Uganda Music Instruments

Uganda is home to about 45 tribes, belonging to two ethnic Groups of the Bantu and Nilotics. The tribes have different culture, which ranges from Customs and Norms; entertainment, food, dress code and others. Entertainment amongst Ugandan tribes is an important factor, used during traditional ceremonies and other events.



This class of Musical instruments is percussive. It includes those which arerubbed slapped, hit, knocked, shaken and stuck. They include drums, logs, xylophones, maracas or shakers (Ensasi). This category constitutes the largest of Ugandan musical instruments. Activities like striking parts of the body, metal, wood and stamping the ground producesamazing effects. This testifies to the spontaneity and freedom Ugandans owe to rhythm and musical sound.


These kind of instruments use air to produce sound. One is required to blow air into the pipes of the instruments, move fingers in different patterns on top of the holes on the pipes, and melodic sound will be produced.

Uganda traditional instruments include:



They are the most common and popular instruments used among all tribes, apart from the theSebei’s and Karamajogs who belong to the Nilotics ethnic Group. They are made out of wood,  curved and shaped out of tree trunk which doesn’t have insects and doesn’t rot easily. The shaped trunk is covered with thick mammal skin, such as that for cows, goats and others.Drums are locally known as Engoma, among the Bantu ethnic group tribes. There about seven kinds of drums, each producing a different sound and played on specific occasions. The Baganda, a tribe in the central region, belonging to the Bantu ethnic group, is fondly thought of being so much attached to the drums. The Baganda named the different kinds of drums specific names, basing on the occasions they are to be played. The largest and most common drum is known as the ‘Bakisimba’. It produces the most bass among all the drums, followed by the Empuunya, which relatively almost produces the same bass, but with a higher pitch. The Engalabi, is another popular music instrument, only played using hands. One is required to strike the top of the drum which is covered with lizard, crocodile or snake skin, using his or her palms. It is long and Cylindrical in shape, producing the highest pitched sound amongst all drums.  The Bakisimba usually determines the main melody of the sounds from other drums played together. Among the Baganda, the Bakisimba is regarded to as the female drum, because it requires less energy to be played; and the Engalabi, the Male drum because it requires much energy to play it. Some of the famous dances accompanied by the drums include the Maggunju of Baganda, Entogoro of the Banyoro and others.

Drums are an important means of communication amongst Ugandan communities. They are used to mobilise people in the communities for activities such as general communal cleaning; alert the people about danger, time and other important aspects. Among the Baganda, there is the ‘Bulungibwansi’ (Beauty of Nature), a mobilizing drumming format which calls for people to be part of general Communal cleaning; ‘Ssagalaagalamidde’ (I don’t want any one sitted) drumming format, which calls for everyone’s alert to attend a community meeting, emergency , Church service and other important aspects. Drums are also used among some communities to carry out ancestral worship of gods; therapy and healing sessions in shrines. Traditionally, drums are played at the birth of a royal child;and at the installation of a new king and at a burial. Each occurrence and occasion has its own style and pattern of sound. The drums used during such occasions also acquired special names which distinguish them from ordinary types. They include Mujaguzo, used by Buganda Kingdom; Bagyendanwa, in Ankole kingdom; Mirembe in Toro and Bunyoro Kingdoms..

Other Music Instruments in Uganda




Known as Enanga among the Bantu Ethnic tribes, and Adungu among the Nilotics ethnic tribes; the instrument is rectangular in shape with a long wooden stick that consists of about 9 parallel strings attached to it. The instrument is the African version of a modern Guitar and it is mostly usedas a story telling or poem reciting instrument. The instrument has an arched neck and a wooden sound box which has a whole where the sound is produced when the strings are touched.







Having one string that is stretched from the neck to the cylindrical sound box made out of wood, Endingidi or Adigirgi is a native instrument to Uganda.The word Endingidi is used among Bantu ethnic group speakers while Adigirdi is used by the Nilotics speakers. Historically, it is believed that the instrument was first used in 1910 by the Baganda people.The neck of the instrument is attached to a straight wooden stick which penetrates 2 to 3cm into the sound box.The strings of the instrument are made out of fiber or nylon, producing sound by rubbing the arched bow against it. The arched bow is made out of a flexible twig to which a string is attached made out of the same material as the Instrument.Endingidi or Adigirdi is the African format of a Modern Violin.




The word Enkwanzi means little flutes. The instrument is made out of elephant grass or bamboo. The instrument produces sound by one blowing air into its pipes which are blocked by the nodes of the flutes, determining pitch. The pipe flutes are arranged from the lowest to the highest pitch note attached with a string. The melody produced from the pipes is determined by the finger movement on the holes of the pipes. Blockage of a hole on one of the pipes using fingers changeds the melody of the sound.




It is a traditional Uganda Instrument with wooden keys placed over an open sound box. The keys lie parallel over the sound box pit, producing rhythmic sound when stroked. The instrument however has different names according to different tribes. For example, the Basoga people of the Eastern region call it Embaire, and the Banyankole of the Western region call it Entaara. The instrument has different sizes and number of wooden keys. It has about 10 t0 20 keys and requires two to three people to play the instrument at the same time. Two sit on the opposite side facing the third person; and play the end keys while the third person plays the middle keys. The bars are separated by about only 240 cents.



The instrument is mostly played by the the tribes belonging to the Nilotics Ethnic Group.s regarded to as the African version of a piano and also known as “AkadongokaBabaluulu” (instrument of the Luo or Alurpeople”by the Baganda. However, it is also played by some Bantu Ethnic group tribes such as Basoga and others. The instrument is made out of a flat wooden  plate with a series of flexible metal with different lengths. The instrument produces sound by plucking the metals, using both thumbsand played only on ‘songs of thought’.