Amazing Kids! Magazine

Rhythms Worldwide

By Cathy Yan, Assistant Editor and Global Village Editor


Rhythm is an integral part of music that clarifies the melody and keeps time using beats. Without it, songs would be a jumbled mess, and open to interpretation at the performer’s discretion. Keeping the rhythm can be done visually, using different kinds of note heads, or aurally (through sound) with clapping or a metronome. As with just about everything else, the types of rhythms vary from culture to culture. African, Latin American, and Chinese music are three diverse styles that characterize different beats in their music.

African, or specifically Sub-Saharan African, music is characterized by strong, clear beats. This is because drumming is the most popular form of instrumentation as drums symbolize the heartbeat of the community. Surprisingly, most African languages do not have a word for ‘rhythm’ or ‘music’. Instead, the general ideas of the two terms are built into their everyday lifestyle, and used to convey emotions and other types of abstract imagery.

Latin American, or Spanish, music has various elements borrowed from African slaves, so it bears some resemblance to African music. However, many modern variations have surfaced since, making hundreds of sub-types of music. In general, the rhythm is quick paced, with guitar in the instrumental. Most of their music is meant to be danced to at upbeat festivals like carnivals, and at parties. Other traditional instrumentation include the charango (a small stringed instrument used in Andean music), and maracas (large rattles used in Lhanera music).

Chinese music has traditionally been very patriotic and nationalistic. However, modernization has created a vast range of sounds depending on the region and the local culture. In Tibet, for example, music is an integral part of Tibetan Buddhism, and is characterized by various styles of rhythmic chanting. Generally, Chinese music favors duple rhythm music (the Western equivalent would be 2/4 or 4/4 notation). This is to symbolize the common traditional principles of duality, like the yin-yang relationship.

Overall, rhythm and music are very diverse and encompass a wide range of sounds and forms of expression. African, Latin-American, and Chinese music doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the multifaceted and culturally rich world of music today.