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Burundi drum as national symbol

Last modified: 2001-03-16 by zeljko heimer
Keywords: burundi | drum |
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The drum was featured on the flags of Burundi after independence in 1960's and it is still today an important national symbol.

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On Burundi drum

Once again, the on-line archives of the Alsatian newspaper "L'Alsace" have interesting material. The article is linked to the participation of the famous "Drummers of Burundi" to a local musical festival.

The article is [was] available in French at:

    In Burundi, the drum has a very strong symbolical meaning. It is made of a specific wood called 'umuvugangoma', litteraly 'the wood that makes the drum resonate', and of braced cow skins. Only three centers are entitled to manufacture drums.

    Drums were traditionally used to announce the venue of someone of high rank or a public manifestation, with a specific 'language'. It was a way to establish communications between isolated places.

    The drum is a strong symbol of maternity: one of the most important use of the drum was to accompany the benediction of the crop seeds by the sovereign. The different parts of the drum have names meaning womb, breast, and swadding clothes.

    The drum was already a national symbol before colonization. When battles were fought, the drum was the equivalent of the battle flag, and its capture by the enemy was synonym of defeat.

    The drum is now an ambassador of Burundi. The drummers wear clothes with the national colours instead of traditional clothes. The central drum, on which the group leader gives the tempo, is also painted with the national colours.

Summary by Ivan Sache, 7 December 2000

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