Travel Off The Beaten Path to a Unique Tanzanian Experience – Tanzania

Travel Off The Beaten Path to a Unique Tanzanian Experience

UjamaaTravel has been invited to attend this major event in Tanzania. If you are truly interested in experiencing Tanzania, its people and culture, join us. We bet your friends have not experienced this! The event is named Ngoma and it begins May 5, 2002 and continues for seven days.

The rain season has started in Tanzania and the farmers and herders are very thankful. Mother Earth’s signs show that it will be a good harvest and the animals will grow healthy.

One of the tribes in Tanzania is the Wagika clan. They live in the Tabora region in Western Tanzania in Nzega near Lububu Mission. They are part of the Nyamwezi tribe.

The Nyamwezi tribe survives on farming and cattle but they are famous for their art of drumming.

Every year when the rain has shown its power over nature and farms become filled with crops, the people of this area come together to witness Ngoma.

In the mother tongue of the Nyamwezi tribe, ngoma means the festival – competition of clans in playing the drums. The event takes place for one week. In Swahili, ngoma means the instrument plus the occasion when such instruments are used.

During this big event the Nyamwezi clan’s style is to find “the one” with the magic power of the drums. Many people will play their drums reflecting their unique style with the objective to prove they hold the magic power.

Magic in this society is everything because for them it is part of their lives. During the competition the magic is used to attract people and to protect the performers against evil power. The competition lasts for about a week. Before new laws were introduced such occasions were stretched over three weeks.

Details of the event:
A key person in the event is called Malenga. These people have the skills in Drumming and Magic. During their day-to-day role in the tribe they practice traditional medicine (herbalist or healer). They are the ones that invite other Malengas to participate in a Ngoma. They will arrange everything from his assistant, drummers, dancers, sponsors and guardians for his group. Malengas are the leaders of a competing group in the Ngoma. It is believed that they have the skill to synchronize the group and the group uses his guide to perform.

Second in Command is the Mtwale. He will act when the Malenga needs his assistant. This involves applying of charms, medicine, dressing or tending to any other chores that will benefit the Malenga.

Another part is played by people called Makanumba. Their role is to direct the crowds during the Ngoma. They will announce the entrance of their leader to the arrangement of dancers and fans. They concentrate on the action of the leader.

There are also elders involved in the Ngoma. The elders will attend in two groups, the ntemi and the wazee of ngoma. They play an important role during the Ngoma. The watemi are the guardian of the clans. Every clan has a number of ntemis. Their function is to coordinate the activity from the beginning. The watemi receive the invitation for Ngoma and give their blessing for the event to take place. During the Ngoma these people will assist the malenga to fix magic spells and charms to overpower opponents. The Wazee (elders) will do a similar tasks during Ngoma but their task is more interpretative. They will look out for trouble and signs that may influence the success of their group.

The drums appear in three types:
First is a large drum made out of Tandala skin and Oilpalm trunk. It is used by the malenga to direct the rhythm and speed of the drummers. It’s name is Mumwahama.

Second type of drum used is called Kakanzenze. This is of medium size and has a lesser sound that catches up with the beat of the Mumwahama.

Third is called Miduu, and they use 8 to 15 drums at a time they have a high vibrant sound and the drummers usually try to keep up with the first two types.

There are many dancers. Their numbers increase as more members of the clans are brought by the ntemis to the Ngoma. At the start there are 35 dancers. Later they may reach up to 40 or 60 dancers who will form up to three circles to dance with the drum beat.

Sequence of Events:
The Ngoma will start when the preparation is complete.

The first two days are called Uji. This is when the competitors will dance and drum for two days without much rest.

After these two days the pace slows down. For the next five days the competition will start around 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. The three hour competition rounds are clocked in 20 minutes intervals.

Timing and points are tallied by two people from each group and two government officials. Their scale for point awards will be a divided clearing in the bushland with poles for each group with its own sections. The group will receive points when it can hold and attract the majority of the audience or fans for the longest time in a round. The group with the most points will be announced winner.

During the rounds a diviner of a group will perform in public their magic skills to ensure more points. These may involve tricks or tasks put on objects like stones. A magic spell will be said to the stone and the stone will roll or move on its own to the pointed opponent to cast a spell to paralyze the performance of the other group.

At the end of the seven days the jury will award a winner. The winner will in turn present his host or visitor with a cow. The clan members and leaders will be given a similar gift but with lesser value.

The people who have witnessed the coronation of the powerful malenga will later seek him for his spiritual and magic skills to solve their problems. The malenga makes a promise at the beginning of the event that if he wins he will perform spiritual healing for the people which will lead to a good year.

To attend this special event you have to be invited. It is very important you learn the culture of the event. The group at UjamaaCamp has been sent an invitation and they are able to bring guests. They will leave from Mwanza and will guide guests into the Ngoma. If you would like to travel with them to this event you will need to be at UjamaaCamp by May 1st or 2nd. If you are interested in truly experiencing Tanzania and traveling off the beaten path, contact us at


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