Chikuni Tonga Music Concert – Pride of A Tonga

by Mazuba Mwiinga

We all have where we come from – that’s to mean our ‘roots’. We may have been born and bred in cosmopolitan or urban areas, but our lineage still dates back some place in a rural setting where family units were looked into collectively and not as individual entities. In these communities, family ties were co-existent in numerous ways – among them were cultural practices that defined their lives. It’s from these practices that one was able to identify someone as coming from some certain place from these practices symbolized life itself in the way they valued it.

The Tonga people of southern Province are no different from such norms. Since time immemorial the Tonga people have been practicing various cultural activities that anchored their identity. Among these, was and to some extent today still is the musical concerts; famously known as NKOSAADI. In the past, NKOSAADI were musical competitions held at night in bright moonlight by village folks from different villages in a Chiefdom. Usually these competitions were done after harvesting time in hot season. They were so popular because beautiful young girls who have come of age were the center of attractions during such occasions but most significantly the events stood as peace-marker parties of any coercion or inter village squabbles that may have occurred during the farming season. There were no winners or losers, but the villagers came together to feast and merry-make. These events were usually for youths though curious adults would found themselves attending too. Return ‘matches’ often times occurred just as a matter of making each active village be part of the peace-marking extravaganza.  

The coming of education at the center of the Tonga people, spoiled the intertwined fiber of these events because the pioneers of western education into the Tonga land just as elsewhere regarded such events as barbaric and a sheer waste of time and energy. And by time, boys and girls found themselves peering at books under paraffin lamps at night struggling to learn the whiteman’s syntax; yet laughably ironically during school extra-curricular activities, the same boys and girls would learn ‘skipping, jumping, playing soccer, running and even drama which included dancing and singing –only that they learnt new songs and dances so strange to their lives and culture; for they were in the Queen’s language. Gradually their own cultural dances and dramas were sinking as Shakespeare’s English plays were taking over. The Tongas were not just being culturally and resourcefully colonized, but were also mentally being re-booted and this was a sad time for their tradition.

Luckily enough, before the cow could insult the bull for lack of prowess; as many Tonga clansmen and women began to get educated they realized the danger they were in so they turned around; used their education influence to advance their cultural heritage and resorted to writing books in Tonga and revived the NKOSAADI this time in their drama lessons and formed cultural groups and dancing troupes in the manner their grandmothers would have loved to see. The Tonga land was back with a big bang.  But even then, these were just pockets of events that started and ended in the school time table activities. At home the Tonga girl and boy’s talent still remained latent and inactive.

To rejuvenate it, just like the Tonga proverb, “Kazyula Nkumba Muyoba” the wise tag for Chikuni Radio, speaks for itself, the year 2000 saw a glaring ‘para-trooper’ of villagers converge at Chikuni Parish to showcase what had always been burning inside their hearts for as long a time ago as they could remember – music in all forms and statures. One would not need an explanation as to why all these years such marvelous and heart breaking skills and talents were just wasting at home when it could have been earning someone a living or putting a smile on someone roaming with lost thoughts. Since then, this annual gathering emerged as the first, biggest and best traditional music concert in the nation 14 years in the running. More than 10 once unknown village musical groups have become national emblems, with some of them getting National award nominations for their prowess in traditional music; many more have put their music of record, sold thousands of albums hence bringing in unexpected income into their once impoverished households.

Thousands of spectators each year gather in Chikuni for 2 days to appreciate and support NKOSAADI which was at the verge of going back by sea to Buckingham Palace. During this time sponsors are able to reach directly and indirectly more than 200, 000, 000 people in a day promoting their products and services through the radio and direct marketing put together for the event has become national, with tourists from Europe often attending. Music promoters get the chance to brush shoulders and speak to potential young musicians, most of who in previous international musical events have participated and come back home with honors of awards to write about.

The Chikuni Tonga Music Concert, is not just a fun fare event for leisure and pleasure, but has shown how cultural integration and revival is such a cardinal entity in the lives of local people who value and cherish their roots. It’s an occasion worth attending for anyone who wants to learn who they are, where they have come from and cogitate as to where they should be heading to in their lives. It’s a time of cultural reformation in each person’s individual life, as what are showcased stands as an open day for a proud Tonga man and woman to boast about.