Cultural Dances

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cultural_dance-uganda-gorilla-jehovahtours-co-ug-uganda-safaris-source-of-river-nile-bwindi-gorilla-trekking_tracking-murchision-falls-kidepo-national-park-cultural-tours-tree-climbing-lions-rwenzori-mountainAfrican music always has an element of poetry, ritual or dance, and it constitutes one of the most revealing forms of expression of the African life and soul. Dances in most African cultures were most of the time performed alongside religion, ancestral worship and spiritualism. All rituals are organised, with dances being performed by communities in order to worship or appease the gods, in order to get favours during harvests or in case there were no rains.


Baganda people

Baakisiimba, Nankasa, Muwogola is a traditional folk dance that originates from the palace of the King of Buganda, which is near by the Lake Victoria, in which there is the home of Nalubaale, the wife of Lubaale, one of the gods of the Baganda people.

It is said that a former Bugandan king (kabaka) greatly enjoyed the local beer, tonto omwenge. Tonto is made from banana plants, and the name is taken from the Luganda word tontomera, literally meaning, “Do not knock me”. During a gathering, the king is said to have drank too much of the beer and became quite happy. (In Buganda, it is taboo to say that the king is drunk; you can only say that the king is very happy.) The king then started praising the people who had made the beer, saying abaakisiimba, which means “those who planted the bananas”, and bebaakiwoomya, “they made it delicious”.
It was from here that the musicians who were entertaining the king and his guests created an abaakisiimba rhythm that imitated the words of the king.  While the musicians mimicked the king’s words on their drums, the women imitated the king’s movements, which eventually became a dance that is now performed throughout Buganda by all generations

Amaggunju is a folk dance of the Baganda that was also developed in the palace of the king. History bhas it that King Mulondo died without leaving any heirs. Fortunately, he left behind many wives who were expecting It was up to the medicine men and traditional witch doctors to urgently consult the gods and know which woman was expecting a boy since It was taboo for the kingdom to be ruled by a woman. One of the wives, Namulondo, who was expecting a boy, sat on the throne, and the people understood that it was not she who was ruling, but her unborn son. When this prince was born, he ruled as he lay on the throne. Kings in Buganda, however, are not supposed to cry, as this would bring curses and bad luck to the kingdom.
Therefore the uncles and aunts of the young prince created the amaggunju dance to keep the baby smiling. The men put “uncle bells” on their legs, and the sound that the bells made as the men danced kept the prince happy. Originally, this dance was only to be performed by people of the Obutiko or Mushroom clan, and only in the palace.

The Bakiga people originate from the south-western part of Uganda in a place popularly reffered to as the “Switzerland of Africa”.  Ekizino is a court dance from the Bakiga people of the Kigezi region in southern Uganda. The weather in this region is mainly cold. During colder seasons, Ekizino is the warm-up dance. Kigezi is a hilly region, the men who go out for farming early in the morning, must jump around for a while to get warm and also stretch their muscles after the hard work. Traditionally, the people also used to stamp the ground until they found signs of water. Therefore this dance represents their jumping and stamping.

Banyankore people

The Ekitaguriro, this dance comes from the Ankole region or kingdom. It is an old dance for both men and women. It is occasionally performed to demonstrate the love of the Ankole people for their cattle. This cattle in this region are well known for their long horns, hence making the dance aerial. The singing in this dance is similar to the sounds of the cow. You can even hear the sounds of the milk flowing from the udder of the cow in this dance. The flute that is played during the dance is the same that is used to herd cattle. The stamping movements of the men in this dance are similar to the walking movements of a cow, and the hands of the women just demonstrate the long beautiful horns of the cow. That is the reason why they perform this dance with the hands in the air.

Basoga people

Tamenaibuga, Irongo, Nalufuka is performed by the Basoga people who originate froma dance from eastern Uganda. This dance is a sign of friendship and unity. Historically, there were two men who were such good friends that they shared everything in their life. One day, they went out to drink beer, which is traditionally served in a gourd. When they had had too much to drink, they began to argue, and this developed into a fight. The gourd that contained beer was broken in the fight, which ended their friendship. The men’s community recognized that a quarrel between these men would break up their friendship and affect the unity of the community, so they developed a dance to unite the people.

