In some ways, traditional culture and modern culture are alike. Any culture is a system of learned and shared meanings. People learn and share things over the course of generations, and so we say they are a culture. Traditional and modern culture function similarly because both are ways of thinking, ways of relating to people and to the universe.
The beginning of culture was language. The first word was culture. Someone looked up from whatever else was going on and said something, and that first word was the building block of all human culture. You could pass it around. You could imitate it or change it. Its meaning could be shared among people.
Maybe the word was "food" or "love" or "God." It doesn't matter what the word was, what language it began, or when or how. It just was. And the word constituted culture, because the word carried meaning.
If there were only one concept to be considered in the discussion of culture, it is this: meaning. How do we know whether the group of letters a-p-p-l-e represents that sweet-tart yellow or red fruit, or a brand name of computer? How do we know whether the group of letters l-e-a-d represents that blue-gray metallic chemical element, or the verb that signifies "to show the way?" How do we know what a person's intentions are when they wave their hand at us from across the street? It is because we have learned to share the meanings of words.
Of course meanings are not limited to written words but began with thought words and spoken words, signed words, gestured words, pictured words. All these kinds of words carry meaning. And it is in the meanings of things that culture resides, regardless of whether it is traditional or modern culture. So we can commence with the idea that our traditional ancestors, like their modern descendants, learned and shared meanings.
Traditional and modern culture are alike in another way. Both developed to accommodate their surroundings. Both traditional and modern culture work for people because they are suited to local environmental conditions. A farming culture would not work as well in Antarctica. Inuit (Eskimo) culture would not survive as well in the Sahara. Bedouin culture would not function as well in Manhattan. Culture of any kind works best (and longest) if it is well adapted to local conditions.
It should perhaps be noted that there is apparently nothing genetic about the presence or absence of traditional culture; traditional culture is not the sole province of any one ethnic group. For example, in ancient Europe the Celts and Teutons lived traditional culture. In ancient North America the Anishinabe and Lakota lived traditional culture. In ancient Africa the Bantu and Yoruba lived traditional culture. At some point back in history all human beings -- regardless of what continent they occupied and which ethnic group they constituted -- all lived in a traditional tribal culture.
Modern culture developed in some areas of the planet as human societies grew larger. Mass organization in some form -- first the development of large work forces and armies, and later the development of mechanized means of production -- was an important force in changing traditional culture into modern culture. The shift from rural life to urban life is at the core of the development of modern culture.
While traditional and modern culture may be similar in some ways, in some very significant ways they are clearly different from each other. Traditional culture, such as our human ancestors enjoyed, is held together by relationships among people -- immediate family, extended family, clan and tribe. Everyone lives nearby. Everyone knows how he or she fits into the mix because relationships, and the behaviors that go along with them, are clearly defined. "Brother" is someone toward whom I must act like a brother. "Uncle" is someone from whom I expect a certain kind of behavior. If I violate what is expected, everyone will know. Perhaps there will be severe consequences.
But this does not rob the humans who live traditional culture of their individuality. Some brothers act differently from other brothers. Some uncles take on different roles depending, for example, on whether they are mother's brother or father's brother, or whether they are particularly gregarious or more somber, and so on. But in general, well-defined family and clan relationships, and the kinship terms that signal them, make daily operations in traditional society take a workable course. If you have the proper relationship with someone, you can get just about anything accomplished. If, on the other hand, you don't have the proper relationship, you find it difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish anything. You learn that kinship terms are key phrases in getting along. In traditional culture, relationships and people seem to be what matters.
In the modern culture of mainstream America, most people live in nuclear families: Mom and Dad and 2.5 kids. Many have only occasional contact with family members outside the immediate household. Young people quickly learn that their importance depends on how many and what kind of things they can control. Eventually they learn that power -- personal, economic, social, political, religious, whatever -- gets things done. Modern culture has a tendency to spread out, to build empires, to capitalize on as many resources as possible. Modern culture seems to be held together by power and things, not by people and relationships.
In modern culture people learn that business life is separate from personal life, for example that church and state can be kept apart. We learn to compartmentalize our lives. During the week we can be shrewd business-makers in a competitive marketplace where there are happy winners and tragic losers. On the weekend we can go to church or temple and ask forgiveness for our transgressions, and then go back on Monday and start all over again. We learn (in some form) two key phrases: "It's nothing personal, but..." and "It's just business."
