Art, Literature and Music
Art for the Bantu primarily takes the form of music and dance. Important aspects of their culture are passed down from one generation to the next through storytelling, singing, and oral recounting of their history. The Bantu play musical instruments, primarily drums, in their traditional ceremonies. Some Bantu work in urban Somalia playing in bands for the wider Somali population.
The Somali Bantu Community Association of Vermont, Inc is currently supporting the Shabar Music Band, Iftin Traditional Band and the Drumming Band. They are musical groups that perform traditional song and dance. The purpose of these bands is to preserve the culture and traditions of the Somali Bantus. They create teamwork among the Somali Bantu youths. The Drumming Band is lead by Mohamed Bulle Ibrahim and Osman Hassan (Zuuka). Shabar Music Band is Lead by Omar Mohamed and Abukar Traffic. Iftin Traditional Band is lead by Bashir Haji Ahmed. They teach young man and women about their traditional music and drumming. They also perform different kinds of traditional dances during an annual Community gathering.
Community Drumming Band
Shabar Music Band
The goal of the Shabar Music Band is to develop and strengthen youth and young children in traditional dance/music.
Festivities and Ceremonies
Like other Muslims, the Bantu follow the lunar year system while also using the solar year system to determine the timing for crop planting and harvesting. One of the popular and celebrated traditional festivities is the fire festival known as Deb-Shid, in which people dance and sing around a bonfire to celebrate the beginning of a new year. Ceremonies and dance groups are strongly linked to the community structure and spiritual well-being. Thus, traditional ceremonies and ritual dancing is an important aspect in the Somali Bantu lives.
Another important and traditional festival is Anyakow. This is a dance and singing celebration in which both males and females participate and is mostly held at night in the forest. It is only performed during the day for the commemoration of an important figure in the community or for someone who is about to get married and requests it for the wedding. Other celebrations are held at night to allow participants to spiritually connect with their ancestors. Night is also a time for people to rest and make social acquaintances.
A fascinating and entertaining dance is Masawey, in which men and women wear dried banana leaves on their waists, metal anklets on their feet and bracelets on their hands to make synchronized rhythmic noises. This is an acrobatic dance with participants simultaneously swinging and moving their bodies. This dance, like Anyakow, is sung in either Swahili or a local dialect.
Another famous dance is Cadow Makaraan. Shulay is a dance competition between Bantu villages that is performed by the best boy and girl dancers from each village. In all these events, whether ritual or fantasy, performers play different drums and other instruments.
Artistic woodcarvings are demonstrated during the festivities of Anyakow and other dancing ceremonies. Various carved masks are worn during daytime dances to cover one's face. During these festivities, the artists' mastery of art, literature, and music are said to not only capture the audience's attention, but to mesmerize them as well.