Dance is very significant to all African people. There is no African
ethnic society without dance. There is a very strong significance
behind each of the dances performed by African people in an African
context and most of these are spiritual reasons. On top of that
African people always used music and dance in all lifestyles and
even today some communities still have it. There were/are dances
for happy memories, sad memories, celebrations, welcome etc. It's
always better to watch these dances performed live on stage or in
their true traditional context for a better understanding.
"The folk songs in Africa, most especially in Uganda, were
composed as a result of several activities that happened in the
palaces. In this sense I will speak more about the palace of Buganda
where I originate", says Ndagire. Since there was no writing
in the traditional oral Education, which was the style of Education
used at that time, the songs were/are meant to keep history because
everyone could learn and sing them. They kept record, which was
passed on to all generations. The African people have education
where everyone was participating but like today where we have to
read everything, sit in the class and imitate a teacher. If my father
went to hunt for the lions that ate his chicken, I, as his son,
had to go with him to learn how to be courageous and brave to kill
lions with my hands and my sister would stay home and learn from
my mother how to cook. In the course of hunting for this lion, we
would sing, songs (folk songs) that would give us extra spiritual
energy to kill the lion and of course we killed all the lions. Well,
some of these activities can be hunting, fishing, worshiping in
a traditional form, farming etc. During these activities, it is
believed that there are special spiritual powers that help one to
be successful but one cannot obtain these powers unless he sings
these songs from soul and heart continuously. That is why in Africa
you will find everybody knowing some of the major folk songs, but
unfortunately they will not even know what the songs mean, pity!
It is also believed that the ordinary people did not compose most
of these Traditional folk songs, they were composed great ancestors
and wise men who would directly speak to the spirits in a special
way of course.
Original compositions are almost similar to the folk songs. The
major difference is that these have been composed just recently,
after 1900. They also have been composed as a result of many issues
happening in the traditional community in the recent days. Some
of these original compositions are written which was not the case
with the traditional folk songs. With the Original compositions,
the composers are known but it is said, as there is no known folk
song composer in the Buganda. Today, the Buganda Kingdom in Uganda
has got a king, many people want to speak to this King but it's
not really that easy so what happens is that if they want to reach
a message to him, they go to the musicians and tell them all that
they need to say to the king, the musicians compose a song with
that message when time to play music is on the musicians are just
invited to entertain this king. The musicians play but what is really
behind is to deliver the message from the people to the king. The
king always has to be entertained so though music is one main way
all people can speak to him. The kind of course will know what people
want, what they think and how are.
Legends are Stories have always been very significant to the Tradition
and the culture of African people. In Africa the young generations
have to be taught the past about their Kingdom, learn about their
grand ancestors, cultural taboos, history etc. All this is done
in form of Legends and Stories. The other purpose of the Legends
and stories in Africa is that they teach the young generations how
to grow up in a good and respectful form. There are so many Legends
and Stories form Africa that have been told to generation after
generation, stories that have no copyrights but belong to all black
people and whoever is interested in listening.
About the issue of respect, in Africa the young ones are meant to
listen and obey their elders. For example my mother sends me to
fetch her some water from the river, I have to go. Children always
help their parents in such work starting from the age of 5. Before
they are 5 their parents always tell them stories about work, this
is how the African was Educated in the past days. There was a story
that my mother told me when I was still young. She told me of a
family of 4 children, including twins that were sent to fetch some
water and when they got to the river, they turned to playing their
own games instead, when it got very late, they remembered they had
to return home but the path from the river was not very safe for
them that late, as young children. The story says that along this
path from the well, there was a ghost that really loved to eat young
children and drink all their blood but this would happen when it
got really late. So in this story, this ghost ate up one of the
twins and all her sisters had to return home crying. All the rest
had broken all their post and lost all the water, they never found
their sister again and they composed a song titled "oli'wa
muganda wange" this line is in Luganda and it simply means
"where are you my sister" and this song marks the end
of the story, the rest of the children are longing for their sister
until today. This story and many more have been told to young children
in Uganda and Africa, and when they always send children to fetch
water or to do any kind of work, they never waste time playing;
the do what they should do and growing in this situation means they
will be respectful and obey their elders because they will have
fear that once they disobey, they might be eaten as well.
