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Songs from West Africa from Smithsonian Folkways

The music of West Africa features a polyrhythmic, multi-layered sound. It includes musical traditions from many different cultural groups that share similarities but also have unique characteristics. For example, the drumming in Bata Drums (Nigeria) and Mende Talking Drums (Sierra Leone) is at rapid tempo with similar rhythms, but the drum sounds and voicings distinguish the two styles. The environment, varying from lush forest to grasslands to dry deserts, affects the history and culture of the area and its music. Listen to a selection of West African music from the Smithsonian Folkways collection.