http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/USL/00749

Bigwala, gourd trumpet music and dance of the Busoga Kingdom in Uganda

Inscribed in 2012 (7.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

Country(ies): Uganda

Identification

Description

Bigwala, gourd trumpet music and dance of the Busoga Kingdom in Uganda

Bigwala music and dance is a cultural practice of the Basoga people of Uganda, performed during royal celebrations such as coronations and funerals and, in recent decades, on social occasions. Bigwala describes a set of five or more monotone gourd trumpets blown in hocket to produce a melody, accompanied by a specific dance. A typical performance begins with one trumpet; other trumpets then join in followed by drummers, singers and dancers in that order. The singers and dancers move in a circular formation around the five drummers, swaying their waists gently and raising their hands with excitement in time with the music and rhythms. Women spectators ululate as the performance nears its climax. Bigwala plays a significant role in contributing to unity among the Basoga people. The lyrics of the songs narrate the history of the Basoga, focusing in particular on their king, thus symbolically reconfirming their identity and links with their past. Bigwala also addresses issues such as leadership, marriage problems and acceptable social norms and practices. At present, however, there are only four remaining older master bearers with skills in Bigwala making, playing and dancing, and their recent transmission attempts have been frustrated by financial obstacles. As a result, Bigwala is performed infrequently, which poses a real threat to its survival.

Documents

Decision 7.COM 8.7

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as follows:

  • U1: Bigwala music and dance, an essential component of royal ceremonies and other important community rituals, gives Basoga people a sense of shared identity and historical continuity, reinforcing social cohesion and allowing today’s people to communicate with their departed ancestors;
  • U2: Bigwala currently faces severe threats to its viability, including a limited number of elderly bearers, the weakness of traditional modes of transmission, the absence among the youth of knowledge of the tradition or interest in practicing it and the economic insecurity of the bearers as well as of future possible performers;
  • U3: Past safeguarding efforts include raising awareness at the community, local and national levels of the need to safeguard the element, notably by its inclusion in university research programmes; in addition, a feasible safeguarding plan for the viability of Bigwala is proposed to include education, documentation, video and audio recording, dissemination, and organizing festivals and workshops on making and playing musical instruments, with the involvement of communities, including the four remaining elderly performers, the four local cultural groups and the State;
  • U4: The nomination process benefited from the participation of Basoga communities, the local administration and particularly the Bigwala practitioners; free, prior and informed consent to the nomination was provided by practitioners and local cultural groups;
  • U5: With the participation of the concerned community, gourd trumpet music and dance was included in 2010 in the Basoga Community Inventory of Intangible Heritage, carried out under the authority of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development;

Inscribes Bigwala, gourd trumpet music and dance of the Busoga Kingdom in Uganda on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
Takes note of the importance of Bigwala music and dance within the royal ceremonies of the Busoga Kingdom and encourages the State Party to cooperate closely with the royal authorities in safeguarding the element;
Takes further note that the nomination resulted in part from a UNESCO/Flanders Funds-in-Trust cooperation project and the past efforts within the capacity-building strategy of UNESCO;
Invites the State Party to consider implementing the proposed safeguarding plan in 2013 instead of 2014 as provided within the nomination file, giving particular attention to strengthening the capacities for the transmission of Bigwala from elder practitioners to younger generations;
Encourages the State Party during the implementation of the proposed safeguarding measures to seek to establish a strict link between the planned activities, the responsible actors and the budget allotted;
Further encourages the State Party to inventory similar or related music and dance traditions elsewhere in Uganda, the knowledge of which may help in safeguarding the Bigwala within the Basoga community.

Slideshow

Video


© 2012 by James Isabirye

These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website