name for talking drum, capable of imitating spoken language. Featured in electric groups of Youssou N'Dour and Baaba Maal and others.

tambora
Two-headed goat skin drum, held across the player's lap, that provides characteristic heart-throb merengue beat. One head is played with a stick and the other is played with the hand.

tassou
Senegalese rap music.

timbales
Single-headed drums, usually in pairs, with metal or wooden frames, played with sticks, used in Cuban music.

tumba
Characteristic musical form of Curacao.

ukabonga
Quick, stacatto rap that occurs near the middle of a typical Zulu traditional pop tune. The singer may praise his clan or family or expand on the theme of the song.

valiha
zither, national instrument of Madagascar, similar in sound to the kora.

Voudou
Afro-Haitian religion with influences from West Africa, the Congo River region, and from Catholicism.

Wassoulou
Region of southeastern Mali and adjacent parts of Guinea and Ivory Coast.. People are originally Fulani but now speak Bambara. Also refers to contemporary, acoustic music style championed by women singers such as Oumou Sangare.

Yoruba
Language and people of southwestern Nigeria. Highly developed pre-colonial civilization. Yoruba Diaspora resulting from slave trade profoundly influenced cultures of Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and elsewhere.

zekete zekete
Dance popularized in Congo by Zaiko Langa Langa in the mid-80s.

ziglibithy
Traditional Ivorian rhythm modernized by the late Ernesto Djedje.

zomgquashiyo
Mbaqangastyle associated with Mahotella Queens.

zouglou
pop music movement in Ivory Coast in Ivory Coast. Gave voice to student protest.

zouk
creole slang word for 'party'. Modern hi-tech Antillean music produced mostly in Paris.

zouk chouv
Fusion of traditional Martinique style, chouval bois, with electric instruments and zouk influence.