The songs and dance of Bwiza

A local singing group from the Kigali area released their first CD, Kwizera, with a concert at a local venue on Sunday evening.

With “stirring vocals, traditional amakondera flutes and stunning poly-rhythms,” the group offers ancient and more recently written songs in the traditional style that is their legacy from the Rwandan royal court.

Kwizera means “to hope” in Kinyarwanda. One of their songs says, “Ngwino grebe Rwanda yacu nziza, ubu turakomeye”  — “Come, look upon our beautiful Rwanda, now we are strong.”

The group performs dance as well as song. Here are a few photos from their performance at an October craft fair held at the American Embassy.

One of their songs says, "Rwanda, now you're mature. Let us sing about you; the world has to know you." The modern songs were written by Ngarambe Valence of Bwiza.

The group is from a community known as Bwiza, located on a mountaintop near Kigali.

A few years ago the village was barely surviving, living in poverty and poor health and unable to send its children to the neighboring school for want of shoes.

Now, with support of local officials and a small Seattle-based NGO working with the Kigali-based Health Development Initiative – not to mention the generosity of individual expats and Rwandans – the people of Bwiza are rebuilding their lives. Once hunter-gatherers, they now have goats and cows and are harvesting larger crops from newly-built terraces.

If you are in the U.S. and would like to buy a copy of Kwizera, go to the Seattle website.  The CD is free with the purchase of 3 bags of Rwanda coffee (click on the Coffee Rwanda tab) or a $35 donation to the NGO. You can also watch short videos about Bwiza.

(If you are in Rwanda, leave a comment, and I can put you in touch with someone selling the CDs.)

Recently, some craftspeople in Bwiza learned to make this highly efficient cookstove, which uses less wood and provides a more stable base for the cooking pot. The sales of stoves they don’t use themselves will also help support people in the village.

More fuel-efficient cookstove. Training for making the stoves was provided by the American tea company Sorwathe.

Here are a few photos of the beautiful craft products that were available for sale at the October fair. In previous years, the proceeds of the event went to Bwiza, but this time, as other efforts have improved their lives, they performed at the fair for a professional fee.  The 2011 proceeds from booth rentals and entrance donations will go to several other nonprofit groups around Kigali.

Bags made from African "wax" cloth.
These baskets were crafted with traditional techniques and modern bright colors.
Wax cloth and recycled paper jewelry and pretty clutches.

3 thoughts on “The songs and dance of Bwiza

  1. Glad to see the cooking stove. Fuel efficient and reduces smoke. We forget how the other half battle to survive. Was reading how unhealthy it is, when you are forced to cook over an open fire.

  2. Hello,
    I’m hoping that this comment might reach you three years after your post! I’m interested in the CD mentioned if it is still being sold. We are living in Kigali for a short time and would love to take some authentic music home.
    Thank you!

    1. I have not heard anything about the group for a couple of years. I think the best thing to do is contact the Seattle NGO that was supporting them (there is a link in the 8th paragraph above). They may be able to give you a local contact number.

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