by wizard Mukuma
Maoma drums to those who had seen them and heard their poweful sound most likened to roar of a Lion, are no ordinary drums. They are royal drums most played for the following reasons:
1. Entertainment: Before the drums were captured from Mambukushu by Mwanambinyi a Prince who ruled as a Chief in Senanga in the Barotseland’s Southern Kingdom, the Mambukushu used the Maoma as ordinary drums of entrainment. In the first place a daughter to Mwanambinyi who was married by a Mbukushu Chief got some of the drums and took them to his father as a present. When the drums were played their sound impressed the Chief that he planned an attack on the Mambukushu in order to capture more drums. On the other hand the drums were frowned upon because they were brought to the chiefdom by a woman. Therefore, it was wise to capture them so that they could be treated as royal property.
The same drums were also confiscated by the Northern Barotse kingdom and became royal drums of the Litunga.
2. War: During a plan to raid other tribes the Maoma drums were played in order to send a signal across the kingdom that war was looming. The drums were played when Lewanika set off to help the Lunda people fight the Luvale when Chief Shinde as he was commonly known by the Luyana asked his brother King Lewanika to help him fight the Luvale who proved to be a problem to his Chiefdom in now Zambezi East and the Luvale were defeated.
The Maoma roared when Lewanika took to the South to fight the Mashukulumbwe or the Tonga. More than 20,000 Cattle and women were captured by Lewanika and the loot found its way to Lealui. Since then traditional Cousinship between the Batonga and the Malozi developed todate.
When to overthrow a sitting Litunga: the drums are never played anyhow unless there is an important event. The Litunga have to decree that the drums be played as in the case of King George’s visit in 1945 when Litunga Imwiko I played the Maoma at Livingstone on the Notila. Also Sir. Mwanawina III ordered the drums to be played for Sir Evelyn Hone the last Governor of Northern Rhodesia now Zambia in 1955 at Limulunga Kuta.
But in 1994 at Lealui the drums were played when word went round that the Zambian Government of Frederick Chiluba wanted to have the Litunga Ilute Yeta IV abdicate the throne. Warriors from all corners of Barotseland convened at Lealui for a month in order to protect the Litunga. Also in 1989 some men stormed the Limbetelo where the drums were kept and rolled them to the Kuta to play them. This signified the over throw of the king but the fools were arrested.
Installation of the Litunga: the Maoma played there significance role at the installation of the new king after death of the deceased. The new king for the first time roar the drums after the rituals he had to pass through. He is made to sit on the Lioma Lelituna (big drum) and takes the power of Litungaship.
3. Beginning of Kuomboka and Kufuluhela: the drums are played when Kuomboka Ceremony takes place. They are used to send a signal to paddlers across the Kingdom so that they convene at Lealui in order to prepare the journey of moving to the Summer Capital at Limulunga. The drums are also played to signify the return journey back to the dried Barotse Plain.
Maoma are made from certain species of trees especially the Muzauli and Mwande trees. The tree should carry a big stern that is cut down and some skilled men from Senanga West where they were captured are often given the job.
But how did these drums caused fear to the people?
In 1960,70,80,90s there existed a belief that the Maoma drums could not be such strong sound carrying drums without any human sacrifice on them. This used to be confirmed at the time of preparing skins on them. Such an activity was done at a special place outside the royal village. People were not allowed to pass near the place where Maoma drums were being prepared. Fear also could engulf someone standing near where they are being rolled towards the area in front of Namoo where the Litunga will play them to signify war or Kuomboka Ceremony.
You just there hear a cracking like sound of moving human bones inside the body of the each drum sending you into believing that what you are hearing is nothing but the bones of people who became victims of human sacrifice to strengthen the existence and the sound made by the drums to be head as far as 50 kilometers away.
Likando Kalaluka (1990), in his book Titled ‘Kuomboka Ceremony’ also attest to this belief because during preparation of the Maoma drums parents prohibited their children to stray away from the home else they become victims of human sacrifice towards Maoma drums.
You could hear even some elders saying “Saba Malozi akusi cwalo waya mwa Kunu” meaning fear these Palace Lozi men else you disappear. We may simply term such language remembering the Dark days in Barotseland before the Missionaries arrived. Barotseland was once a land full of blood shed. No man trusted another man and what could speak for you was a Spear, a knobkerry either you are strangled with a cloth and your body is pushed under some thick grass grown on top of a lake and never are you going to be found again.
During King Lewanika’s reign, there was a place called Lwatile meaning an area where human bodies are discarded and they decompose there.
Most victims whose bodies were often thrown at Lwatile were victims of executions for various crimes. In fact when Tatila Akufuna took over from King Lubosi Lewanika, after a coup was staged against the King by his enemies Ngambela Mata and an Induna called Numwa, he confessed to David Livingstone that “Teacher, our land is full of bloodshed”. But few years from there Adolf Jalla with permission from King Lewanika who returned his throne after defeating Tatila Akufuna, cleared Lwatile that was strewn with dead bodies and human bones. He set a church there that is now in a deplorable state. But nowhere is said that such executions had some bodies of the victims used to strengthen the Maoma drums. People just feared the unknown.
What actually happens when Preparing the Maoma drums is that each Kuomboka year, 20 bulls are killed and their skins are prepared for the Maoma drums. Well skilled men from Senanga West believed to be Mambukushu with supervision from Mwaiba and Itwi the Senior drummers of the Litunga, will place well measured skins on each drum’s hollow, then some wooden nails curved from Isunde type of tree are nailed through holes made near the mouth of the drum. Care should be observed as the nail is driven with a wooden Mallet. Some nails goes beyond the designated point and fall inside the body of the Lioma drum. The nail is left intact and another fresh one is nailed in the hole. At times more than 10 nails end up falling inside each Lioma drum and once the work has been accomplished. The drums will be left for a week in order for the skins to dry up.
Then on the other day the Natamoyo or Minister of Justice with some selected men make a firebone in order to warm the skins according to required sounds such as Takula for Altor sound, Kandili for Tenor sound and Lelituna for the Bass sound. Then the Natamoyo will signal to play the drums for 10 minutes just to test their sound as per tradition and later they are rolled to the Palace.The nails that fell inside the bodies of the drums make a cranking sound as if there are human bones inside.
Maoma drums of Litunga Imwiko Lubosi II have weakened in Sound because people who knew how to prepare them are gone in the soil. Maoma drums from times of Lewanika to his grandson Litunga Ilute Yeta IV were powerful drums whose sound made people with loose bowels to run several times to the toilet. Their sound could shake the banks of the Nayuma Canal making a Tourist to wonder whether some Lions had invaded the Kuomboka Ceremony.