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Rwandan Singer Pays Homage to His Homeland

Rwanda is known for its long history of folk music – and has a prominent presence on the international music scene. That presence is growing, as a Rwandan musician brings US audiences music laced with Rwandan folklore, indigenous religious undertones and colorful dance ensembles.

Vincent Nsengiyumva is one of the few Rwandan cultural ambassadors based in the United States. Lately, he has established a presence on the international scene that has created an interest in Rwandan music among American audiences. Critics call Nsengiyumva a brilliant singer and songwriter. He’s also a dancer who developed a passion for his craft as a young child in the rural Rwandan province of Butare. Legendary Rwandan traditional musician Bwana Kweli noticed his skills and recruited him at age 15 for the Rwandan National ballet. Nsengiyumva uses a combination of over five traditional instruments, including a rare string guitar found only in Rwanda called the INANGA. Its sound is almost extinct now because younger musicians often choose to use modern guitars. He uses it in almost all of his songs, gracefully creating a range of music -- from chordal pieces to single-note melodies.

Nsengiyumva sings with nostalgia about the history of his country before colonialism, when musicians like him sang the praises of kings, hunters and warriors. The 1994 Rwandan genocide also provides a thematic backdrop for some of his songs, whose melancholic tone captures the hearts of of his fans, even if they don’t understand his language. Nsengiyumva’s new album “Humura Africa” -- loosely translated as, “Don’t worry Africa” -- calls for African unity in fighting the ills that plague the continent’s peoples and societies. It’s available in African record stores in major US cities. For more information on the singer, go to