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African Music Survey

17 March-11 April 1996

Compiled Solely from Responses Submitted by AFRIMUSERS

Kenneth Wilburn

Department of History
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858

11 April 1996

Last Revised: 1 August 2007

Carolyn Brown's recent request on H-AFRICA to locate music for her African (Ancient) history class is an opportunity to provide her and H-AFRICA with a music survey I have just completed for AFRIMUSE. The survey attempts to include both traditional and popular African music.

Those selections that derive from ancient music and instruments may be revealed by asking those who contributed to the survey. Other suggestions might then be forthcoming as well. Part C of the survey tells you how to post your queries to AFRIMUSERS. The primary purpose of the survey was to provide instructors with a list of traditional and popular African music for classroom purposes.

During the first weeks AFRIMUSE went on-line, I conducted a survey that asked AFRIMUSERS to post their favorite traditional and popular recordings of African music. I informed Africanists served by the list that I planned to use this data for classroom purposes and hoped to add African influences derived from their suggestions to my own music. Some 17 respondents, about 28% of the list at the time, were generous with their recommendations and comments, and their concurrent discussion thoroughly enriched the survey. Important issues raised included:

  1. the degree of quality of influence non-African musicians gain when they separate sound from the performance component of traditional African music

  2. the importance of cultural performance conventions and the structural context for the sounds heard when learning about African music

  3. the impact of Western music on African music; put another way, the authenticity of popular African music

  4. the perceived lack of record company support to record and distribute traditional African village music, which resulted in a list of firms that apparently do so

  5. the degree to which the African component of African music has been sacrificed in order to sell in the "World Music" market

  6. the limits to understanding music outside your own culture

  7. the place of griots in African music

  8. "exoticism" and African music

While these topics were discussed, the list of recommendations and absolute favorites grew. The results follow.

The alphabetized compilation is divided into three parts. Part A lists recommended artists/groups, and recordings and comments if they were posted as well. Absolute favorites are denoted by (+).

Part B identifies companies, contacts, publications, and web sites identified during the survey that specialize in African music. Keep in mind that cassette/cd/vinyl shops in your area may sell used recordings and may have several listed here.

Part C informs a non-AFRIMUSER how to apply to become a member of the AFRIMUSE list service. A non-AFRIMUSER would do this to gain more information from those who provided data for this compilation and, of course, for other reasons of interest.

My rule of alphabetization follows the first letter of the first word; i.e., my name, Ken Wilburn, would appear under K. I have chosen this approach to minimize confusion, for it is sometimes not clear whether a name refers to a person or a band. If I knowingly alphabetize by a first name, I will list the last name as well and refer to the first name, i.e., Wilburn, see Ken. I apologize in advance for all errors and to anyone inconvenienced by this method.

This draft list, compiled solely from AFRIMUSE postings, makes no pretense to being a complete guide of African music. Instead, I trust you will consider it our collective opening measure to which you can add your own African phrases in good time. For that purpose I have inserted a space between each entry to make room for the clarifications, comments, and additions that may follow on AFRIMUSE and other Africa-related internet sites where this compilation may be crossposted (may not appear in online version).

My thanks to all AFRIMUSERS who responded. Please share this AFRIMUSE compilation with your students, colleagues, and friends. May it help tune ears and turn minds to Africa, and encourage record companies to record, release, and promote more of the traditional and popular African music you so clearly desire.


Absolute favorites are denoted by "+". Where albums and comments are absent, only the artist/band was posted. Since all information came from AFRIMUSERS, feel free to post clarification queries. Other sources of information appear in PART B.


The information that follows is often incomplete because it was not posted. More information may be found in the _World Music Institute Catalog_ listed below. You can also post clarification queries on AFRIMUSE, since all information came from AFRIMUSERS. One AFRIMUSER suggested using search engines on the web to feed in words like African music. Almost all labels below were specifically described as having strong distribution networks.


AFRIMUSE is on LISTSERV@IUBVM.INDIANA.EDU. It is an unmoderated list that welcomes all discussions about music and the performing arts of sub-Saharan Africa and the African diaspora.

To subscribe, send to the listserv address above the following command in the body of the mail:

sub afrimuse first name last name

For example, sub afrimuse Ken Wilburn. Subscription directions will then be sent to you. AFRIMUSE is owned by Frank Gunderson.

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