is a country
and a population
among the Baganda who cultivate over 30 varieties. Mats, bowls, screens and
cooking wraps are all common uses. Barkcloth, the inner bark lining of a particular
tree, was widely used before Arab traders brought cotton fabrics at the end
of the 19th century. Today, barkcloth and kanzus (a white cotton robe) are
associated with "traditional" male dress. Women wear wraps of patterned textile
(usually imported from Kenya and Tanzania) or the gomezi, a western style dress
with pointed shoulders. Other natural materials such as gourds are also widely
used for a variety of purposes.
of stringed instruments abound, including harps, zithers, fiddles and lyres.
Xylophones are popular in the southern, western and northwestern parts of the
country and most regions use drums in a variety of contexts. Historically,
drums were often closely associated with positions of power in many regions.
These "royal drums" are personified and treated as living entities. In pre-colonial
times, to possess one of these drums legitimated one's position of social power
and importance. Aerophones such as flutes and sets of tuned horns (called amakondere,
agwara or amagwara in different regions) are also used as are a seemingly endless
number of shakers, rattles, and bells.
Dancing is also widely popular and is intimately tied with musical performance.
In fact, the word "ngoma" is often used to refer to both activities. Dance
styles in the south are typically waist-centered, with upper body movement
minimized. In the north, foot, arm, and neck movements are emphasized and elaborate
headresses are often worn. Dances like Bwola from Acholi in north-central Uganda
can incorporate hundreds of people in carefully choreographed movements. The
southwestern and northeastern regions emphasize leaping and stamping movements
that bring the feet into forceful contact with the ground.
This description only glosses the tremendous variety of vernacular expressions
found in Uganda. Other areas such as storytelling, architecture, social structure,
marriage patterns, religion, medicine, and language offer exciting topics for
In Ugandan traditional music the xylophone is king. There are two main types
of the xylophone, the amadinda and the akadinda . They are
both royal forms but are also played by musicians outside of the royal compound
and at public events. Buganda had a fascinating system whereby national music
was developed and disseminated. For each recognized form of classical music/dance,
there was one man who was considered a master and who lived in the palace.
Each of these traditions also had their own compounds for storing, training,
and performing. These master musicians then apprenticed skilled artists from
clan groups throughout Buganda for limited periods of time. When these artists
returned to their region, they taught others the music, and so people throughout
a large territory were familiar with topical songs from the Palace.
The amadinda and akadinda vary in size and number of keys.
The amadinda is larger (in terms of the size of the keys), usually
with 15 or more keys tuned in an equidistant pentatonic scale (the same scale
is used in akadinda). It is played by two or more people and often involves
the abstraction of vocal-based pieces performed instrumentally. The interaction
of the two players' melodies (each with two hands playing the same notes, one
octave apart) creates a third melody with a longer cycle. You have to see it
to believe it. Two players can produce music faster than 120 beats per minute
with each individual appearing to barely break a sweat. The akadinda keys
are usually smaller in size, but may have either more keys (around 20) or fewer
(only 10).Essentially, the akadinda is a more diminutive amadinda (in
terms of key size). The compositional structure is essentially the same, except
that the 20 key instrument is played by four people and the ten by a soloist
(in conjunction with the Mbaga wedding dance, for example).
Both the amadinda and akadinda may be played in conjunction
with percussion. The royal forms include low-end tuned drums connecting with
the pentatonic scale of the xylophones. This particular form has stylistic
features reminiscent of Western Ugandan music (Nkole and Butoro, for example).
Both the amadinda and akadinda are derived physically and compositionally from
neighboring Busoga where they are called mbaire and obubaire respectively.
The Basoga and Baganda had close royal relations and shared musicians frequently.
Buganda borrowed many styles and instruments from the Basoga but were the dominant
ones of the relationship, often sending their own people to rule in Busoga
districts. Balikowa Centurio is the grandson of the last lyre ( entongoli )
player of the Busoga court who used to perform in Buganda frequently. This
particular form was restricted to the royal compound in both Busoga and Buganda
(where they call it endongo ). Balikowa plays now, and even won a
scholarship for his entire primary and secondary education because of his skill
in a dying art form.