Tonga Culture

24 Hours - Hour 15 “Tonga Music Remix”

Fadi's Remix of Tonga Music - Another encounter and cultural exchange
with Ngoma Buntibe 'Tonkunst' of the Valley Tonga

"The music of the Valley Tonga is as extraordinary and distinct as it is beautiful." In memoriam Keith Goddard, the late Zimbabwean human rights activist and composer, „One man One Note“ – Keith Goddard on Tonga Tonkunst:

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Mulonga 2019 : A Radio Bridge across the waters and continents

Since 2007 some independent radio initiatives in Austria are supporting the set up and running of Radio ZONGWE FM, the first community radio station at Sinazongwe in the Zambezi Valley on the Northern shore of Lake Kariba. Last year the Sinazongwe community joined efforts with the Sinazongwe District Council to erect a new building for the station on the hilltop overlooking the Lake - still called The Big River or Mulonga in ChiTonga language and tradition. Facilitated by a crowdfunding campaign on the Austrian side the necessary financial resources were made available for the relocation of the radio station from rather cramped conditions at Sinazongwe Basic School in May. This move was organised by the ZONGWE FM team led by the station manager Mr Kennedy Kein Kambole and supported by two radio experts from Austrian Free Radio B138 Kirchdorf - Mr Mike Schedlberger and Mrs Tanja Landerl - and their Zambian counterpart Mr Kayula Faith Mulenga.

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Both sides of the Zambezi: A playlist of on-air excerpts 2018

by Claudia Wegener / radio continental drift

across the Zambezi, between Zambia and Zimbabwe was a focus of
activities on the ground 2018. Sharing broadcast excerpts from the
Zambezi Valley for World Radio Day 2019, we

dream of radio-bridges to listeners around the world…

that is the various radio-makers at Sinazongwe Community Radio
Station aka ZongweFM; it’s also Mutinta Mukuwa (the white,
out-one-out) aka claudia who joint Zongwe team between June and
December 2018 for weekly workshops, international projects, and of
course many live broadcasts. “We” may also include the many
studio guests, we were honored to host, who spoke to us in person or,
through recordings and remixes.

like to invite you to go on a journey with ZongweFM Live for two
hours to the rural areas North and South of the Zambezi; you’ll
hear about a community fundraising concert for Zongwe FM, the local
launch of the Radio-Bridge Compilation, exchange visits of women
across Lake Kariba, between Sinazongwe and Binga, visitors from
Europa, Basimbi Radio, radio making with/ by/ for girls - and many
many other things between the lines…

you for listening!

continental drift

read more and listen:

Obituary Chief Sinazongwe RIP

It is with great sorrow that we received the sad news of Chief Sinazongwe's passing away on
December 26th. We will miss him after coming to know and work with him since 2004.

We remember fondly our first encounter with His Excellency on the Zimbabwean side of the River
Mulonga in Siachilaba and Siansundu when he was leading a strong Budima group to join Simonga
group from Siachilaba in the celebration of the opening of two computer labs at the relevant schools
(see the picture below). Their performances highlighted the fact that Tonga music as the traditional
way to communicate values and vision has nowadays been complemented by modern tools of

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Good start into 2018 for Zongwe FM in Sinazongwe / Zambia

Zongwe FM station manager Kennedy Kein wrote on 19th January: "our radio has been granted a funding by the (Rural District) Council to build the new radio station up hill (on the Boma). We therefore ask for material support such as adjustable microphone stands, microphones and just other things you mighty think of supporting the radio station. Regards to all the friends in Austria".

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Mokoomba live in Concert +++ 30th of August +++ Vienna

see the flyer


Mokoomba will perform together with Mamadou Daibate, Karl Ritter and Didier Uwayo at an open-air at "Nordbahn Halle", Wasserturm on Wednesday the 30th, starting 7 p.m. free entry!




Women sharing crucial information across Lake Kariba via radio

Zubo Women on-air at ZongweFM in Sinazongwe / Zambia: The sampler of four tracks presents excerpts from recent live shows on the community radio station Zongwe FM in Sinazongwe / Zambia. While broadcasts are still continuing, the sampler already shares a “teaser” for the release of all the 10 live shows in full.


source / listen:


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Vale Professor Elizabeth Colson!

Dear Friends, It is with great sorrow that we received the sad news of Professor Elizabeth Colson's (99) passing away on 3rd August at her home near Monze / Zambia.


We have met Elizabeth Colson several times in recent years on our way to or from Sinazongwe on the Northern shore of Lake Kariba where we assist the community radio station Zongwe FM. She was such an amazing woman, with her cultural empathy and wit outstanding. We shared her love for the Tonga people. For sure we will always meet her there in the Gwembe Valley where "she left footprints in the sand of time" and where her spirit and inspiration lives on.  Rest In Peace, Elizabeth.



