Acholi Tribe Profile – Music of Northern Uganda

In our next field visit to Northern Uganda we will come across a mix of different tribes, including the Acholi.



Location: The Acholi people are located in ‘Acholiland’, a sub-region otherwise known as the Agago, Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Nwoya, Lamwo and Pader distrcts in Northern Uganda.

Population: There are about 1.17 million Acoli in Uganda.

History: They came to northern Uganda from Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan. In the late seventeenth century, they developed a socio-hierarchical system, in which communities, or chiefdoms, were run by Rwodi (rulers). They were traditionally hunting communities, whose economies revolved around hunting and breeding livestock. In the British colonial period, the Acoli comprised the majority of manual laborers and military. This damaged the economy of northern Uganda, and, following the country’’s independence in 1962, political and cultural turmoil lead to the formation of the Lord’’s Resistance Army, a terrorist movement lead by Joseph Kony that ravaged Northern Uganda in the late 20th century and early 21st, and has since moved on. As a consequence, the Acoli are now emphasizing the importance of musical, dance and festival tradition, in an attempt to rediscover their cultural glory.

Language: They speak a Southern dialect of Luo.

Origins: Folklore states that Luo was the first man, and sprung from the ground, son of Jok (God) and Mother Earth. His son Jipiti had a daughter called Kilak.Kilak is believed to have conceived a son, Lubongo, with the devil, Lubanga. Lubongo was the first in the line of Rwot – the chiefs of Payera, the dominant Acoli clan.

They have a variety of different dances and musical styles that serve different purposes. The top left image is of the Bwola royal dance which we will record during the Music of Northern Uganda Field trip of December 2012.

For more information about the tribes of Uganda, this website is useful.

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