In pre-colonial time, playing the drums regulated the activities of Burundi’s royal family. Drums were played to mark the beginning and the end of the daily royal activities. Drums were played to mark important events such as the “Umuganuro” party, the party of seeds when the King blessed his people and opened the season of cultivation. Other rituals include marking the death of a king and the inauguration of a new one. The drums were played to show that a new life started at the royal palace. Drums were also played when the country was invaded by enemies and allowed people to escape.
On November 26th 2014, Burundi’s royal drum dance was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. The drum still has strong symbolical meaning. It remains an instrument that is both revered and popular, reserved for national celebrations and distinguished guests. The drum is now an ambassador of Burundi as there is no any similarity with any other performances in other parts of the world.
The performance of the Burundi Drummers has been the same for centuries, and their techniques and traditions are passed from father to son. The members of the ensemble take turns playing the “Inkiranya” Drums, dancing, resting, and playing the other drums, rotating throughout the show without interruptions. At the beginning of their performance, sometimes drummers enter balancing the heavy drums on their heads and singing and playing. The Drummers wear cloths with the national colours (Red, Green and White).
The drums played by Burundian Drummers are made of a specific wood called Umuvugangoma, literally “the wood that makes the drum resonate, and of braced cow skins. The drums are sometimes also painted with the national colours (Red, Green and White).