Music and dance in Africa is, in principle, a collective matter in which everyone participates, although the different age groups and genders usually fill their seats, both in movement patterns, instrument use and song. The modes of expression that can channel emotions such as anger and joy play a significant role in the rituals and ceremonies that surround the lives of individuals and communities: birth, initiation, wedding and death. Certain songs and dances have a special connection to work and production; it may be dances in which harvest or hunting movements are performed in dance form, and it may be song and music which, by virtue of a common rhythmic pulse, facilitate the workload. Furthermore, music and dance can be used purely entertaining. Most often, however, the individual song or dance will fulfill several different functions.
It is common for specialists to act as initiators, and in the traditional culture where music and dance is based on oral tradition, the specialist is usually the guarantor of society that the ceremony is performed properly. Entrepreneurs can be master drummers, it can be the professional singer-narrators known by the name griot, or it can be particularly skilled dancers. In traditional culture, these jobs will usually be inherited within the same lineage. Therefore, it is up to the family or the clan to undertake the lengthy training required by the specialists, as there is generally no formal learning in music and dance. More recently, however, a change in these conditions has begun to emerge, especially in cities. In music and dance, a distinction is made between the northern Maghreb region (see Arabic music) and sub-Saharan Africa, which are again divided into different cultural regions; These include the East Coast and the Sudan, which, like the northern parts, are strongly influenced by Arab culture and music.
|Algeria||2022 parliamentary elections, 2024 presidential elections 33||just over 39% in the 2019 presidential election, 38% in the 2017 parliamentary election|
|Angola||Parliamentary elections 2022||76.1 percent in the 2017 parliamentary election; 62.7 percent in the 2012 parliamentary elections|
|Benin||presidential election 2021, parliamentary election 2023||27 percent in the 2019 parliamentary elections, 65 percent in the second round of the 2016 presidential election|
|Botswana||parliamentary elections 2024; no general election is held for the presidency – the president is appointed by parliament||85% in the 2014 parliamentary elections, figures for the elections on 23 October 2019 are not yet available|
|Burkina Faso||presidential and parliamentary elections 2025||just under 51% in the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections 35|
|Burundi||presidential and parliamentary elections 2025||87.7% in the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections|
|Central African Republic||presidential and parliamentary elections 2025||59% in the 2nd round of the 2016 presidential election|
|Comoros||parliamentary elections in 2025, presidential elections in 2024||just under 71 percent in the European Parliament elections (second round) in 2020, 53.8 percent in the 2019 presidential elections|
|Djibouti||presidential election in April 2021, parliamentary election 2023||68% in the 2016 presidential election; 67% in the 2018 parliamentary elections|
|Egypt||2025 parliamentary elections, 2024 presidential elections||41 percent in the 2018 presidential election, 29 percent in the 2020 House of Representatives election, 14 percent in the 2020 Senate election|
|Equatorial Guinea||parliamentary elections 2022; presidential election 2023||93% in the 2016 presidential election; 84% in the 2017 parliamentary elections (official figures)|
|Ivory Coast||presidential election 2026, parliamentary election 2021||34% in the 2016 parliamentary elections, just under 54% in the 2020 presidential elections|
|Eritrea||election year not determined||no elections have been held|
|Ethiopia||parliamentary elections in June 2021||93% in the 2010 parliamentary elections, 93% in the 2015 parliamentary elections|
|Gabon||2023 parliamentary elections, 2023 presidential elections||60% in the 2016 presidential election, 59% in the first round of the 2018 parliamentary election|
|Gambia||presidential election 2021, parliamentary election 2022||59% in the 2016 presidential election, 43% in the 2017 parliamentary election|
|Ghana||presidential and parliamentary elections 2024||79 percent in the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections|
|Guinea||presidential election 2026, parliamentary election 2025||61 percent in the referendum in March 2020, 58 percent in the parliamentary elections in March 2020, just under 79 percent in the presidential elections in October 2020|
|Guinea-Bissau||presidential election 2024, parliamentary election 2023||just under 85% in the 2019 parliamentary elections, 90% in the first round of the 2014 presidential election, 78% in the second round)|
|Cameroon||parliamentary elections 2025, presidential elections 2025||53.5% in the 2018 presidential election, 46% in the 2020 parliamentary election|
|Cape Verde||presidential and parliamentary elections 2021||60% in the 2nd round of the 2011 presidential election, 66% in the 2016 parliamentary election|
|Kenya||Parliamentary and presidential elections 2022||78% in the election in August 2017|
