TrueFire's Guitar Blog

8 Free African Style Guitar Lessons

Paul Simon, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Corey Harris and many other artists and guitarists have studied and then integrated African rhythms and melodies into their music. Musicologists suggest that blues and jazz are rooted to West African’s polyrhythmic patterns and beautiful melodies. In fact, Ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik calls West Africa the “cradle of the blues”.

Zoumana Diarra – a Griot from Mali in West Africa – demonstrates 11 West African styles on guitar in his new TrueFire course. Zoumana happily shares 8 free video guitar lessons, which demonstrates 3 West African styles. Dig in!

“The Bambara is the original blues music. This example is a minor pentatonic guitar style from Segou in Mali. Major pentatonic blues originated in Sikasso, Mali. The first guitars in West Africa had one string, and the music played on this guitar was strictly pentatonic: they always played in the same key. Later, the Bambara was played on the ngoni. This is a six-string guitar for hunters with five strings tuned pentatonic. A Bambara does not have chords, only melodies.”

Bambara Part 1

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this West African guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Bambara Part 2

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this West African guitar lesson on TrueFire.

“Gumbe comes from Guinea-Bissau. It’s a combination of several music traditions with a modern sound. It sounds like a samba, but is more polyrhythmic.”

Gumbe Part 1

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Gumbe Part 2

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Gumbe Part 3

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“Soukous is a rhythmic pattern used for dancing, a mix of African Cuban rhumba and traditional music from the Congo. “Soukous” literally means “to shake”. It’s a very open style with a lot of room for improvisation. It’s very popular among guitarists It is characterized by intense guitar parts, repeating melodic patterns, and sensitive harmonies. A famous guitarist in this style is Franco of OK Jazz, renowned for his finger picking.”

Soukous Part 1

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Soukous Part 2

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Soukous Part 3

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this guitar lesson on TrueFire.


If you want more West African licks to spice up your blues, make sure to check out the full course on TrueFire. Zoumana offers 23 more lessons featuring traditional West African melodies. Check it out now!