||The practice session
Ruciteme's studio is in Buyenzi, a neighbourhood close to downtown Bujumbura. An uncovered lorry was already loaded with the drums. The performers, decked out in red, green and white, emerged from the studio and started boarding it. We set off, the performers drumming and singing all the way, to the delight of the passers by.
Twenty minutes later, we reached a low hill, just south of town. We could hardly have chosen a more attractive setting. In the golden, late afternoon light, Lake Tanganyka shimmered to the west with the DR Congo just visible on the other bank. To the east, north and south were the majestic mountains that surround Bujumbura's Imbo plain.
Emerging from the lorry, the musicians made their way up the hill. They balanced the huge drums on their heads and vigorously beat them with sticks. Occasionally, in an extraordinary display of agility, they kicked the drums with their feet. Reaching the top, they formed a half circle. Their intense and complex percussions were punctuated with dances that each would take turn performing. Soon they worked themselves into an ecstatic, sweaty frenzy.
We hoped to work without an audience. But in densely populated Burundi this was not to be. The powerfully hypnotic drumming and singing soon attracted a large, cheering audience. It was impossible for anyone not to be exhilarated by the spirited rhythms.