|Congo-Brazzaville||parliamentary elections 2022, presidential elections 2023||around 44 percent in the 2017 parliamentary elections|
|Congo-Kinshasa||presidential and parliamentary elections 2023||58% in the 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections; 48% in the 2018 presidential election (according to preliminary data)|
|Lesotho||Parliamentary elections 2022||information for the 2017 parliamentary elections is missing|
|Liberia||presidential election 2023, parliamentary election 2023||72% in the presidential and parliamentary elections in October 2017, 56% in the second round of presidential elections in December 2017|
|Libya||no elections planned until a new constitution was adopted||18% in parliamentary elections in June 2014|
|Madagascar||presidential election 2023, parliamentary election 2024||54% in the first round of the 2018 presidential election, 48% in the second round of the 2018 presidential election, 31% in the 2019 parliamentary election|
|Malawi||presidential and parliamentary elections 2024||just over 74 percent in the 2019 presidential election; data for the 2019 parliamentary elections are missing|
|Mali||general elections will be held in 2022||43% and 35% respectively in the two rounds of the presidential election in 2018, 36% and 35% respectively in the two rounds of the parliamentary elections in 2020|
|Morocco||Parliamentary elections 2021||43% in the 2016 parliamentary elections|
|Mauritania||parliamentary elections 2023, presidential elections 2024||64% in the 2018 parliamentary elections (second round), 63% in the 2019 presidential elections|
|Mauritius||Parliamentary elections 2024||just under 77% in the parliamentary elections in November 2019|
|Mozambique||presidential and parliamentary elections 2024||50.7 percent in the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections; just under 49 percent in the 2014 election|
|Namibia||presidential and parliamentary elections 2024||72% in the 2014 presidential and parliamentary elections|
|Niger||presidential and parliamentary elections 2025||63 percent in the presidential election in February 2021, 66 percent in the 2016 parliamentary election|
|Nigeria||presidential and parliamentary elections 2023||35 percent in the presidential and parliamentary elections 2019|
|Rwanda||parliamentary elections 2023, presidential elections 2024||98% in the 2017 presidential election, 93% in the 2018 parliamentary election|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||presidential election 2021, parliamentary election 2022||64 percent and 46 percent, respectively, in the first and second rounds of the 2016 presidential election; 81 percent in the 2018 parliamentary elections|
|Senegal||presidential election 2019, parliamentary election 2022||around 54% in the parliamentary elections in July 2017, just over 66% in the presidential elections in February 2019|
|Seychelles||presidential and parliamentary elections 2025||88.5% in the 2020 presidential election, 88.4% in the 2020 parliamentary election|
|Sierra Leone||presidential and parliamentary elections 2024||87.3% in the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections, 85% in the first round of the 2018 presidential election|
|Somalia||indirect elections to parliament are scheduled for 2021||no general elections are held|
|Sudan||general elections 2022||46.4% in the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections|
|Swaziland||Parliamentary elections 2023||–|
|South Africa||Parliamentary elections 2024 34||66% in the 2019 parliamentary elections 36|
|South Sudan||presidential and parliamentary elections 2021||–|
|Tanzania||presidential and parliamentary elections 2025||67 percent in the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015, 51 percent in the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2020|
|Chad||presidential election 2021, parliamentary election 2021||56% in the 2011 parliamentary elections, 76% in the 2016 presidential elections|
|Togo||parliamentary elections 2023, presidential elections 2025||59 percent in the 2018 parliamentary election, 76 percent in the 2020 presidential election|
|Tunisia||presidential and parliamentary elections 2024||41% in the parliamentary elections, 55% in the decisive round of the presidential election (2019)|
|Uganda||presidential and parliamentary elections 2026||57.2% in the 2021 presidential election, 63% in the 2016 presidential election|
|Zambia||presidential and parliamentary elections 2021||56% in the presidential and parliamentary elections in August 2016, 32% in the presidential elections in January 2015|
|Zimbabwe||presidential and parliamentary elections 2023||just over 86 and 83 percent in the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections, respectively; about 54% in the 2013 presidential and parliamentary elections|
The diversity of sub-Saharan African music makes it difficult to establish a clear definition of common musical features, but certain characteristics are widely recognized. Rhythm has a crucial bearing on the structure of music. Polyrhythmics, which emerge when different rhythms are played at the same time, are found in different degrees, from simple two-part triplets to pieces of music, where a braid of different voices with different period divisions do not even have common beginning strokes, so-called polymetrics.
