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Top Bands Influenced By The Sounds Of Africa

When it comes to music, cultural lines have been blurred. So much so, that there are no longer any barriers when it comes to getting creative when making music. Different cultural insights, instruments, sounds, and traditions have all heavily influenced the music we know and love today.

Artists such as Rihanna mix traditional American pop with the sounds of her Bajan heritage. On paper, the two shouldn’t work. But the pop star’s huge success clearly shows otherwise. Rihanna isn’t the only musician to be mixing the old with the new, the traditional with the ultra modern.

Some of the biggest names in rock and roll have been making innovative and unique music by incorporating instruments from around the world. These pairings have been hugely successful, and you probably didn’t even know they were happening.

African Instruments

One of the most influential sounds to hit the mainstream is African. Everything from the beats and rhythms, to the sounds and instruments has topped the worldwide charts. With a unique and earthy sound, it’s clear to see why.

Percussion shakers have been a prominent feature in many musicians backing tracks. Coldplay, Kaiser Chiefs, and U2 have always used handheld percussion to enhance their sound; in both live performances and album recordings. But it’s not just a subtle touch that is helping boost a band’s sound.

Some of the most high profile and influential bands around have been making music with cajon drums. The authentic, box-shaped instrument, is a regular feature in carnivals, drumming circles, and now stadiums the world over. Here are a number of bands and artists that use these unique instruments:

  • Bon Jovi
  • Santana
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • Chris Issack

Similarly, the African djembe drum is a widely used instrument in modern rock music. Bands such as Coldplay, U2, Vampire Weekend, and The Beatles are famous for using the drum in live shows. With a unique and recognisable sound, djembes are perfect for adding a little extra ‘something’ into your bands’ repertoire.

African Beats and Heavy Metal

As strange as the combination first seams, modern heavy metal music has African routes. The pairing is more subtle than the use of instruments, and artists may not be aware of it themselves. Polythythm is a recognised characteristic of traditional African music; it is defined as the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting and contrasting rhythms.

Traditionally this would take place in a drumming circle, with people playing different instruments in different beat patterns. Similarly, African music consists of syncopated rhythms and beats. This is the stressing of notes, that would normally be played without the stress.

This use of multiple beats is a common feature in modern heavy metal. Bands such as Opeth have used this technique in many of their songs. The integration is so seamless, you wouldn’t even be aware of it without prior knowledge.

It may be surprising to note that modern music is so heavily influenced by traditional African beats and instruments. There are certainly no barriers and boundaries in the world of music. As we become more aware of different cultures and their sounds, it is only a matter of time before the charts become even more diverse.

Are you in a band? Do you want to add something unique to your sound? Djembe Drum Shop stocks a great range of authentic African instruments to help you transform your performances.


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