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A brief introduction to African Guitar

The guitar was introduced into Africa by Portuguese sailors in the early 14th century. Africa had already a tradition of fretted stringed instruments, the most notably of which is the Kora. African guitar playing had it's roots in the traditional instruments and and their instrumental techniques. Of course, being such a vast continent of over 50 countries, Africa supports a diverse range of musical styles, so obviously there is no single definitive type of African guitar music, like there is no single definitive European music.

Modern Guitar Setup

The favored guitar is a Fender Stratocaster, and is played with a very clear tone, with lots of mid, treble and reverb. There are generally two guitars (at least) in an a guitar based band.

Guitar 1, standard tuning EADGBE, the regular fourth string ( D) is replaced by a string of the same gauge as the first string (E), and then tuned an octave higher than normal from the D below middle C to the D above middle C.

Guitar 2, tuned to open chord such as open-D DADF#AD. Capo used either at the 3rd, 5th, 7th fret

Soukous Samples

The Guitar plays a central role in Soukous, and a number of the main players have garnered fanatical followings.

Taking elements of Ghanaian highlife guitar they weave ever changing melodic lines through the music. The guitar sound is very distinctive and uses similar methods to achieve the sound.

Sequenced below are two extracts taken from Virgin's HeartBeat Soukous ( currently unavailable ).

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Midi Image

Lokassa Ya Mbongo's Marie Josie

Marie Josie Notation Image

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Nyombe and Pepe Kalle's Zouke Zouke

Zouke Zouke Notation Image