Traditional Musical Instruments and Ankole Cattle in Burundi

A warrior celebration during which traditional instraments could be used, according to folks here in Burundi about 1900. Source: Hans Meyer, Les Barundi. Source - Une étude ethnologique en Afrique orientale.

A warrior celebration in Burundi about 1900.  Musical instruments, such as the nzamba horn-flute discussed below, could be used at these times.  Source: Les Barundi. Une étude ethnologique en Afrique orientale, by Hans Meyer.

Traditional musical instruments, aside from the drum, are difficult to come by and so I was quite pleased when I was recently given an nzamba, which is a flute made of the horn of an Ankole cow –

Ankole cattle in central Burundi, c. 1910.  Source: Hans Meyer, Les Barundi. Une étude ethnologique en Afrique orientale.

Ankole cattle in central Burundi, c. 1910. Source: Hans Meyer, Les Barundi. Une étude ethnologique en Afrique orientale.

The horn-flute was tried out by an elder in the village, but unfortunately it is missing a piece in the interior.  We will try to find someone who can restore it, and they experiment with traditional Burundi music.  Here are a couple of photos of the nzamba that was given to me:

The following video is of a couple of Ankole bulls having a good time sparing – a favorite activity of these local cattle.  Compare the eye movements in the video with those of the cattle in the above painting of local Ankole – in both, the eyes are actively engaged in viewing their opponents.

The following video must be taken in the States, not only because of the audio (which is pretty funny), but also because the bulls are much too fat.  Fatness has become a desirable attribute of edible livestock in the States, along with heavy marbling of the meat. Livestock here are thin by comparison and their meat is correspondingly lean.  Good for making stews and chewy skewers, but not for tender steaks.  To see the differences, check out the pictures of local herds in this blog compared to the video.

A herd of ankole cattle that I passed in central Burundi that is on its way from Tanzania to the abattoir in Bujumbura - perhaps the last, long commercial cattle drive in Africa.

A herd of Ankole cattle that I passed in central Burundi.  The herd is on its way from western Tanzania, east Africa, to the abattoir in Bujumbura (capital of Burundi) where they will be slaughtered.  This is perhaps the last, long commercial cattle drive in Africa, the trip taking three to four days and accompanied by professional drovers.  Horns at the abattoir in Bujumbura are sold on to artisans and others.

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Music to Bike By – The Hills of Burundi

Source /

Source /

The best music to accompany the following video of a descent (by bike) from the highlands of Burundi into the capital of Bujumbura on Lake Tanganyika – a drop of some 30 kilometers and 1400 meters – is, in my opinion, some rousing Scott Joplin.  So, do play the following rag by Joplin,  while you watch the action in negotiating the mountains shown in the above picture of Bujumbura and its famous hills, taken from my place.

I have started the video about half way through, where events become a bit exciting during the descent.  The entire video (and descent) takes about 45 minutes.  Many thanks to Tired of I.T. for this great video!

The video provides a quickie lesson in micro-marketing and person-transport into the capital from the highlands.

The music, which is the first link below, is derived from an original  piano roll, and this is described here.  The first sheet of Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag appears at the bottom of this page.  Be sure to press the first (audio) link – and then the video, which follows.

Have fun!

Press here first, for the music >


Now press here, for the video >

Negotiating the hills of Burundi can be as daunting as playing Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag.  Source -
Negotiating the hills of Burundi can be as daunting as playing Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag.  As a kid, I could play this and some other music roles on my grandfather’s ancient player piano, which was broken but still worked with a lot of effort.  Source –
Posted in Africa-Central, Burundi, Hills of Burundi, Lake Tanganyika, Living here, Scott Joplin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Singing About Burundi

Burundians love their country, and here is Steve Sogo’s song, ‘My Beautiful Country, Burundi,’ which celebrates this fact. The song has been a run-away hit, very much beloved throughout the country.

Scenes in the video are of traditional Burundi styles and musical instruments and of various famous spots in the country, including the little pyramid and small trickle of water out of which Steve sips, which is claimed to be the southern-most source of the Nile River.

Today Steven is considered as the best bassplayer in Burundi and the most original artist of his country. Recently he has been selected by the World Bank Institute to be Burundi´s music ambassador. STEVEN SOGO sings in Kirundi, Swahili and in French.

For his composition he has been inspired by daily life. “J´aime la vie!” he explained in an interview and his love for live is his motivation.  Peace and life after a long war struggle are important subjects in his songs.

… His music is a permanent reflection of his cultural identity and heritage. STEVEN SOGO wants to be an example for the new Burundian generation to be proud of their culture instead of forgetting it. 

Steve Sogo on our beach with Bujumbura in the background.  Source:

Steve Sogo on the beach with Bujumbura in the background. Source:


The scenes in Steve’s video that are by Lake Tanganyika were shot here, where I live. The piece has become a classic.

Steven plays the guitar, the Ikembe (thumb piano) and the Umuduri (a single-stringed instrument and the ancestor of the Berimbau of Brazil). He sings in Kirundi, Swahili and in French. His take on traditional Burundian music is graceful and refreshing.  His music is … full of pain and hope at the same time, a mirror of present day Burundian society.

