The role of the village
Written by Ogechi Umezuruike
In East African culture, music tends to create unity and reinforce cohesion within societies. Music and dance are prevalent in all aspects of life for many tightly-knit villages.
In Swahili, which is spoken across many East African countries including Kenya and Uganda, there is not one word for music and another for dance. The word “ngoma” is used which incorporates the idea of dance, music, drumming and celebration all in one.
Performances are a given at important life events such as coming-of-age ceremonies, births, deaths and coronations. Traditional music is the thread that weaves these communities together.
Drumming is an integral part of music and in the past was used for communication purposes, such as in the Buganda kingdom, Uganda.
“I have traveled to a distant town. I could not find my mother. I could not find my father. I could not hear the drum. Whose ancestor am I?” This quote written in a poem about a villager returning to Africa after years of exile shows just how music and instruments play an essential part in the identity of many villagers.
Music is also exponentially linked to development. Below is a photo of drummers from Ojumo Oro village in Kwara State, Nigeria celebrating the arrival of a running water supply.
75% of East Africa’s population lives in rural areas. The are various projects and organisations alongside Singing Wells which identify with the importance of the role that village communities play in a lot of African countries. The Million Villages Project (MVP) aim to tackle “poverty at the village level through community-led development”.
The leaders of this project believe that the most effective and sustainable way of reaching their goals of reducing poverty and hunger, and also developing education and health, is by helping at village level rather than providing emergency aid to cities which has proven to be unsustainable in many circumstances. The MVP provides support for lots of sub-saharan countries including many in East Africa like Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
In addition to this, the African Rural Development Movement (ARUDMO) is a smaller organisation which aims to implement sustainable economic, political and personal development in African countries. Their projects are “designed to be sustainable with long-term benefits that do not rely on outside involvement and can be managed by the community”.
At Abubilla Music we recognise the significance of music in villages. Visit our Singing Wells page for more info!