Ritual dance of the royal drum


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Inscribed in 2014 (9.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Jean Marie Vianney Rugerinyange/Directeur Général de la Culture et des Arts au Ministère de la Jeunesse, des Sports et de la Culture, 2012

The ritual dance of the royal drum is a spectacle combining powerful, synchronized drumming with dancing, heroic poetry and traditional songs. The entire population of Burundi recognizes it as a fundamental part of its heritage and identity. The dance calls for at least a dozen or so drums, always in an odd number, arranged in a semicircle around a central drum. Several are beaten in a continuous rhythm, while the others keep to the beat set by the central drum. Two or three drummers then perform dances to the rhythm. The ritual drumming is performed during national or local feasts and to welcome important visitors, and is said to awaken the spirits of the ancestors and drive out evil spirits. Bearers are recruited from sanctuaries across the country, many of whom are the descendants of drum sanctuary guards. The ritual dance of the royal drum, the values it embodies and the specialized drum-making skills are passed down essentially through practice but also through formal education. Today, the ritual dance of the royal drum is an opportunity to transmit cultural, political and social messages, and a privileged means of bringing people of diverse generations and origins together, thereby encouraging unity and social cohesion.