Regarding the years of war, Steve has these wise words to say –

[In my music] I just wanted to show the beauty of my country to change our thinking and be forward looking. I wanted to focus on a peaceful Burundi and not dwell on our differences. In any society music and words can be a real force for change that can touch everybody.

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The Egyptian Book of the Dead; what Egyptologists have to say and an imaginative reinactment

For you upcoming weekend enjoyment, a reposting of this popular blog.

The following videos dramatize a bit of the life of the 19th century Egyptologist E Wallace Budge and his discoveries in Egypt; together with brief remarks by several 20th and 21st century Egyptologists: the videos include an imaginative recreation of the Book of the Dead

Sir E.A. Wallis Budge who for many years was Keeper of the Egyptian collection at the British Museum and also sought artifacts in Egypt as discussed in these videos

Sir E.A. Wallis Budge who for many years was Keeper of the Egyptian collection at the British Museum and also sought artifacts in Egypt as discussed in these videos

Dare to go on a trip through the underworld to the Egyptian afterlife and the voyage of the Book of the Dead in this marvellously depicted programme. E. A. Wallis Budge’s wonderful find in Egypt and his famous book gives us an insight into how the Egyptians charted the journey after death to the afterlife. This programme gives us a graphic and often scary insight into the trials and tribulations of the soul of the deceased. 
Aired on the History Channel by A&E Entertainments in 2006 and produced by Morningstar Entertainment.

Source  The Egyptian Book of the Dead

Enjoy your weekend with these two little programs

Part 1

Part 2

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Intercropping in upland Burundi, central Africa

Intercropping in upland Burundi, central Africa

Intercropping in upland Burundi. Banana, manioc, maize, amaranth, etc, are regularly intercropped by smallholders.  This is a traditional method of augmenting soil fertility and porosity, and of assuring seasonally appropriate crops. As well, problems of  brief, radical climate shifts are often ameliorated.

This photo shows an agronomist colleague identifying the different crops and soil types found within a plot, as part of a rapid appraisal of smallholders near Gitaga town in central Burundi.

These kinds of rapid assessments in which farmers, researchers and project workers  participate can be an excellent method of deriving focussed data for use both in research and project work.  Problems and possibilities as seen from the perspectives of the different actors (smallholder, researcher, project worker) can be readily assessed and then acted upon.


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14 Places in Egypt You Must Visit in 2014

Very stunning photos from Egypt – do try to visit these places, if and when you are in Egypt.

Egyptian Streets

Credit: Mohamed Hakem The White Desert Credit: Mohamed Hakem

While Egypt may be facing political and social turmoil, Egypt’s exotic, mysterious and historic locations continue to stand, receiving adventurers and explorers. If you are thinking of exploring Egypt in 2014, then here are 14 must-visit places in Egypt, along with others that you should already have planned to see!

(Note: Many of these photographs are thanks to Mohamed Hakem. Check out his blog

1. The White Desert

1 Credit: Mohamed Hakem

While it may look like the moon, this photograph was taken at the White Desert near Bahareya Oasis. The white surfaced desert which resembles an alien planet has been used to film Sci-Fi movies, including Vin Diesel’s Riddick. The desert is renowned for its rock formations, safari trips, and over night camping.

2. Sultan Qalawun Mosque in Old Cairo

Sultan Qalawun Mosque in Old Cairo Credit: Mohamed Hakem

8 Credit: Mohamed Hakem

While Old Cairo is filled…

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What the well-dressed fieldworker is wearing this summer (i)

Matthew Timothy Bradley is posting a series of blog on field-garb, which is both very useful for those in or going to the field and is also very amusing.  Some good analysis from, of course, a field anthropologist.  Here are a few quotes, and do follow his blog (linked above to Matthew’s name) to find out about good and bad rags for the field.

Most of the rags here in Burundi come from the vibrant used clothing market – in which all items are carefully and well washed and pressed.  A good way to go; just this morning I passed a fellow and his friend along the route, each with a stack of jeans slung across his shoulder, off to a nearby village to seek purchasers.

In the States I always purchased from the Banana Republic, which, until bought out by The Gap, stocked loose, fully cotton, and generally conservative clothing items and accessories that were (and still are) excellent styles for the Middle East and Africa.

Drying loops on garments are useful.  Or you culd also just use the belt loops.  Source>

Drying loops on garments are useful. Or you could also just use the belt loops. Source>

This is intended as the first in a short series of how-to posts for optimizing your clothing choices for the heat and humidity. The individual posts will be organized around a particular type of garment or gear, such as outwear and footwear. This post will discuss undergarments and headwear and neckwear …

This is an anthropology blog, so archaeologists and primatologists are obviously within the scope of the intended audience here. Environment rather than discipline is the determiner. The information is equally applicable to linguists, geographers, geologists, ecologists, and anyone else planning fieldwork in swampy or arid conditions. …

… keep in mind when planning your budgeting and packing priorities that the natural anti-microbial properties of wool mean you are obliged to wash merino underwear less often. (And by all means, do wash your own underwear. Even if you hire out your laundry duties, it’s just good manners, and don’t be surprised if it is an expectation at your field site.)

Source – Savage Minds, What the Well Dressed Field Worker is wearing this summer.


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