n Institute of African Studies Research Review - Pitch and tonality in contemporary African music : Nigerian gospel music as a case study

Volume 21, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0855-4412



Like melody, language and rhythm, pitch and tonality are major indicators of African identity in music. In traditional African musical forms, these elements are obvious, but in contemporary African musical expressions which are influenced by several external factors, it is necessary to know the extent to which the elements have been retained and the level of acculturation. In this regard, this paper is aimed at examining the tonal elements of gospel music in Nigeria, an important genre of contemporary African music. Employing musicological, historical and analytical methods, several works of artistes covering 12 distinct styles of the genre and drawn from the three major sections of the country were examined. The study observed among other things, that contemporary African music as reflected in Nigerian gospel music still retain African pitch and tonal structures to a certain degree and concluded on the indispensability of meaning in African music and the need to preserve Africanness in pitch and tonality. It recommended that Nigerian gospel music should be used by African music composers as additional compositional source.

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