Sounds, Symbols of Baganda’s Social Media that ain’t Facebook
With Social media being attached to computer technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks, the Baganda have analogous forms which enable people to socialise even without smart phones and computers.
While visiting Bubezi, my home village in Mpigi District, I meet a one Patrick Kyambadde using his palms to make a unique sound that seemingly sends out a signal to someone at a distant location. Still gazing at what exactly was taking place, immediately, a similar sound with presumably different packaging reverberates from the forest appearing to respond to Kyambadde.
He tells me, “Ekyo Nfuuwa Kilenge …. Era kilinga gwe bwokuba esimu.”(I am using a legendary Kiganda sound called, Kilenge, to communicate to those in the forest and it’s like you guys when you make telephone calls), Kyambadde explains
He explains that, unlike in the city, where he hears that people use phones, in the villages, communication is made easier with the use of symbols and sounds especially for social activities.
Kyambadde explains that the sounds made virtually speak out a language only interpreted by the recipients of that particular message; and the communities that are used to those sounds and symbols. “Enduulu egoba omubbi si yeyessanyu,” literally suggesting that the alarm that is made to chase a thief is not the same one used while in times of celebration or happiness.
Ssekito Ntanda, a traditionalist and Luganda teacher, explained that, besides the technology advancement in the world that saw the coming of platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Baganda had a similar platform embodied with sounds and symbols as a way of social networking. “In case your wife at home wouldn’t be in the mood for sex, she would post a status by making the bed in a particular manner and that was more or a Facebook status update of those days,” Ntanda explains
Cultural proficient and senior journalist, Wamala Balunabba, explains that the Baganda place paramount emphasis on being sociable. Cleverness and assertiveness are valued as ways to achieve upward mobility. Elaborate greeting rituals best symbolize the importance attached to being sociable. Propriety requires that neighbours exchange lengthy greetings when meeting along the road.
Most Baganda households contained at least a small drum for regular use in the family, not only for singing and dancing, but to effect social communication and effective flow of information. The sound of a drum in the night amplifies trouble, happiness or ritual activity, depending on the intonation of its sound.
Kyambadde explains that when a drum sounds (Ggwanga Mujje), literally meaning arise, a countryman simplifies a call forfcommunity work during day and at night it is a call for help or alarm resulting from trouble. Similarly, when Christianity was introduced in Buganda in the 19th century, the missionaries created their own sound as a call for church activities. It was dubbed (Damalie akusigula togoba Lukadde lwo), it can still be traced in Catholic churches in villages.
“Amakondeere and Engombe”
Presently, as one might hear a sound of a tweet to pop, symbolising a notification of DM (direct message), sounds instruments made from various materials, would be the notification sound even up to now, in some villages. High-pitched trumpets made from antelope horns and medium-register trumpets hollowed out from tree roots are made to create sound. These instruments have a mouth-hole cut at a slant, so that the instrument is played in a transverse position.
Low-pitched instruments, are sometimes cut from the trunks of the papaw tree, and are blown in a straight position through a mouth-hole at the end. In an ensemble of these instruments, each player sounds his single pitch in a rhythmic pattern, defined within a very precise metrical framework. The very close interlocking of the individual trumpets, within that framework, performed at a fast tempo.
For similar reasons Sekitulege (Berimbeau), is both used for communication despite being a musical bow with a simple form of a string instrument and is thought to have been developed from the hunting bow made to shoot arrows.
This version is popular among the Baganda. It has only one string, which changes pitch depending on the tension of the bow – the sound-box made from a gourd. Its sound was an indication of harvest and sharing meat after hunting.
With the technological advancement, social media was invented to enable people to share content quickly, efficiently and in real-time. However, a series of cultural leaders have always come up to blame social media for moral decay and recoil in norms and etiquettes among communities.
The Katikiro of Buganda Charles Peter Mayiga has always emphasised to all Baganda scribes to embrace technology for good reasons and protecting norms and culture.