But in traditional culture things are not that simple -- business life and personal life are often the same thing. Partners in trade and other economic activities are generally the same people as one's kin relations. Similarly, the principles and values that guide spiritual and ceremonial life are the same principles and values that guide political life. Thus in traditional culture, the compartmentalizing or separating of business and personal life, of religious and political life, would not work. You cannot separate how you treat your trade partners from how you treat your cousins if they are the same people. You cannot separate your spiritual values from your political values if they are the same values.
Another way in which the two differ is that traditional culture tends to stay relatively the same for long periods of time. It is basically a conservative system. Does this mean that new ideas are not incorporated from time to time, that traditional culture is static? Certainly not. The traditional culture of our ancestors changed in response to the same kinds of forces that produce biological change.
The invention of new things in traditional culture (for example, new technologies such as ceramics or the bow and arrow) work in the same way as genetic mutations: something unusual happens, and things after that are different. Preferences for especially useful things and ideas in traditional culture work in the same way as natural selection: something does a better job or is more desirable in some way, so it becomes more common thereafter. Ways of thinking and doing things in traditional cultures flow from one culture to another just like genes flow from one biological population to another: folks come into contact, something gets exchanged. Isolation of a small, unusual sample of people in a traditional culture causes whatever that thing is that makes them unusual to become more common in future generations (for example, if a small group of people sets off to start a new village, and they all just happen to like to wear their hair a certain way, then their offspring would tend to wear their hair that way too) -- in just the same way that genetic drift operates. Ancient traditional culture did change. But it was such a conservative system that it tended to resist change whenever it could.
In contrast, modern culture thrives on change. It creates new goods and services, and teaches us to want them. It adds new technologies, things and ideas at an increasingly rapid rate, such that the amount of cultural change experienced in America between 1950 and 2000 is far greater than the amount of change experienced in the entire eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in America. Change in modern culture is propelled by all the same forces that cause change in traditional culture, only in modern culture the changes happen more quickly. Modern culture is a more mutable system that tends to change often.
Another way in which traditional culture and modern culture differ is in their relationship to environment. Traditional cultures lived in close contact with their local environment. This taught that nature must be respected, cooperated with, in certain ritualized ways. One did not make huge changes in the environment, beyond clearing fields for agriculture and villages. Society saw itself as part of nature; its spiritual beliefs and values held humans as the kinsmen of plants and animals.
In contrast, modern culture creates its own environment, exports that cultural environment to colonies in far away places. It builds cities and massive structures. It teaches that nature is meant to be manipulated, to be the source of jobs and wealth for its human masters. It sees itself as being above nature. Its religions commonly cast humans as the pinnacle of nature: at best its paternalistic supervisors, at worst its righteous conquerors.
These differences in the way traditional and modern culture perceive and interact with the environment have various consequences for the humans in those cultures. Not the least of these is the difference in sustainability. A culture that lives in relative harmony with its environment has a greater likelihood of sustaining itself than does a culture that destroys its environment. The culture of our human ancestors existed for thousands of years without doing any substantive damage to the ecosystem. In a very few centuries modern culture has eliminated or endangered numerous plant and animal species, degraded many waterways and negatively impacted the health of many of its citizens: "better" living through chemistry!
A closely related comparison between traditional and modern culture concerns ways of thinking. Modern culture is built upon knowledge. The more bits of knowledge one controls -- a larger database, a larger computer memory -- the more power one has. Modern culture produces new bits of knowledge so rapidly that sometimes our computers tell us "Memory is Full!" People in modern culture are more likely to feel that things are changing, that bits of knowledge are coming at them, so rapidly that they cannot absorb it all, cannot make sense of it all. Modern culture is long in knowledge.
The traditional culture had a broad base of knowledge, as well. All plants and animals in the local environment were known by name and by their potential usefulness to humans. Weather, geology, astronomy, medicine, politics, history, language and so on were all parts of a complex integrated body of knowledge. But in traditional culture life went on beyond knowledge, to the level of wisdom -- seeing the patterns in the bits of knowledge -- and to the level of understanding -- realizing that there are more profound patterns made by the patterns of wisdom.
Take medicine as an example. Traditional man had a pain in his stomach; he found a plant in his local environment that had a certain medicinal property. These were bits of knowledge. If he prepared the plant's leaves a certain way, and drank the tea that resulted, it would make the pain in his stomach go away. This is a scientific method, a process that involves seeing the pattern in the bits of knowledge: x (the plant) goes with y (the preparation) to produce z (the treatment). This realizing of patterns is what I call wisdom. Both modern and traditional culture go this far, but here they often tend to diverge.
