A traditional dance known as kilume was a sacred dance that was performed by medicine men or women. In the past, this dance took place in an open space, symbolizing a transition into becoming a medicine man or woman.
Various traditions were followed, including the ritual slaughter of a bull and other ceremonial practices. During the dance, older men were responsible for playing the drum while the women danced. The musical instruments used included drums and beaded necklaces with aluminum bells, creating a desired rhythm.
Each group had its own unique kilume drums, which differed from the drums commonly used by younger individuals. It was believed that the dance invoked spirits and addressed spiritual troubles.
People with prophetic powers would kill me, and some individuals would become possessed for nearly an hour. While in this state, the possessed person would make demands such as milk, beer, meat, or fire, and these demands had to be fulfilled.
If the demands were not met, the medicine man or woman could fall ill or remain in that state for some time. Those who participated in kilim were not allowed to attend church services, as it was believed to be incompatible with their association with the dance.
However, they could still engage in the performing arts. The kilume song and dance served as a therapeutic outlet during times of personal or communal challenges. It was performed during times of sorrow, such as drought or lack of rainfall, as well as during social occasions or moments of joy, such as harvesting or planting.
And the initiation of medicine. It also served as a means of protection, particularly after the death of a person or the birth of an illegitimate child. The Kamba, also referred to as Akamba, are a Bantu community residing in the eastern region of Kenya.
They are known for speaking the Kikamba language and share close linguistic and cultural ties with the Kikuyu, Embu, Mbeere, and Meru communities. The majority of the Kamba people can be found in Machakos, Makueni, and Kitui Counties, which collectively form an area known as Ukambani.
Additionally, there is a presence of Kamba individuals in the coastal region of Kenya, as well as in Uganda, Tanzania, and Paraguay. Notable figures among the Kamba community include Chief Kivoi, Syonguu, Prophetess Syokimau, and Muindi Mbingu, among others.
Without a doubt, the most tremendous indication of customary Kamba culture was their moving, performed to pounding polyrhythmic rhythms. It was described by uncommonly aerobatic jumps and somersaults, which flung artists out of sight.
The way of playing was like that of the similarly vanished customs of the Embu and Chuka: the drummers would hold the long drums between their legs and would likewise move.
Sadly, except for true capabilities and live events (where proficient social groups perform), Kamba moving is presently nearly, if not totally, terminated. Except for one financially accessible tape (“Akamba Drums”, Tamasha), I neglected to track down any tapes of drum music or any reference to existing gatherings.
The just-live ‘Akamba’ drumming I heard was a pale impersonation by a touristic multi-ancestral troupe on the coast, whose validity was suspect.
A few of the moves had military topics, straightforwardly gotten from the support of Kamba in huge numbers in the nation’s military, beginning with WWI when they served under the English in India and the Center East.
In traditional African societies, psychiatric and psychological services were provided through various means. Among the Akamba people, dance and song were powerful tools used for this purpose.
The Kilumi dance was specifically used to communicate with ancestral spirits and to rid individuals of malevolent spirits. These spirits, known as the “bevor,” were believed to come from outside the Ukambani region.
And would possess individuals, causing them to speak in a foreign language and demand foreign items. The dance served multiple purposes, including praying for rain, empowering men and women for healing, exorcising evil spirits, and appeasing angered ancestral spirits.
It took place at the community shrine, called “Ithembo,” at night, when the spirits were believed to be most active. Initiated older women, known as “live to say them,” were the main participants in the dance, accompanied by the rhythmic beats of a special drum called “theme.”
The dance leader, who was often a medicine man or woman, sang songs to call upon ancestral spirits for assistance or to implore evil spirits to leave the possessed person’s body.
As the sick person began to dance, others would join in, and at a certain point, spiritual manifestations would occur. Participants might utter oracles prescribing healing or demanding sacrifices in the name of ancestors.
After a successful exorcism, the patient would be purified by being smeared with fat and allowed to rest. However, with the influence of Christianity and Islam, the Kilumi dance has largely disappeared from most of the Ukambani region.
Kilumi may hold cultural or historical significance for the Kamba people, potentially being the site of important events or the origin of significant cultural practices and traditions.
In Kamba history, Kilumi could have been a central location for trade, social gatherings, or political activities, contributing to its historical importance to the Kamba community.
The area surrounding Kilumi might have possessed specific resources that were vital to the Kamba people, whether for agriculture, natural resources, or advantageous positioning along trade routes.
Kilumi may have been considered a sacred or spiritually important place for the Kamba people, associated with religious rituals, ceremonies, or spiritual beliefs that were integral to their culture.
Situated in a geographically strategic location, Kilumi could have provided advantages in defense, agriculture, or trade, making it a crucial settlement for the Kamba people.
Kilumi might have been the backdrop for important myths, legends, or stories within Kamba folklore, contributing to its ongoing significance in their cultural narrative.
Many families or important figures within the Kamba community may trace their roots back to Kilumi, elevating it to a revered ancestral homeland.
Understanding why Kilumi is special to the Kamba people would likely involve exploring a combination of these factors, considering the historical, cultural, geographical, and spiritual aspects that contribute to its significance in their collective memory and identity.