Dancing Kundu Drums

By Joseph  Tambure

An entry in the Cleland Award for Heritage Literature

Kundu restless, awakes from long idleness
Dusted off, shells rattling, glistening with new fruit oil
Sending messages far and wide, across the hills and valleys
That the dancing kundu drums approach
Kundu is out for a long night’s dancing

People submit to the call of kundu
But to give voice to kundu, they must follow rules
Only the purified and strict are able to partake
Kundu demands respect, adoration and loyalty
And diverse people and decorations assembled

Dancers separated in a secluded house
Coarse voices sweetened, songs much rehearsed
Attire and colours known to that all will follow
Now is the time to illuminate and purify
Not a moment for intrusion, weakness and disorder

Costumes assembled with precision and care
It’s kundu time, no impatience, no awkwardness
All men dressed in likeness from head to toe, women too
Perfumed the same from front to back, all the same
It’s law, only the kundu can look different

Now into the dancing arena the kundu leads
Sweet fragrance of leaves, bark, flowers and herbs
People cheer in anticipation, others retreat in fear of spells
While some, in trance, offer blank faces, drifting minds
Wait, now the kundu performs its dancing magic

Listen to the slow, soft rhythm of the kundu drums
The male voices deep and the females pitched around
All twenty kundu drums dance in same tone and beat
Awakening sleepers, quickening hearts as the kundus dance
Dancers mimic birds, animals, rivers, mountains, spirits

The kundu leads and encourages the dancers on
The kundus lead on and on, till dawn breaks the sky
It’s kundu dancing night

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