Music of Benin

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Dance of greeting, Benin, taken before 1969

Benin has played an important role in the African music scene, producing one of the biggest stars to come out of the continent in Angélique Kidjo. Post-independence, the country was home to a vibrant and innovative music scene, where native folk music combined with Ghanaian highlife, French cabaret, American rock, funk and soul, and Congolese rumba. It also has a rich variety of ethnomusicological traditions.

National music[edit]

The national anthem of Benin, adopted upon independence in 1960, is "L'Aube Nouvelle" (The New Dawn) by Gilbert Jean Dagnon. The Gangbe brass band is an internationally-prominent Beninese ensemble.

Traditional music[edit]

The majority of Benin’s 9.32 million people live in the south. The population includes about 42 ethnic groups overall. These include coastal populations of Yoruba in the southeast, who migrated from what is now Nigeria in the 12th century, the Fon in the south central area around Abomey, Mina, Xueda and Aja who came from what is now Togo.

Northern peoples include the Dendi in the north-central area, who came from what is now Mali in the 16th century, the Bariba and Fula people in the northeast and the Betammaribe and Somba in the Atacora Range.

20th century popular music[edit]

Ignacio Blazio Osho was perhaps the most influential musician of the post-independence period, alongside Pedro Gnonnas y sus Panchos, Les Volcans and Picoby Band d'Abomey. Pedro produced the song Feso Jaiye,[1] which became a hit and was performed by many bands at the 2nd All-Africa Games in 1973.

In 1972, however, the Kérékou government came to power and instituted curfews and other measures that inhibited musical expression. Kérékou encouraged indigenous folk music. Some musicians, like Tohon Stan, adapted folk styles for mainstream audiences at home and abroad, including tchinkoumé, a funeral music played using water percussion which was adapted into tchink-system music.[2] Sagbohan Danialou, a multi-instrumentalist from Porto Novo, is another very influential musician who transformed traditional Vodou religious rhythms such as kakagbo into popular music.[3]

Nel Oliver who debuted in France in 1976. He took elements from all over Africa and the United States to create "Afro-akpala-funk".

The “Tout Puissant” Orchestre Poly-Rythmo are still a household name in Cotonou and one of Africa's most prolific groups with over 50 LPs, hundreds of 45s and CD re-issues of their work. They have toured both England and the United States; according to a concert review in the New York Times, the band "belongs on the very short list of the world's greatest funk bands."[4]

Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke is one of the most important young musicians in jazz, infusing African influences. Loueke currently lives in New York and is a member of Herbie Hancock's band.

Zeynab Ouloukèmi Abiba, born in Abidjan, released "Intore", her first album, in 2001. In 2002 she released Rhythm and blues, a bridge between RnB and Beninese culture. Zeynab Abib has had concerts, invitations outside of Benin, and a Kora trophy nomination. Zeynab released a second album "From one location to another" comprising 14 tracks.[when?]

The last few decades of the 20th century saw numerous other developments, including the rise of reggae (brought from Jamaica by Yaya Yaovi) and hip hop (most popularized by Ardiess Posse), as well as a new wave of musicians, including Cella Stella, Africando, Ambroise Coffi Akoha, Bluecky d'Almeida and Angélique Kidjo.

Gangbé Brass Band, from Cotonou continued the trajectory of transforming traditional Vodou music, combining it with jazz and brass band traditions.[5] Gangbe has released four albums: Gangbe (1998), Togbe (2001), Whendo (2004) and Assiko (2008), and tours extensively in Europe and North America.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Golden days highlife #13 "Feso jaiye". Retrieved 30 March 2008. 
  2. ^ "the brothers gnonlonfoun vodun gangbe and jomion the uklos". Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "nicolas moncadas orogod vodun and sagbohan danialou". Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Pareles, Jon (July 12, 2010). "From West Africa, a Recipe for Spicy Trans-Atlantic Funk". New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Benin: Transforming traditions". Retrieved 30 January 2014. 


  • Bensignor, François and Eric Audra. "Afro-Funksters". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 432–436. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

External links[edit]