The Music of Ugandan Jews

Most people would probably be surprised to see hear that there are Ugandan Jews. If you use the following link you can find a nice description of the community. For those of you who have problems clicking here is a snippet:

“Nestled within the rolling hills and valleys of Eastern Uganda lives a community of 500 black Ugandans who practice Judaism, observing Jewish holidays, singing Hebrew songs, dining under the Laws of Kashrut, and keeping the Shabbat holy, as they have for generations. Guided almost exclusively by the Torah, the Abayudaya daven in their synagogues, usually made from mud huts, in four different villages outside a town called Mbale. This page stands as a testament to their ability to withstand total isolation — and anti-Semitism — in a Ugandan village to celebrate the tenets of Jewish faith.

The History and Culture of the Abayudaya

Why do a community of black Ugandans practice Judaism today?

In the early part of this century, a well-known Buganda leader named Semei Kakungulu resisted both the European Colonialists and the Missionaries with whom he came into contact. Kakungulu read of the Jewish faith, met several European Jews working through the British protectorate, and was eager to read, learn, and practice. During the 1920’s a European Jewish trader met Kakungulu and taught the community the theory and practice of the Jewish faith. From 1920 until 1992, approximately 15 Jews from the outside Jewish world have visited the community. In 1992, Julia Chamovitz and Matthew Meyer visited the Abayudaya for Shabbat and were urged to send more visitors. Since then, many more have visited the isolated community, including a delegation of American Jews and two rabbis.”

The description above is a little bit dated. Currently one of the Ugandan Jews is attending the Ziegler school of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism.

In reference to the title of the post there is a CD available called the Abayudaya – Music from the Jewish People of Uganda
 It is a blend of Hebrew, English and some Ugandan languages. I enjoyed listening to it and found it interesting to listen to familiar songs that had been arranged in a fashion I was not accustomed to.

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