Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ingoma Nshya (Rwandan Female Drummers)

Edited by Azizi Powell

(Updated June 24, 2017)

This is the second post of an ongoing pancocojams series on female drummers. This post focuses on female drummers from Rwanda, Central & East Africa.

Click for the first post in this series.

Click for the third post in this series.

This post is presented for folkloric, entertaiment and aesthetic purposes.

"Music and dance are an integral part of Rwandan ceremonies, festivals, social gatherings and storytelling. The most famous traditional dance is a highly-choreographed routine consisting of three components – the umushagiriro, or cow dance, performed by women; the Intore, or dance of heroes, performed by men; and the drumming, also traditionally performed by men, on drums known as Ingoma...

Traditionally, music is transmitted orally, with styles varying between the social groups. Drums are of great importance; the royal drummers enjoyed high status within the court of the King (Mwami). Drummers play together in groups of varying sizes, usually between seven and nine in number; the soprano drum leads, with others of various pitches providing back up."

"Ngoma drums are musical instruments used by certain Bantu-speaking peoples of East Africa; 'ngoma' is, simply, the Swahili word for 'drum'. Different regions of Africa have their own traditions of percussion, with different names for their instruments. In kiSwahili-speaking Kenya and Tanzania, 'ngoma' is used by extension to signify specific dances, social occasions and rhythms."

Editor: The following information is about ngoma traditions in Uganda. However, it may not apply to ngoma traditions in Rwanda.

"The Baganda people of Uganda have a special relationship with ngoma drums, so much so that it is thought by many people that theirs is the country where this type of drum actually originated. The Baganda are fondly thought of as the children of Ngoma. The ngoma is used for communication and celebration and is also a symbol of authority.

The Baganda ngoma are made of wood, which is covered with cow skin on both ends, although you’ll also find tourist versions of these drums covered with zebra skins. Typically, they are played in groups of seven drums, each drum having its own voice and function within the ensemble. Another popular configuration is made with at least four drums. Each of these drums are treated as individuals, thus they each have a specific name. The largest drum is known as bakisimba and makes a loud bass sound. The empuunya is a little smaller and also produces a higher-pitched bass sound. The nankasa is a small drum played with sticks and produces a very high-pitched sound. Last, but not least is the engalabi. The engalabi most closely resembles the original ngoma and is taller and more cylindrical than all the other drums in this set. It also has skin on only one side. All of the other drums are covered with cow skin on the top and bottom using an intricate lacing system, whereas the engalabi has a lizard-skin head attached with small wooden pegs. This drum makes the highest pitched sound in the ensemble.

All of the drums can be played with sticks or hands, except the Nankasa which is primarily played with sticks."

From Rwandan women drum their way up [published in November 2007]

"We are the first female drummers in Rwanda," says Jackie Umubyeyi proudly. "It's a miracle. Whenever we perform there is always a lot of audience, because people want to see if women can really drum. Maybe the men are afraid that in the future we will play better than them."...

The goal of the drum group Women's Initiatives is not to create a breakthrough in the position of women in the country, eventually the goal of the group is to be profitable. "Some of the participants became widows during the 1994 genocide," explains director [Odile Gakire Katese]"

Odile: "We don't want to drum only old existing rhythms, but we try with the help of foreign influences also to create our own, new music style."

Example #1: The Women of Ingoma Nshya

Uploaded by latasha1970 on Jul 25, 2009

These incredible women from Rwanda performed at Brooklyn Museum Saturday July 25, 2009.

Example #2: Ingoma Nshya

Uploaded by Ta1an on Jun 27, 2010


Eugene Anangwe, Published on Jan 4, 2016

Watch my report on Rwanda's only all women drumming group!
This video replaces one that is no longer available.

Example #4: Ingoma Nshya - Rwandan Women's Drumming Group

Alice5467, Published on May 30, 2011

Their amazing practice session in Butare, Rwanda on May 19, 2011.

Example #5: Women drummers from Rwanda open Wisdom 2 Summit with amazing energy

Gina Lazenby, Published on Feb 15, 2014

The only women drumming troupe from Rwanda with women from both sides of the conflict. POWERFUL !

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