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Posted: Oct. 27, 2012 at 10:56 a.m.
DETROIT - 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 Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi will perform Saturday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. at Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Detroit.
The large drums that are played (Ingoma) 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.
Burundi is one the world's poorest countries, with an average annual income per person of about $300. The Hutu and Tutsi are the two major peoples of Burundi, together accounting for almost all the population. The mass murders of 80,000 to 200,000 Hutus by the Tutsi army in Burundi in 1972 and the resultant Rwandan genocide which killed more than 800,000 have left a bloody mark on both groups and the Central African nation even to this day. However, considering this bitter and genocidal relationship between the Tutsi/Hutu, and the continued conflict which escalated after their independence from Belgium in 1962 (over 300,000 were killed in Burundi alone), The Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi is a model of reconciliation through the curative powers of music. Both Hutu and Tutsi share the stage to bring the music to the world, a music which is shared by both ethnic groups, and is an amazing and brave act in and of itself. For hundreds of years Hutus and Tutsis lived in harmony in Central Africa until the conflicts of the 20th century, but these musicians and dancers are an inspiration of unity among ethnic strife, a shining beacon of peace through the connection of music and dance.
Since the '60s, 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 massed drum sound, or the "Burundi beat" as it became known, also caught the ear of Western musicians, and they appeared on Joni Mitchell's "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" (1975). Their distinctive sound also influenced British rock bands of the early '80s, such as Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow. It was seeing the drummers that inspired Thomas Brooman to organise the first WOMAD festival 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 released the live album on the 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 American and Canada and will return to North America in the Fall of 2012 to undertake a coast-to-coast tour of the United States and Canada.
Their live performances are the ultimate African drum experience.
Tickets are $30, $40 and $50 and are available at Music Hall Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.
Music Hall is located at 350 Madison St., Detroit, MI 48226. For more information, call 313-887-8500 or log on to www.musichall.org.