History

Music

Since time immemorial music has always played an important role in civil, economic and social life of the country.

Traditional Rwandan music has variations such as vocal, vocal- Instrumental, vocal instru ­ mental accompanied with dancing and instru­ ments only.

The traditional Rwandan music is mainly vocal. This type of music was found in local songs (imbyino), quite often accompanied by dances: songs for sit ups (inkera) or story-telling songs, songs to listen to (indirimbo).

Indiribo songs consisting of many categories, the most known ones such as praising a dynasty in a song (urugera), pastoral songs (arnahambo), choral songs (ibihozo), lullabies, love songs, complaining, hunting songs (amahigi) warriors songs (irdirimbo z'ingabo), songs accompanying warriors dances (indirimbo z'intare), wrestlers songs (amusare) etc.

Instruments for music On the organic point of view, Rwandan music instruments consist of:

  • membranophone: drums (ingoma)
  • aerophones with bamboo flute (urusengo) a flute made of lobelia (umwirongi), trumpets (amakondera) and trumpets made of antelope horns (amahembe)
  • corded or stringed phones "vile" a corded instrument (inigiri) played with a bow, musical bow (umuchiri), cithara (imango); had one cord tightened several times, from one end to another.
  • idiophones, such as the instrument with metallic strips (ikembe) (8)(9), the rattle (ikinyuguri) or urunyege) (10), winnowing basket (urutaro or intara) and little spherical belts atttached on the dancers ankles (amayugi).

It should be noted that trumpets, musical bows and instruments with metallic strips were introduced fairly recently (the end of 19' – beginning of 20th century). As from the beginning of the 20th century, traditional Rwandan music was considerably influenced by Western music (especially Christian songs), Afro- American. (among musi­cian groups using modern instruments) and oriental (among Moslems).

After the renewal of revised liturgy in the 1960 i s, traditional Rwan­dan music was integrated to the cult of Christians as a result of the inspiration it brought to religious works. As a matter of fact, several initiatives (ballets, orches­ tra) claiming for the reha­bilitation and the promo­ tion of traditional music had spread throughout the country.

Dances

Dance is as instinctive as music, one of the most spectacular expressions of the Rwandan culture. Rwandan dancers always danced collectively. There was a distinction between warlike and ordinary dances.

Ordinary dances took place mainly during the many festivities, within family circles, or in public, celebration of the cult, during the long sit-ups etc. Warlike or war­riors dancers had the some movements like in fighting. The most remarkable ones were the dancing parade imyiyereko, when dancers would imitate warfare movements towards one or many enemies, and the dance umuhamirizo which was considered as the most spectacular.

Rwandan dances play one of the major roles in its culture With marry differ­ ent variations, due to the specification of different regional cultures and on the other hand, different categories of social-pro­ fessional dancers. Each province had its own way of dancing, and regions around the borders too had their own. For example:

  • the inhabitants of Nkom­bo and Mpembe islands (on lake Kivu) the dance was influenced by move­ ments from Congo ,
  • the dance in the region of Ndnrwo (north-east) was quite similar to their neighbors in the southern Uganda, the dance umudiho in Kinyaga (south-western part, on the banks of lake Kivu), the dancers evoked movements of boatmen (smugglers and fishermen)
  • the dance known as a hoe (rrlparamba), typical in the provinces of Gikongoro and Huye (former Butare) (in the southern part of the country) especially in natural regions of Bufundu and Busane.] symbolizing the importance of farming labour,
  • the inkaranka, was a dancing style found partic­ ularly, in the north-west ern region (Bugoyi, Province of Gisenyi ).

Dances initiated at the Royal Court

The dance some as music and poetry have always been given special atten­ tion by the authorities. The royal court and big chiefs used to act like patrons to many troops, both male and female. They trained and took care of them. This initiation was of course, carried on, developed and elaborated even further Some of the most famous groups were the elegant feminine dancers, umushayayo and umusha­giriro, and the warfare dance umuhamiriza. the most famous groups among them were the Abangakurutwa, Ahogoro­rangigo, Bene, Nyiiingcma, Amariza. As for the male groups, older people still had their place of virtuoso dancers (intore), a tradi­ tion that developed in troops like lshyaka, Indashyikirwa, lnde­marugamba, and lmbasharugamba.

There were three types of kwiyereka dances: kwiyireka umuheto: dancing in honor of a bow, kwiyereka iningabo: dancing in honor of a shield and kwIveeereka icumu: dancing in honor of the spear.

• Warfare dance (umuhamirizo)

The word umuhamirizo comes from the verb guhamiriza, which simply means a dancer when referring to warfare dancers.

Warfare dance had attained its actual form at the begin­ ning of 20th century. The style was most probably introduced in Rwanda under the reign of Kigeri IV Rwabugiri, by a fighter returning from Burundi . He had been received by Prince Muhigirwa, who was the commander in chief of the militia in ljuru, in the region of Nyaruguru (Gikongoro province).

It was this army that initially adopted this style of dunce for the first time, a dance which has developed and renewed its choreography considerably. Before, all dancers (intore), of all different ages, danced in public, what they coiled dancing modes kwiyereka, which simply means, to be exposed in public, to parade showing ones flexibility, and choreographic skills. At the same time they railed against true grievances, or those thought to have happened. This sort of dance was not accompanied with songs, but it was performed in rare occasions by the beat of a drum, which was called qutamba ingoma [dancer parading with his drum), or with a cithora (gutumba inanga).

For executing the warfare dance umuhamirizo, the dancers used most of the many different styles for kwiyereka. Burundi's touch came in at the right time, enriching this dance which according to the specialists is reputed to be one of the most spectacular in Rwan­dan repertory.

Rwandan dance is at its highest development since recently, witnessed by an increasing number of styles, which aim to add on more modern expressions, interpretations and artistic forms.

Original source: www.museum.gov.rw