Original Research

Ubuomba: Negotiating indigenisation of liturgical music in the Catholic Church in Zambia

Kapambwe Lumbwe
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 10, No 2 | a105 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v10i2.105 | © 2014 Kapambwe Lumbwe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 February 2016 | Published: 30 November 2014

About the author(s)

Kapambwe Lumbwe, North-West University, Potchefstroom campus, South Africa

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In the early 1950s the Vatican accepted the translation of Catholic hymnals into local Zambian languages and the incorporation of indigenous musical instruments into the liturgical music. This development inspired a group of priests and seminarians, led by Father Charles Rijthoven from Ilondola mission in Northern Zambia. Because of its geographical location, a Bemba indigenous musical style derived from ingomba (royal musicians) was adopted and is now commonly referred to as ubuomba (lit. being a royal musician). The word ingomba is derived from the word omba (to clap) as in omba amakuku (to produce low-toned claps by means of capped palms), a characteristic which forms the core of rhythmic structure of the musical style. Besides hand clapping, ubuomba songs are usually accompanied by double-headed drums known as inshingili (hour-glass shaped drum). Over the years the ubuomba style has spread to other parts of the country and formed a Catholic liturgical music identity. This study tries, by way of ethnographic investigation, to outline the way in which the ubuomba musical style has been used to negotiate the indigenisation of liturgical music in the Catholic Church in Zambia.

The focus of this study is on the origins and processes of development of the ubuomba musical style and how it relates to wellbeing within the Catholic Church; these developments are based on song text, instrumental accompaniment, dance and mime. The ‘contemporalisation’ and ‘commercialisation’ of the ubuomba musical style to incorporate Western musical instruments such as guitars, drum kits and synthesisers is examined with reference to internal and external musical influences.


Indigenisation; ubuomba; wellbeing; Catholic liturgical music; Zambia


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