Guide to Adungu

Uganda is known as one of the friendliest nations in Africa. Not only that, you can enjoy the sceneries, but you can also harvest honey, hunt antelopes, and go to a sacred cave. Aside from their rich tradition and culture, the place of Uganda is also known for their dances and music. In Uganda, there are five central regions in accordance with their musical style. First is Northeast Uganda, which not commonly uses the musical instrument. The second one is the North Uganda, which uses syllabic rhythms found in music. The third one is Northwest Uganda, which had claimed the Sudanic language group’s music. Meanwhile, the Central and East Uganda have been notable for their Bantu music.

In some parts of Uganda, local performers energetically compete whether who among them could thump their feet on the ground the loudest. Also, while thumping, the participants joyfully dance and swing their arms to the beat. So, if you’re going to travel in the friendliest nation of Africa, Uganda, you might also want to try to play the instrument call Adungu, a stringed instrument that comes in all sizes, while dancing and thumping your feet!

The Adungu, also known as Ennenga and Ekidongo, is a stringed instrument notable in Northwestern Uganda. It varies on different sizes, with the tiniest that could fit in your hands, while the largest is like a double bass. This arched harp-like instrument is said to derive from African origins. However, the musical form known as the Adungu Music is tuned to the diatonic scale that was influenced by the British presence in Uganda. Interestingly, this instrument may be played alone and also in an ensemble or as a vocal accompaniment. Aside from that, the variation in the Adungu’s sizes can be categorized into four classifications: alto, soprano, bass, and tenor, which are all tuned to a diatonic major scale.

What Does the Adungu Look Like?

This instrument was usually played by both Acholi (people who live in Northern Uganda) and Alur (people who live in Northwestern Uganda and Northeastern of Congo). It is a simple yet versatile instrument that sounds like three or more people are playing at the same time.

As it is mentioned earlier, an Adungu is a harp-like instrument that has about seven, ten, or more strings that were usually tuned in a diatonic scale. It is made out of a hollowed-out slab of wood, covered by pieces of leather that were woven together. The upper part of the instrument served as the soundboard where the strings attached vibrate against it. These strings were arranged diagonally, running from the tuning peg in the neck up to the rib in the center of the instrument’s body. Also, these strings were supported and secured by a wooden rib. The Adungu has a curved neck that contains the tuning peg for each note, which is inserted into its body.

How is the Adungu Instrument Played?

When the Adungu is played in a lower pitch classification such as the alto and bass, the instrument was held and played in the ground. However, the soprano and tenor instruments were held and played against the player’s chest. While some of the instruments have a standardized tuning, the Adungu doesn’t. Interestingly, this instrument was tuned by ear to each other before the player’s performance. Tuning by ear means that this instrument doesn’t have a particular key. In addition to that, it also means that the arrangement of pitches and chords can be adapted based on the performer’s preferences.

Moreover, the Adungu instrument was not generally used as a melodic instrument but as an outline to a chord. In playing the Adungu, a single note is played at a time on the bass and tenor. However, the alto and soprano are used to play a set of three notes that also called triads. Meanwhile, in a performance, complex broken notes give simple chord progression an energetic rhythm.

Some notable performers that have played an Adungu include Crystal Bright, an award-winning musician and multimedia artist in North Carolina. Also, James Makubuya, an ethnomusicologist, and singer, have an adept knowledge with regard to the Adungu instrument.