THE BUGANDA ROYAL DRUMS – Buganda Bummu
The drums will be managed by Nkusu as the chief drummer clan and will be assisted Bummu by Mbogo and Kinyomo clans on this duty.
Buganda Bummu joins a long list of drums established by past Kings of Buganda for various reasons. Below is a detailed list of drums established by past Kings of Buganda with a brief introduction.
Drums played a great part in the life of the Baganda in the past and are still used considerably today. However, some of the important drums are no longer beaten and the majority of the present generation is ignorant of their names and history. Drums although ranking as musical instruments, they are put to a multitude of uses.
In the past, there were literally several hundred different drum beats for the drums and each rhythm was known by the people who conveyed its definite meaning to them. For example, One rhythm could mean that a certain chief was passing by, another could mean that a certain dance was taking place, another would mean a call to war or a fire alarm and so forth. In the case of an urgent call or claim, it was the duty of the first person who heard it to repeat the message and thus in a few minutes a claim or call was carried hundred miles away.
Children of the Kabaka born while he is actually in possession of power or on the throne are known as Abaaba b`Engoma literally meaning the children of the drum as they are considered in the direct line of succession. It is therefore evident that the word Ngoma or drum indicates power or authority and is comparable to the English word scepter. This born out by the Kiganda proverb abantu magoma gavugira aliwo (the drum beats for the office, not for the person who holds it)
Kiganda drums are of two types and named according to their size, use and the most important ones are also given names- a kind of personification. The other group is known as Ngalabi made of varying sizes which are long and slender.
In the past, the ceremonial of the court was intricate with the use of a large number of drums belonging to the Kabaka. Each group of drums was named and men were specifically appointed to take up residence at the Lubiri for the purpose of beating the drums.
At the moment, there are far fewer drums in use because most of them were lost during Muteesa I`s reign due to the many civil wars, battles and fires and were never replaced. It is also true that, modern life is more exacting than the past in its demands upon the pockets of all classes of the nation and so the Kabaka is unable to maintain an army of drums-beaters and the drummers themselves prefer more profitable occupations. Hence, a large number of drums have fallen into disuse either from reasons of economy or from a lack of drummers with knowledge of special beats attached to their use and in most cases even the whereabouts of such drums are unknown.
The drums set part for the sole use of the Kabaka contained fetches, some of which have been examined and proven to be phallic origin. It was thought that when beaten and heard by the Kabaka, his vigor was increased. Such drums were considered sacrosanct and were used at specified times of the day or night for the benefit of the Kabaka.
No woman was allowed to touch a drum when she was menstruating, lest it would kill her and at the same time she would defile the drum.
Among the royal drums, the most important are known as Mujaguzo. It is believed to have been established during the reign of Kabaka Mutebi I. It started with a single drum of the Ngalabi that is believed to have been handed down from the time of Ssekabaka Kimera.
This drum is called Timba and is highly venerated. It name was chosen from the design of a serpent which stands out in relief round the body of the drum. It is kept by Sekalala as its hereditary keeper.
It is this drum that the Kabaka beats on enthronement as King of Buganda.
SSekabaka Mutebi I made another drum called Kawulugumo and other small ones which together with Timba form Mujaguzo. The number was increased by each successive Kabaka up to Muteesa I`s reign. Mujaguzo is at the moment made of about fifty drums with the main section consisting of the following;
1 Timba- one Ngalabi
2 Kawulugumo- one large drum
3 Namanonyi- One large drum
4 Nkonyi- Four medium sized drums
5 Njawuzi- Five medium sized drums
6 Njuyi- Twenty five small to medium sized drums.
It is beautifully decorated with cowry shells and is beaten by Lukungo Kawula of Lugave clan and members of this clan beat the other drums associated with Kawulugumo. Kawula is the chief drummer of the royal drums.
It ranks next to Kawulugumo and is also decorated with cowry shells. The accompanying drums are called Ndubi (comprising of drums from Njawuzi and Nkonyi both mentioned above). They are beaten by members of the Butiko clan while Namanonyi is beaten by Kimomera, the assistant chief drummer.
There were several occasions on which Mujaguzo was sounded apart from the coronation day. It was sounded when the Kabaka went to confer with the spirit Mukasa god of the lake.
It was also taken and beaten at the place where the Kabaka intended to visit. Mujaguzo was also sounded on special days when Kabaka`s relatives who lived in Busiro would pay homage in the palace.
Whenever Mujaguzo was sounded, the Baganda would realize that something of importance was happening.
The noise of the whole sequence at close quarters is deafening but at a distance the qualities of each drum may be distinguished and to the native ear at any rate, it conveys music of delicate charm.
Drums that make up Mujaguzo are made from Muvule (Chlorophora Excelsa) but other drums are made from any suitable kind of timber according to the size of the drum required especially light wood which is not readily attacked by insects is preferred.
There were many other drums and groups of drums, some of which are still in use.
Drums announce the death of the king and also the end of the period of mourning. In the evening, the Mugema sent the royal drums (Nanzigo) to the Kabaka and they were beaten to let the people know that the mourning had ended.