Eventually this traditional ancestor realized that there were all kinds of plant treatments for all kinds of ills -- that for every ailment there was a treatment -- and that there was a balancing act that operated on a universal scale of which he was but a small part. There was a harmony that could become disturbed if he destroyed the forest in which the plants grew, or if he overestimated himself by taking for granted the wisdom he had gained about the plants -- and this harmony had to be maintained on all levels (physical, social, environmental, spiritual, etc.). This realization that the patterns of wisdom were themselves connected in higher order patterns was the beginning of what I call understanding. The traditional culture of our ancestors was long in understanding, whereas modern culture frequently seems to stop the thought process at the level of wisdom.
In modern culture, the elders tend to think of traditional culture as "primitive," "backward," somehow "childlike." In traditional culture, on the other hand, the elders tend to think of modern culture as "hollow," "ignorant," somehow "childlike." But modern culture tends to take over traditional culture because modern culture is powerful: it is mechanized, it moves mountains, it digs canals and drains swamps, it overwhelms, and it is seductive -- it glitters, it tastes sweet, it goes fast. And it advertises.
So why do so many people these days seem to be refugees from modern culture? Why are so many people who were raised in the ways of modern culture now so interested in traditional American Indian or Celtic culture? Why is there a constant stream of people searching for a "new age," for "medicine men" and powwows and traditional ceremonies and Highland games?
I think it is because there is a hole in modern culture, where the truly important spiritual and humane parts of life used to be. Put another way, I think that inside modern man there is a traditional man somewhere -- who wants the security of feeling connected to an extended family and a clan of other humans -- who longs for the pleasure of hearing stories told around the hearth -- who resonates to the steady drum rhythm or the haunting bagpipe wail -- who plods through his anxious dreams grasping at bits of knowledge, thirsting, perhaps unknowingly, for the cool, delicious harmony of understanding. I believe the shift from traditional to modern culture was one of man's greatest falls from grace.
The culture of Africa is varied and manifold, consisting of a mixture of countries with various tribes that each have their own unique characteristics. It is a product of the diverse populations that today inhabit the continent of Africa and the African Diaspora. African culture is expressed in its arts and crafts, folklore and religion, clothing, cuisine, music and languages. Expressions of culture are abundant within Africa, with large amounts of cultural diversity being found not only across different countries but also within single countries. Even though African cultures are widely diverse, it is also, when closely studied, seen to have many similarities. For example, the morals they uphold, their love and respect for their culture as well as the strong respect they hold for the aged and the important i.e. Kings and Chiefs.
Africa has influenced and been influenced by other continents. This can be portrayed in the willingness to adapt to the ever-changing modern world rather than staying rooted to their static culture. The Westernized few, persuaded by European culture and Christianity, first denied African traditional culture, but with the increase of African nationalism, a cultural recovery occurred. The governments of most African nations encourage national dance and music groups, museums, and to a lower degree, artists and writers.
Africa is divided into a great number of ethnic cultures. The continent's cultural regeneration has also been an integral aspect of post-independence nation-building on the continent, with a recognition of the need to harness the cultural resources of Africa to enrich the process of education, requiring the creation of an enabling environment in a number of ways. In recent times, the call for a much greater emphasis on the cultural dimension in all aspects of development has become increasingly vocal. During the Roman colonization of North Africa,(parts of Algeria, Libya, Egypt and the whole of Tunisia) provinces such as Tripolitania became major producers of food for the republic and the empire, this generated much wealth in these places for their 400 years of occupation. During colonialism in Africa, Europeans possessed attitudes of superiority and a sense of mission. The French were able to accept an African as French if that person gave up their African culture and adopted French ways. Knowledge of the Portuguese language and culture and abandonment of traditional African ways defined one as civilized.Kenyan social commentator Mwiti Mugambi argues that the future of Africa can only be forged from accepting and mending the sociocultural present. For Mugambi, colonial cultural hangovers, pervasive Western cultural inundation, and aid-giving arm-twisting donors are, he argues, here to stay and no amount of looking into Africa's past will make them go away. However, Maulana Karenga states:
Our culture provides us with an ethos we must honor in both thought and practice. By ethos, we mean a people's self-understanding as well as its self-presentation in the world through its thought and practice in the other six areas of culture. It is above all a cultural challenge. For culture is here defined as the totality of thought and practice by which a people creates itself, celebrates, sustains and develops itself and introduces itself to history and humanity
— Maulana Karenga, African Culture and the Ongoing Quest for Excellence
African arts and crafts
Main article: African art
Africa has a rich tradition of arts and crafts. African arts and crafts find expression in a variety of woodcarvings, brass and leather art works. African arts and crafts also include sculpture, paintings, pottery, ceremonial and religiousheadgear and dress. Maulana Karenga states that in African art, the object was not as important as the soul force behind the creation of the object. He also states that All art must be revolutionary and in being revolutionary it must be collective, committing, and functional.
