Project Overview: Students  became acquainted with African music and culture by learning how to play three different styles of music from Africa and one from the United States. While learning about the music of Africa students  learned music literacy and began to understand the relationship between music and culture, reinforcing different areas of their Social Studies curriculum. Students  watched videos and read books with information about the music and culture of Africa and America. Students also attended a concert/workshop by teaching artist Hector Morales. The residency ended in a culminating Event in which all students  performed four different pieces (three from Africa and one from the USA) and  shared their experience learning about the music and culture of Africa.

Inquiry Question(s):

What makes African music and culture different from other forms of music?

Arts Learning Objectives:

 Students will learn/understand:

Students will learn the basic elements of African music.

Students will understand their function in the music ensemble.

Students will learn proper technique to play each percussion instrument.

Students will learn different rhythms and melodies using oral tradition and written notation.

Students will:

Students will practice different rhythms and melodies.

Students will practice playing different rhythms as an ensemble.

Students will practice playing different sections of one song/ensemble.

Students will practice singing.

Students will practice counting tempo.

Students will practice reading music.

Students will perform a final concert of African music.

Students will make journals to collect information.

Students will make a documentary video on this residency.


NYC DOE Blueprint for the Arts Content Area Learning Objectives:

Students will learn/understand:

Social Studies: Students will be able to locate Africa in the world map and some of the countries we will be focusing on. Students will also locate the main geographical regions of the African continent: Arab-Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa and understand their main cultural and musical differences. In this residency we will pay special attention to the music of West Africa since this is the area from Africa which culture has had the biggest impact in American culture. Students will get a general understanding of the main characteristics of the music of this region and its relationship with American music.

ELA: Students will develop a journal in which they will take note of all information they consider relevant after each session.

Math: Students will understand how basic mathematical concepts are used by musicians to divide time and create different rhythms. They will also use counting as a valuable tool in learning different musical styles.

Science: By using found objects as percussion instruments (tuned and un-tuned) and building tuned cardboard marimbas students will understand the very basic physics of sound.

Students will develop critical thinking by trying to understand the cultural similarities and difference in different regions of Africa. They will reflect on the influence of African culture in the US. The subjective nature of music will also present the students with great opportunities to define in their own term his/her particular reactions, thoughts, emotions generated by a specific song or styles of music. Playing in a percussion ensemble will also develop the skill of working together, which is essential to all education process regardless of the specific content area.

Students will create a script they will use the day of the Culminating event to   introduce the different styles of music they will be performing. They will give background information as well as personal reflections on these styles.

Community Resources (Trips, Neighborhood Walks, Interviews, etc.):

 Concert by Hector Morales’s ensemble. Student field trip to Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Instructional Plan:

Session 1: What is Africa?

 Students talk about Africa and different kinds of music in Africa.

Students watch the short film “Pulse”, which shows different styles from different African musical traditions.

Students define the word Percussion.

Can you name and describe some percussion instruments used in African music? What are these instruments made out of?

Students listen and play real percussion instruments from different countries of Africa.

Students learn to play a basic version of the West African Rhythm called Kuku.

Students learn basic Call and Response Breaks for Kuku ensemble.


Students learn to play a basic version of a rhythm from Arab (Northern) Africa called Maqsum.

Session 2: The Music of Africa: African Dance

What are the most relevant things you remember from the concert by TA and his group?  

Students review the Kuku and the Maqsum rhythms.

Students play these rhythms along with the track “African Dance”.

Students learn a Hip-Hop rhythm.

Students put together the three rhythms to accompany African Dance.

Students create their own rhythms and add them to the “African Dance” piece.

Session 3: Elements of African Music: “Banuwa”/High Life

Students learn about the history, main characteristics and typical percussion instruments used in West African music.

Students watch a video of a group of Djembe drummers from Guinea.

Students learn about the beat/pulse and how other rhythms connect to it in the African percussion ensemble.

Students learn to play the different rhythms of a popular style of West African called “High Life”.

Students learn about a very important characteristic of African music used in percussion ensembles called: poly-rhythm.

TA adds piano accompaniment to the ensemble.

How is the High Life ensemble similar or different from the Kuku?

Session 4: Elements of African Music: Banuwa/High Life (2)

Why you think Jazz music from the US had a great impact in African “High Life”?

Which are the countries in Africa where High Life is most popular?

Students review the High Life ensemble with piano accompaniment.

Students learn to sing the song from Liberia “Banuwa”.

Students add boomwackers to accompany their singing.

Students learn about the history of Liberia to deepen their understanding on the cultural relationship between the US and Africa.

Session 5: Building a Marimba

Do you know what a marimba is and where does it comes from?

TA show students a tuned cardboard marimba as a sample of the kind of marimbas they will be building that day.

TA plays the marimba for them and show some students how to play along with him as an example of the kind of African music we will all be learning to play together.

Students receive general instructions on how to build a tuned cardboard marimba.

Students are divided into groups to create the keys for the pentatonic marimba.

Students receive materials and “step by step” instructions for building each individual key.

Students label, ensemble and test each marimba.

Session 6: Marimbas in Africa an America (Marimba Song)

What kind of African instruments were brought by Africa slaves to America?

Students listen to a recording of the song for Marimbas “Mama Africa”

Students are divided into groups of three groups (three students per marimba) to start learning the song for “Mama Africa”.

Students use a Xylophone to improvise melodies using the pentatonic marimba.

Do you use improvisation in your daily life? How?

Session 7:  African-American Music: Blues and Jazz (New Orleans)

Do you know any styles of music from the USA?

Students learn about the history, main characteristics and typical instruments of an American style of music call Blues. Watch video: Jazz by Ken Burns.

Students understand the close relationship between Blues, early Jazz and African music.

Students listen to a style of Afro-American music called the Blues.

Students read and learn to play the Blues on their Marimbas.

Students understand the use of syncopation in music.

Session 8: African American Music Blues and Jazz (2)

Do you think the USA is part of Latin America? Why?

Students listen to the song “When the Saints Go Marching In” (USA) and (Ethiopia) to understand the use of Call and Response in different cultures. Students listen to Hip-Hop recordings that also uses similar elements of African music like Call and Response.

Students finish learning the Blues and play along with the recording.

Students use the xylophone to improvise music in the Blues.

Students reflect on the different elements that the song “African Marimbas” share with the song “The Blues”.

Students create lyrics for “The Blues”.

Session 9: General Review

Students talk about the different styles they have learned through this residency.

Students reflect on the differences and similarities of the African and Afro-American music.

Students answer to the following question: Based on what you have learned through this residency how will you define African music and culture?

Each class reviews and plays 2 pieces of music learned during the residency.

Session 10: Rehearsal

Session 11: Rehearsal

Session 12: Enjoy the Show!