Sunday, May 11, 2014


Many of the indigenous musical styles are in the Fang tradition since they are the largest ethnic group.  One common musical form is the call-and-response form, where the musical questions and answers alternate between the chorus and the drums.  Fang music is known for its use of the mvet, an instrument similar to a zither and harp.  The number of strings it has can vary, although some have up to fifteen strings.  What makes this unique is that unlike other African music traditions, the Fang devised a musical notation system for the mvet.  However, you can only learn it if you’ve been initiated into the Bebom-Mvet Society.  (Wonder if it’s anything like the Dead Poets’ Society?)

Some kinds of dance music –such as balélé and the ibanga– use an orchestral accompaniment. This orchestra typically consists of three or four people in a variety of combinations using xylophones, drums, sanza (also called an mbira or kalimba – I have one and love it!), zithers, and/or bow harps. 

The balélé is a type of dance that originated out of the Bubi tribes and is still performed today.  The music is performed with the three-or-four person orchestras and is often seen along the coastal regions throughout the year. It’s also danced on the island of Bioko as part of the Christmas traditions there.  The ibanga is a more risqué dance from Fang traditions, which is the other main dance of this country.  Another festival that includes dancing is called the abira: it’s a community-wide celebration that rids the entire community of evil.  Wonder if it’ll work for a city the size of Indianapolis. 

Today, styles of music popular across Africa are also heard in Equatorial Guinea, especially soukous and makossa, as well as reggae and rock.  Spanish guitar also has intertwined itself into traditional Equatoguinean music as well.  One group I listened to on Spotify is called Malabo Strit Band.  I kind of like their sound, even though I have no idea what “strit” is.  It definitely has that pan-African sound mixed with a little bit of reggae style. The vocals have tight harmonies, yet it was smooth and velvety.  Sometimes it almost sounds reminiscent of smooth jazz with their use of saxophones.

I also found a group called Loca Luna. It’s a cross between Spanish guitar and Middle Eastern or Mediterranean string instruments and drums.  From what I have heard, it was completely instrumental – I liked this group. 

Hijas del Sol is a female group built on vocal harmonies and African rhythms.  I can definitely tell the Spanish influences in the some melody lines.  From other melody lines, I have a feeling some of the music may also be based on older traditional songs. But it may be a hunch. What I appreciate is the variety of the harmonies: using thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, and alternating it with unisons and octaves between the two voices. 

Baron Ya Búk-Lú’s album Akamayong is also in my Spotify playlist. The entire album has what I always think of as a very distinct African sound, but not African as in the Lion King soundtrack.  I would say that they fall in the soukous category, utilizing the percussive patterns prominently found in soukous music as well as the distinct use of the horn line (or in some cases, synthesized horn lines). Other songs sound like smooth jazz and are slower.  

Up next: the food

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