For centuries, drums have been a male-only territory. In precolonial Rwanda, drummers were a category of abiru, the guardians of history and oral tradition, who were in charge of learning by heart the different rituals surrounding the king as well as the history of previous kings. The Kinyarwanda word ingoma means both drum and kingdom, reign or power, showing the close relationship between drums and power.
With changes in political power, the drums evolved towards a more popular practice. Despite the democratization of the drums and the loss of their sacred code, women were still considered as unfit to play drums.
In 2004, Odile Gakire Katese braved the traditional interdiction for women to drum and created, at the University Centre for Arts and Drama, the first-ever Rwandan female drumming ensemble, Ingoma Nshya. Her objective was to narrow the gender imbalance that existed in the drumming arena.
"On our faces, you will see the smile of hope...
In our eyes, you will find the courage of warriors
In our hands, you will discover our magic wand:
the drumstick of epic and powerful women"
Gakire Katese Odile