Indigenous mfunkutu and contemporary ubwinga (wedding) music of the Bemba-speaking people of Zambia: continuity and change

14 September 2015

Musical arts (music, dance and dramatisation) embedded in Bemba ubwinga (wedding) ceremonies play an integral role as a conduit through which knowledge in the form of cultural values, customs and traditions is transmitted. Indigenous music performed at ubwinga ceremonies is based on mfunkutu, while contemporary musics include various styles such as Kalindula, Zamrock and Zamragga, as well as various musical styles from different parts of Africa and the rest of the world. Interaction with other cultures from within Zambia as well as from Africa and the rest of the world has led to change in the structure of ubwinga ceremonies, thereby influencing the musical arts embedded in them. This article examines the nature of mfunkutu and other musical arts within ubwinga celebrations expressed by the Bemba of Lusaka and the Copperbelt region of Zambia. Despite political, socio-economic and socio-cultural changes in Zambian society, both continuity and change are evident in the current ubwinga ceremonies, which are an amalgamation of some of the elements from the pre-colonial ubwinga ceremonies and those of the white wedding ceremonies of the post-independence era. Subsequently, these developments have revealed that, despite internal and external socio-cultural, socio-economic and political influences, marriage mfunkutu have not undergone substantial changes, other than an abridgement of the repertoire.