The Mganda Traditional Dance among the Tumbuka of Zambia
Synchronizing their movements with the louder and more powerful drumming, the dancers vigorously go through dazzling movements somewhat depicting military like drills, then they swing around injecting some of the African traditional rhythmic gyrating movements. All the while the dancers use whistles to accentuate and time some of the smoothly choreographed movements. This explosion of intense action and energy might last up to a few minutes depending on the length and sequence of the steps of the dance. Then there is a lull in the dance as the performers slow down to start the cycle again by singing the song or starting a new one. It is at this time, that young beautiful women using their clean well pressed handkerchiefs, might wipe the sweat off the brow of a particular drummer or dancer. This is every young dancer’s dream. Individual members of the audience may also place small sums of money in a particular dancer’s palm as a reward for his good or particularly outstanding dancing during a preceding sequence. This is known as kusupa.
Music and dance are perhaps the most universal of the creative nature of humans. Rural traditional people of Zambia are no exception. In spite of the dramatic social changes that have influenced many urban dwellers, Zambian rural people have maintained their traditional dance and music.
What would you do for entertainment on a Sunday afternoon if you did not have the movie theater to go to, open air rap concerts to attend, the VCR to watch a video movie, or TV to watch sports? If you lived eight thousand miles away among the Tumbuka, you would either be watching or dancing the mganda. I encountered the fascinating mganda dancers when I was travelling in the Lundazi rural district in Zambia. Traditional Zambian dance has not remained static. The people have adapted to modern influences thereby incorporating modern styles and synthesizing them with the traditional ones. One such excellent example is that of the mganda dance common among the Tumbuka people of the Lundazi district of the Eastern Province of rural Zambia. As is common in most of Africa, the Tumbuka straddle the international boundary between Zambia and Malawi. This is why the mganda dance is also common in parts of Northern Malawi.