In discerning diverse music genres, there are certain features that have to be identified and these features would be used to explain genres of music in Black music.
- Subjects examined
Tempo is usually a pace for a given piece. It helps the composer or musician to convey the diverse feelings in a music piece. Tempos are usually measured in beats per minute (bpm). There is usually no prescribed tempo for most genres of music but an up-beat tempo for a sound like dancehall music is usually about 90-120 bpm. The range of the speed is usually considered for any kind of music that is to be created. Hip hop usually runs between 68-135, something totally off this may lead to another genre entirely.
Different genres use melody in diverse ways. In Jazz, ‘lead’ is usually referred to as the main melody which is usually the point of improvisation. African melody is usually in a form of ‘call and response’ with short, simple beats repeated over and over. Polyphonic texture in melody is also a major feature in African music. Polyphony is the use of one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords. African music is usually not complete if there is no expression through sound. Cadence is a rhythm of words matched with the beats. Rhythm is an essential feature of Hip hop which has further widened the scope to cadence and flow.
Instrumentation is a very vital element in classifying music genres. African heavy metal performances are usually not complete without the use of bass, drums and electric guitar and this sound is usually found in central Africa such as Kenya. Some instruments found in Africa have had no or little change for over 800 years since their discovery. African instruments have been further classified into the following, particularly those of the sub-Saharan part:
Percussion i.e. Drums
Areophone i.e. Flutes
Membraphones i.e. Timpani
Idiophones i.e. Bells
Chordophones i.e. Kora
Instruments have been a great beauty of African music which has been carved into works of arts and shapes for ancestral messages. There have been few African acts that have been associated to the regular use of early African instrument like Mali’s ‘Mamodu Diabate’ for his popular use of ‘Kora’. The most common instruments in Jazz are trumpet, drums, saxophone, and guitar. Just imagine an instrument like bagpipe played in a jazz performance. That may sound absurd. Each of these instruments has what it interprets.
Mood- The journal of positive psychology discovered that listening to upbeat music could improve moods and happiness in people. Jazz performers use mood to make connections to the audience which in turn switches melodies and draws in better improvisation. Soul music is used to describe the pride and culture of a Black man. Soul music does a lot to a listener’s mood and a soul performer tries to hit the audience with great vocal dexterity.
Language and subject examined- Early African music tends to combine different sounds to express practical life through sound. Music is a universal language because over the years, it has the ability to touch millions of persons which has also served as a form of expression. It is not technically a language but it has the aptitude to a level words cannot exert. The term ‘music is a universal language’ may however be controversial as the term is not actually factual enough. The bottom line is just that it ties the gap between different cultures and languages and this is factual enough. The subject of afro beat in the 70s was to use social criticism to form a presence for social change. Jazz music originated from the early African- American folk songs which involved call and responses during workdays on the farm plantation. This art has in turn extended to other evolved black music like Hip hop, Blues, Soul, Highlife and others. This music is also drawn out from African speech pattern and dance improvisation. The disco music is a music style that started in the mid-60s and its subject of appeal to people is the urban nightlife scene from clubs and night parties. Imagine a disco sound played in a political conscious gathering and check the reaction of those in attendance. The music may be termed useless because the subject of disco music is not for matters like this. The sound has components of a ‘four-on- the-floor’ beat.
A genre can be likened to genus in animal taxonomy. Just like the way animals evolve from their ancestors, music also evolve which in turn forms subgenres. Black music is rich and has evolved from Traditional folk music into a mainstream beauty adopting influences from White popular music. A major factor that has to be briefly examined is musicians that make these kinds of songs. Singers like R Kelly, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Beyonce have been associated with RnB. Reggae which has evolved from ska and Jazz has been associated with icons like Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley.
There are countless numbers of music genres but following these sound features will enable you to discern rigorously between these diverse sounds.
BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL, BLACK MUSIC IS BEAUTIFUL