Certain African cultures have always placed emphasis on personal appearance and jewelry has remained an important personal accessory. Many pieces of such jewelry are made of cowry shells and similar materials. Similarly, masks are made with elaborate designs and are an important part of some cultures in Africa. Masks are used in various ceremonies depicting ancestors and spirits, mythological characters and deities.
In many traditional arts and craft traditions in Africa, certain themes significant to those particular cultures recur, including a couple, a woman with a child, a male with a weapon or animal, and an outsider or a stranger. Couples may represent ancestors, community founder, married couple or twins. The couple theme rarely exhibit intimacy of men and women. The mother with the child or children reveals intense desire of the women to have children. The theme is also representative of mother mars and the people as her children. The man with the weapon or animal theme symbolizes honor and power. A stranger may be from some other tribe or someone from a different country, and more distorted portrayal of the stranger indicates proportionately greater gap from the stranger. (HI)
Folklore and religion
See also: African traditional religions and Religion in Africa
Like all human cultures, African folklore and religion represents a variety of social facets of the various cultures in Africa. Like almost all civilizations and cultures, flood myths have been circulating in different parts of Africa. Culture and religion share space and are deeply intertwined in African cultures. In Ethiopia, Christianity and Islam form the core aspects of Ethiopian culture and inform dietary customs as well as rituals and rites. According to a Pygmy myth, Chameleon, hearing a strange noise in a tree, cut open its trunk and water came out in a great flood that spread all over the land.
Folktales also play an important role in many African cultures. Stories reflect a group cultural identity and preserving the stories of Africa will help preserve an entire culture. Storytelling affirms pride and identity in a culture. In Africa, stories are created by and for the ethnic group telling them. Different ethnic groups in Africa have different rituals or ceremonies for storytelling, which creates a sense of belonging to a cultural group. To outsiders hearing an ethnic group's stories, it provides an insight into the community's beliefs, views, and customs. For people within the community, it allows them to encompass their group's uniqueness. They show the human desires and fears of a group, such as love, marriage, and death. Folktales are also seen as a tool for education and entertainment. They provide a way for children to understand the material and social environment. Every story has a moral to teach people, such as good will prevail over evil. For entertainment, stories are set in fantastic, non-human worlds. Often, the main character of the story would be a talking animal or something unnatural would happen to human character. Even though folktales are for entertainment, they bring a sense of belonging and pride to communities in Africa.
There are different types of African stories: animal tales and day-to-day tales. Animal tales more oriented towards entertainment, but still have morals and lessons to them. Animal tales are normally divided into trickster tales and ogre tales. In the animal tales, a certain animal would always have the same character or role in each story so the audience does not have to worry about characterization. The Hare was always the trickster, clever and cunning, while the Hyena was always being tricked by the Hare. Ogres are always cruel, greedy monsters. The messengers in all the stories were the Birds. Day-to-Day tales are the most serious tales, never including humor, that explained the everyday life and struggles of an African community. These tales take on matters such as famine, escape from death, courtship, and family matters, using a song form when the climax of the story was being told.
African stories all have a certain structure to them. Villagers would gather around a common meeting place at the end of the day to listen and tell their stories. Storytellers had certain commands to start and end the stories, "Ugai Itha" to get the audience's attention and begin the story, and "Rukirika" to signal the end of a tale. Each scene of a story is depicted with two characters at a time, so the audience does not get overwhelmed. In each story, victims are able to overcome their predators and take justice out on the culprit. Certain tools were used in African folktales. For example, idiophones, such as drums, were used to make the sounds of different animals. Repetition and call-back techniques in the form of prose or poem were also used to get the audience involved in the stories.
Main article: Clothing in Africa
Women's traditional clothes in Ethiopia are made from cloth called shemma and are used to make habesha kemis. The latter garment is basically cotton cloth, about 90 cm wide, woven in long strips which are then sewn together. Sometimes shiny threads are woven into the fabric for an elegant effect. Men wear pants and a knee-length shirt with a white collar, and perhaps a sweater. Men often wear knee-high socks, while women might not wear socks at all. Men as well as women wear shawls, the netela.
