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Musical Contexts


Exploring Textures and Rhythms

This unit explores the main rhythmic musical features and devices used in African Music, particularly the African Dumming tradition of West Africa.

Pupils explore the different African Drum performance techniques and the effect his has on the timbre and sonority of the sounds produced.   They then move on to perform and create, by composing and improvising , simple rhythms and, using repetition, turn these into Cyclic Rhythms. These rhythms are then combined and overlapped to create Polyrhythms and a Polyrhythmic Texture: characteristic of much African Music.

Pupils explore the effect of Syncopation on rhythms, learning about its offbeat feel and emphasis on the weaker beats before exploring how Call and Response is used in African Music, again through creating, composing, performing and improvising their own Call and Response rhythms and the role of the Master Drummer.

Pupils explore African Musical Instruments and the different timbres and sonorities that these produce before combining their learning of Cyclic Rhythms, Polyrhythms, Syncopation and Call and Response into an African-inspired piece.  Rhythm grid notation is used as a way or recording ideas and rhythms and performing from.  

Saharan Sounds - General Resources

Saharan Sounds - Performing Resources

Saharan Sounds - Cover and Homework Resources

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Saharan Sounds - DOITNOW (Starters) and Plenary Activities

Saharan Sounds - “DOITNOW” Presentation


Cutting down on printables, file storage and media files, the “new look” Musical Contexts “DOITNOW” Saharan Sounds lesson openers Presentation contains  a wealth (only two samples shown here), of effective “DOITNOW’s” when delivering the Saharan Sounds unit in just one place - all audio and video files are embedded and there’s accompanying Teacher’s Notes in the “slide comments” section. 

Saharan Sounds - Plenary Review Activities

A series of lesson reviews where pupils review their learning and understanding.

Saharan Sounds - 5 Minutes Silent Reading

For teachers who prefer to begin their lessons with quiet, focused openers.  All contain “Questions to Think About” which can also be used as Cover or Homework tasks.

1. The Music of Africa 1

2. The Music of Africa 2

3. African Musical Instruments 1

4. African Musical Instruments 2

5. African Vocal Music

6. African Drumming


Saharan Sounds - Scheme of Work and Lesson Pathways

Saharan Sounds - Scheme of Work and Lesson Pathways

Includes Scheme of Work Overview, Unit Learning Objectives, Learning Outcomes and Lesson Pathways.

Saharan Sounds - Music Theory

Saharan Sounds Music Theory - Membranophones, Idiophones, Aerophones & Chordophones

Classification of African and other musical instruments according to sound production methods.

Includes answers

Key Words, Concepts and Musical Knowledge

Djembe Performance Technique—Bass, Tone, Slap; Improvisation; Textures: Cyclic and Polyrhythms; African Musical Instruments: Membranophones, Idiophones, Aerophones, Chordophones; Master Drummer; Ostinato; Syncopation; Call and Response.

Music Theory

Membranophones, Idiophones, Aerophones, Chordophones;

Links to GCSE Music

Rhythms of the World






African Drum Performance Techniques

Demonstrates the Bass, Tone and Slap Sounds and gives 3 blank drumheads for pupils to draw the correct hand positioning.

African Call and Response Rhythms

A series of “Calls” and a given “Response” including opportunities for listening, improvising, composing and recording using rhythm grid notation.  Includes Teacher’s Notes

C&R MIDI 1 - Response repeated 4 times

C&R Audio 1 - African Call and Response Listening

Composing an African-inspired Piece

Includes staged composition process together with a possible assessment and evaluation sheet.

Saharan Sounds Assessment

End of unit assessment task assessing skills, knowledge and understanding.  Includes answers.


African Music Assessment Audio

Saharan Sounds Advanced Knowledge Organiser

More detailed in-depth knowledge organiser on African Music including a blank version with question prompts and 3-page key words list.





“Sun Over the Sahara” - A Polyrhythmic Piece for African Drums

Given in Rhythm Grid Notation using Bass, Tone and Slap sounds and with Teacher’s Notes.