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ZONGWE.FM broadcasting again

Good news from Sinazongwe Community Radio - Ngazi yamano. After a long period of suspended services due to problems to obtain the relevant licensing the station is back on air and the management board sent the following progress report


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Installation of Chief Siachilaba celebrated with Ngoma Buntibe

posted March 28, 2016, by Pathisa Nyathi


A celebration of Ngoma Buntibe, the orchestra of the BaTonga: This musical performance is, by all accounts, a fabulous musical presentation.


Listening to it is like listening to the pervasive sounds of creation of the universe. Viewing the dancers move around is akin to watching the rhythmic movement of cosmic bodies: stars, planets and moons. The music is scintillating and ear-caressing. This is a rendition of the music genre of the BaTonga called Ngoma Buntibe. The occasion is the installation of Nona Mungombe as Chief Siachilaba at a place in Binga District that goes by the name of the chieftainship.

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Electricity for All but Those the Kariba Dam Displaced

By Baboki Kayawe / IPS

Indigenous (Tonga) people who were displaced from the Zambezi Valley almost six decades ago for the construction of the Kariba Dam say they have not benefited from the development they made way for. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

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Shangano Arts Festival 2012 launched in Binga

By Noel Munzabwa, 26th October 2012

The Guest of Honour, CHIEF SIANSALI held the following speech at the launch of SHANGANO ARTS FESTIVAL in Binga on 25th October 2012

THEME: Keeping it alive, long live cultural diversity!

Cultural diversity is a key component to co-existence thus the government of Zimbabwe has made great strides towards promoting national realization of all languages and their respective cultures through constitutional provisions.

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Tapfuma Gutsa’s Mulonga exhibition in Binga celebrating Tonga Culture and Heritage

The Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) extended a grant for the showcasing of Tapfuma Gutsa’s Mulonga - Wide Waters and Starry Skies - a celebration of Tonga Culture and Heritage by Tapfuma Gutsa and friends exhibition which debuted on the sidelines of the Harare International Festival of the Arts earlier this year. Sida also apportioned funds for the publishing of a catalogue of the works in the exhibition.

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Paradigm Shift On Minority Languages a Welcome Move

By Steven Mpofu, 11 May 2012

A major paradigm shift is set to begin in Zimbabwe to end the marginalisation of indigenous languages, other than Shona and Ndebele, by elevating them from a Cinderella status to which white settlers first relocated them when colonising this country.

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Tonga musicians @ HIFA 2012

Greetings from Basilwizi - The people of the Great River!


Basilwizi Trust is excited to advise that for the first time in history of Harare International Festival of the Arts HIFA, Zimbabwe’s largest show case for arts and culture, Tonga musicians have been invited to participate. We are so grateful to this support which presents an opportunity for our people to share and exchange on Zimbabwe’s cultural diversity at an international stage.

see the HIFA website: Ngoma Buntibe music of the Tonga People

NEW: read the update by Penny Yon / Pamberi Trust (below)

NEW: Mokoomba, the young Tonga boys from VicFalls @ HIFA (further below)

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Keeping Tonga Language Alive

by Tichaona Zindoga / The Herald / allAfrica    19 January 2012

Last year, a major milestone was achieved for minority languages in general and Tonga in particular, when the latter was officially tested at Grade Seven for the first time. The response was resounding, especially in Chief Mola's area in Kariba swhere schools recorded good passes with some achieving 100 percent pass rates in the subject. As Tonga language and culture are synonymous with the Zambezi River that borders Zimbabwe and Zambia, the riverine Chief Mola's area in the northwest of Zimbabwe is one of the bastions of Tonga language and culture. Gokwe North, Binga, Hwange and other districts are other centres of Tonga culture.

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Ijwi Lyako Alimvwigwe - Make Your Voice Heard

Kujatana Nkubotu 21 km Peace Half Marathon is held annually to commemorate the United Nations International Day of Peace. Since the first race was held in 2008, the half marathon has evolved into a major sports event on the Zimbabwean calendar. The race organised and sponsored by Twalumba Foundation - the corporate social responsibility arm of Twalumba Holdings - is held in Binga district in Matabeleland North Province. This year’s race was held on the 22 October 2011 and nearly 700 athletes competed. Besides offering an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) certified route to compete, the race has helped to bring the world to Binga. Athletes, race officials, spectators and journalists from all over Zimbabwe have travelled to Binga and enjoyed the natural and cultural beauty of the Ba-Tonga people.

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The Kankobela music of the Batonga on CD

SWP Records is pleased to announce the release of SWP 039 'The Kankobela of the Batonga Vol. 2' . After the seven surviving masters presented on the Vol. 1 album, SWP Records is presenting on Vol. 2 eleven more old masters, recorded by Michael Baird in 1996 and 2008. "More otherworldly songs, deep buzzing and mesmerizing time patterns. Tongtronics - but without any electricity! The kankobela is the 'thumb-piano' of the Batonga, who live in the Zambezi Valley after the Victoria Falls.

