The traditional music in Rwanda spans a number of origins. Of the traditions that resonate most with Rwandans is the ikinimba. This musical style is accompanied by a dance of the same name and centered around stories of ancient heroes and kings.
Some of the common instruments utilized in ikinimba (and other musical styles) include the inanga (a lyre-like instrument, thought to be one of the first instruments invented in this area), ingoma (sometimes written as ngoma, a type of drum), umuduri (a bowed string instrument using a gourd as a resonator and has a rattle), and the ikembe (kind of like an mbira, or thumb piano).
Dance is often performed in tandem with music. In many areas across the country, amatoreru groups have been established to teach traditional music and dance to people in order to preserve their heritage and cultural arts. A few of the famous ones include Amasimbi n’amakombe, Irindiro, and the Ballet National Urukerereza. One dance that is popular is the intore dance, featuring dancers wearing head dresses with long grasses that make them look like they have blonde hair.
As far as modern music goes, there is quite a bit of regional influence coming in from neighboring countries as well as the Caribbean, Europe, and the US. Styles like zouk, reggae, R&B, hip-hop, and gospel has worked its way into Rwandan music as well. The first one I listened to is Jean-Paul Samputu. An award-winning musical artist, he creates a neo-traditional style of music.
Cecile Kayirebwa is another musician who brings traditional music to a modern era. You can really hear the vocal harmonic traditions in her music. Although she lives in Belgium, she’s probably one of the more well known musicians who brings Rwandan music to the international level.
Now one musician I came across (who I didn’t realize I’ve heard before on a Youssoupha album I have) is Corneille. He had a pretty tragic coming-of-age during the Genocide (a story likely repeated hundreds of thousands of times), but it’s pretty evident where he put his focus into. And it also doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes.
Mani Martin is a good example of some Afrobeat with other styles mixed in. I like this because it makes me happy. It’s just happy music. Like, if you listen to this, you can’t really feel all that bad.
I listened to Miss Jojo, an R&B musician. I think it has a little bit of a dancehall element to it at times and sometimes a little bit pop. It’s pretty catchy, especially if you’re looking for something to dance to.
Up next: the food