Music in West African churches

  • E.G. Parrinder Lecturer in Theology, University College, Ibadan


It has been estimated that some twenty million Africans have become Christians; more than the total number of Christians in all the countries of Asia. This great movement towards Christianity is undoubtedly due largely to the breakdown of traditional African ways of life. In West Africa, Islam also has profited by the change to extend its sway, especially in Northern Nigeria and parallel territories but hardly at all in Eastern Nigeria or the lower Gold Coast. The importance of music in African religious life is widely recognised, but this now needs to be considered in its modern forms and in the new religions which have largely replaced the old. It is curious that Islam, which bans all music in the mosque, should be so successful. But outside the mosque Muslims are notorious for their festivals and dances, and these have a great popular appeal. A full study of modern African Muslim music needs yet to be made.