By Joseph Ondiek
Anette Kaberuka’s typical day starts very early in the morning when she wakes up to go to school. At a young age of 13, she already knows that education is the key that will open the doors to many opportunities in the future.
In the evenings, she doffs her school uniform and heads to Inema Arts Center in Kacyiru, where she joins her peers to hone her dancing skills.
On Fridays or Saturdays, they board a bus and head to Heaven Restaurant in Kiyovu where, for one hour, from 7pm, they dance for tourists who in return, as a token of appreciation, drop money in the open traditional collection baskets passed liberally among the excited tourists, even as they continue to take their dinner and at the same time watch the exhilarating traditional dance performance.
Later after the performances, the money is shared equally among the young performers. They use it to buy scholastic materials like text books, exercise books and pens, among others.
“I come from a poor family, and my parents are unable to buy me all the things I need in school. I use my talents to enable me ease their burden,” says Kaberuka.
When walking around the quiet Kacyiru suburbs on a typical evening, you are likely to hear the vibrating sounds of loud, talking drumbeats emanating from different arts centers spread here.
One is likely to see a group of tourists sitting around in groups as they enjoy these scintillating dance performances at the arts centers, venturing to drop some money inside collection baskets strategically placed at the dancing scene.
But little do they know the money goes a long way in helping these children towards their education, some of whom come from poor, vulnerable households.
“I like the way they express themselves through music. The performance is eclectic (sic). You cannot find this kind of performance in my country,” said Mia Sauer, a German tourist after watching a dance performance by Niyo Children Dance Troupe at the Niyo Arts Center in Kacyiru.
Elias Kalinda, a traditional dance teacher at Niyo, says that not only do the children have the chance to earn money that helps them with their education but these sessions also serve to preserve Rwanda’s rich traditional culture.
“These children are young ambassadors of our rich cultural heritage. They showcase our culture to the world, making other people from different parts of the world who come here to appreciate our rich culture,” says Kalinda.
Kalinda says at Niyo they teach the children traditional Rwandan music and it’s significance.
According to Moses Asiimwe, a blogger, the most famous traditional dance is Intore and Amaraba, a highly choreographed routine consisting of three components: the ballet, performed by women; the dance of heroes, performed by men; and the drums. Usually, men are helped by women in performing the Amaraba dance. Men play drums in groups of seven to nine. This was the order of Rwandan traditional music blessed by the Umwami, the king of Rwanda in the pre-colonial period.
Just as they do at Niyo, Inema or Ivuka art centers, where each of these have their own respective dance troupes, these children mostly dance the traditional dances which are always accompanied by traditional songs, known as Indirimbo in Kinyarwanda. Indirimbo consist of many categories, the most popular being those in praise of a dynasty (urugera), pastoral songs (amahambo), choral songs (ibihozo), lullabies, love songs, songs of complaint, hunting songs (amahigi) warriors’ songs (indirimbo z’ingabo), songs accompanying war dances (indirimbo z’intare) and wrestling songs (amusare).
Ruth Uwingabiye, a Primary Six student at a Kacyiru-based local school, says she normally look forward to these performances since they provide her with something to do after school.
“Not only do I sometimes get money after performing for tourists but since I have nothing to do at home in the evening after school, I have a great opportunity to bond with my peers with whom we share common interest,” says Uwingabiye.
Though Rwanda has different kinds of music today, traditional music still stands as an essential part of Rwandan culture. Any visitor to the country will be welcomed by the sounds and rhythms of ingoma, inanga, umuduli, iningiri and icyembe. One should definitely not miss experiencing some live dance performances and the beautiful sounds of traditional groups.