Burundian officials and media are up in arms after a performance group competing at a regional competition did not register as Burundian.
At the ongoing ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi-Kenya, modeled on the famous ‘America Got Talent’, a group calling itself “Himbaza Drummers” presented a performance using drums. The Himbaza group performed last Sunday, and the show airs every Sunday at 7pm Rwandan/Burundian time.
This style of drumming, coupled with elaborate displays, is known for being Burundian. It is the cultural export the Burundians have been sending to the world.
The Himbaza group registered as from Rwanda. But when introducing themselves to the audience, they said they are Burundian refugees who have been living in Rwanda since 2015.
That year is when hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled their country escaping government-instigated violence following a failed coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza.
No television in Burundi is showing the talent show, and so the Burundians got to know it days later from media reports.
Willy Nyamitwe, a senior advisor and spokesman of Burundi’s President Nkurunziza, was not amused at all.
“Not Original and not Authentic at all,” he wrote on Twitter with some letters in Caps, August 19. “These guys should be ashamed for debasing the quality and the cultural originality of Burundi drums in Rwanda.”
The Tweet has plenty of engagements from his many followers. Burundian supporters were equally angry in their comments.
Local media in Burundi, all of which is government-controlled after the coup, has accused Rwanda of stealing their cultural pride, drumming, and doing it very badly. They also lambast the organisers for not advertising the show in Burundi.
The reaction from Rwanda was of admiration for the group, and have widely been reported about in Rwanda: as Burundian refugees.
The “Himbaza Drummers” were so good the judges voted them to the next round. It means the fight over the drummers is only beginning.
The winner of the show will walk away with $50,000 (Rwf 45.6m) cash, which is a very large sum of money – in addition to many prizes including possible international recording contracts.
Clouds Media International FZ LLC, the organizers of the show, in response said via a statement that they “deeply regret” if any offence has been done by inclusion of the Himbaza drummers.
The show is bringing out the cultural diversity of the region, the company said, whose executive producers Lee Ndayisaba, is also Rwandan.
The show was only meant for four of the East African Community, but performers have also come from South Sudan and Burundi presenting themselves as refugees.