Every year the Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom celebrates the coronation anniversary of the king, known as Empango. During the festivities, amakondere are played for the royal processions and also to accompany dances. There are four groups of amakondere players, and they play one after the other: the Kibaire Group, the Bugambe Group, the Kibiro Group, and the Alleluya Group. The first three groups comprise players who performed before the abolition of kingdoms.
The Amakondere dance is not an ordinary dance, but a royal orchestra consisting of a dozen elderly men. A horn-shaped, wooden side-blown trumpet is the main instrument in the production of royal court music for the Bunyoro and Toro kingdoms aristocracy. It is a major activity meant to entertain the Omukama (King).
The trumpets which are cylindrical, with one end wider have a sooty tinge are of different lengths and sizes. To produce melody from the trumpets, the Abakondere (trumpeters) draw breath from the depth of their lungs and press their lips hard on the wood. Their costumes consist of bark-cloth, fastened in a knot over the right hand shoulder.
Judging from the expression on the trumpeters faces, blowing the Amakondere is strenuous. It is for this reason that a reserve force of abakondere wait to take over when one gets tired.
A rich fusion of tunes and pitches is derived as each trumpet supplies a single musical note accompanied by the reverberations of drums (empango).
Yet for all its connection to royalty, the Amakondere trumpet has its roots in a vegetable called ebyara, which belongs to the gourd and pumpkin family. They are long, hard-skinned, climbing plants that exclusively grow in Kibiro on the shores of Lake Mwitazinge(Albert), Hoima district.
Legend has it that ebyara made their way into Bunyoro from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
To curve the Amakondere trumpets, the marrow of ebyara is removed to create a hollow structure.
Amakondere is associated with jubilation. Dancing to the Amakondere is called Okuguruka Amakondere. While the Amakondere is not performed during war, famine or when any calamity has befallen the Omukama, he may ignore the norm if he wishes.
The Omukama’s subjects also dance to Amakondere when an important person visits. It is a sign of respect that is deeply rooted in the Bunyoro-Toro way of life.
The Amakondere orchestra does not follow musical solfas. Instead, the tunes are derived mainly from folklore and praise the king.
Some of the orchestra tunes include entale, kigambo kyomujwigaa, which is translated as as, The King’s word is like a lion. When he roars, every soul has to fear.
The Amakondere choreography involves dancing in twos, side by side. The dancers alternately lift one foot in forward motion. The mens arms are raised and positioned as if holding an invisible spear with a shield. The lips are mute while the orchestra rumbles. The women wear suuka(Omwenagiro) while the men wear kanzus. The Amakondere are similar to the Agwara, a wooden trumpet in West Nile.
The Abakondere are selected from specific clans because blowing the Amakondere trumpets should not be done by anyone.
While dancing to the Amakondere orchestra is open to everybody, it cannot be performed without royal permission.
Amakondere songs include ‘Irambi (a slow royal dancing style of Bunyoro), ‘Ennumi[Bull], ‘Ruyanga [An Adamant Person], ‘Ichuma lya luswata’ [Spear of Person called Luswata] and ‘Kigambo k’yentale [Word of the lion]