Zulus wear a variety of attire, both traditional for ceremonial or culturally celebratory occasions, and modern westernised clothing for everyday use. Traditional male clothing is usually light, consisting of a two-part apron (similar to a loincloth) used to cover the genitals and buttocks. The front piece is called the umutsha (pronounced Zulu pronunciation: [umtifash]), and is usually made of springbok or other animal hide twisted into different bands which cover the genitals. The rear piece, called the ibheshu[ibeːʃu], is made of a single piece of springbok or cattle hide, and its length is usually used as an indicator of age and social position; longer amabheshu (plural of ibheshu) are worn by older men. Married men will usually also wear a headband, called the umqhele[umǃʰɛle], which is usually also made of springbok hide, or leopard hide by men of higher social status, such as chiefs. Zulu men will also wear cow tails as bracelets and anklets called imishokobezi[imiʃoɠoɓɛːzi] during ceremonies and rituals, such as weddings or dances.
In the Muslim parts of Africa, daily attire also often reflects Islamic tradition.
Main article: African cuisine
The various cuisines of Africa use a combination of locally available fruits, cereal grains and vegetables, as well as milk and meat products. In some parts of the continent, the traditional diet features a preponderance of milk, curd and whey products. In much of tropical Africa, however, cow's milk is rare and cannot be produced locally (owing to various diseases that affect livestock). The continent's diverse demographic makeup is reflected in the many different eating and drinking habits, dishes, and preparation techniques of its manifold populations.
In Central Africa, the basic ingredients are plantains and cassava. Fufu-like starchy foods (usually made from fermented cassava roots) are served with grilled meat and sauces. A variety of local ingredients are used while preparing other dishes like spinach stew, cooked with tomato, peppers, chillis, onions, and peanut butter. Cassava plants are also consumed as cooked greens. Groundnut (peanut) stew is also prepared, containing chicken, okra, ginger, and other spices. Another favorite is Bambara, a porridge of rice, peanut butter and sugar. Beef and chicken are favorite meat dishes, but game meat preparations containing crocodile, monkey, antelope and warthog are also served occasionally.
The cuisine of the African Great Lakes region varies from area to area. In the inland savannah, the traditional cuisine of cattle-keeping peoples is distinctive in that meat products are generally absent. Cattle, sheep and goats were regarded as a form of currency and a store of wealth, and are not generally consumed as food. In some areas, traditional peoples consume the milk and blood of cattle, but rarely the meat. Elsewhere, other peoples are farmers who grow a variety of grains and vegetables. Maize (corn) is the basis of ugali, the East African version of West Africa's fufu. Ugali is a starch dish eaten with meats or stews. In Uganda, steamed, green bananas called matoke provide the starch filler of many meals.
In the Horn of Africa, the main traditional dishes in Ethiopian cuisine and Eritrean cuisine are tsebhis (stews) served with injera (flatbread made from teff,wheat, or sorghum), and hilbet (paste made from legumes, mainly lentil, faba beans). Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine (especially in the northern half) are very similar, given the shared history of the two countries. The related Somali cuisine consists of an exotic fusion of diverse culinary influences. Varieties of bariis (rice), the most popular probably being basmati, usually serve as the main dish. Xalwo (halwo) or halva is a popular confection served during special occasions such as Eid celebrations or wedding receptions. After meals, homes are traditionally perfumed using frankincense (lubaan) or incense (cuunsi), which is prepared inside an incense burner referred to as a dabqaad. All food is served halal.
The roots of North African cuisine can be traced back to the ancient empires of North Africa, particularly in Egypt where many of the country's dishes and culinary traditions date back to ancient Egypt. Over several centuries traders, travelers, invaders, migrants and immigrants all have influenced the cuisine of North Africa. Most of the North African countries today have several similar dishes, sometimes almost the same dish with a different name (the Moroccan tangia and the Tunisian coucha are both essentially the same dish: a meat stew prepared in an urn and cooked overnight in a public oven), sometimes with a slight change in ingredients and cooking style. To add to the confusion, two completely different dishes may also share the same name (for example, a "tajine" dish is a slow-cooked stew in Morocco, whereas the Tunisian "tajine" is a baked omelette/quiche-like dish). There are noticeable differences between the cooking styles of different nations – there's the sophisticated, full-bodied flavours of Moroccan palace cookery, the fiery dishes of Tunisian cuisine, and the humbler, simpler cuisines of Egypt and Algeria.
