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Keeping the beat, the Burundi drum seeks audience

China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-24 08:06
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Chinese Ambassador to Burundi Li Changlin (left) and Bienvenue Irakoze, the permanent secretary of Burundian Ministry of Youth, Posts and Information Technologies, unveiled the ceremony of commemorative stamps marking the 55th anniversary of diplomatic ties between two countries. XINHUA

BUJUMBURA - When about 30 Burundian drummers practiced Burundi's traditional drum show in Gishora drum sanctuary in central Burundi, resounding beating drums and singing was heard from far.

Surrounded by green mountains, the drummers, dressed in clothes with the colors of green, red and white that make up Burundi's national flag, were beating drums that are made from certain types of trees and covered with cow skin.

The drum performance, a kind of ritual dance, was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of the UN's heritage agency UNESCO in 2014.

The drum sanctuary in Gitega province, about 100 kilometers east of capital Bujumbura, was established in 1903 to mark the braveness of local residents who provided refuge for the then Burundian king.

Fenced with trees and branches in a traditional way, the touristic site is constituted of small circular houses covered with straws from the top to the bottom, and a courtyard where the drum performance stages.

The Burundian drum, originally symbolizing power and fecundity and originated in the province of Gitega, particularly in the districts of Giheta, Gitega, Makebuko and Bukirasazi, said Leonard Sinzinkayo, Director General of Culture and Arts at the Burundian Ministry of Culture and Sports.

It is an original artwork of the Burundian people, which is a far cry from drums in other countries in terms of materials and playing methods, Sinzinkayo said.

"There are norms in drum beating and that style only exists in Burundi," he said. "When Burundian drummers arrive at an exhibition place, they form a semicircle with drums on their heads. There is a central drum beaten by all drummers one after one. And on both sides of the central drum there are drummers performing in a harmonious rhythm," he explained.

From Gitega, the drum was spread to the rest of the country after its introduction in schools through cultural, social and even religious events, said the official.

The drum performance has been popular on important occasions in the central African country.

Currently, Gishora drum sanctuary as one of the most popular sites in Burundi, receives few tourists, according to Oscar Nshimirimana, chairman of the Gishora drummers' association and head of the sanctuary.

A group of Gishora drummers, who are trained from as early as 5 years old, are given between 100,000 Burundian francs ($37) to 150,000 francs overall for performing at an event, he said.

Leonidas Habonimana, Director General of Tourism at Burundian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, said that the government has been exploring the tourism opportunity of the drum, since it was listed as the intangible heritage of UNESCO.

Tourism holds an important place in Burundi's economy and the country has chosen to promote cultural tourism, said Habonimana, adding that the drum is ranked first on the cultural tourism.


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