Also:       entaala      

Title: Royal Court Music from Uganda—Kalagala Ebwembe; Ntamivu za Kabaka (field recording by Hugh Tracey--see Andrew Tracey entry in Bibliography). Label: Stichting Sharp Wood Productions/International Library of African Music. Format: CD. Catalogue#: SWP 008/HT 02. Track: 7.

Contextual Associations

The amadinda is a xylophone idiophone of the Baganda people of Uganda. [The instrument pictured here, built by Grinnell College student George Payne, is modeled on traditional instruments.] Until the civil unrest in the mid-1960s that led to the abolishment of all traditional kingdoms within the recently formed nation of Uganda, music performed on the amadinda by highly trained specialists was integrated into the rich musical life of the kabaka’s (the king’s) royal enclosure near Kampala. In that enclosure the amadinda was referred to as entaala and was accompanied by a set of four drums called ntamivu; together the xylophone and drums constituted an ensemble called entamiivu (‘drunkard’). Like many ensembles in the royal enclosure, the entamiivu provided music at various times of day and for a wide range of ceremonies and receptions. Court musicians were recruited from a few villages, which is where the tradition was kept alive after the abolishment of the Buganda Kingdom in 1966. In recent more peaceful decades the tradition has emerged from hiding and is today even incorporated into school music programs.


 [note: In this description of the pictured instrument, any differences between it and a traditionally built amadinda appear in brackets.] The two ‘log’ supports on which the keys rest are made from lengths of 4X4 dimensional lumber [freshly cut banana plant trunks] placed on the ground. They are situated not quite parallel to one another and are not connected. In the upward facing side of each support thirteen post holes are drilled, each of these accepting an approximately 4-inch length of wooden dowel that serves to keep the adjacent keys from touching [long twigs from the nzo tree are stuck directly into the banana trunks to serve as spacers]. A length of clothesline is nailed to each end of the supports and runs the length of the upward face of the supports to serve as a cushion between the keys and the supports [this is unnecessary on a traditional instrument because banana trunks are themselves relatively soft]. The twelve keys are made from 2X6 and 2X4 boards of a domestic straight-grained hardwood [preferably wood from the trunk of the lusambya tree] with the longest and widest keys producing lower pitches than the shorter and narrower higher-pitched keys. Small holes are drilled through the keys close to their lower edge at approximately one-quarter a key’s length from each end. Fish line [banana fiber] is threaded through these holes and tied to the nearest post to help keep the keys roughly in place when they are struck. Fine-tuning is achieved by removing wood from the top and bottom surfaces at the middle of the keys (this lowers its pitch) and from the bottom side at the ends of the keys (this raises the pitch). Hefty wood dowels [made of nzo wood] are used to strike the ends of the bars. 

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

Three players, each with a beater in each of their hands, perform at one time on this instrument; one player (called the omunazi) on the side of the instrument with the lowest-pitched keys to his right, the other two players (called the omwawuzi and the omukonezi) on the other side. All the players strike the ends of the keys, not their centers. The omunazi and the omwawuzi face one another across the keys, each providing a unique and short (typically ranging from three to twenty-four or more equally-spaced pulses) melodic sequence in parallel octaves that is repeated over and over without variation and that is restricted to the bottom ten keys of the xylophone. The omunazi’s melody is called the okunaga or ‘lead’ part, while the omwawuzi’s the okwawula or ‘falling in’ part because it fits in between the pulses of the okunaga. This arrangement produces a single very fast composite melody sounded in octaves and delivered at a fiendishly fast tempo. The omukonezi, who is restricted to sounding only the two highest-pitched keys of the instrument sequentially, reinforces only the notes being sounded by the other two players two octaves below on the two lowest-pitched keys of the xylophone. Whereas the composite of the okunaga and the okwawula is simply a very fast and rhythmically undifferentiated sequence of pulses, the two-tone melody, called the okukonera, produced by the omukonezi is rhythmically complicated. The instrument is tuned to a non-standardized anhemitonic pentatonic scale (five roughly equidistant tones per octave) covering a range of two octaves plus two scale degrees from approximately F3 to G5 (the highest two pitches are two octaves above the lowest two pitches).


Before its termination in 1966, the Buganda Kingdom had been in existence for centuries through thirty-six generations of kings. Just how far back in this history of the kingdom the amadinda/entaala goes is, however, not known. But, given the widespread presence of similar log xylophones traditions in the Lake Victoria region, it seems plausible that this instrument type is of some antiquity.

Bibliographic Citations

Anderson, Lois. 1968. The Miko Modal System of Kiganda Xylophone Music. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.

Cooke, Peter. “Uganda.” Oxford Music Online, Grove Music Online. Accessed October 29, 2013.

________, and Klaus Wachsmann. 2003. The King’s Musicians: Royalist Music of Buganda—Uganda. CD and booklet. Topic Records TSCD925.

Gourley, K. A. 1984 “Amadinda.” NGDMI v.1: 51.

Kubik, Gerhard. 1960. “The Structure of Kiganda Xylophone Music,” African Music 2/3: 6-30.

Tracey, Andrew. 1998. Royal Court Music from Uganda. CD and liner notes. Stichting Sharp Wood Productions/International Library of African Music SWP 008/HT 02.

Wachsmann, K. P. 1957. “A Study of Norms in the Tribal Music of Uganda.” Ethnomusicology 1/11: 9-16.


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: East Africa

Nation: Uganda

Formation: Kiganda

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.212 idiophone--set of percussion sticks: several percussion sticks of different pitch are combined to form a single instrument, struck with a non-sonorous object (hand, stick, striker)

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: block - oblong bar

Sound objects per instrument: multiple sounded discretely

Resonator design: no resonator

Number of players: multiple

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - stick/s with unpadded tip/s

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: definite pitch

Sound modification: none


67 in. length 25.8 in. length (longest key) 4.8 in. width (longest key) 1.6 in. thickness (longest key) 15 in. length (shortest key) 2.8 in width (shortest key) 1.4 in. thickness (shortest key)

Primary Materials



George Payne

Entry Author

Roger Vetter, Toby Austin