Burundian Culture

Burundi is one of the very few African countries with a sense of “linguistic homogeneity.” Its people all speak the same national language: Kirundi. French is the first foreign language and English is progressively becoming more important. Swahili is also spoken in urban areas and along the Tanganika Lake.

The vast majority of Burundi citizens are Christian (75%), around 20% Burundians follow African religions with a few percent being Muslim. The major ethnic groups are Hutu (84%), Tutsi (14%) and Twa (1%).

Burundi’s culture is based on local traditions and the influence of neighboring countries. The culture of Burundi includes mainly songs, dances, stories and legends. Poetry is sometimes recited during social gatherings.

The shepherds have their own pastoral songs which they sing at the end of the day when leading the animals back from the pastures; and in the home the elders tell the young generation stories and legends relating the life of their ancestors. Art in Burundi is extremely varied. Crafts are an important art form in Burundi. Basket weaving is a popular craft for Burundian artisans. Other crafts such as masks, shields, statues and pottery are made in Burundi.

Drums play a big part in the music of most African countries, but in Burundi they have an almost spiritual meaning. The world-famous Royal Drummers of Burundi, who have performed for over forty years, are noted for traditional drumming using the karyenda, amashako, ibishikiso, and ikiranya drums. Dance often accompanies drumming performance, which is frequently seen in celebrations and family gatherings.

Staple foods in Burundi are various potatoes, bananas, beans, and sometimes fish.