Musical Elements and Instruments

By: A.J. Payack

Nigeria musical elements are effected by the wide verity of different cultural tribes and people. These different cultural people each have a different style to the way they play their music and some tribes even have different instruments. Musical elements are the tools that are used to make music. Different pitches, harmonies, rhythms and texture can be seen from each different tribe. For instance the Igbo tribe music has gongs and drums as the two prominent instruments in their music. The drum is a huge aspect of Nigerian music and the melody is played with different strung instruments. In the Yoruba culture, the style of which the drummers use have an Afro- Caribbean sense then using more of a gong and drum feel. The thing that most of these tribes have in common is that they are strongly influential in folk music and have a variety of drums playing and also string instruments helping the music.

Fast paced Nigerian music was created in the 1960s and is considered popular music today. This is widely considered dance music with much more stronger beats and rhythms to dance to. With this change, new instruments were brought in and used. More modern and western instruments came in to help with the fast tempo beat. The Nigerian traditional drum Juju can be seen in these performances. With that said you could also hear guitars in these performances. This shows a vast difference between musical elements in Nigerian music. More traditional music has a slower more harmonic sound and the newer popular music having an upbeat and heavy texture sound. Nigerian music called Highlife has a modern and traditional musical element sound. This features a more traditional rhythm from the respective tribe or area that it came out of but also features a more modern timbre developing from different culture musical elements.

Music elements that are seen in Nigerian date way back and stay with tradition. Some of the songs have a rhythm to go along with what work the people were doing. Call and response is a huge musical element for the Nigerian people and the most common form of music. Nigerian music is based of an asymmetric rhythm to guide through the music. Also seen in Nigerian music quite a bit are ostinato rhythms and polyrhythms. You can also see syncopation in a lot of the songs. All of these elements of Nigerian music give the feeling of more of a relaxing sound but you can also feel the excitement of the songs.

Drums are the most important instrument in Nigerian music. The most popular drum in Nigeria is the dundun (or talking drum). There are many other drums used in the music that include gongs tambourines, scrapers and Kettle drums. Various bells also help the percussion section of the music. Another important part to Nigerian instruments is a stringed instrument section. Some of the instruments used here are one stringed lutes (called Kutigi), a thirteen stringed obo, xylophones and a type of fiddle. Trumpets and other brass instruments can also be seen in performances but are not as popular as drums and stringed instruments.


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