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The Musical Culture of the Country of Burundi Essay

Every nation has its own culture and traditions which has been practiced by the people for many decades or centuries. Most of the cultural practices of a nation are usually passed down to the next generation. Although they are altered to fit the current generation, some parts of the culture remain intact and do not change; they are the same practices done in the past. The same is true with the cultural practices of Burundi. Amidst the various wars and conflict taking place in the country of Burundi, its culture is still upheld by those living in the rural areas.

Their traditions are still largely celebrated and practiced by the people. Through the years, the world has seen Burundi as a place filled with violence and conflict. There are times when the news coming from Burundi only involves violence and improper actions of the rebels against the government and vice versa. In addition, mass killings are known to have affected many regions of the country, therefore lessening the chances for recreational activities, education, and other cultural practices to be upheld.

Various refuge camps and displaced people have also been distressed by such conflicts. External Influences to the Burundian Culture Historical accounts of Burundi reveal that the country was colonized by various European nations. King Mwezi IV, the ruling leader during the 19th century, feared that his kingdom will be captured by one of the conflicting tribes in Burundi, the Tutsis. Due the King’s fear, he secured the support of Germany to protect his kingdom, instantly turning Burundi into a German colony.

After a few years, the German colonizers passed the responsibility to a new European state: Belgium (Institute for Security Studies [ISS], 2005). Hence, these countries were able to influence and engrave their own norms, traditions, and beliefs on Burundians which were incorporated into the cultural practices of Burundi. Music as a Large Part of the Burundian Culture Burundians are people who enjoy arts and music. Music has been a huge part of their lives which could be observed in various types of traditional gatherings and the songs sung in these gatherings.

One of these is family gatherings where “imvyino” songs are performed. Imviyino songs were known to have short refrain which has a strong beat. Such songs often incorporate spontaneous verses which are sung together with the strong beats of the music. On the other hand, “imdirimbo” song is a more downcast and serious type of music which is sung by a small group of individuals or a solo singer. “Kwishongora” is another type of song from the traditional music of Burundi that is sung only by men. It is a rhythmic song which is integrated with trills and shouts.

For the females, there is also a certain type of song made for them, and it is called the “bilito” in which is a sentimental form of music (Stanford, 2007), One of the strongest characteristics of Burundi music is the “whispered singing. ” This is expressed by the performer in a low or soft pitch, for it requires the musical accompaniment to be heard clearly (Stanford, 2007). Burundian Musical Instruments Most of the traditional songs of Burundi are played with specific instruments such as “inanga,” “idono,” “ikihusehama,” and “ikimbe.

” The inanga is an instrument composed of six (6) to eight (8) strings which are stretched out in a wooden concave bowl. The idono is known to be the fiddle which is composed only of a single string. The ikihusehama is a musical instrument which is similar to a clarinet woodwind. Lastly, the ikimbe is the linguaphone version of the Burundians. However, the most important musical instrument used by the Burundians is the drums which is considered as a symbol of status and power (Stanford, 2007). Drums are known to be the most significant instruments in the country of Burundi.

In the ancient times, drums were not only seen as a plain instrument but a sacred object which was only used for ceremonial events. The beat is one of the most essential elements of the Burundian drums. Certain drum beats are applied depending on the type of event being held, from funerals to enthronement. The beat of the drums is also the main signal that proclaims the start of the agricultural season as well as the propagation of the Soughum seeds which is an important agricultural amenity for the country (Heavenly Planet, 2008).

The drums are not only significant to the events, but they are also deeply connected to nature. This strong relationship of drums and nature is evident in parts of the drum, as their names are related to fertility: “Icahi: the skin (the skin in which the mother rocks her baby); Amabere: the pegs (the breasts); Urugori: the thong stretching the skin (crown of motherhood); inda: the cylinder (the stomach); umukondo: the foot of the drum (the umbilical cord)” (Heavenly Planet, 2008, n. p. ) Royal Drummers of Burundi

The Royal Drummers of Burundi is the most acknowledged performers in Burundi. The group is composed of twenty (20) individuals who perform in the most important Burundian ceremonies. Accordingly, due to the significance of the group, they also perform in various celebrations such as funerals, births, coronations, and christenings within the country. This prestigious drum group is known to also perform in various parts of the world. In addition, the Royal Drummers of Burundi is recognized as one of the most acclaimed percussion groups in the world (Smith, 2009).

The group is known to be a multigenerational band; therefore, sons are taught by their fathers the art and the significance of performance and playing drums. Most of the time, different drummers switch places in order for them to have a short rest and create a constant flow of music that only stops during the end of the whole program. In addition to drumming, most of the band members are also dancers. The group performs the dances during the opening of the programs (Smith, 2009). Africatravelling.

net (2000) commends the performances of the Royal Drummers of Burundi: “The Drummers of Burundi had the most captivating presence of all the acts at the festival… Every moment, every wail from the players fit into the trance impact of the drummers” (n. p. ). The Royal Drummers of Burundi are known to have specific drums that they use to create a specific sound of the drums. One of the types of drums that they use is the “Ngoma” drums which are “hollowed out from the trunk of a particular tree called D’umuvugangoma (Corda Africana)” (Heavenly Planet, 2008, n.

p. ). Reflection on the Music of Burundi As I have researched in various internet resources, I found out that the Burundi musical culture is not widely known to the world. There are only few resources available for those who are interested in their traditional music. Most books and articles are about the topics of human rights violations, genocides, and war in Burundi. Thus, this suggests the richness of the Burundian culture is often ignored. With the research that I have done, I realized that a single instrument could be a source of power and status.

In addition, such instruments could also be a signifier of various events and elements of nature. Due to the conflicts and hostility in the state of Burundi, the international community does not pay significant attention to the rich cultural aspect of this country. However, with the ensemble of Royal Drummers of Burundi, one can say that the rich culture of this African nation lives despite all atrocities. References Africatravelling. net (2000). Bujumbura-Culture. Retrieved February 11, 2009 from http://www. africatravelling. net/burundi/bujumbura/bujumbura_culture. htm. Heavenly Planet. (2008).

“Music That Inspires. ” Retrieved February 11, 2009 from http://www. heavenlyplanet. com/featured/dob. html. Institute for Security Studies. (2005). Political System and History. Retrieved February 11 2009 from http://www. iss. co. za/af/profiles/burundi/politics. html. Smith, S. E. (2009). Who are the Royal Drummers of Burundi?. Wise Geek. Retrieved February 11, 2009 from http://www. wisegeek. com/who-are-the-royal-drummers-of-burundi. htm. Stanford, E. (2007). Culture of Burundi. Countries and Their Cultures. Retrieved February 11, 2009 from http://www. everyculture. com/Bo-Co/Burundi. html.


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