Author Topic: The KRU: Afrikan sailors that introduced GUITAR and SEBEN into Afrikan Music  (Read 256 times)

Bohemian Rhapsody on: November 11, 2019, 04:16

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 88
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • View Profile
Mbote Everybody. Jambo. Bonjour to everybody at Congo Vibes.

Who are these people, you say? ??? These are the infamous Kru sailors. The same people who the late Wendo Kolosoy witnessed coming into Kinshasa and Matadi.  8)

You probably have heard of the Kru of West Africa who were a very strong-willed and independent group of people that could not be captured into slavery. Originally from Liberia, the Kru were also found in parts of Sierra Leone and Gambia and were a fishing community that had skill in swimming and sailing with great knowledge about the navigation on sea to other parts of West Africa and Africa at large. Due to this skill, they developed a great bond with the Westerners and were hired as sailors to help them navigate through West Africa.

Historically accounts suggests the Kru sailors of Liberia greatly influenced West Africa and Central Afrika through music and their unique way of playing the guitar and the concertina. The guitar style they mastered was played by the thumb and arpeggiation along with the other fingers. Jean Bosco Mwenda e.g.

Before being introduced to the guitar, the Kru men were conversant with similar string instruments such as the kora and lute which were popular in West Africa. This made learning the guitar very easy.

The Kru sailors played the guitar and caught the attention of the locals who would then learn to play. The Kru sailors taught them how to play Portuguese and Calypso melodies learnt from the Westerners as well as their own incorporated rhythms. However, it was in Ghana that Highlife music began after the locals who lived in small villages along the coast learnt to play the guitar.

The Kru brought this style of guitar playing at various future African capitals along the West African coast and up the Congo River Basin: Dakar Senegal, Conakry Guinea, Abidjan Ivory Coast, Accra Ghana, Cape Coast Ghana, Kinshasa (Leopoldville) Kongo, Port Harcourt Nigeria, Lagos Nigeria, Brazzaville Kongo, Douala Cameroon and much more.

In Ghana, the locals who learnt the guitar grew very fascinated with the sounds and adapted the two-finger picking style of playing the local instrument, known as the Seprewa, on the guitar which started a new era of music known as the Palm Wine Music. It was very popular in the rural parts of Ghana which was then known as the Gold Coast.

After a while, palmwine music and the guitar playing style made its way into the more urban parts of Ghana where dance bands were developing. With the introduction of the guitar and the palmwine style of playing it, Highlife music was born.

The term highlife developed from the use of both Western instruments and local ones to create music. The name itself came from the issue of social classes which indicated that such music was usually enjoyed by elite Ghanaians who were high up in the social classes hence ‘high-life ‘music.

Highlife music created huge names in Ghana such as E.T Mensah and also spread throughout West Africa ultimately giving birth to several other music genres in West Africa such as Burger Highlife, Afrobeat, Hiplife, Afro Jazz and several others.

From history, it is the guitar that would later become an important part of African music and lead to the development of Highlife music in Ghana, spreading throughout Africa and parts of Central Africa like Congo.

It's because of these guys, Modern Afrikan Music has added the sebene ("seventh chords") including Nkumba (also known as "Rumba" ), Coupe Decale, Benga, Zengue, Semba, Zouk,Mandingue, Maringa, Kalindula, Mbaqanga, Bikutsi and many more.

You'll also notice that Abidjan mimics Kinshasa with the Sebene culture. By this, we're talking about who's the best, who's "hot" and  has potential.


Rumba Rules: The Politics of Dance Music in Mobutu's Zaire  Bob W. Wilfe  Pg. 256 (

Punk Ethnography: Artists & Scholars Listen to Sublime Frequencies Michael E. Veal, E. Tammy Kim. Pg 215

The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: Africa Ruth M. Stone

Face2Face Africa (