MIDI 1 - Duns Bass Part A (with metronome click) - repeated 8 times

MIDI 2 - Duns Bass Part A (without metronome) - repeated 8 times

MIDI 3 - Duns Bass Part B (with metronome click) - repeated 8 times

MIDI 4 - Duns Bass Part B (without metronome) - repeated 8 times

MIDI 5 Duns Parts A & B (with metronome click) - repeated 8 times

MIDI 6 - Duns Parts A & B (without metronome click) - repeated 8 times 

MIDI 7 - Djembe Part (with metronome click) - repeated 8 times

MIDI8 - Djembe Part (without metronome click) - repeated 8 times

MIDI 9 - Duns Parts A & B & Djembe Part (with metronome click) - repeated 8 times

MIDI 10 - Duns Parts A & B & Djembe Part (without metronome click) - repeated 8 times

“Rhythms of Africa” - Performing Sheets

Using the rhythms of six African countries given in Rhythm Grid Notation and using Bass, Tone and Slap sounds and with Teacher’s Notes.


ROAMIDI 1 - Madagascar Rhythm

ROAMIDI 2 - Chad Rhythm

ROAMIDI 3 - Ethiopia Rhythm

ROAMIDI 4 - Algeria Rhythm

ROAMIDI 5 - Egypt Rhythm

ROAMIDI 6 - Tanzania Rhythm

ROAMIDI 7 - 6 African Rhythms added one by one

“I Want a Cup of Tea!”

A great Call and Response and Syncopated warm-up to introduce offbeat rhythms!


Audio - “I Want a Cup of Tea!” modelled with and without a regular pulse/beat

Three African Call and Response Songs

“Owe Nsawila”, “Byown” and “Na Ya La Mu”


Songs MIDI 1 - Owe Nsawila song melody


Songs MIDI 2 - Byowa song melody


Songs MIDI 3 - Na ya la mu song melody




“Wimoweh” - Song Sheet, Performing Sheets and Evaluation Sheet

Song Sheet with Vocal Riffs, Performing Sheet (melody line with note names, chords and bass line and percussion rhythms) and Evaluation Sheet together with Teacher’s Notes.

Wimoweh Audio 1 - Song Example

Wimoweh Audio 2—Wimoweh melody with and without Syncopation

Wimoweh Audio 3 - Wimoweh (alternative version)

Wimoweh MIDI 1—Verse & Chorus Song Melody

Wimoweh MIDI 2—Verse & Chorus Song Melody with metronome click

Six African Songs

“Miawoe Gbona Afega Me”, Atia De Menye”, “A-B-C-D (Kpanlogo Song)”, “De Oyo Dio”, “Tuu-Tuu Gbovi” and “Abang”


Songs MIDI 4 - Miawoe gbona afega me (song melody)

Songs MIDI 5 - Atia de menye (song melody)

Songs MIDI 6 - A-B-C-D (Kpanlogo song) (song melody)

Songs MIDI 7 - De oyo dio (song melody)

Songs MIDI 8 - Tuu-tuu gbovi (song melody)

Songs MIDI 9 - Abang (song melody)

Tumba (African Chant)

3-part Vocal Traditional African Chant


Songs MIDI 10 - Tumba Part 1


Songs MIDI 11 - Tumba Part 2


Songs MIDI 12 - Tumba Part 3


Songs MIDI 13 - Tumba - All 3 parts together



African Music Comprehension

Comprehension Questions on African Music.

Can be done without ICT.

African Music Activity Sheet

Assorted activities on African Music.

Can be done without ICT.







African Musical Instruments

African Musical instrument identification and classification

True/False Listening to “Yiri” by Koko

True or False listening quiz.  Contains answers

African Video - “Yiri” - Koko

The Hatsiatsia

Performing the Hatsiatsia rhythms and composing own rhythms using rhythm grid notation

Hatsiatsia Video - “in action”