By Azure Lee
Rwanda, the "Land of a Thousand Hills," is not only known for its stunning landscapes and gorilla trekking but also for its rich cultural heritage, especially in the realms of music and traditional dance. These art forms have played a significant role in the lives of Rwandans for centuries, helping to preserve and transmit their history, values, and stories. In this article, we will learn what makes musical and traditional dance in Rwanda unique, exploring the historical, cultural, and social aspects that make them stand out on the African continent.
Things that make musical and traditional dance in Rwanda unique
All About Music And Dance In Rwanda You Probably Do Not Know
It is an essential part to include music and dance in any celebration of African cultures and customs. In practically every village, there was a song and a dance to celebrate almost every event that occurred. To name a few, the celebrations included marriages, naming rituals, harvests, births and deaths, and get-togethers with friends and family. Communities and families came together to celebrate these events, which included sharing food and beverages, playing games, and telling stories.
Almost each celebration in Rwanda is made happier and more joyful by music and dance, for both international visitors and locals alike. Tourism is one important element that has contributed to and continues to contribute to the performers of these songs and dances becoming a highly sought-after activity in Rwanda. Many hotels and accommodations feature traditional dance ensembles that entertain guests, typically during the afternoon or evening.
A Rwandan traditional dance ensemble typically consists of dancers and a musical group comprising approximately 5 to 7 members who deliver melodious tunes that deeply resonate with the audience.
Some Of The Famous Traditional Dances In Rwanda
The Intore Dance of Warriors
The term "Intore" is derived from the Kinyarwanda language and can be roughly interpreted as "Leaders" or "the Chosen Ones." This dance holds a significant cultural role in Rwanda, where men possessing exceptional moral and physical attributes are selected and trained in the everyday customs and etiquette required in the presence of the King, known as the Mwami. When witnessing this dance, one can't help but be inspired by its performance.
Nonetheless, Intore is more than just a dance; it serves as a means of storytelling, recounting tales of how they readied themselves for battles, shared their hunting experiences, and celebrated their triumphs. All three of Rwanda's tribal groups actively participate in this dance, and contemporary audiences often engage by clapping their hands in unison with the rhythm of the drums. This collective participation infuses the dancers with morale, enabling them to perform with remarkable vitality and enthusiasm.
A tribe in Rwanda performs traditional intore dance to celebrate the birth of an endangered mountain gorilla
The Umushayayo/ Umushangiriro
This dance is also referred to as the women's dance. This dance is extraordinary in Africa since it is much more delicate and soft than the one performed by males. Women perform a leisurely dance in which they show generosity, kindness, and radiance while also showcasing the beauty of African women. The Ankole cattle movement is the inspiration for this dance.
The Dance of Courtship/ Ukurambagiza
Up until the day their husbands take them away, the single ladies are permitted to take part in this dance. The Dance of Fiancés is another name for this dance (Ukurambagiza). This makes it easier for their dancing and motions to convey their beauty. Within this dance, one can observe certain rituals reminiscent of the courtship and mating dances of birds, such as the Grey Crested Crane's elegant and captivating display.
The Harvest/ Umuganura
In these gatherings, communities unite to celebrate the first harvest of the season. They assemble to share the bounty they have reaped, enjoying communal feasts and partaking in local brews. Women adorn themselves in festive attire and partake in lively dances as a tribute to the divine entity that has blessed them with a plentiful harvest. It's also a time to offer blessings for the seeds intended for planting in the upcoming season.
These are just a handful of the numerous dances that have been and continue to be performed in Rwanda. The traditional musical instruments that accompany these performances include the Inanga (resembling a guitar), Ingoma (a drum), Umuduli (a single-stringed bow-like instrument), and Amakondera (a horn). With these instruments, you are certain to be enchanted by the enchanting musical traditions in Rwanda.
Read more about A Guide to Traditional Rwandan Food - Exploring the Rich Flavors of Rwanda
Musical Traditions In Rwanda - A Rich And Diverse Blend
When new stars began to emerge, such as Jean-Paul Samputu in Canada in the late 1990s, Rwandan-Belgian Cécile Kayirebwa was likely the most internationally well-known traditional musician from Rwanda for a number of years. Since then, traditional music from Rwanda has appeared in international venues.
Even though Rwandan music has evolved over time, traditional music continues to be a vital component of Rwandan identity. The sounds and rhythms of ingoma, inanga, umuduli, iningiri, and icyembe will greet every visitor to the nation. One should definitely not miss attending live dance performances and enjoying the beautiful sounds of traditional groups.
The music of Rwanda is still changing and getting more and more influenced by western music. For instance, more contemporary instruments are frequently used to accompany the classic instruments mentioned above. Not to mention that all Rwandans have the same musical heritage tradition in addition to having the same language, customs, and values. In contrast to most other regions of Africa, the traditional music mentioned above is really reflective of the country and is not connected to any one ethnic or regional group.
Musical traditions in Rwanda - A rich and diverse blend
Unique instruments - The Sound of Tradition
A variety of folk dances and music played on traditional instruments. These instruments are handmade, using locally available materials, and hold a special place in Rwandan culture.
- Inanga: The inanga is arguably the most well-known traditional music instrument in Rwanda. It is an instrument like a lyre or harp constructed of cow skin and a specific type of wood. Other instruments that are used in folk music include the icyembe (a kind of music box), umuduli (a single-stringed bow), and inigiri (a violin-like instrument).
- Ikembe: The thumb piano, producing distinct, percussive sounds when the metal tines are plucked.
- Iningiri: A traditional flute-like instrument made from bamboo, known for its unique and haunting sound used in storytelling and traditional performances.
- Amakondera: A set of small drums that are often played together to create complex rhythmic patterns.
The presence of these instruments in Rwandan music sets it apart from other African musical traditions and contributes to the unique character of Rwandan music and dance.
Music and traditional dance in Rwanda are gifts to the world, inviting all to share in the joy, resilience, and rich cultural tapestry of this beautiful nation. As you listen to the melodies and watch the dancers in action, you embark on a journey that connects you with the soul of Rwanda, leaving you with a truly relaxing time.
Experience the magic of Rwandan culture firsthand and discover the profound significance of these dances. To start your journey, plan your travel to Rwanda and apply for a Rwanda eVisa via our website, Rwanda Immigration Services, which offers you a convenient and efficient way to explore the mesmerizing world of dance and musical traditions in Rwanda.