A-ba-ki-sim-ba (pa-ta-pa-ta), Be-ba-ki-wo-mya (pa-ta pa-ta.)
This is pronounced /bay bah kee seem bah/ /pah tah pah tah/ /bay bah chee whoa mee’ya/ /pah tah pah tah/. We have started our music and dance lessons and this is the first piece we are learning. It is called the Baakisimba, pronounced /BAHksimba/. This is from the Buganda tribe, the largest tribe in Uganda. Music and dance are interwoven in the culture here and each song has a story behind it and role to play in the society. Music is used to teach children social customs and norms and reinforce them throughout society.
Several hundred years ago in the Buganda Kingdom, there was a farmer who made a sweet fermented drink from bananas. He liked it so much that he decided to bring it to the King for him to try. The King tried it and liked it very much. However, because it was a fermented drink, after a while he started to become drunk. He started stumbling as he walked around, and he was slurring his words and stuttering a bit as he praised the banana farmers who made the sweet drink. In Buganda, the King is not allowed to be drunk and if he is, no one is allowed to talk about it or say he is. The court musicians were quick thinkers and so they started to play rhythms and music that fit with his stumbling feet and repeated his words as though they were the lyrics to the music. This way, the people thought that the King was entertaining them. The women of this area also tend to have wide hips that dance easily and the dancers asked the ladies to walk around to the music to draw the attention of the guests away from the King. This music and movement became the basis for the rhythm and dance that is named after the stuttering of the King, the Baakisimba. The translation of the words (above) from the King is, “they are the ones who planted it, who made the drink sweet.” (The pata pata is just the filler to help one play the rhythm correctly as s/he says it. The words and rhythms fit together.)
Michelle practicing dancing with Geraldine, Jackson, and Martin.
We’ll get back to this story in a bit. First, some background about this trip. Michelle and I have two practical action goals for our time here in Uganda before the water project team arrives: 1) we are doing a music project and 2) we want to learn more about the long term impact of the water tanks on a community.
We are playing the Engalabi, which has a lizard skin head and has more sounds like the djembe (which is from Western Africa) than the other Ugandan drums.
The goals of the music project are to celebrate Ugandan music by encouraging music teachers to use it in their classes (they don’t always view it as academically rigorous enough to do in school) and to bring this music and dance back to the States. We will also use our time in the schools, which are in places that have had a UWP water tank for a while, to learn more about the long term impacts of the tanks. Our hope is that we will be able to learn things that the UWP teams are unable to due to time constraints through our conversations, stories, and relationships.
Here we are learning. Michelle, Lizza, Milton, Chris
This music project has two parts. The first to learn some Ugandan songs and dances from a Ugandan music teacher, Milton Wabyona with the Ugandan Heritage Roots Troupe, and the second part is to take this into the schools for a Music and Dance Workshop as a cultural exchange. We will use some material that we have learned from Milton and ask the students to teach us some songs that they know. We will also teach them some music and dance from our “tribe”, which for this project includes jazz and solo swing dancing.
We are practicing the different parts (there are 6ish) to the Baaksimba.
For me, Lizza, there is a very important spiritual piece to this project as well. My religious background is in the Christian faith and it is in that perspective that I base my world view. This is integrated in this project through the relationships that I build at our lessons, schools, and churches. I am approaching this entire trip as a time when I can build intentional relationships that value people for who they are, including seeing them as creative and intelligent individuals who live in a culture with a rich heritage and traditions. Through those relationships and my strengths and training as a music educator, I have the opportunity to encourage and empower people in their lives to follow Christ (in whom I have found peace and healing), to use music as tool to bring healing and reconciliation, and to hopefully to bring about sustainable change by reinforcing the work of the UWP. I don’t do this here in a stereotypical preachy manner because I don’t do that at home. I do this in an organic way through building relationships, having conversations, and sharing my story.
We practicing in a square court yard and here is a panoramic shot of it (very distorted of course.) We are mostly against the wall in the shade and then also dancing around the court yard to learn.
We have had three days of lessons so far with Milton and worked on the Baakisimba drums and dance as well as a little bit of the Ekizino – a dance from the south western part of Uganda. It is surprisingly challenging but incredibly fun to learn! Today we are going to start learning the Baakisimba dance and can’t wait!!! Our time here so far, has been full of many experiences and funny stories that we will be sharing with you on the blog. Uganda is a wonderful country and the people we have met so far have been very hospitable. Thank you for partnering with us in this project, we have been talking about all of you, our family and friends, to everyone here; even though we are not together, you are here with us!
Here we are with Milton and Chris (in the blue and plaid) who are our teachers and then Geraldine and Simon are also around.
Liz and Michelle