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Vibrant Lwiindi Celebrations in Sinazongwe / Zambia

This years Lwiindi ceremony in Sinazongwe on the Zambian side of Lake Kariba took place on 30th and 31st of July as a vibrant community festival. It was attended by more than 500 people including government departments, chiefs from Zambia and Zimbabwe, ngoma groups from Zambia and Zimbabwe. Residents of Sinazongwe chieftainship and those from outside Sinazongwe as far as Maamba also attended the function. There were two chiefs from Zimbabwe Chief Siansali and Chief Sinakoma, assistant district administrator for Binga district, Mr. T. Mugoriya, Basilwizi board member Ms. C Sianyuka, and Basilwizi officer, Mrs. D. Mudimba. Basilwizi Trust’s Tonga.Online project supported 30 musicians from Nampande Ngoma Chita from Sinakoma ward, comprising of 11 women and 19 men, to go across The River.

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Tonga music culturally rich

By Margaret Chinowaita, Entertainment Writer, The Daily News, Harare
Monday, 16 May 2011 17:32

HARARE - The Tonga people of Zimbabwe have over the years managed to keep their culture alive through music despite a number of factors that threaten to dishevel this ethnic clan.

A discussion on the Tonga people language and culture which was held at Book Café in Harare on Thursday night attracted people from different ethnic groups who met to share on the subject.

The discussion was led by Bulawayo based group, Basilwizi organisation that works with Tonga people.

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CD Release: The Kankobela of the Batonga

SWP Records are happy to announce a new cd release - forgotten music, but so sweet!

visit for more info, secure online shopping and a sound sample from each album:

SWP 036    The Kankobela of the Batonga Vol 1

The kankobela is the thumb-piano of the Batonga people, who live in the Zambezi Valley on both sides of Lake Kariba; about two thirds live in Zambia and one third in Zimbabwe. A solo instrument played by men, to express their innermost feelings in songs about a range of subjects from spiritual to humourous. The instrument itself is always highly customised, and the songs all highly personal: no two players sound the same. But it is dying out - young people are not continuing the tradition. On this album we present seven surviving masters, with otherworldly songs, deep buzzing and mesmerizing time patterns. Recorded in 2008 by Michael Baird.
Tongatronics - but without any electricity!

Tonga community joined in mourning

The two Tonga groups of musicians, Simonga from Siachilaba in Binga district in Zimbabwe and Maliko from Sinazongwe in Zambia, who formed a joint ensemble as one of the highlights of Parade at Linz 2009 Cultural Capital of Europe in May are going to continue their collaboration across the waters of Lake Kariba.

Unfortunately this years visit and performances at the annual thanksgiving Lwiindi ceremony end of July at the Malende site in Sinazongwe was overcast by the mourning for the late Jonah Syamenga Syankondo.

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Petition on the Exploitation of Binga People

To The District Administrator

Ministry Of Local Government, Public Work and Urban Development

P.O. Box 2


08 December 2008

Read Petition

New book by Joann McGregor: Crossing the Zambezi

Crossing the Zambezi
The Politics of Landscape on a Central African Frontier
by Joann McGregor

‘Crossing the Zambezi is a magnificent study of how a great river can structure the lives of the people who live along it. ...Europeans perceived the Zambezi as a boundary rather than a uniting force, and McGregor traces out the consequences of that boundary-making as people became defined as citizens of different countries... This is a major contribution both to ethnography and the history of the region. A book for ecologists, anthropologists, political geographers, historians and Africanists.’
– Elizabeth Colson, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

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Launch of Tonga Books + Commemoration of Kariba Dam built 50 years ago

Binga district witnessed the launch of grade one to seven ChiTonga Books titled Bwacha Lino on the 27th of November 2008. This launch was organised by the Zimbabwe Publishing House ZPH Publishers (Pvt) Ltd. It was dawn and a dream come true for the BaTonga people. It was a day of joy and jubilation. For the first time, Tonga language will be taught from grade one to seven in the Binga and Nyaminyami Schools. I would therefore like to applaud ZPH, TOLACO, BASILWIZI TRUST and Save the children for the job well done. 

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Tonga proverbs, by Isaac Mumpande

Tonga.Online has obtained permission from Isaac Mumpande for uploading of Tonga proverbs from his collection onto the website.
The second part will be added in the near future. We are grateful that authority to upload the book on the website was
solicited for and granted by the writer - twalumba. We tried to look for the soft copy of the book from the publisher but all in vain. In this regard, we
had to re-type the whole book.

