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Encounter with a drumming maestro

Encounter with a drumming maestro

Nsabimana Tharcise is a drum maker plying his craft at Ikirenga Cultural Center in Rulindo District. The self-proclaimed drumming maestro produces high quality drums and plays them exceptionally well.

It takes almost a month to make a set of drums used by a Rwandan cultural troupe. Each drum bears a distinct name. Sounds and effects produced vary from drum to drum. The combination created by a whole set is similar to the keyboard of a piano.

The first step in drum making is a wooden affair. Some drum makers outsource woodwork but Tharcise boasts a skill set that enables him to do it all. From wood to hide, his adeptness is off the charts.

The wooden inner part of a drum is an open sculpt covered by a cow’s skin on both sides. Its pair of coverings are tightened by strings of ropes made of the same material. Advanced physics is applied in the tightening and adjusting of the ropes. This is done in accordance with the highly technical sound engineering requirements.

Blood drawn from a slaughtered cow is applied on newly assembled drums to complete the final touches. As Tharcise walked me through the process of traditional drum making, I was introduced to a rich Kinyarwanda drumming vocabulary.

The African drum is iconic. Its cultural and symbolic value transcends music. Speaking of music, Tharcise informed me that he is the composer of the original version of Uzaze Urebe U Rwanda rw’Abanyarwanda hit song. The song celebrates the beauty of Rwanda and encourages you to visit this remarkable destination.

My drum making instructor is currently a key member of the National Ballet of Rwanda. The veteran drummer has participated in numerous dance festivals around the world since 1985.

After a little bit of practicing, Tharcise and I created the remix of Uzaze Urebe. His simple teaching methodology unleashed the drummer in me. "This is the heartbeat of Africa." He told me referring to the sound of our drums.

The author is a travel enthusiast on a tour of all 30 districts and 416 sectors of Rwanda. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @GeoExposure

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