Drums also warned people to cease mourning such that no sign of it would be found anywhere under the penalty of death.
Two small drums called Kangujunguju joined together make Kanaba. It was the only drum sounded whenever death of a prince or son of a prince occurred.
There was also another drum Busemba which was sounded to announce sandiness. It is the drum for death.
After a king had been enthroned, his suit collected and carried out all the drums which surrounded them but only Busemba was left there inadvertently. The unfortunate person who first drew attention to this apparent oversight, was immediately seized and put to death, and his arm-bones prepared as drum sticks for this drum. That is where the Kiganda proverbs is Ajukiza Busemba ya`gikuba (He who draws attention to Busemba shall after wards serve to beat it) was developed. This custom is said to have its origin in the following story.
Ssekabaka Tembo killed Kimera in the forest and the ghost haunted him and wished to be avenged on him. To appease the ghost, Tembo made a drum and directed that the drum sticks used for beating it should be the bones of human being. The bones were provided and the ghost of Kimera was quieted. It is quite possible that this drum was used at executions and preceded the throngs of unfortunate condemned ones as they were hurried to their agony.
However, during Ssekabaka Mwanga`s reign, he refused to follow the custom of slaying an innocent to procure the famous drum sticks hence the saying Busemba yazikira ku Mwanga (Busemba was ceased with Mwanga). Busemba is in the hereditary charge of Nadunga of the Lugave clan but the whereabouts of the drum, if it still exists is not known.
Another collection of drums is known as Endoda which was established by Ssekabaka Muteesa I who wanted additional drums in Mujaguzo with a high pitch like Ndubirizi and consists of four drums, one large, two smaller, and one ngalabi. The drum is managed and drummed by Kigonya of the Nsenene clan. It was used at Sessions of the Lukiiko especially after the Kabaka declares an heir to one of his officials. It is accompanies by joyful applause of the audience before the Kabaka.
Entamivu or Nkagwe it is another well known drum which was captured originally by Kabaka Kyabagu from inhabitants of Kyaggwe. The Kabaka himself used to beat it when he appointed a chief of a war-like expedition. This drum never leaves the palace. It was normally used concurrently with Enjongo, a slender drum and two others called Bwayita, to accompany the Amadinda (native xylophone).
Enyenya is a royal drum reputed to be of greater antiquity than Mujaguzo but it was phased out on the establishment of Mujaguzo. Its beat went as follows Ã¢â‚¬ËœKungulu ntono munda butekula`.
There was another interesting collection of drums known as Kawugulu which consisted of two drums joined together and two other smaller drums called Nsuku zafe or Kangujunguju.
It was established during the reign of Ssekabaka Mulondo who became King while still a child. His uncles of Butiko clan wished to amuse him and so they made these drums which were all beaten together as the members of the clan danced round and round wearing bells on their legs and girdles of plantain leaves or long haired skins. Members of this clan thereby became hereditary court entertainers and the dancers are called Banagunju from Gunju the head of the clan.
There is the Entenga drum which consists of twelve small drums each tuned to a particular note in the scale. They are placed in a line together with three other drums one large, one smaller and the third is called Enjongo. The small drums are first beaten to announce the tune and then the other three join in with an accompaniment resulting into great entertainment. They are considered to be very important drums and are kept in the Lubiri. Many different songs can be played on them to entertain the Kabaka. It is stated that Kabaka Kyabagu took Entenga from Kajujugwe of Bukerere and its drummer was Nagamala, son of Kyasimbi of the Lugave clan.
Buganda Mirembe is another important drum beaten by Batambulira of the Ffumbe clan. It was established during Ssekabaka Kagulu`s reign the son of Ssekabaka Ndawula. When his people abandoned him due to his cruelty, he made this drum and gave it the name Buganda Mirembe which means peace to indicate that he had mended his ways and would no longer persecute his subjects.
Katengejo which is beaten by Kamya and Kajoba. It is thought to have been established by sekabak Jjunju. It was captured from Jjunju by his brother Semakokiro in the battle at Bajjo which accounts for its beat, Olukomera olw`e Bajjo Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe fence at Bajo.
Kirimalabasaja nyago (Many must die from spears) this drum was established by Ssekabaka Ssuuna who wanted it beaten in the army when the soldiers were going to the battle field and when the Abakondere (trumpeters) played the song, Gulemye-mpangala Abamanya mwesindike.
Nakawanguza (the Conqueror) when the Kabaka was successful in his attacks on the surrounding tribes, he ordered that this drum be made. It is beaten by Kiribata of the Ntalaganya clan.
Tadde when the Kabaka went visiting or hunting and intended to stay away for the night, the Katikkiro went in advance with many people. When the party returned, the Kabaka received many congratulations, because the visit or the hunting was considered to be a kind of an expedition and the people said Ebemba tekyala etabala butabazi (Ebemba does not visit, he fights). The beating of this drum was part of the ceremonies and the drummer is Kamya of the Ndiga clan.
