OverviewLocated in the abundant, grassy hillside, just over five miles from Burundi’s capital, Gitega, is the Gishora Drum Sanctuary. Burundi’s last independent ruler, King Mwami Mwezi IV Gisabo Bikata-Bijoga, founded the sanctuary in celebration of a victory over the rebellious chief Ntibirangwa in the second half of the 19th century. Since its founding, the Gishora Drum Sanctuary has been a place to practice and teach specific ritual drumming techniques. Drumming in Burundi is an ancient practice that mixes combat-style dance, specific rhythms, religious rituals, epic poetry, all into one. Historically, drumming rituals were part of the enthronement of kings, agricultural sowing festivals, and funerals of Kings and Queens. The drums themselves have long been associated with royalty and specifically the monarchy.
All drums have a name and purpose. At the Gishora Drum Sanctuary, there are two important drums that have never been played—Ruciteme (“the one for whom we clear the forest”) and Murimirwa (“the one for whom we cultivate”). Both names reflect the importance of farming, and the king’s association with the earth’s fertility. The sanctuary also has other drums known as Ingendanyi, or “retinue,” which are still played today. Local boys and men, known as Abatimbowho descend from the ancient lineage of Abanyigisaka, have always run the sanctuary. They are the descendants of religious leaders who held senior positions within the royal court.