Zuula: The Culture of the Baganda

The Culture of the Baganda

Buganda  and its clan system is central to its culture. A clan represents a group of people who can trace their lineage to a common ancestor in some distant past. In the customs of Buganda, lineage is passed down along patrilineal lines. The clan essentially forms a large extended family and all members of a given clan regard each other as brothers and sisters regardless of how far removed from one another in terms of actual blood ties. The Baganda took great care to trace their ancestry through this clan structure. A formal introduction of a muganda includes his own names, the names of his father and paternal grandfather, as well as a description of the family’s lineage within the clan that it belongs to. The clan has a hierarchical structure with the clan leader at the top (owakasolya), followed by successive subdivisions called the ssiga, mutuba, lunyiriri and finally at the bottom the individual family unit (enju). Every Muganda was required to know where he falls within each of these subdivisions and anyone who could not relate his ancestry fully was suspect of not being a true Muganda.

After the coronation of KabakaMutebi II in 1993, a survey of the clans was carried out to establish definitively the number of clans, corresponding clan heads, and all other positions of authority within each clan. The following list shows 46 clans which are officially recognised by His Majesty’s government as constituting the clans of Buganda, as of August 1996. Oral history has always maintained that there are 52 clans in Buganda. This anomaly may be because some clans have not been able to establish their claims legitimately, or possibly that some clans may have died out, with no heirs to carry on the clan heritage.

It is a curious fact that the clans are not known by the names of the respective clan founders. Instead, totems were adopted by the clans, and the names of those totems came to be synonymous with the clans themselves. Each clan has a main totem (omuziro) and a secondary totem (akabbiro). The clans are usually known by the main totem and they are listed above by that totem. The royal clan (Abalangira) is a unique exception in that it has no totems whatsoever. For a proper understanding of the culture however, it is important to distinguish between the totem and the clan. The clan is a matter of genealogy and it is through the clan that the baganda trace their ancestry. A totem on the other hand, is just a symbol to represent the clan. Although the two are intimately associated with one another, they are in fact different. In the west, a totem would be similar to a court of arms.


Kabaka’s Lake 
As the biggest man-made lake in Uganda dug during the reign of SsekabakaMwanga II in 1885, the Kabaka’s lake attracts a number of tourists anxious to even see the beautiful birds at its shores.

The Royal Heritage sites

The Royal Heritage trail comprises of Bulange (Parliament), Twekobe (Palace), Kabakas, Lakes, Namasole (King’s Maama) and Kasubi Tombs (cemetery for the kingdom) which are the most important in the kingdom of Buganda.

The magnificent features of the Kasubi tombs represent the rich traditions and heritage of the Baganda people.


The Uganda Martyrs’ Trail     


Today, every spot where the martyrs were killed has a shrine or church or chapel where the faithful gather to venerate the martyrs. Significant shrines are found in Namugongo area which has the catholic, protestant and Moslem memorial centers.

Others can be found in Mityana, munyonyoBusega and as far as kyenjojo in western Uganda. Here, we present some of the sites found in Buganda and around Kampala where most of the Martyrs died.

Baganda people (tribe) of Buganda region, a dominant Bantu speaking ethnic group concetrated in central Uganda.Thebaganda are made up of different clans with distinct totems that classify Baganda into different groups but with the same social cultures.
Baganda’sbakisimbadancesTravellers that have had a safari or a tour to Uganda have been mesmerized by music of the people of Buganda region. The Bagandabost of a veriety of dances originating from individual clans based on different themes such as; economic and social activities, politics, education, love and their history depending on the audience for whom the performance is made.

The baganda, like other tribes use music to praise and worship God or gods as well as people of authority, to celebrate their life cycle-rituals and rites, celebrate labor or work achievements such as a good harvest,to educate the population,to earn a leaving( as employment) ,as a form of recreation,as well as a cultural means of disseminating cultural values from generation to generation.

Baganda’smuwogladanceBaganda have three predominant dances; Bakisimba, Muwogola and Nankasa all inspired by their daily life.Allkiganda dances involve a flawless ‘circular’ movement of the waist and a tip toeing movement of the feet plus hands spread out from the shoulder joint but bent forward or up words at the elbow joint depending on the type of dance. The dance moves or patterns are dictated by the lyrics or song meaning but mostly by the tempo of the song.

If one took a Uganda safari,they would definitely love the traditional Baganda dance’s costumes that are universally used for all their dances.The female dancers put on tops that cove their shoulders,cover the midriff with a white or cream silk material that accentuates the body undulations, a wide floor-length kikoyi that allows free leg movements to all directions,a raffia skirt around the back plus a sash around the waist line that gives a clear finish to the raffia skirt.At the backside, a dance animal skin is added on top of the raffia skirt and sash and ankle bells are worn too.Modern dancers today add decorative bracelets and head bands to this costume.
Male dancers wear the kikoyi too that covers only to the mid calf to allow their rather vigorous dance moves and the public acceptability to have much of their bodies bare.

The Baganda have a variety of dance instruments but majorly drums of different sizes; the Empunyi (rhythm drums for the central beat), Namunjoloba (a small drum beaten by two small sticks to produce the rhytmic sound that controls all dance motifs or flows), the Embuutu (a large drum for the various dance rhytms), Engalabi (a long cylindrical drum that adds colour and texture to accompaniment), Amadinda (a xylophone to give the music melodies), Endigidi (a tube fiddle for melody),
Entongoli (bow lyre for melody), Engombe (a cow horn that adds excitement at the climax), Endere (flute), Ensaasi (shakers made out of a guoards) plus singers- soloist and choristers.The xylophone determine the tempo or pace of the music or song and the drums follow suit.

The baganda have ‘Amagunju ‘a royal dance whose origin and essence has attachment to;

Baganda’sAmagunju dance


  1. A ritual dance formulated to entertain the newly enthroned King (Kabaka) and prevent him from crying as he presided over the Lukiiko (parliament)
  2. The dance having been created by the uncle to the king -Gunju from the Obutiko (Mushroom) clan hence the name of the dance.
    iii. The dance having been danced by only by the people of the Mushroom clan.
    iv. The fact that Uncle Gunju designed a royal seat that placed the kabaka above every body else –Namulondo which has been in existence for over 200 years up to date. It is a symbol of authority of the Kabaka (King) as he is the only to sit in it.

Dancers use the same instruments and costumes, as male dancers take energetic high side by side kicks staggering as if they are drunk, all to entertain the king.Songs to this dance all relate to the Mushroom clan.The male dancers dominate the Amagunju dance as they make their side by side- kicks said to have also been used t pave way for the Kabaka as he moved to the parliament.The female dancers are how ever graceful and gentle making sedate and low body movements,the lower body movements are same as those of the Bakisimba dance but they change their dance motifs according the songs of the dance.

In the ‘nalintema’ song for example, dancers imitate swinging a sickle to clear the garden for planting well as in another song, they bend over double to pick mushrooms.Now days, this dance takes place at the royal courts, danced by all people unlike before when it was danced by only those of the Mushroom clan at different celebrations.This dance is still danced for the Kabaka when he leaves his palace and a Uganda tour to the Kabaka’s (King’s) palace wil provide a great opportunity for one to see these performances live.http://www.buganda.or.ug



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