Traditional Dance Instruments in Rwanda

Umuduri, musical bow -Wood and metal strings, calabash
The umuduri is a musical bow consisting of a string (umurya) supported by a flexible wooden string bearer or bow (umuheto).

The string is made from plant fibre, animal gut or (more recently) metal wire. A calabash is attached to the bow to act as a resonator. A wooden stick and the inzebe rattle are also used.

Ingoma ensemble, double-skin drums
In Rwanda the drum stood for the reign, for royalty,for the kingdom. Generally, there are three categories of drum, all known under the generic name of ingoma.The ingoma z’imihango or ‘ritual drums’ are used in several royal rituals and play no musical role. Each of these drums represents a ritual symbol without which the King cannot exercise the supernatural powers conferred upon him during his accession to the throne. The ingoma z’ingabe or ‘dynastic drums’ are symbols of the sacred royalty and the power of the Kings. ingoma z’imivugo or ‘drums that speak’. These drums are played as musical instruments, either as part of official festivities

The umwirongi
Is a flute made from the stem of the intomvu plant, although bamboo and a few other types of plant can also be used.
The umwirongi usually has between two and five round finger holes (inoboro), which are always located on the lower part of the instrument.
The umwirongi is chiefly played – and was originally exclusively played – by herdsmen to pass the time or to keep any cattle thieves or predators at bay in the evening or at night. It is also played to accompany dances (akagitari and urwagitari) or to entertain an impromptu audience. In the towns the umwirongi is often used by night watchmen. The umwirongi is generally played solo, but it can also be combined with inanga, an indingiti or with rhythmic instruments.

Iyugi, dance bells (ankle bells)
Iyugi bells are made from a fine sheet of iron. The blacksmith curves the cut iron to give the instrument its characteristic shape and places two holes in the folded section. A small iron ball is placed inside before each bell is folded. The iyugi’s characteristic sound is produced when the iron ball hits the walls of the instrument. It is classified as a percussion idiophone. A leather cord, usually from an adult cowhide, is threaded through the two holes at the top of the bell. This is used to attach them to an ankle strap made from rawhide or leather. Amayugi bells are usually used in dance and are tied to the ankles of the dancers.

Igihumurizo, wooden whistles
The conical insengo is a wooden whistle made from a branch of the Markhamia lutea (umusave) tree or the Ximenia caffra or Pittosporum spathicalyx (both called umusekera). The branch is first split lengthwise in two equal halves, which are then hollowed out in such a way as to ensure that the basic conical shape is preserved even on the inside. The two conical pieces are then rejoined and secured with twine wound round most of the length of the instrument

Amakondera ensemble, Transverse horns
Amakondera is the generic name for an instrumental ensemble made up of five different types of horns i.e. umurangi/ incuragane/ urugunda’s/ insengo/ inkanka

This ensemble is relatively recent in Rwanda. There is conflicting or complementary information regarding their origin as well as their arrival in the country. According to the prevailing version, these instruments come from the small ancient kingdom of Bujinja, in modern-day Tanzania, under the reign of its king Kasusuro. The same version locates the arrival of the amakondera during Musinga’s reign in the 20th century. This was the version personally recounted by Bunungu, the principal dancer of the Ishyaka (emulation) royal troupe, who recalled seeing the arrival of the ensemble at the Nyanza royal court as a child.

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