Music and dance plays an important role in the traditions of Rwandan people.
Performances range from demonstrations of bravery and excellence, to humorous dance styles and lyrics, to artistry based in traditional agricultural roots. 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 who collectively produce a hypnotic and exciting explosion set of intertwining rhythms.
Live dance performances can be seen at the Iby’ Iwacu cultural village in Musanze or at the National Museum of Rwanda. The finest display of Rwanda’s varied and dynamic traditional musical and dance styles is performed by the Intore Dance Troupes. 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 Huye.
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. Rwandan pop stars are also developing a name for themselves in the country and in the region, winning regional
competitions and performing and recording throughout East Africa.
A wide range of traditional handicrafts is produced in rural Rwanda, ranging from ceramics and basketry to traditional woodcarvings and contemporary paintings. Rwanda’s traditional Agaseke baskets have become famous the world over and a visit to Gahaya Links Gifted Hands centre will allow any guest to witness the weaving of these baskets first hand and purchase the high quality baskets directly from the centre. A good selection of painted and handcrafted artefacts can be viewed in craft villages, shops and numerous art galleries in Kigali.
Excellent places to peruse and purchase modern art work in Kigali are CAPLAKI Craft Village, Ivuka Arts, Inganzo Gallery, African Gift Corner, Ishyo Cultural Centre, ATRAC Craft Village and Uburanga Art Studio to name a few.
A distinctively Rwandan craft is the Imigongo or cow dung paintings that are produced by a local co-operative in the village of Nyakarambi 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 the source to see how the paintings are reflected in local house decorations.