One of the greatest percussion ensembles in the world, the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi will be at the Newberry Opera House on Monday at 8 p.m., with a swirl of color and the pulsating rhythms, that characterize their fascinating country.
They 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 origins of their performance being shrouded in ancient legend and mystery, the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi channel the energy and creative spirit of a nation through these drums and the rituals surrounding them.
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 60s, 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 eighties, such as Adam and the Ants, and Bow Wow.
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 according to The New York Times.
They are currently on a world tour and will be at the Opera House on Monday.
Their live performances are the ultimate African drum experience.
For tickets and information please call the Newberry Opera House Box Office at 276-6264 or visit online at www.newberryoperahouse.com