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Burundi Music Essay

Every individual is inherently unique from one another because of many factors. Their individual uniqueness could be in terms of their personality, beliefs, lifestyle and others. Nevertheless, despite these differences, individuals still feel a sense of belongingness because they find themselves part of a certain group that shares things that are common among them. The concept of culture plays an important role in establishing ties among individuals of a particular group, community, or even a nation. This is due to the fact that culture mirrors the way of life of the people.

It symbolizes the heritage of a group of people, which could be seen through the art of music as well as the instruments that they use in order to produce their unique sounds. In relation to this, the country of Burundi also has their unique flair for music that describes the very culture that these people have. The country of Burundi or officially known as the Republic of Burundi is among the smallest and most densely populated territories in African continent. Burundi is a small landlocked country in Central Africa wherein it is surrounded by other countries including Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.

The country is also situated just south of the equator. Bujumbura is the capital of the country. This city has a population of about 600,000 that is located at the western Burundi’s Great Rift Valley on the shores of Lake Tanganyika (Africa Travelling, 2000). The population of the country is originally composed of the Twa Pygmies of the forests, which was later joined by the Hutu agriculturists. After the 14th century, the Tutsis who were characterized as war-like and reared long-horn cattle.

As time passes by, the Tutsis were able to dominate the society of the country and have established feudal obligations between the farmers and cattle owners. The authority of the Tutsis created more conflict when Germany and Belgium gained possession of the territory and acquired leadership indirectly through the Tutsis. For the span of several centuries, the Tutsi Royalty held the seat of power in the country wherein they provided organized leadership as well as a rich dynastic culture. However, after the Second World War majority of the Hutus insisted that they should be given greater participation in the affairs of the country.

Because of this, the royal family failed to show their ability to rule as they cannot properly handle the demands of the Hutus. The downfall of the royal family paved the way for the country to be under the central authority of the military and police (Travel Documents Systems, 2009). Most scholars who studied the Burundian culture found out that the royal court has a huge influence in the country’s culture. Their cultural heritage is centered on music and dance that gave reverence to the virtues of kingship. They also held numerous festivals wherein the drummers of Burundi had the most captivating presence.

The dances and elaborate ceremonies are usually performed with royal drums. Drumming is regarded as a vital aspect of the Burundian culture. For more than forty years, the world renowned Royal Drummers of Burundi are recognized for their traditional drumming styles. They used native drums such as: “amashako”, “ibishikiso”, and “ikiranya”. The performances of this percussion ensemble are usually part of ceremonies like births, funerals, and the coronations of their Kings, which they called as “mwami” The “karyenda” drums that the band also uses, are sacred in Burundi. These drums symbolize the mwami and regeneration as well as fertility.

The drums use by the Royal Drummers of Burundi came from hollowed tree trunks and covered by animal skin. There are also other drums that are used like the “Inkiranya” that serves as the central drum and the Amashako which is responsible in giving a continuous beat as well as the Ibishikiso that follows the rhythm of the Inkiranya (Maps of World, 2009). The performance of the Royal Drummers also stands for the music heritage of its people. The way in which they play these various drums has been the same for centuries because the techniques and traditions have been passed on from generation to generation.

Members of the ensemble take turns in playing the drums and dancing throughout the performance. The drummers start the show by balancing the heavy drums on their heads, at the same time singing and playing. There are also some extra members that hold ornamental shields and spears. Their purpose is to lead the procession with their dance (Maps of World, 2009). The unique and long-standing musical heritage of Burundi is not only seen in drumming but also in their songs. Burundian gives utmost importance to the family, which is why during their gatherings they have the “imuyino” songs.

Imuyino songs have a short refrain and a strong beat, which usually include improvised verses when sung. On the other hand, another type song, the “indirimbo” is more passive as compared with the imuyino. The indirimbo is sung by a single singer or a small group. Distinction in the gender roles in their society is also reflected in their music. Men sing the “kwishongora”, which is a rhythmic song that is characterized with shouts and trills. Women sing the “bilito”, which is a more sentimental music (Stanford, 2007).

Their music shows men as more authoritative and responsible with decision-making while women are more emotional and has the duty of child rearing. Burundian music is also known for its “whispered singing. ” This is sung at a low pitch in order for the accompaniment of the instruments to be heard more. The instruments used in singing are the “inanga”, a hollow wooden bowl with six to eight strings stretched over it; the “idono”, a one string fiddle; the “ikihusehama”, a clarinet-like woodwind; and the “ikimbe”, a linguaphone (Stanford, 2007).

The cultural heritage of Burundi is indeed exceptional due to the fact that it is rooted in their history and it mirrors their values and way of life. Nevertheless, the arts and humanities of the country especially its music and dance have not been given due attention in order for it to flourish more. The current situation of the country that is often plagued with internal conflict among its various tribes, as well as some disagreements with its neighbor countries made life very difficult in Burundi. Arts and humanities have been taken for granted because of more pressing issues like the security and welfare of the Burundian citizens.

References Africa Travelling. (2000). Bujumbura – Culture. Retrieved February 10, 2009, from http://www. africatravelling. net/burundi/bujumbura/bujumbura_culture. htm. Maps of World. (2009). Royal Drummers of Burundi. Retrieved February 10, 2009, from http://www. mapsofworld. com/burundi/culture/royal-drummers. html. Stanford, E. (2007). Culture of Burundi. Retrieved February 10, 2009, from http://www. everyculture. com/Bo-Co/Burundi. html. Travel Document Systems. (2009). Burundi Africa: Culture. Retrieved February 10, 2009, from http://www. traveldocs. com/bi/culture. htm.

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