Bagisu people

Mwaga is a ceremonial initiation dance of the Bagisu people, who live in eastern Uganda on the border to Kenya. They believe that for a young boy to become a man, he must be circumcized in a ceremony that is reflected in the dance.
Before this initiation, the young boy must dance for 21 days, and only then will he possess the spiritual powers with no fear and become a man. If a man, even an elderly one, does not go through this ceremony, he will never be referred to as a man, and he will never earn the respect of the community. He will actually be cursed until the spirits force him to perform this ceremony

The Bamasaaba (Bagisu) are famous for their traditional male circumcision ceremonies, held every year. This ceremony is an important cultural link between the local people around Mt. Elgon. Today during the three-day-ceremony of dancing, visiting friends and family, feasting and receiving gifts, preceded by a couple of months of preparations, e.g. bamboo strips being handed down to the candidate by the eldest uncle on the father’s side in order to symbolize the responsibility and strength needed to face the challenge of manhood, the candidate is decorated with skins and waves two black and white colobus monkey tails in the air as he is accompanied in his running across villages. A combination of sounds, including the ringing of bells attached to the candidates, fiddles, flutes, and group songs, makes this event memorable to anyone watching. Intricate rhythms are played on different traditional drums of differing pitching, and this creates and often stimulates the dancing of everyone present. The person undergoing circumcision is accompanied in the running across the villages, and at the end of it he must be strong and he is not expected to make noise (scream) during circumcision, as otherwise the family will be very embarrassed. It is of great importance for the candidate to “quietly” stand strong during the circumcision to show that he is capable and ready to become a man.

Iteso people

Akembe is a courtship dance from the Teso region in northeastern Uganda. This dance shares characteristics with the Larakaraka ceromonial dance from the Acholi, and it is similar to the Runyege courtship dance of the Batooro. The music for this dance, however, is played more softly on melodic instruments such as the thumb piano (akogo / sansa) and the flute.

Acholi people

Bwola is a court dance (in the king’s palace) from the Acholi people, who originate from the northern part of Uganda. This is a circular dance that is performed by the older men and women. The circle is a representation of a fence that surrounds the palace court. Many events and conversations take place during this dance, which explains the length of the dance.

Larakaraka is also a ceremonial dance from the Acholi, who have borders with the Sudan. This dance is mainly performed during weddings. It is on record that when the young people in a particular village were ready for marriage, they would organize a big ceremony where all potential partners would meet. As a sign of friendship, food and alcoholic drinks were served during this ceremony.Young men would dance to impress the females present at the ceremony.  Only the best dancers would get partners, so there would be a lot of competition during the dancing. In Acholi, if you are a poor dancer, you are likely to die as a bachelor

Batooro people

 Runyege, Entongoro is similar to the Larakaraka dance of the Acholi people.

This is a ceremonial dance from the Bunyoro and Batooro Kingdoms. The dance was named after the rattles (binyege / ebinyege / entongoro) that are normally tied on boys’ legs to produce sounds and rhythms It is also a courtship dance performed by the youth when it is time for them to choose partners for marriage. History has it that there was a problem in the Kingdoms when more than 10 men wanted to marry the same beautiful and good-looking girl. A very big ceremony was organized and all the male candidates had to come and dance. The girl had to choose the best male dancer. In this culture it is believed that the best dancers also show the best marriage life. Families in Africa never wanted to give their beautiful girls to weak men, for when there is a period of drought or famine, one should have a husband who will really struggle to see that he looks for water and food. So in this dance the man who got  tired first, loses first and that who danced till the end won the game. The sound produced by rattles is more exciting as it is well syncopated as the main beat is displaced but everything blends with the song and drum rhythme

Alur people

Adungu Dance – Otwenge literally means “elbow”. It is a song of the Alur people in the northwestern West Nile region, and in this song the adungu (bowharp) is commonly used. The Bowharp dance is for the talented young boys and girls of their community. The song is played on the adungu, and it emphasizes the importance of the elbow. The dancer’s body uses the motifs and movements of the elbow.

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