The Drum

Musical Instrunment

Among the musical instruments of the African people such as Xylophone, harps, fiddles, mbira, and flutes to mention a few---the drum, engoma is of a surpassing importance. Not only does it provide the basic rhythm to most African dances, but it also participates in defining the Africans. In Buganda, the drum announces joy and sorrow, the birth of twins, and mourning the dead; and it is also through the drum that the people get connected to their ancestors through spiritual worship. Most important, the drum symbolizes the kingdom of Buganda as well as the power of kingship. Due to significance of drums and the assigned low status of women in Buganda, women were not allowed to play the drum or even touch it. However, while the drum is at the core of self-identification of a number of Ugandan cultures, this is not to suggest that it is the only musical instrument; the Ugandan people, like many Africans cultures, have a variety of stringed and wind instruments.

Other occasions were the drums featured are ceremonial welcomes given to important visitors, while the most elaborate of all musical events are those formerly associated with the king, his coronation and anniversaries of that occasion. Then not only the royal bands were present in full strength, but instruments linked to all the different clans, as well as the sacred royal drums, were on view and used by their appointed keepers. While these royal ensembles deserve a chapter to themselves, it should be noted that many of the musicians did not reserve their talents exclusively for their Kabaka but were much in demand as instrumentalists and singers at weddings and other feasts of commoners for which they often received payment in cash or in kind. This was a way in which old songs connected with royal traditions were kept fresh in the minds of commoners and the semi-divine status of the king maintained throughout the kingdom, for some of these songs were often performed alongside more popular and topical songs during the same festivities.