Kalalankoma it is believed that the Kabaka is like wasp (Kalalankoma) whereby when you go near him, you must be wary or he will find you guilty of some offence and you be stung. The drum is beaten by Kyasi of Lugave clan.
Njagala-kwetika all the Kabaka`s servants had to carry things on their heads from among who the Kabaka chose his chiefs. The drum is beaten by Kyemwa.
Bwesige when the Kabaka saw that he was like a lake from which his subjects got all good things, he made this drum. Bwesige buli e nyanja (Trustworthiness is in the lake), the drummer is Beyuna.
Kulebera seeing that it was the Kabaka alone who promoted people he made this drum to announce that fact. It is beaten by Kyanjo and its full name is Lulebera-si-kugwa.
Va-mu-lugundo (Give way) when the wives of the Kabaka were walking, no one was allowed to be on the road in front of them. So the drummer went ahead warning people to clear the way for the King`s wives. The drummer is Gunagwera.
Kyejo when the Kabaka executed mischief-makers, this drum was beaten as a warning to others. Kyejo-kita (mischief Kills). It is managed by Ndiga clan.
Basengeja this is rather an amusing allusion. When the Kabaka saw that beer makers were treated with too much respect by the crowds at the time of filtering, he came up with this drum to divert that attention to himself. The drummer is Omutemi-wente.
Bantadde the Kabaka chose the majority of his chiefs from attendants in the Lubiri and established this drum to proclaim that he who was but a servant is now at liberty as a chief. The drummer is Batawuka.
Nyanja its meaning is the same as that of Bwesige, already described.
Bwe-mbata this drum used to beat to proclaim the fact that the Kabaka sometimes killed and sometimes acquitted people accused of wrong doing. It sounds Bwe-mbata-bwe-mbabulirira. It is beaten by Lukade.
Gwe Ngo gwe Musota the Kabaka saw that he was like a leopard and a snake which made him untouchable and he proclaimed this by beating on this drum. Gwe Ngo gwe Musota, Ekirimala abasajja yago. (You are a leopard and a snake. That which ends all men is the spear).
Kikolw`omuganzi this drum was established by the Kabaka to honor certain favorites of his people who were not chiefs.
Mulyabyaki it is the drum which was given by the Kabaka to the chief of an expedition. It sounded Gwa gwa gwa and used on important occasions. Another similar drum carried on expeditions but now abolished, was called Najemba.
Wango tabuka the Kabaka is like a leopard and when you passby him, you say you have been in danger of being killed. In appreciation of this popular conception, this drum was established. It is beaten by Wasonko of Ngonge Clan.
Kuku kanga Balimi this drum was made by Ssekabaka Ssuuna which was beaten to warn women who did not cultivate their plantain gardens that they risk their hands to be cut off. The drum was beaten especially early in the morning to warn the women to get to work lest they lose their hands.
Kya-gwe-kireta whenever the Kabaka stayed at a place, people gathered from all directions and that is why this drum was established Kya-gwe-kireta Singo kireyta (Kya gwe comes, Singo, all come) it is now obsolete and wa beaten by Lugayavu.
Sindika tagenda is another drum now obsolete which was use to proclaim that the Kabaka is like a rock and no one could push him against his will. Its drummer was Magwa.
Makumbi is also another obsolete drum similar to Kuku kanga Balimi warning people to cultivate their banana gardens or risk having their hands cut off.
Batankulu had an interesting past but is nolonger in use. It was a war drum belonging officially to Kibuuka Omumbaale, who is said to have taken it from Ssekaala of Bugoma in Ssese. Kibuuka used it in the wars of Ssekabaka Nakibinge the son of Layima, against the Banyoro. When the Baganda heard the drum, they would rush furiously upon the enemy. It sounded tuliluloja and was beaten by Majuluba. After the wars, it remained at Mbale in Mawokota in the temple of the Lubale (Spirit). Later the Kabaka established a corresponding drum to be beaten early morning to awaken his attendants and at that time no one was allowed to speak in the Lubiri before the drum had sounded.
Bawemukira this is also an obsolete drum which was established to proclaim the acquittal of a person who had been slandered. The drummer was Mbuga.
Mbade mulowooza was the drum which was established during the period when there was peace and harmony in the land. It was established in appreciation for the good things do by people and their respect for him. It was beaten by Kyenyi.
Netunze another obsolete drum which was beaten by Mugambwa of the Ffumbe clan. It was established by the Kabaka in honor of the loyal manner in which his servants risked their lives to serve him.
Gali nya drum was established by Ssekabaka Ssemakokiro to record that his mother was of the Ffumbe clan. Its beat was Amafumbe galinya e Bakka. It is no longer in use.
Yewa-awala this drum was established and beaten whenever people who had been sent out to carry out human sacrifice but didn`t to it were caught.
Mavumisizi is the drum which conquered Buddu to be annexed to Buganda. It belonged to Luziga of the Ndiga clan who was sent out by Ssekabaka Junju son of Kyabagu to conquered Buddu and Kiziba.