Music and dance plays an important role in the traditions of all Rwanda’s peoples, with the Tutsi favouring epics that commemorate acts of excellence and bravery, the Hutu enjoying more humorous lyrics, and the Twa celebrating their hunting roots through music.
Traditional songs are often accompanied by a solitary lulunga a harp-like instrument with eight strings. More celebratory dances are backed by a drum orchestra, which typically comprises seven to nine members, and collectively produce a hypnotic and exciting explosion set of intertwining rhythms.
Lucky visitors may chance upon spontaneous traditional performances in the villages of Rwanda. The finest exponent of Rwanda’s varied and dynamic traditional musical and dance styles, however, is the Intore Dance Troupe. Founded several centuries ago, the Intore – literally ‘The Chosen Ones’ – Once performed exclusively for the Royal Court, but today their exciting act can be arranged at short notice through the National Museum in Butare.
A more modern form of Rwandan music is the upbeat and harmonious devotional singing that can be heard in any church service around the country.
A wide range of traditional handicrafts is produced in rural Rwanda, ranging from ceramics and basketry to traditional woodcarvings and contemporary paintings. A good selection of crafted artefacts can be viewed in the main market or street stalls in Kigali, while an excellent place to peruse and purchase modern art works is the capital’s Centre for the Formation of Arts. A distinctively Rwandan craft is the cow dung ‘paintings that are produced b a local co-operative in the village of Nyakarimbi near the Rusumo Falls border with Tanzania.
Dominated by black, brown and white whorls and other geometric abstractions, these unique and earthy works can be bought in Kigali, but it’s worth diverting to source to see how the paintings are reflected in local house decorations.