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An International Passport Presentation
Sunday, November 11, 7:30pm

The last time they toured the United States they created an international sensation with the “Burundi beat”. One of the greatest percussion ensembles in the world is back for one special evening featuring the ultimate African percussion and dance experience.

*San Diego Symphony does not appear.



November 11 Program at Symphony Hall

Act One


Kirundi language                                                        English

Scene One - GUHUMAGARA                                    The Call

Scene Two - UMUTERERO                                         The Long Walk

Scene Three - KIRIMWO ABAGABO                        The Honest Men

Scene Four - KAMA K’IWACU                                  Our  Tradition

Scene Five - AGAHGBEOBE                                       The Sacrifice

Scene Six - AGAHONJOHONJO                                 The Foretaste of the Concert

Scene Seven - AMAKIRA                                             Rhythm Dedicated to the Cow

Scene Eight - AGAKWAKWANO                               The Peace

Scene Nine - INDENGERA                                           The Travel

Scene Ten - BIRENZI VY’AMAHORO                       Birenzi (The Cow)

Scene Eleven - MVUYE KURE                                     I Am Coming from Faraway

Scene Twelve - ARI HEHE NKAMWIGINA               Where is He?

Scene Thirteen - INSERUKIRA                                    The Ramble

Scene Fourteen - INTAMAZO                                     The Arrival




Act Two


Kirundi Language                                                        English

Scene One – IMARARUBANZA                                 The Best

Scene Two – AKANYANGE                                         The Joy

Scene Three – AKEZAMUTIMA                                 The Happiness

Scene Four – UBUMWE                                                The Unity

Scene Five - DUTERE TUJA IMBERE                         Let's Go For Progress

Scene Six – AKANIKIZO                                               Exhibition

Scene Seven – AMAKIRA Y’INKA                              Rhythm Played When You Receive a Cow as a Present

Scene Eight – NTUNDENGERE                                    Stay at Your Home

Scene Nine – GIRA AMAHORO                                  Be in Peace

Scene Ten – AGATERERO                                           The Little Walk

Scene Eleven – INGARAMANGO                               The Acrobatics

Scene Twelve – INDAMUKANYO                              The Greetings

Scene Thirteen – KOMA AMASHI                              Applaud Me Please

Scene Fourteen – INYANGE ZIRARAMYE                Cows Rearing

Scene Fifteen – UMWIYEREKO                                   The Suppleness

Scene Sixteen – NSANGANIRA                                    Salute me

Scene Seventeen – URARANGWA                               Bless you


Program Notes

The Drummers of Burundi have long been an ensemble of legend; their name is equivalent to an idea of true energy and joyful power.

The performance of the Royal Drummers of Burundi has remained powerful for centuries; the techniques and traditions are passed down from father to son. The members of the ensemble take turns playing a central drum (called the Inkiranya) dancing, resting, and playing the other drums, rotating throughout the performance without interruption.

Their performances form part of many social ceremonies in Burundi. Timeless and ageless, the rhythm of Burundi is a truly powerful, hypnotic and enthralling experience.

At the start of their performance, the Drummers enter balancing the heavy drums on their heads while singing and playing, accompanied by extra members who carry ornamental spears and shields while leading the procession through dance. They then perform a series of rhythms, some accompanied by song, and exit the stage in similar fashion while carrying the drums on their heads and playing.

The relationship in Burundi between drum and nature is so strong that various parts of the drum are named after symbols of fertility:

Icahi – The Skin (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 – Foot of the Drum (The Umbilical Cord)

The drums have lost none of their revered significance over the centuries. An ancient network of drum sanctuaries still exists in Burundi, where the drums have been stored over the years until such time as they are brought out to be played. These sanctuaries are in places of importance such as royal residences ruled over by a queen, sacred groves or in forests, marking the tombs of kings or princes. Known as “ingoro y’ ingoma” (the Palace of the Drums), these sanctuaries were the specific domains of family lineages who alone had the privilege of making, beating and keeping the drums and had, as a sacred calling, the task of bringing a certain number of drums to each Soughum feast. In the sanctuaries, the main drum (the Inkiranya) is laid on a trestle of branches and surrounded, as though a king, by subsidiary drums (the Ingendanyi).

The Ngoma drums that the Drummers of Burundi play are hollowed out from the trunk of a particular tree called D’umuvugangoma (Corda africana) meaning “the tree that makes the drums speak”. At the beginning of the twentieth century these trees were already becoming rare and the men of the tribe had to travel far to find them. Each year they went in search of a tree from which four or five drums could be made. The chosen tree was marked and its felling was preceded by a ceremony in which the drummers circled the tree while beating drums borne on their heads. The chief then sprayed the tree with a compound of herbs in order to chase away the python which was said to live in its foliage. To the salute of the drums, the tree would be felled with an axe, then measured and cut up. The individual parts were hollowed out and the insides and outsides polished. The bottom of the drum was shaped with an implement called an imbazo and a band was marked with a hot iron around the base – usually the only ornamentation. The skin, made from dried and stretched cow-hide, was pegged around the open end of the cylinder and stretched to its maximum. In addition to the Inkiranya, there are Amashako drums, providing a continuous beat, and Ibishikiso drums, following the rhythm established by the dancer playing the Inkiranya drum.

In ancient Burundi, drums were much more than simple musical instruments. As sacred objects, reserved solely for ritualists, they were only played under exceptional circumstances and then always for ritual purposes: the major events of the country were heralded by their beating – coronations, sovereigns' funerals – and with the joy and fervor of all Burundians they kept rhythm with the regular cycle of the seasons, ensuring the prosperity of the herds and fields.

Nowadays, the drum remains an instrument that is both revered and popular, reserved for national celebrations and distinguished guests. The ancient lineages of drummers have kept their art alive and, in some cases, have had great success in popularizing it around the world.


One of the greatest percussion ensembles in the world, the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi have performed in the same way for centuries, passing down traditions and techniques from father to son. Their performances were traditionally a part of particular ceremonies such as births, funerals and the enthronement of Kings. In Burundi, drums are sacred and represent, along with the king, the powers of fertility and regeneration. The origins of their performance being shrouded in ancient legend and mystery, the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi channel the energy and creative spirit of a nation through these drums and the rituals surrounding them.

The large "Ingoma" drums that are played are made from hollowed tree trunks covered with skin. The "Amashako" drums provide a continuous beat and "Ibishikiso" drums follow the rhythm of the central "Inkiranya" drum. The thunderous sound of the drums with the graceful yet athletic dance that accompanies this masterful performance represents an important part of Burundi's musical heritage.

Since the 1960s the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi have toured outside of their country, becoming a popular attraction at concert halls and festivals around the world. Their massive drum sound, or the "Burundi beat" as it became known, also caught the ear of Western musicians, leading to an appearance on Joni Mitchell's The Hissing of Summer Lawns album in 1975. Their distinctive sound also influenced British rock bands of the early 1980s, such as Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow. It was seeing the drummers that inspired Thomas Brooman to organize the first World of Music, Arts and Dance festival (“WOMAD”) in 1982, an event that helped to spark the whole World Music boom.

The Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi were recorded at Real World Studios in 1993, and they released a live album on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. Other recordings followed including The Master Drummers of Burundi in 1994 and The Drummers of Burundi in 1999. In 2006, the Company undertook a sold-out six-week, coast to coast tour of the United States of America and Canada and have returned to North America in 2012 for another coast to coast tour of the United States and Canada.

Their live performances are the ultimate African drum experience.

November 11, 2012

Online sales for this performance have now been discontinued. Please call the Ticket Office at 619.235.0804.

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