Burundian drummers roll into Centennial Hall

By Jason Fierstein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Drummers of Burundi, from the central-African nation of Burundi, have just begun opening Western ears and eyes to the rich drum sounds and brilliant choreography of the "Burundi beat."

Since the 1960s, the Drummers of Burundi have awed fans throughout the world with their intertwining percussion and dance techniques. With mammoth drums balanced on their heads, the Drummers produce ancestral rhythms as they take center stage. The thunder and the magnitude of the Burundi sound is a trademark. The Drummers organize in a crescent shape around the focal ceremonial drum, the "inkiranya", onto which they swoop down and beat synchronously.

Having learned the tricks of the drumming trade from their fathers and grandfathers, the Drummers of Burundi incorporate ritual into their performance. Drums have long represented important events in the traditional lives of Burundians, such as seasonal cycles, fertility and agriculture. As agriculture is essential to the Burundi nation, the sound of the drum maintains life in everyday working terms. The planting and harvesting of the sorghum crop and praise to the cow (considered sacred in Burundi) are two fundamental themes translated into drumming.

The Drummers of Burundi have one album release on Real World Records, the label with which Peter Gabriel is also associated. The group first toured the United States in September 1993 as part of Gabriel's conceptual WOMAD tour, which offered world-beat tastes from all parts of the globe.

Gabriel could only praise the performers. "The first time I saw the Burundi Drummers was in 1982 when they came to England to open the first WOMAD Festival we had expected a few to turn up outside the studio for a TV interview. Instead, the whole group arrived, set up on the lawn and blasted the English countryside! It was one of the most exciting music moments of my life." said Gabriel.

The Drummers of Burundi layer culture with musical mastery and dance form. Their intensity flows from two outlets of musical, polyrhythmic passion and physical determination through dance. For the Drummers of Burundi, the rhythmic power not only lies in the music and drum mastery, but through out the dance and physical expression that goes hand-in-hand.

The Drummers of Burundi will be appearing at UA's Centennial Hall Friday, March 24, with special guest, Tucson's own female folkloric drumming group, Mama Ritmo. Showtime is at 8 pm. Tickets are available at the Centennial Hall Box Office. For more information, call 621-3341.

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