Rhythm in Sub-Saharan Africa
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Sub-Saharan African music is characterised by a "strong rhythmic interest" that exhibits common characteristics in all regions of this vast territory, so that Arthur Morris Jones (1889–1980) has described the many local approaches as constituting one main system. C.K. Ladzekpo also affirms the profound homogeneity of approach. West African rhythmic techniques carried over the Atlantic were fundamental ingredients of Afro-American musical genres such as blues, jazz, reggae and hip hop, and were thereby of immense importance in 20th century popular music.
Among the characteristics of the Sub-Saharan African approach to rhythm are syncopation and cross-beats which may be understood as sustained and systematic polyrhythms, an ostinato of two or more distinct rhythmic figures, patterns or phrases at once. The simultaneous use of contrasting rhythmic patterns within the same scheme of accents or meter lies at the core of African rhythmic tradition. All such "asymetrical" patterns are historically and geographically interrelated.