The Drummers of Burundi

The Drummers of Burundi first took the UK by storm at the legendary inaugural WOMAD Festival in 1982. They have been a major influence on such musicians as The Clash, Joni Mitchell, Echo and the Bunnymen, Adam and the Ants, Malcolm McLaren and Bow Wow Wow.

The Drummers of Burundi are Master Drummers from the small African country between Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. Their performances are as much a spectacle of dance as music. A crescent of around a dozen great log drums, made from hollowed-out tree trunks covered with dried animal skins, are pounded by the drummers in traditional Burundi costume.

In the centre of the semi-circle, the painted Inkiryana lead drum is played by all of the drummers in turn before each piece ends. The drummers leap, twist and spin around the Inkiryana with tremendous energy, dancing with as much skill, expressiveness, and thunderous excitement as they drum.

The privilege of playing these drums has been handed down from father to son for generations. The drums are made from a tree which grows only in Burundi, and the Drummers plant the seeds of the trees to maintain their drum-making skills for future generations. Originally, the Drummers of Burundi accompanied the King on his travels. Today they play at local festivities, national events and are considered by the Rundi (the inhabitants of Burundi) to be the most important representatives of the country’s musical tradition.

Further reading

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