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Planting Seeds of Tolerance through Youth and Music in Burundi

July 26, 2011

Performers energize the crowd at the music competition.(photo: Amelia Hight)

By Amelia Hight


As part of a campaign for youth-driven tolerance and peace in Burundi, SFCG has invited the country’s youth to share their positive messages for the future through song and performance. Throughout July, SFCG hosted a series of music competitions in the three of the country’s provinces. The winner of each will perform in a final competition in the capital Bujumbura at the end of July.


The most recent competition and daylong celebration took place in Bubanza province, an area particularly affected by recent political violence and where people are eager for a positive message for the future. The day began with an introduction and performance by Lolilo, a regionally renowned hip-hop artist from Bujumbura, on a raised stage before a crowd that steadily grew throughout the morning, reaching over a thousand people by noon. Lolilo performed songs about love and tolerance, urging the audience not to be violent toward their neighbors or family before handing over the mic to the first of five competing groups.


The groups performed one song each while a five-person jury of government officials, media representatives and the SFCG National Director judged their performances for clarity and importance of message, originality, artistic ability and engagement with the audience. The music was varied with artists ranging from small hip-hop groups to a seven-person rock band. Each song carried a message of solidarity among youth and many stressed the importance of avoiding ethnic and political manipulation.

“This music festival has been good because there is still the threat of war in this area. The message engages youth and reminds them that we have to live together and shouldn’t be swayed by politicians with a violent message because they do not live here.”

– Japhet, audience member from Bubanza

The audience gets into the acts in Bubanza.

Children sat watching attentively, danced and walked through the audience selling little packets of peanuts and hardboiled eggs. People of all ages pressed against the stage until the police providing security pushed them back but once again surged forward at the artists’ beckoning.


After a long deliberation between the jury members, the winner was announced and the audience stood and cheered as Peace Group, a duo of hip-hopreneurs (because what else can you call a group that sings about bringing together youth for a peaceful revolution?) returned to the stage for a victory performance.


Swaying back and forth, the two young men rapped to an audience hungry for their message of renewal: “Aho bateye amasasu tuzohatera ibiharage. Aho bateye amabombe tuzohatera ingundu z’ibitoke” (Where they threw bullets, we will plant beans. Where they threw bombs, we will plant banana starts). The two young men will travel to Bujumbura next week to perform alongside the winners from the other two provinces, proving that youth can also be positive agents of change within their societies.


Amelia Hight is an international intern working with our Rwanda office for the Summer. She has been working out of our Burundi office recently before returning to Rwanda.




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One Comment leave one →
  1. nancy tibbetts permalink
    July 27, 2011 9:53 am

    this makes sense, music is powerful, and blessed!

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