In the sense of history, so many important issues happened in the
societies in Africa many years ago before the recent generations
existed. It is important that these new generations get to learn
about this, to know the strength of their Kingdom, Culture, Clan,
names given to them, etc. All these happenings are put in form of
Legends. In Africa we refer to a Legend as a "true story".
Most of these legends are told about the ancestors, former kings,
great and famous worriers, wise men, miracles that were performed
and they contain a lot of superstition. New generations are coming
up but it is unfortunate that the young generation is not leaning
any history about their own life. They are leaning the poor quality
history in the modern schools which I my self refer to as "his-story"
The Legends and stories from the Africa have also been used for
commercial purposes today, especially by the young generations.
Some people do not really mind about the true traditional meaning.
They have been made so dramatic and comical, which on the other
had makes them more entertaining and worth pleasant to listen to.
Sometimes the modern style of doing things is better than the traditional
one because with this, there is more entertainment so you will have
more people to listen to you. Since Africa has lost tradition, many
Africans have totally lost interest in the traditional activities.
Today we can get traditional stories, practice them, exaggerate
them, act a play out of them, and make comedy both for Education
and simply for entertainment.
Finally I say, traditionally the stories and Legends were a main
source of Education in the African Life style, education that involved
participation, education which was oral and it was the way the young
ones used to know almost everything about their culture, people
Like the stories and legends, poetry plays a very big role in the
African lifestyle. Poetry in Africa is practiced in very many ways
and it's really fun. It involves a lot of thinking and concentration.
It is done from the young generation to the older generations. When
the African child is growing, it goes through a lot of playing with
friends of the same age and this is where poetry starts. While playing,
they always practice child poetry that involves traditional rimes,
poems, games, lullabies, etc. This is what prevents the hungry ones
from crying and not even to realize their hunger. When one of them
feels sleepy, you see how the friends are singing lullabies for
him/her to go to bed and eventually, it goes to bed. You can see
that the children in Africa practice childcare while still young.
The youth practice a different kind of poetry, it also contains
rimes, poems, games and lullabies but of a higher standard. In poetry,
the older you become, the more poetry you learn. At this youth stage,
there is even competition that makes everything really interesting.
Everyone wants to be the best in everything, i.e. riming. It's also
at this stage that you see the youth teaching the young ones. They
practice poetry in every kind of work, in cooking, while farming,
while playing, while waking there is a rime, there is a poem. While
one wants to go to bed, there is a lullaby sung by the other friend.
At this stage there is a lot of writing an orally practicing the
The elder ones practice totally a different kind of poetry. This
is very complicated poetry and one can learn it through long practice.
I will even say that it's another language of its kind because even
some elders here cannot understand it. In this stage of poetry traditional
language is highly tacked and treated in a way that even other people
who speak the language cannot understand their own brothers and
sisters. In this stage, you find that there is a traditional formula
for creating this poetry but each society hoses a different formula
or make up a new formula. For example they will get a sentence in
"Luganda", a language from Buganda kingdom in Uganda,
and tilt every world. They can decide to say every world starting
from the last letter to the first one (just the opposite) and when
you listen to the whole sentence, it will not make no sense to you
at all but will be fun to them. You will hardly understand a word
but you will wonder how they say everything so fast. It's very amusing
and encouraging that there are some few young children who are so
good in this yet this poetry has really died out now days, I was
happy to live with my grandfather who taught me this language when
I was 10 years, today I have a few friends I speak with in Kampala
and I really enjoy it. I.e. in "Luganda language" the
word "tugende" means "let's go" and in this
particular kind of poetry one will say "dengetu" (starting
with the last pronunciation to the first one) but the meaning will
stay the same.
-The other kind of the same "poetry in language" is that
some elders say half of each word in a sentence then you have to
tell what he she means, i.e. "Tugende" they can make it
"tugen" and ignore the last pronunciation.
-There is still another kind of "poetry in language",
where one can chose to fix "st" between every word. I.e.
the word "tugende" will become "tugestende".
Generally this is how poetry is used in Luganda Language. Some times,
this kind of poetry in Language can be used to keep secrets among
friends. You can chose any from these kinds and people who will
be seated next to you will not understand what you are trying to
say. Actually many elders in Uganda use it often for private talks
though they will speak loud enough. People speak about others not
secretly but in a poetry form. This is way some societies live in,
in Africa.They live in a very strong cultural form. Remember that
any society without a culture is a lost society and it's worth not
existing, this depends on how you refer to "Culture".