Traditional Musical Instruments

Enanga/Adungu(Arched Harp) Busoga, Buganda

The movable rings achieve the ideal sound on the ennanga, placed just below the tuning pegs. The strings vibrate against these rings and produce a buzzing sound. This sound is also heard on some of the lyres and sansa.
The strings on this instrument are arranged in progressive order from high to low note. The first, second and third strings from octaves with the sixth, seventh and eighth strings respectively. The 'Ganda harpist occupied a high social position, performing solely for the Kabaka and a few important chiefs. He was the only musician allowed to amuse the royal ladies in their private rooms.
Nowadays it is popular as the adungu and widely used in Catholic and Protestant rural churches.

Ndingidi (One-stringed Fiddle)

The exact origin of this instrument is not known. The traditional story says about 1907, the inventor either dreamed about it or saw one being carried by a stranger, perhaps a Kikuyu porter. The resonator of the early fiddle was made of a gourd like a Kikuyu instrument. The inventor thought the instrument was similar to the children's ground bow Sekitulege and after making one for him, he played the children's song on it.
The fiddle has become very popular for light music.

Engalabi (Long Drum)

The traditional Fumbo has a reptile skin nailed to the wood, however the government due to environmental reasons has long discouraged this practice. The engalabi from Buganda region, which is played in music theatres, plays an important part in the ceremony called "Okwabya olumbe". This is the installation of a successor to the deceased, thus the saying in Luganda "Tugenda mungalabi", meaning we are going to the engalabi, that is, long drum. The rule in playing the drum is the use of bare hands.


Ensasi is a set of two gourd shakers some times with stick handles used to acompany all the other instruments in Ugandan traditional music from most parts of the country, most especially the central and eastern. The type used in the Nortnern Uganda (Ajaa) have different shapes which produces a continous sound as the beads move from side to side in a gourd or tin shell with multiple holes. The different varieties have spread across regions and cultures over the years.


The panpipe is called Enkwanzi or oburere, which means little flutes and are made from elephant grass or bamboo. The are called stopped flutes because the nodes of the grass block passage of air through the flute and determines pitch.
The Ambu flutes are called stopped flutes for the same reason. The flutes are arranged from lowest to the highest note and then laced with a string. The open rim at the top is cut at right angles to the tube and the musician blows across the hole as one with a bottle. The melodic possibilities produced by the panpipe and by sets of flutes perhaps influenced the development of flutes with finger holes such as the Teso tribe flute and notched flutes.


The Baganda and the Basoga lyre is made of lizard skin and laced with to a non-sonorous skin in the same manner as the harp and drums.
The strings are tied into a piece of wood and inserted into a hole where the two arms meet of the lyre meet. The 'Ganda lyre' (endongo) has one hole, the 'Soga instrument (entongoli) has two pieces of cloth, barkcloth or banana fibers wrapped around the yoke. The strings are wound round and round this material until it acts as a tuning peg. The strings on the bowl lyre are not arranged in progressive order, as they are on the arched harp and the zither.
The highest note in the scale is third from the left and the lowest, fifth. Strings 7, 2, 4, 1 and 5 are octaves.


The keys are separated by either long sticks (Baganda) or short ones (Bakonjo, Basoga use either long or short) and are placed on banana stems. In the pre-colonial era, the Amadinda keys are tied in place by threading fiber through small holes in the wood. Akadinda has two shoulders carved on the bottom so that the will not move when it is placed on the banana stems. The keys of the xylophone, which are not tied or otherwise fixed, are kept in placed when being played, by the musicians toes or young boys. Nowadays the whole instrument is made of wood. The Akadinda has 17 keys. In the olden times, it had 22. Five men were needed to play the 17 keys and 6 the 22. This rare xylophone is played for the Kabaka, the Buganda King. The Amadinda has 12 keys, 3 men each playing a different theme, are needed to play this xylophone. One man plays only the 2 highest notes while the others may use any of the ten. Only important men kept the Amadinda.

Sansa (Thumb Piano)

This is a very popular African instrument. Its early development is unknown, but foreign travelers reported first seeing it in Africa in 1586. The sansa is known in Buganda as Akadongo k'abaluru or little instrument of the Alur tribe found in the West Nile region, northern part of Uganda. These people say they adopted it from Belgian Congo. Many villagers in Uganda call it "Kongo" and foreigners generally made the instruments. The Mbuti pygmies in Amba use rattan cane keys and a straight bridge, however most sansas in Uganda have iron keys and a u-shaped bridge. The number of keys depends on the ethnic group. The Basoga tribe plays different sizes of sansa together.

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