The Baganda people believe that playing the eng’oma ez‘ensonga constitutes a way to promote communication within the societies. It further represents an untouchable power, a centre of political, social and spiritual life of the Baganda people.
In earlier times, only men were permitted to play the drum in a community.
There were certain taboos for women in handling the drum.One reason for restricting the women in terms of playing the cylindrical long drum engalabi was that the drum has to be held between the thighs, which was considered indecent. The most important ritual for women to play the drum that was permitted was within the palace, when the Royal orchestra dedicated a masiro to the king’s predecessors. This cult is still in use, especially for burial rites or initiation rites (customs and traditions).
The 4 secrets of the drum
Relations and interactions of the drum
Just like other tribal communities in Uganda, also the Baganda believe in the continuity of life after death. For this reason, everybody is expected to marry, to have a family, to raise children. The emburutu (female drum) and the engalabi (male drum) are co-existent and determine everyday life. The engalabi has to protect the female drum in everyday life, has to take care of it just like a husband protects his wife and children.
Drums accompany man from birth to death
The sound of drums is first heard when a child is born, and the drums accompany every human being in the course of all events in his life until death.Drums are played at the birth, at name-giving, when boys become men and girls grow into women, at courtship dances, at weddings, for seasonal festivities, during work, at harvest festivals, before a hunt, at family meetings or for spiritual reasons and, finally, at death.
The drum as an instrument of power
The Kingdom Buganda was a patriarchally dominated community. Leadership and power within the family were exclusively in the hands of the male sex. Their most important institution led by the kabaka (king). As king, he was father of his people and his instructions and penalties had to be gracefully and thankfully accepted. The association between the drum and the kabaka as leader and king may be expressed in the following words: omwana w’engoma (son of the drum). Indeed, when a new king is inaugurated, the Baganda people like to say: „alidde engoma“ (he who has eaten the drum).
One of the most famous drums, which is able to represent the superiority of the power of the kabaka (kings) among the Buganda people, is the drum mujaguzo. The mujaguzo, hence, forms a set of more than 50 drums, which were arranged at the royal court on the occasion of the prince being born, if the king travels his realm and if he „goes into the forest“, a euphemism for his death, as in the Ganda tradition there is not said that the kabaka (king) has died.
Of all drums, the mujaguzo plays a special role at court and in the entire kingdom, representing power, political supremacy, cultural importance and foundation and establishment of the kabaka realm (kingdom).
The drum and spirituality
Dance and music having drum accompaniment at ritual sites amasabo (shrines). Spirituality constitutes an important feature and characteristic of the Buganda culture, still being practiced today. The Baganda people worship their gods; Kiwanuka for children, Mukasa for fishermen, Ddungu for hunters, Kibuuka for warriors, etc. Africans believe in spirits and ghosts living in different areas, being active and having their importance. The drum is one of the instruments that cover an important aspect in the ancestor worship of the Baganda. A shrine ritual is never celebrated without drum accompaniment and the preacher is not able to perform such ceremenoies without it. The drum presents a medium between the world of the visible and the world of the invisible. During a worship process they are played in order to call the ancestors or also the gods / deities and spirits; all are to come to this ritual site and participate in these praises. It is the drum, which seeks to establish a connection with the spiritual world in the course of such invocations and prayers.
The drum has a rather special position in the social, cultural and political ideology of the Baganda people. Nature and power of the drum represent with the culture of the tribes the developments thereof as well as social changes. The power of the drum constitutes a common feature in urban as well as rural communities.