The use of polyrhythmic music can be perceived as rhythmic multiplicity, but also melodic multiplicity is characteristic of sub-Saharan music. Multiplicity is achieved either through a question-answer structure, through singing in tertiary, quarter, or quintet intervals, or through the addition of a counter voice to fixed recurring rhythmic and melodic figures (ostinates). Conversely, choral singing in the Arab-influenced areas is unanimous.
African music is predominantly based on fifteen scales (see pentatonics), while in the Sahel region and on the African east coast there are Arabic scale types. In the 1900s. there has been a strong influence from the West’s major and minor tonal music.
The music is made up of relatively short phrases that are repeated in cyclic form. Repetition is the cornerstone of the musical structure, and totally free improvisation is therefore rare. Instead, the poly-rhythmic pattern is varied. The soloist can either add counter-voices or change the characters, which, however, must not lose their recognition. Similarly, the recitation is varied by historical and drama-like narratives, and the singer’s ability to change within the familiar framework is highly valued. The human voice plays a vital role in almost all musical development in Africa, and this helps to emphasize the close connection between music, language and communication. Many of the African languages are tonal (ie, the pitch is significant to the individual language sounds), and therefore drums are used in particular to reproduce spoken statements, such as a saying. This is not a moral system, but melodic language sounds. In most of Africa, a syllable is sung on each note, while in Arabic-influenced areas the melody is adorned with many notes for each syllable. For example, the yodel and chanting song occur in the pygmy music of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but in the vast majority of Africa, the low voting registers are sung.
Africa is extremely rich in musical instruments. The common instrument types are all represented, some in designs that are not known elsewhere. In the Sahara and Sudan in particular, the traditional music features stringed instruments such as flutes, lutes and harps; cites and arches are found throughout the continent. The East African region is one of the 8-12-stringed lyre, and from West Africa, in particular, the harp boy is known as the kora. From the early 1900s. the guitar has taken an important place in the musical picture, which applies to both the well-known instrument and the electric guitar. Wind instruments are known both in the form of whistles, pipe leaf instruments, trumpets and horns. All types are used as signal generators, while trumpets and ivory horns in particular have had a representative function in the African kingdoms. From 1920 ‘ the western wind instruments became part of the modern orchestra, but in the latter half of the 1900s. they have been partially replaced by synthesizers. Drums and percussion form an especially large instrumental group in African music. Drums come in a myriad of sizes and shapes; should be mentioned here the West African djembe with the very big sound as well as the speaking drum, dondon, which has a pitch of up to two octaves. The Lamello phone sanza or mbira is particularly interesting because it originated in Africa. Also rattles, bells, slit drums and xylophones are very common.
On many instruments, bells, pieces of metal or kazoo-like membranes are placed. These devices are intended to produce a whirring sound known as buzz.
The music of the 1900s.
The main driver of cultural modernization in Africa is the migration from country to city. Like everywhere else in the world, cities are changing lives and working conditions, and new cultural genres are emerging. In the 1900s. this has brought about an approximation of a music and singing tradition that came to the continent with military and naval personnel in the service of the European colonial powers. African musicians mimicked Western popular music, especially black music from the United States and Latin America, which had its roots in Africa. From the 1950s, a re-Africanization of popular music began. It took place while the new states were trying to revive the pre-colonial cultural heritage by establishing national dance and music groups such as Les Ballets Africains from Guinea and National Dance Troupe of Tanzania. In the troupes, the culture was stylized and arranged with stage performance in mind and is now established as choreographed folklore.
Within the popular urban music culture, which in the first decades of independence was not covered by national cultural policy, the re-Africanization had other consequences. The electrical amplification of the music underlines in several ways the characteristics of traditional music; partly instruments such as electric guitar, electric piano and synthesizer highlight the polyphonic and poly-rhythmic elements of the music, and partly the use of microphone to incorporate old African instruments into the modern orchestra. Chorus, sanza and speaking drums complement or replace Western instruments, creating a sound image distinctive to modern Africa.
The new music, such as Ghana’s highlife, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s soukous and South Africa’s mbaqanga, will take over many of the functions that music and dance have had in the countryside. The lyrics comment on the social situation and the bodily element is maintained in the constant, close association between dance and music. The large orchestras with up to twenty musicians have dancers in the troupe, and concert is almost synonymous with dance ball. Accra is the capital of Ghana and Kinshasa is the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo.
The new African music enjoys enormous popularity – also in the West – and it is the most widely used cultural form in modern Africa via radio and other media. Although music is subject to market mechanisms and suffers from piracy and lack of instruments and equipment, it is a vibrant music culture that, along with the dance, meets the cultural identity needs of the peoples of the African countries. Find the full list of countries on Countryaah.com.