Real World Records re-release a classic percussion album from Burundi's former spiritual parliamentarians.
Between 1962 and 1966, the karyenda drum was the Kingdom of Burundi's national symbol, featuring prominently on the nation's flag and coat of arms. For these four years after gaining independence from Belgium, Burundi was a constitutional monarchy but also, in a sense, a democracy thanks to the karyenda.
The drums were energetically beaten by a parliament of royal drummers, each thriving off each other's instinctive sense of rhythm. The king - uniquely blessed with these powers of interpretation - would then translate the pulse and voice of his people into rules.
When 1966 brought revolution, the Royal Drummers - no longer revered as semi-divine mediums - found themselves caught in the build-up and horrific reality of the Hutu-Tutsi genocide campaigns. 20 years and an United Nations Assistance Mission later, the demographics of Burundi and its neighbouring Rwanda became common knowledge around the world. As living relics of a Tutsi monarchy, this gave the Royal Drummers an immediate global interest, and in 1982 they played at the first WOMAD festival making them integral in the shaping of 'world music' as a genre.
Live at Real World is an auditory re-enactment on a massive scale. The rhythms are simple, yet the number of drummers and the size of the karyenda drums create something truly hypnotic. The chief drummer's introductory cries quickly become swallowed up, and by using two powerful sounds - "boom" and "clack" - a single voice is created. Good drumming can induce a bizarre phenomenon by which unexpected words leap into the mind of the listener - never have I experienced this as routinely as with The Drummers of Burundi.
Play it loud, preferably through the sound system this record deserves, and embrace what you share with every human on the planet - a pulse, a sense of rhythm and subconscious attraction to the sound of certain words. Then, if you're lucky enough to reign over an eager nation of devotees, try arranging these words into rules.
Live at Real World is available to buy at Real World Records.