World of African Accordion Music

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African accordion music

Introduction of Accordions to Africa

When we think of African music, we conjure up percussion instruments played by super-skilled drummers and rhythm masters. European colonizers and missionaries brought the accordion to the African continent in the 19th century. It was embraced quickly by folk musicians, and its popularity spread from the north to the south of the continent.

Blending accordion sounds with folk instruments such as the Dondo, Tama, and other percussion instruments created a perfect instrument combo for unleashing the creative talents of African musicians.

In the video below, we will list 26 popular folk instruments from the African continent that are used today in African bands and often accompany the accordion. Kalimba is an instrument native to Africa that is perhaps the closest to the free-reed instrument family.

Video courtesy of JEducate.

African continent is divided into North, South, East, West and Central African regions, each of which is comprised of several independent states. They all have their significant musical heritage and peculiar genre of accordion music. Below, we will describe them to the best of our ability. If you have any suggestions for this article, please let us know in the comments.

North Africa

Map of North Africa

When talking about North African music, we must consider the folk music of Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, and Libya, which is heavily influenced by Arabic folk music and melodies from those countries, considered music of Arabic origin and folklore. We go a bit more in-depth on the Arabic accordion and its peculiar style known as maqam in this article.  

Experience the enchanting melodies of music renowned for its genre, Raï. This captivating style of music has captivated people from countries around the world. Has gained immense popularity in France, Spain, and throughout Europe.

Throughout its history, Algerian music has beautifully blended with influences from Al Andalusia, resulting in an emotionally evocative African interpretation of these expressive art forms. Immerse yourself in the harmonious tapestry of Algeria.

Video courtesy of Lars L. Linek
Video courtesy of Wafir

West Africa

Map of West Africa

In West Africa, republics like Mali, Senegal, Guinea, and Nigeria have a tradition where the accordion is often played alongside traditional instruments like the kora, balafon, Ngoni, and djembe. The accordion adds harmonic accompaniment to the music while allowing for improvisation in solos.

Sierra Leone is another African republic with a gorgeous coast and seaside that contributed a great deal to the musical heritage and accordion music of the African continent. Noteworthy folklore group of Sierra Leone is certainly the Mende tribe, residing in a land area of 2600 kilometers in the part of the country.

They have a heritage of integrating the accordion into their traditional music. Alongside instruments such as the guitar, harmonica, and plastic recorder, the accordion has gained popularity among them really fast once it was introduced to the country by the missionaries.

Salias Koroma (born 1903) from the Yelibah clan) is the notable individual in this tradition. He has earned recognition for his skills as an accordion player. Inspired by his father, Boboi Kandor, who was also proficient with the accordion, Salias acquired one and taught himself how to play it.

Video courtesy of nikiibu

He has since recorded numerous albums. Herbert Hinzen documented his life story. Furthermore, Salias Koroma has authored a book that delves into his experiences.

Republic of Nigeria is a West African country that has a rich folkloric heritage when it comes to music, dances and accordion melodies. We can not talk about accordion music in Africa without mentioning a very important genre of music that many ethnomusicologists consider a significant factor in accordion music heritage of African continent.

In the 1930s a genre called “Juju Music” emerged in urban areas combining traditional work music with intricate concert performances. This style incorporated percussion and vocals. On an accordion was introduced by I.K Daïro in the 1940s. Daïro, who taught himself to play the accordion founded “The Morning Star Orchestra” in 1954. It’s worth mentioning that he received recognition as a “Member of the Order of the British Empire” in 1963 and has performed at venues, like London and Japan.

Christian missionaries introduced this compact free-reed instrument to the continent as a substitute for the church organ. Over time, the accordion became an integral part of African culture, especially among tribes that embraced Christianity. Today, Accordion Gospel Music stands as a beloved and enduring genre that continues to captivate audiences across Africa.

West African Gospel on an accordion

Central African Region

Map of Central Africa

The accordion plays a role in the soukous music genre, which originated in the 1950s and 1960s in countries like Central African Republic ,Chad, Congo, Cameroon, Angola, Burundi and Gabon. Soukous is known for its rhythmic beats, guitar arrangements, and memorable vocal melodies. The accordion is skillfully employed to produce harmonies while adding depth and richness to the music.

The most popular music of Central African region that is played on an accordion is Experience the dance music that hails from the Republic of Congo. Known as Soukous, this genre is known or its captivating polyrhythmic percussion sounds.

The flow of this genre, accompanied by electrifying improvisation, on the electric guitar is capable of transporting you to a world of delight. Indulge in the harmonies and intricate horn sections that define Soukous. With its fusion of drums, bass, guitar, accordion and saxophone Soukous creates a ambiance that is perfect, for dancing through the night igniting parties and bringing life to any social gathering.

South Africa

Map of South Africa

The accordion plays a role in the soukous music genre, which originated in the 1950s and 1960s in republics like Congo, Cameroon, Angola, and Gabon. Soukous is known for its rhythmic beats, guitar arrangements, and memorable vocal melodies. The accordion is skillfully employed to produce harmonies while adding depth and richness to the music.

When talking about the accordion music of the South African region, it is essential to mention the traditional music of Lesotho, which beautifully combines different styles and folk instruments with the accordion. The enduring appeal of instruments such as the lekolulo, solo tolo, and mohobelo give this music its essence.

Video courtesy of WildFilmsIndia

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