Indigenous African musical and dance expressions that are maintained by oral tradition and that are stylistically distinct from the music and dance of both the Arabic cultures of North Africa and the Western settler populations of southern Africa. African music and dance, therefore, are cultivated largely by societies in sub-Saharan Africa
All sub-Saharan traditions emphasize singing, because song is used as an avenue of communication. Because many African languages are "tone languages," in which pitch level determines meaning, the melodies and rhythms of songs generally follow the intonation contour and rhythms of the song texts. Melodies are usually organized within a scale of four, five, six, or seven tones. In group singing, some societies habitually sing in unison or in parallel octaves with sporadic fourths or fifths; others sing in two or three parts, using parallel thirds or fourths. Songs generally are in call-and-response form.
With urbanization and the impact of Western culture, traditional music and dance, although still practiced, have decreased. New idioms have emerged, however, that combine African and Western elements; they include West African highlife (showing certain Caribbean traits), Congolese popular music (reflecting Latin American influence), and in southern Africa, sabasaba and kwella (both akin to U.S. swing and jive music). Evidence suggests that the needs of the church and other transplanted institutions may stimulate a new art music. Traditional music and dance face serious threat of decline. Because of their political and cultural importance, however, their preservation is given special attention in many countries