Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tonga music festival

Tonga music festival
By Katwishi Bwalya in Monze
Sunday September 28, 2008 [04:00]

AS an experienced hunter goes out hunting, he at times comes back without a kill, this was the direct interpretation of the Tonga saying; Muwezyi Kozwa Kobula which was the theme for this year’s All Tonga Musical Festival held at Chikuni in Monze district in Southern Province.

The All-Tonga Music Festival which is an annual event seeks to restore the rich culture of the Tonga people as hundreds of traditional musicians from across Southern Province and thousands of spectators from across the country and abroad gathered for the event that at Chikuni in Monze.

This is because music provides a link with the past. It both preserves culture and helps to establish and maintain identity based on historical accounts and records. Through the performance of music, memory of heritage and culture are celebrated in ways that relate vitally to the present. The Radio Chikuni concert examined music as a continuum-reconstructed and modified but, connective between the past and the present.

Hosted by Chikuni Radio, this year’s 9th All-Tonga Musical Festival attracted 105 bands, an increase of 9 compared to last years 96 bands that also saw an increase in the number of categories.

The increase in the number of categories to 12 could be attributed to the need to cater for the dynamism in culture and the evolution of music of the Tonga people.
Last Saturday, Chikuni was a hive of activity as various people from across the country gathered to sample the rich Tonga traditional music as people from all walks of life gathered for the two-day ceremony that seeks to promote the culture of the Tonga people.

The All-Tonga Music Festival was not just a mere gathering of local musicians, but a show that promoted the Tonga culture through music. The annual festival has also lowered some vices among the community members in Chikuni and advocated for social change, eliminated some unjust activities and brought harmony among the various people not only of Chikuni but the rest of the country and Africa in general.

The concert was able to provide a rare opportunity to pass on the Tonga heritage verbally and visually to thousands of people who attended the annual event. This was evidenced by the attention the musicians received each time they were called to perform.

People that attended the festival before had a chance to see the traditional instruments as well as traditional styles of music as they were enlightened on which occasion such music was performed and the significance of it.

For instance, the Kuyabila is a rich poetry done rhythmically with heavy drumbeats as the singer creates own words and recites them at an elevated level in terms of pitch. There is no definite melody to it and it is sung at funerals.
Junior Manyepa who is 15 years old was on hand to give the people in the audience the feel of the Kuyabila. When Manyepa performed, instead of bringing smiles to the people, he created an expected gloomy mood successfully because that is how Tonga poetry is done, painting the shades of life in a metrical recitation. The people liked the performance maybe because they were taken back to the real cultural life.

Another hero of the day was Richard Chiimbwe who received a loud applause from the audience when he performed the Kuyabila in a social commentary much to the amusement of the people because he talked about real issues affecting the local people.

The music that was played at the festival was also an important component of rituals, celebrations, work, play and politics. It also helped create and reinforce boundaries of communities and identity of the Tonga people as it served as a means for social expression that gave rise to emotions, to memories and to pleasures. The concert explored the power of music in the lives of people.

Though the festival was a musical one, it also had room for the fashion category where the young ones were allowed to display Tonga attires at the event.
The rich Tonga attire was put up on display by young girls from the Mukanzubo Cultural Group who wore traditional dresses depicting the life of the Tonga people.
Organisers of this year’s show have described it as a success saying it is better compared to last year’s.

“We have been overwhelmed by the response we have received from the band because last year we only managed to have 96 bands. To us it is very good and encouraging to see more than 100 bands perform before the magnitude of this people,” said Mary Kamoto the spokesperson for the organising committee.

Kamoto also said the winners were given seeds to encourage them participate even in future events because they wanted to keep the community free from vices such as illicit sex.
“And for your own information we had more young people performing compared to last year where we had the majority of the old people performing,” said Kamoto.
For one to take part in the festival it is very simple because one has to compose an original story and their songs must be original, never published or recorded before.

The greatest tragedy for Tonga culture is the fact that there is no proper custodian for it where the young ones could look up to. This is because every culture in the world has a musical tradition, and nature and environment is an intrinsic part of it.

While music exists in every human society, its meaning and place is culturally determined and the function of music also differs from culture to culture. Difference in techniques, instruments, languages and form have yielded a wealth of musical styles, and something is to be done to safeguard against the erosion by foreign culture or by just simple loss of memory.
Festivals like the Tonga one should be encouraged by all people especially Africans.
Special thanks could definitely go to Liverpool Young Stars, the Katebe Band, Tusole Band and the Buche Buche Band who have kept the show going by frequently taking part in the event thereby by motivating other bands to take part in the festival as well.
The most unique thing about the Tonga Music Festival is the fact that all musicians confine themselves to playing music using tradition instruments, making the beat a rare one and easy to fall in love with.

The Emerging Cultural Artists Support Programme a non-governmental organisation which is promoting cultural music and dance for the empowerment of rural youth was also part of the festival because they are in support of the empowerment of rural youth and as an instrument in the fight against HIV/AIDS and Malaria
Melody Couvaras, who is the executive director of the organisation said her organisation was happy to be associated with the festival.

The promotion and support of upcoming Tonga artists and other cultural activities, which may develop Tonga music and culture needs concerted efforts by all those who care for not only Tonga people but also the holistic development of Zambia and its many ethnic groups.

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