Best regards, Pottar Muzamba

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Tonga Sayings, by Isaac Mumpande

This is the part titled "sayings" from Isaac Mumpandes Collection:


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Panos Report: Tales of Resettlement - Kariba Dam and the Tonga

 In the late 1950s, the Tonga people of Zambia and Zimbabwe were subject to forced removal on a massive scale, to make way for the construction of a huge hydro-electric dam across the Zambezi River in Southern Africa. The Kariba Dam was the largest man-made dam in the world at that time. It was a powerful symbol for technological achievement and international cooperation. However, little attention was paid to the implications for the 57,000 Tonga who had to leave behind their homes and fertile land along the banks of the Zambezi, according to this Panos report, which was compiled with help also from Tonga.Online project Binga and Kunzwana Trust, Harare.

Read more in the Panos Report and below:  

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Spotlight on Basilwizi

Basilwizi is a non-profit advocacy and community development organisation operating in the Zambezi River Valley, in the remote northern regions of Zimbabwe. The organisation works for the social and economic empowerment of the Tonga and Korekore communities living in the four districts of Hwange, Binga, Gokwe North and Nyaminyami. 

Basilwizi was founded in 2002 by the Tonga and Korekore people themselves, in order to address the vast social and economic problems facing their communities. The Tonga and Korekore rank amongst the most vulnerable population groups in Zimbabwe - suffering from chronic poverty, political marginalisation, and socio-economic underdevelopment, that stem as far back as the 1950s, when these communities were forcibly evicted to make way for the Kariba Dam and Lake Kariba. 

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Oral history

Chivunduka was a drum brought by the Kore Kore invaders from Gunuuswa (their mythical land of origin). It could move by itself, rolling or crawling, but at night would borrow the feet of wild animals to take itself about. It was a famous hunter and when in a good mood would supply the people with meat it had killed. On the death of every third paramount chief, Chivunduka's parchment would burst and a man would be killed and his skin used to replace the broken one. The Tonga under Siambese are said to have briefly taken Chivunduka as a reward for their assistance to the vaGove in a successful battle against the Shankwe, who were demanding tribute and recognition from them. 

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Tonga Tonkunst: One man One Note

by Keith Goddard

The music of the Valley Tonga is as extraordinary and distinct as it is beautiful. To date, however, it remains almost totally unexplored by researchers and academics (except in regard to musical instruments as artifacts of material culture) and it is virtually unknown outside the Tonga area.

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Chilungununo chakajanwa

Chivunduka yakali ngoma yakayetwa abasilumamba bamaKore Kore Kabazwa ku Gunuuswa. Yakali kulyeedelela ayilikke kaikunkulika, pesi mansiku kailomba maulu abanyama bamusokwe kutegwa iyendeende. Yakali muvwimi ulampuwo chakuti ikuti yakujaya yakali kuwaabila bantu boonse nyama. Choonse chiindi alufu lwamwami mupati watatu chakali kubbaluka chibambo chaChivanduka awalokwakali kujeegwa muntu, wakali kufundwa chikumba chakali kuba nchenchicho nchakali kubambwa.


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The Valley Tonga

The Valley Tonga live in the middle Zambezi Valley on both sides of the Zambezi River in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Upstream is the Victoria Falls, downstream is Kariba Dam. The Valley Tonga are the third largest ethnic group in Zimbabwe after the Shona and Ndebele.

The best known fact about the Tonga is that they were forcibly removed from the banks of the Zambezi River forty years ago to make way for the building of Kariba. Once deported from their habitat, they were abandoned.

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Music of the Buntibe

There are eighteen Tonga chieftancies in Zimbabwe and within each exists at least one ngoma buntibe group, if not three or four. Each team consists of forty people or more. Around thirty men play up to nineteen different sizes of horn (nyele) fashioned from different species of kudu, in particular impala for the higher horns and sable for the lower ones.

In addition, there are between five and seven conical-shaped drums ranging from small hand-held ones played with sticks to a giant drum requiring one or more persons to support it in addition to the principal player. The smaller drums are covered with cowhide, the larger ones with elephant's ear.

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Simonga - The Ngoma Buntibe Group from Siachilaba

The ngoma buntibe group at Siachilaba takes its name from the composer (mwimbi), called Simonga, who fled with his relatives from fighting chiefs in Zambia to Siachilaba sometime towards the beginning of this century. He was the grandfather of Sialwindi Munkuli, the present leader of Simonga and the keeper of the horns in central Siachilaba today.

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Chitonga Dictionary

Welcome to the second edition of the Chitonga Online Dictionary. It was originaly created 1997 when Simonga traveled to Austria. This 2nd edition was done as part of the ICT Workshop in Syansundu in May 2004. Thanks to Mildred, Notie, Lackson, Norman and Kapongo Chipo for their contribution.

Please feel free to mail more words and sentences!

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