Let’s Try To Make Sense Of The Traditional Music Of Uganda In The Present Times

Traditional Music still boasts as the only not so tainted genre of music in Uganda, even after decades of world art intrusion.

This though is not to purport, in any way, that Cultural music has totally been immune to any sorts of peripheral invasion. It’s simply to observe that it has held on to its classical flavor.

This genre is a heritage of the Ugandans from the ancient times – it has also been called “ethnic” or even more insipidly “Ugandan Country Music” as city folks seldom have a preference for “obsolescence”, as they do the exotic beat they can dance to; to lop off the stress and fatigue when they retire from a hectic day and/or a very long week.

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It is, put more bluntly, African Traditional Music. Unsurprisingly the most enormous genre in the country – paradoxically or even eccentrically, the least publicized as well.

It nevertheless is and will always be the pride of Uganda. It is the signature music – it is Uganda’s identity.

Uganda boasts of a cornucopia of cultures and the same springs from the fact that the country is gifted by a diversity of ethnicities.

According to the 2002’s National Census, Uganda recognized herself as mother to over 50 tribes. Nothing to be proud of in this more than the singular fact that many tribes presage many cultural backgrounds.

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As the country becomes more cosmopolitan however, the fading of these long-established norms, has increasingly threatened the phenomenon of national pride. Uganda was never oblivious of this though:

One major instrument of preserving the inherent values and customs as well as history and ultimately the country’s distinctiveness, has been through acquainting the younger generations and creating space for the traditional music; this, through giving way for cultural presentations on public events such as national celebrations [Independence Day, Heroes’ Day, NRM’s Day to mention but a few!]

This music has also found its way to Church: It’s now a certain guess, for instance, that there’ll be a cultural music presentation during the main mass of June 3, at the Uganda Martyrs’ Day Celebrations in Namugongo. The same is true for many Churches throughout the country.

Moreover for the sakes of these traditional values, schools at respective events throughout the country; Exhibition Days, per se, have at all times also been characterized by Cultural Music Presentations even in present times.

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The exceptionality of this music is that it is strictly inspired more than it’s perfunctory. This has encouraged enthusiasts to cling on to it with gladness in order to shore up its growth and sustainability; some media establishments have also appreciated the cause.

Such as Bukedde TV, since its inception in 2009, offered Annet Nandujja the opportunity to do the station’s theme song.

Her genre is the cultural one; it’s a genre always entwined with relevance; it has been used as a tool for sensitization, activism, education as well as entertainment. And it can only be in local dialect – everybody is bound to pick the message.

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The difference of this music from all the others rests with the uniqueness of the instruments that blend well with the carefully chosen diction. They are strictly African musical instruments which never compromise its pulse.

Some of the African Music Instruments common for making this genre are; Bowl lyre, Bow harp [Adungu], Drums [engoma], Tube fiddle [Endingidi], Xylophone [Amadinda], Thumb Piano [Akogo], Shakers [Ensaasi], Mulere,

This Music of Uganda is never complete if not done with corresponding dances. Africa is the home of happiness and a performance staged minus dance is absolutely not typical. Here performers get costumed in special attires and ornaments; sometimes paint themselves to match up with the type of dance to be performed.

This fictitious look is to invoke a fervor that will artfully portray the message that the exhibitors were inspired to bring to their audience. Some of the cultural dances in Uganda are;

  1. Baganda – Bakisimba [Muwogola]
  2. Bagishu – Kadodi [Imbalu]
  3. Acholi – Rakaraka
  4. Banyoro – Olunyege
  5. Basoga – Nalufuka/ Tamenaibuga

Select Performers of this genre include; Annet Nandujja, Percussion Band, Samadz Production, Betty Muwanguzi, Ndere Troupe.

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Cultural music in Uganda is literally made everywhere in the communities to convey messages of activism and/or jazz up local gatherings but for no takings. Several artistes however have made the strides to put it on records for commercialization of the brand

This venture has encountered one bumpy road especially because of consumer apathy although it is also not unpromising if the stakeholders won’t wince their efforts to promote it vis-à-vis other genres.

Could Baxragga be one of these efforts to get traditional music out of the box on to the mainstream or is it a dilution of essence?!!! Watch out for my next discussion on Baxragga : Uganda’s New Contemporary Music Genius.


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