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Music of Equatorial Guinea

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fang-Beti side-blown trumpet
Fang-Beti side-blown trumpet

Equatorial Guinea's culture has been less documented than most African countries, and commercial recordings remain scarce.

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  • Geography Now! Equatorial Guinea
  • People of Equatorial Guinea (Pueblo de Guinea Ecuatorial) Part 1
  • 7 Facts about Equatorial Guinea


Once upon a time, Spain was all like "I'm gonna take over the Americas! Yeah! That's where all my glory is gonna shine! What? OK- Look, just go play with Western Sahara or something, okay? Just don't bother me, okay? I'm investing in your bigger brother that I care so much more about!" And that child grew up to be Equatorial Guinea. Hey everyone, I'm your host Barby. Hispanics of the world, say hi to your far-off distant linguistic African cousins that you may not even know existed! Seriously, Spanish-speaking Africans! Cool, huh? Yeah, and this is where you can find them. So, if you've never heard of this place, that's okay. Most people haven't. I mean, places like South Africa and Kenya are so in right now that it's hard for anybody else to kind of get, like, three seconds in the spotlight. First of all, although called Equatorial Guinea, the country is actually located a few degrees north of the Equator. But it was kind of close enough so they're like, "Eh, we'll just keep that name." Second the country has kind of like a strange layout when it comes to its territory. There are two main parts: the mainland and the offshore insular parts. The mainland part of Equatorial Guinea is called Río Muni and is located in central Africa right at the Gulf of Guinea under Cameroon and at the top of Gabon. The insular parts contain the islands of Bioko, located north, off the coast of Cameroon, and Annobón which lies about 660 kilometres southwest from Bioko, with São Tomé and Príncipe caught right in between them, creating a nearly perfect diagonal chain of islands. Now, just like we discussed in the Cameroon episode, these islands are on what is called the Cameroon line, which is an area on the Gulf that has active volcanic islands formed from tectonic activity. They also own the island of Corisco, as well as the big and little Elobey islands just off the southwest coast in Corisco Bay, where the Muni River empties into the ocean, making it the border with Gabon. This is also the river where Río Muni gets its name from. The country is divided into seven provinces, with the capital Malabo located on Bioko island. Keep in mind though, they are currently constructing an entirely new capital called Oyala in the future Wele-Nzas province set to be complete in 2020. You know, despite some ongoing protests from citizens, but hey, African politics typically aren't well known for being legislatively accommodating in that field. Río Muni contains about eighty percent of the entire country's population as well as the largest city Bata, found off of the Atlantic coast. The country is kinda small at about 28,000 square kilometers. It's just a little bit bigger than Burundi, but smaller than Albania. Now, due to the recent oil boom Equatorial Guinea has been able to invest heavily in infrastructure projects like upgrading the two largest airports at Malabo and Bata, as well as adding three new airports on Annobón and Corisco as well as inland near the still under construction town of Oyala. Road construction has boomed in the past three decades as well. Towns in the remote eastern rain forest areas now have direct access to places that were previously only accessible by river or a really long potentially deadly walk where highly aggressive mandrills could attack and eat your face. Speaking of wildlife, Equatorial Guinea may be small, but those scattered insular islands give it quite the range of eco diversity. The country is of course mainly tropical in its climate, humid and warm year-round. However, the rainy seasons kind of switch off at different parts of the year for the islands vs Río Muni. From June to August Río Muni is dry whereas Bioko is wet, and then it switches to the opposite around December to Februari. Annobón island is typically known for being somewhat cloudy all the time. There have been almost no cloudless days registered in their recorded history. The coastal flat plains on Río Muni rise to interior jungle hills which just like their other Congo rainforest neighbors, is filled with minerals like tantalum, gold, diamonds, and bauxite. Yeah, those jungles are loaded with bling. Of course, this allows the country to be a cradle of biodiversity harboring a monkey haven with dozens of primate species dominating the treetops all over. Despite this the national animal is actually the giraffe. At about 3,000 meters, the highest peak is Pico Basile, which is the only recorded active volcano in the country, that actually erupted in 1932. Now, here's the thing: for most of their history, their economy was heavily centered around forestry and fishing. Nothing too crazy. Then 1995 came and they discovered a ton of oil off the coast, and everything changed. Suddenly, they joined the ranks of becoming one of the top 10 largest African oil exporters and today over ninety-five percent of their exports are in crude oil or hydrocarbon production. And since the population was so small they had an influx of revenue to disperse amongst the country. Nonetheless they are very aware that it won't last forever, and the oil is expected to run out around 2035, so the government actually instituted this plan, called the 2020 plan: a strategic policy that will supposedly allow the country to diversify their revenue sources and