Watch the Guidebook West African Guitar Styles online guitar lesson by Zoumana Diarra from West African Guidebook

Hi, I'm Zoumana Diarra from Mali in West Africa. Welcome to the West African Guitar Styles Guidebook. West Africa is where the blues was born. Blues guitar players like Taj Mahal, Corey Harris, and Ry Cooder have gone to West Africa to study music, playing and recording with local musicians like Ali Farka Toure.

West African melodies and rhythms are a huge influence on all pop, rock, folk, and jazz music. But, West African guitar is so much more, as you'll see in this course. Africa is a huge continent with many different styles of music and a very rich musical history, so here we're going to study eleven essential styles and grooves from different West African Countries: We'll look at the Bambara, African rhumba, minuit, gumbe, highlife, Manding, soukous, njaro, Mali blues, gwe gwe, and a guitar playing method taken from the kora.

Most of these styles can be played with your fingers or with a pick, each one having several melodies. When played together, you get intricate grooves that can be very complex. Each melodic pattern in West African music can be played by different instruments like the ngoni, kora, balafon, or guitar.

Here, we'll study these patterns on guitar, each style coming with a backing track and tabs. I hope you enjoy this collection of styles!
Note: Griots are a kind of troubadour, a traveling musician or singer who knows the history of a local tribe or family and makes sure that stories are told, retold, and kept for posterity. The traditional instruments of a Griot are kora, balafon, djembe, and ngoni. Zoumana is a Griot - a profession handed down from father to son. Even today, there are still Griots in Africa. Next to the traditional instruments, guitars now have an important place in the music a Griot plays. The basis of African music is fingerstyle playing. Most West African players don't know what chords are, introduced to this music through influences from Cuba in the 1920's. Because these styles are based on strong melodies, most patterns can also be played with a pick.