Tip #59 – Using the Gogo Harmonic Progression and Scale

In some south and central African countries, musicians use homophonic multipart singing style in their songs.  That means that the group of people sing the same song rhythmically, but move in parallel motion at different pitches.  Typically, it is a fourth (interval) apart, but not always.

Below is an example of a multi-part harmonic progression called the Gogo progression from Tanzania as well as the derived scale. All from the tribe of the same name. Notice how skipping every other note in the scale on the right produces the functional harmony on the left.  Also, observe the pitch fundamentals that build the harmony as well as act as a bourdon (open drone).

Besides advising you, the reader, to experiment, investigate, and take inspiration from these African harmonic progressions I strictly indorse you not to impose classical theory on these progressions.  While it is tempting to analyze these progressions with the idioms of Western music notation, I recommend not to as it takes away the purity/authenticity of African music’s own stylistic practices by framing it within a box.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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