industries before time runs out. Of course this new policy hasn't been shy of a few controversies from the populace, and we'll dive into that right about now. Equatorial Guinea may be going through some economic prosperity seasons but there are some issues that stick. The people of Equatorial Guinea are unique in that unlike most African nations they come from centuries of Spanish influence. First of all, the country is made up of about 800,000 people and has the highest per capita GDP in Africa as of 2016. Keep in mind this is due to the very small population, hence PER CAPITA. Nigeria actually has the largest GDP overall. The country is made up of numerous ethnic and tribal groups, the largest ones being the Fang at about eighty-six percent, the Bubi (hehe, boobie) at seven percent, five percent are made up of smaller groups like that in Mdowe, Annobón, and Bujeba, and the rest are other groups like Spanish, Chinese and other Europeans at around two percent, mostly Spanish. Although Spanish is the official language, spoken by about seventy percent of the country, French is commonly spoken as well, especially since they're kind of surrounded by, and are forced to interact with, French-speaking neighbors. Portuguese is also spoken, which allowed them to join the list of Lusophone Nations recently. Nonetheless, most people identify with their specific ethnic group and language first, and then speak Spanish as a second language. They became the first non- Francophone nation to join the financial cooperation in central Africa, and use the Central African CFA franc as their currency. They also use the type-C and E electrical outlets at 50 Hertz, and drive on the right side of the road. In 1968 they gained a relatively smooth independence from Spain and then... well, you know how it works in Africa. Term one: having fun. Term two: watching you. Term three: Oh, you gonna get assassinated! No, seriously though, this guy was insane. He called himself God and the unique miracle of Africa, drove out a third of his population, he stole the money from the Treasury, and on Christmas he made his soldiers dress up like Santa Clauses and ordered them to execute 150 of his opponents in Malabo stadium, as Mary Hopkin's song "Those Were the Days" blasted on the speakers. True story. Fun side note, his children were whisked away to North Korea before his death, where they grew up and learned Korean. His daughter Monique actually just wrote a memoir – look it up; it's fascinating. Then his nephew rebelled and started a coup and destroyed the regime. To this day they claim to be a multiparty democracy, however in practice it's more classified as a dictatorship, as Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been president since 1979. And even though there's a controversy behind his rule, people are kind of like, "well, at least he's not his uncle." I mean, he did kind of help build the infrastructure, so... Nonetheless, wealth distribution is still an ongoing issue. The majority, at around eighty seven percent of the country, identifies as Catholic, which is why it was a huge deal when former Pope John Paul II visited Bata in 1982, and the rest are either Protestant or indigenous animist. Culture-wise, Equatorial Guinea has a very vibrant artistic side, noted for their abstract sculpture work dominated by the Fang and Bubi cultures. Especially in the capital Malabo, artists like sculptor Gabriel Mokolo and cartoonists Ramón Esorio Ebalé are well known. And international pop star Anfibio, who toured across Europe, was also a cardiologist on the side, believe it or not! Another notable figure would be "Eric the Eel" Mussambani who just didn't give up at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. You'll typically see the Ibanga white powder dance happening all over, as it is the national dance of the Fang people, typically done with music played by drums, wooden xylophones and thumb pianos. Cassava is the staple food, mashed up into a paste, and famous dishes include peanut cream chicken with boiled plantain and fish with crushed pumpkin seeds served in a banana leaf. And of course many of the dishes include Spanish-influenced ingredients and techniques. You can totally find an interesting African-style paella or coquetas. And that's not the only thing they share with Spain. Once again, because of its linguistic properties, Equatorial Guinea is kind of like this small anomaly that sticks out in Africa. First of all, Gabon, Cameroon, and Nigeria are probably their closest African friends as they have shared centuries of business and culture. Many Fang tribesmen can also be found in these countries as well, which adds a whole other level of kinship. Cameroon did recently shut the border, though, after some controversy with a fisherman being killed and two missing immigrants. It's a tricky situation. China and the US and South Korea were some of the first ones to jump on that oil boom and invest in Equatorial Guinea in the nineties, and today have embassies for each other. Their best friend, though, would probably have to be Spain. Although European colonialism has always left a sour taste in people's mouths, the Equatorial Guineans actually maintain a somewhat decent relationship with the Spanish, and developed quite a close bond, even after they gained independence. Spain still protects them at times of need, and tons of Guineans emigrated to Spain, and the majority of the white population in Equatorial Guinea are Spanish. In conclusion, while the rest of sub-Saharan Africa was squabbling in a cacophony of French and English with a little bit of Portuguese on the side, this little sliver of land was like "Eh, I'm gonna do my own little thing and I'm here to stay. Deal with it." Stay tuned, Eritrea is coming up next!


