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Royal Drummers & Dancers of Burundi

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The ultimate African drum and dance experience, the Royal Drummers & Dancers of Burundi  channel the energy and creative spirit of a nation through a magnificent display of percussion, rituals, and East African dance.  Considered one of the most gifted and celebrated percussion ensembles in the world the Royal Drummers & Dancers of Burundi make an appearance at the Marin Center on November 18th in a virtuosic performance that will thrill audiences of all ages.


The Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi have performed in the same way for centuries, passing down traditions and techniques from father to son. Their performances were traditionally a part of particular ceremonies, such as births, funerals and the enthronement of Kings. In Burundi, drums are sacred and represent, along with the king, the powers of fertility and regeneration.  The large drums "Ingoma" that are played are made from hollowed tree trunks covered with skin. The "Amashako" drums provide a continuous beat, and "Ibishikiso" drums follow the rhythm of the central "Inkiranya" drum. The thunderous sound of the drums with the graceful yet athletic dance that accompanies this masterful performance represents an important part of Burundi's musical heritage. 

Since the 60's the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi have toured outside of their country, becoming a popular attraction at concert halls and festivals around the world. Their massed drum sound, or the "Burundi beat" as it became known, also caught the ear of Western musicians and they appeared on Joni Mitchell's, The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975). Their distinctive sound also influenced British rock bands of the early 80's, such as Adam and the Ants, and Bow Wow Wow. It was seeing the drummers that inspired Thomas Brooman to organize the first WOMAD festival in 1982, an event that helped to spark the whole World Music boom. 

The Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi were recorded at Real World Studios in 1993 and released the live album on the Real World Label. Other recordings followed including The Master Drummers of Burundi in 1994 and The Drummers of Burundi in 1999. In 2006 the Company undertook a six week coast to coast tour of the United States and Canada and will now return to North America in 2012.


"A constant parade of players improvised on the central drum, dancing to the rhythms, leaping or twirling drumsticks in the air or around their necks. It was all a celebration of ability, the sheer pleasure of competitive creativity, and - strikingly similar to what happens in a jazz jam session - more virtuosic than sentimental." —The New York Times



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