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Burundi drum as national symbol

Last modified: 2011-08-20 by bruce berry
Keywords: burundi | drum |
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Burundi drum symbol

A drum was featured in the centre of the flags of Burundi after independence in the 1960s and it is still today an important national symbol.  The on-line archives of the Alsatian newspaper "L'Alsace" has interesting material including an article on the participation of the famous "Drummers of Burundi" in a local musical festival.  The article in French is available at and is summarised as follows:

    In Burundi, the drum has a very strong symbolical meaning. It is made of a specific wood called 'umuvugangoma', litteraly 'the wood that makes the drum resonate', and of braced cow skins. Only three centers are entitled to manufacture these drums.

    Drums were traditionally used to announce the venue of someone of high rank or a public manifestation, with a specific 'language'. It was a way to establish communications between isolated places.

    The drum is a strong symbol of maternity: one of the most important use of the drum was to accompany the benediction of the crop seeds by the sovereign. The different parts of the drum have names meaning womb, breast, and swaddling clothes.

    The drum was already a national symbol before colonization. When battles were fought, the drum was the equivalent of the battle flag, and its capture by the enemy was synonym of defeat.

    The drum is now an ambassador of Burundi. The drummers wear clothes with the national colours instead of traditional clothes. The central drum, on which the group leader gives the tempo, is also painted with the national colours.

Ivan Sache, 07 December 2000