National music

The national anthem of Equatorial Guinea was written by Atanasio Ndongo Miyone and adopted in 1968, when the country gained independence from Spain [1]. Equatorial Guinea was carved out of three former Spanish colonies: Río Muni, a strip of land between Cameroon and Gabon; Bioko, an island near Cameroon; and Annobón, an island in the Atlantic Ocean far from the mainland.

Traditional music

The largest ethnic group are the Fang (85.7% (1994 census) of a total 704,001 (July 2013 est.)), with 6.5% Bubi and smaller populations of Mdowe (3.6%), Annobónese (1.6%) and Bujeba (1.1%),[1] including smaller groups such as the Ndowe, the Bisio and the Combe.

The Fang are known for their mvet, a cross between a zither and a harp. The mvet can have up to fifteen strings. The semi-spherical part of this instrument is made of bamboo and the strings are attached to the center by fibers. Music for the mvet is written in a form of musical notation that can only be learned by initiates of the bebom-mvet society. Music is typically call and response with a chorus and drums alternating. Musicians like Eyi Moan Ndong have helped to popularize folk styles.

A three- or four- person orchestra consisting of some arrangement of sanza, xylophone, drums, zithers and bow harps accompanies the many dances in Equatorial Guinea, such as the balélé and the risque ibanga.[2]

Another popular instrument is the tam-tam, a wooden box covered with animal skin. In its center are bamboo keys installed with complete musical scales. A second type of tam-tam has two different levels of musical keys. Generally, wooden musical instruments are decorated with fauna images and geometric drawings. Drums are covered with animal skins or animal drawings.[3]

Popular music

There is little popular music coming out of Equatorial Guinea. Pan-African styles like soukous and makossa are popular, as are reggae and rock and roll. Acoustic guitar bands based on a Spanish model are the country's best-known indigenous popular tradition, especially national stars Desmali and Dambo de la Costa.[4]

Other musicians from Equatorial Guinea include Malabo Strit Band, Luna Loca, Chiquitin, Dambo de la Costa, Ngal Madunga, Lily Afro and Spain-based exiles like Super Momo, Hijas del Sol and Baron Ya Buk-Lu (es).


  1. ^ C.I.A. World Factbook, "Equatorial Guinea", at
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-03-04. Retrieved 2005-05-29. 
  3. ^; Retrieved 12/08/1998
  4. ^ "Desmali" (in Spanish). 
  • Guinea Ecuatorial [2]
  • [3]
  • Dominguez, Manuel. "Malabo Blues". 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 477–479. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
This page was last edited on 11 December 2017, at 12:56
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