Combining Western and African Music Influences: Top Tips for Your Band

Music is one of those things that is never black and white.

African Drums - Djembe

There are no hard and fast rules; no right or wrong way to do anything; and no reason why you can’t let your creativity run away with you. That is perhaps why so many people find solace in music and love it so much.

And in recent years, some of the biggest artists around have been taking influence from traditional sources to transform their signature sound. Musicians from Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, to modern names like Biffy Clyro and Vampire Weekend have all begun incorporating African musical styles with contemporary elements to make their own music.

Perhaps most notably, Columbian songstress Shakira released “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)” for the 2010 World Cup.

Whether it is the melodies that have been brought to the fore like in this example from Shakira, or the addition of African instruments like the djembe; the opportunities for collaboration and combination are seemingly endless.

With Western and African musical influences marrying together so perfectly in mainstream music, how can your band continue this trend? Here, we take a look at some top tips for how you can bring a fresh, traditional, and completely new sound to your music:

1. Find a niche

If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to find a niche within the music.

Whether that means having subtle undertones running through a track or making a real statement; your band needs to explore unique areas. For example, why not try incorporating a traditional African choir into a song to add a brand new element to your music.

There are a whole host of niches you can explore, and each will bring something unique to your band and your music. Take the time to explore different countries, cultures, and communities to find what works for you.

2. Know your cultures

Before you can start making culturally diverse music, you need to understand your cultures. This means getting to understand the traditions you’re going to channel, before you begin including them in your music.

More than anything, you don’t want to get anything wrong and cause offence.

Make sure you truly understand the cultures – whether they’re African or otherwise – before you start taking your influence from them. Start by getting to know why they use music, what it sounds like, the instruments they use, and what it means.

By getting fully immersed in the culture, your band will be able to do it justice in your music.

3. Keep your signature sound

Whatever you do, don’t lose what it is that makes your band unique.

Keep your signature sound, and add subtle flavours. This will help keep your music recognisable, as well as different. After all, you’re known for a certain style of music and losing what sets you apart could have the opposite effect.

Combining western and African influences into your bands’ music is a great way to explore new sounds and instruments. It also helps you grow and develop as musicians. If you’re looking for a way to spice up your sound, try this out – you might be surprised at what you discover.

About the Author:

Clare Evans is an online copywriter for Djembe Drum Shop, an ecommerce store selling an impressive range of African instruments. To find out how they can enhance your bands’ music, visit their website:

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