The cooking of Southern Africa is sometimes called 'rainbow cuisine', as the food in this region is a blend of many culinary traditions, including those of the Khoisan, Bantu, European and Asian populations. Basic ingredients include seafood, meat products (including wild game), poultry, as well as grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits include apples, grapes, mangoes, bananas and papayas, avocado, oranges, peaches and apricots. Desserts may simply be fruit. However, there are some more western style puddings, such as the Angolan Cocada amarela, which was inspired by Portuguese cuisine. Meat products include lamb, as well as game like venison, ostrich, and impala. The seafood includes a wide variety such as crayfish, prawns, tuna, mussels, oysters, calamari, mackerel, and lobster. There are also several types of traditional and modern alcoholic beverages including many European-style beers.
A typical West African meal is heavy with starchy items, meat, spices and flavors. A wide array of staples are eaten across the region, including those of Fufu, Banku and Kenkey (originating from Ghana), Foutou, Couscous, Tô, and Garri, which are served alongside soups and stews. Fufu is often made from starchy root vegetables such as yams, cocoyams, or cassava, but also from cereal grains like millet, sorghum or plantains. The staple grain or starch varies region to region and ethnic group to ethnic group, although corn has gained significant ground as it is cheap, swells to greater volumes and creates a beautiful white final product that is greatly desired. Banku and Kenkey are maize dough staples, and Gari is made from dried grated cassavas. Rice-dishes are also widely eaten in the region, especially in the dry Sahel belt inland. Examples of these include Benachin from The Gambia and Jollof rice, a pan-West African rice dish similar to Arab kabsah.
See also: African popular music and Music of Africa
Traditional Sub-Saharan African music is as diverse as the region's various populations. The common perception of Sub-Saharan African music is that it is rhythmic music centered on the drums, and indeed, a large part of Sub-Saharan music, mainly among speakers of Niger–Congo and Nilo-Saharan languages, is rhythmic and centered on the drum. Sub-Saharan music is polyrhythmic, usually consisting of multiple rhythms in one composition. Dance involves moving multiple body parts. These aspects of Sub-Saharan music were transferred to the new world by enslaved Sub-Saharan Africans and can be seen in its influence on music forms as Samba, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Rock & Roll, Salsa, and Rap music.
Other African musical traditions also involve strings, horns, and very little poly-rhythms. Music from the eastern Sahel and along the Nile, among the Nilo-Saharan, made extensive use of strings and horns in ancient times. Dancing involve swaying body movements and footwork. Among the Khoisans extensive use of string instruments with emphasis on footwork.
Modern Sub-Saharan African music has been influenced by music from the New World (Jazz, Salsa, Rhythm and Blues etc.). Popular styles include Mbalax in Senegal and Gambia, Highlife in Ghana, Zoblazo in Côte d'Ivoire, Makossa in Cameroon, Soukous in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kizomba in Angola, and Mbaqanga in South Africa. New World styles like Salsa, R&B/Rap, Reggae, and Zouk also have widespread popularity.
Like the musical genres of the Nile Valley and the Horn of Africa, North African music has close ties with Middle Eastern music and utilizes similar melodic modes (maqamat). It has a considerable range, from the music of ancient Egypt to the Berber and the Tuareg music of the desert nomads. The region's art music has for centuries followed the outline of Arabic and Andalusian classical music. Its popular contemporary genres include the AlgerianRaï. Somali music is typically pentatonic, using five pitches per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale. In Ethiopia, the music of the highlands uses a fundamental modal system called qenet, of which there are four main modes: tezeta, bati, ambassel, and anchihoy. Three additional modes are variations on the above: tezeta minor, bati major, and bati minor. Some songs take the name of their qenet, such as tizita, a song of reminiscence.
Main article: Languages of Africa
The main ethno-linguistic divisions in Africa are Afro-Asiatic (North Africa, Horn of Africa), Niger–Congo (including speakers from the Bantu branch) in most of Sub-Saharan Africa, Nilo-Saharan in parts of the Sahara and the Sahel and parts of Eastern Africa, and Khoisan (indigenous minorities of Southern Africa). The continent of Africa speaks hundreds of languages, and if dialects spoken by various ethnic groups are also included, the number is much higher. These languages and dialects do not have the same importance: some are spoken by only few hundred people, others are spoken by millions. Among the most prominent languages spoken are Arabic, Swahili and Hausa. Very few countries of Africa use any single language and for this reason several official languages coexist, African and European. Some Africans speak various European languages such as English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German and Dutch.
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