The Language of African Music

The Language of African Music

Troupe Theatrale Yatenga

The often-overlooked, rich diversity of African languages resounds strongly in the music traditions of West Africa. Even Africans’ casual use of language often features snippets of poetic performance with a high degree of importance given to the art of conversation including proverbs, cultural values, allegorical references and more. The Language of African Music project archives diverse musical traditions to document musicians’ use of language during performances. Selected video clips of songs and interviews portray the seemingly endless variety of music traditions and languages in West Africa. Transcriptions and translations make these languages accessible. When put to music, African languages take on a new power. Artistic expression ranges in form from a herder’s a cappella improvisations during solitary excursions with the family herds, to families casted into a lineage, focused on inheriting and projecting knowledge through musical performances.

The endless variety of musical aesthetics sometimes seems solely like a means to broadcast a heightened form of linguistic expression. Vocalists project artistic creativity, adding ornamentation to language, decorating oral traditions within unique aural soundscapes.

It should be noted that there are some exceptions on this page to music made for interesting oral traditions like stories or incantations, even if they to do not have accompanying music, given that they have poetic and rhythmic elements similar in interest to this project’s theme of language use in the creative arts.

Video translation status

Transcriptions and translations are in progress and those that appear on these pages are in draft form. We are working on completing the transcription and translation for all videos as well as updating the African Language text using African language orthographies.

Kusasi and Farafina

The videos are arranged by language.

Lolig and Zarma Wedding Songs

You can locate the videos by country or by artist name as well.

Music by country
Abake Okebiyi – Nago
Assonhe Degbegnon Barnabe – Fongbe
[Son Mageste] Dah Missano – Fongbe
Odjo Babalaho – Nago
Sahizonou Gregoire – Nago
Songs of the Main Tron Shrine in Savalou – Fongbe
Songs from the Royal Court of Savalou – Fongbe
A To Ala Ma – Jula
Farafina – Jula
Karafa Mambui – Bwamu
Mamou Kamissogo – Malinke
Troupe Théâtrale de Yatenga – Moore
Aissata Nagomse – Dagbanli
Akparibon Afuugo – Kusaal
Amodo Akadumah – Frafra
Kusasi Women’s Songs – Kusaal
Ladji’s Bar – Jula
Lolig Tuopong – Frafra
Gomez Adongo stories – Frafra
Harouna Abdoulaye and sons – Dagbanli
Sapashinima of Kakpagyili – Dagbanli
[Chief] John Bawa Zuure – Frafra
Aroudeini and family – Tamasheq
Bello Ballad Band – Hausa
Bianu East and West – Hausa
Bingal Tupe Bumbu – Fulfulde
Boubacar Souleymane – Fulfulde
Boubacar Souleymane – Zarma-Songhai
Dan Na Maye – Hausa
Dangash’s Tende Ensemble – Tamasheq
Djeliba Badje – Zarma-Songhai
Elh Duda – Hausa
Halarou Alou – Hausa
Ibou Zakara – Zarma-Songhai
Mai Gizo Bilan – Hausa
Makadan Sarkin Ayar – Hausa
Nassirou Laminou – Hausa
Oumarou Sambo – Zarma-Songhai
Tirboy Church Choir – Gurmancema
Zarma Wedding songs – Zarma-Songhai
Zahidatou Adham – Tamasheq
Songs of the Tromakui Dani Shrine – Mina
Troupe Folklorique d’Aneho á Jesuvito – Gen-Mina
Music by artist name

Groupe Folklorique and Harouna Abdoulaye

To top