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A Glimpse of Zambia

Before missionaries and colonials arrived in the nineteenth century, the country now known as Zambia had many self-governing kingdoms and chieftancies, each with its own music and royal musicians. Traditional instruments included drums, bells, xylophones, and the kalimba , or "hand piano."

Beginning in the 1920s, Zambians poured in from all corners of the country to work in the rich copper mines. This migration created a melting pot of people sharing their musical heritage. As a result, new musical styles, such as the kalindula and "Zamrock," were created.

To read more about Zambian music, click here .

Though English is the country’s official language, Zambians have adapted it to create "Zanglish," or Zambian English, which is rich in idiom, vocabulary, and humor. There are also seven semi-official languages, used most often in local courts, which handle traditional laws. Most of these seven languages are of Bantu origin, and some share similar grammar and vocabulary.

Corn is the staple of the Zambian diet. Most meals include a corn and water porridge called nshima , which is sometimes supplemented with fish or other proteins, such as field mice and grasshoppers. Cassava (a root vegetable), wheat, and potatoes are also eaten. Antelope, buffalo, and hippo are a traditional part of the Zambian diet, but hunting is now regulated, making these animals a less-common food source.

For Zambians, an adequate food supply is never guaranteed, however. Threats come from ineffective government agricultural policies and from drought.

Basketry, woodcarving, and pottery are traditional Zambian crafts. Objects were once commonly made to be functional and were used for barter. Today, the need for traditionally made items has dwindled because most Zambians use plastic buckets, metal pans, and other manufactured items. Most hand-made items are now sold to tourists.

Traditional Ceremonies
Once suppressed by colonials, missionaries, and former governments as heathen and subversive, many traditional ceremonies are now being celebrated as national events. Traditional costumes, including masks, are often worn, and music is generally played. One of largest ceremonies is called Kuomboka . For the Lozi people, Kuomboka marks the time in the spring when the plain floods and the people migrate to higher ground. When the plain dries in July, the Lozi have the same processional ceremony — in reverse.


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