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Burundi, des gospels dans la guerre : lieu de mémoire invisible ou signe de mauvais augure ?

Abstract : This article examines the relationship between music and the memory of the past, in particular the memory of the Burundi civil war as a historical experience. It deals with the way in which music has become both a medium of memory and a lieu de mémoire regardless of the intention of its composers. Since the assassination of President Ndadaye in October 1993 and during the following months, the National Radio and Television of Burundi frequently aired songs. Among them were two songs, “Ibimenyetso vy’ibihe” (“The Signs of Time”) and “Shalom” (“Peace”). These gospels were sung by the Rwandan choir Hoziana Choir. This article explores the representations associated today with these two songs by those who used to hear them on the radio in time of war and exile. Based on the ethnography of Burundians living in Île-de-France, this paper shows how these songs activate different memories related to pain, loss, suffering but also to the ordinary actions of those who tried to stand in the way of massacres. Listening to them brings back a memory that transcends ethnic groups or social categories, promoting on the contrary a community of experience at a national scale. For the survivors of the civil war, the memory charge of these gospels takes precedence over their religious character, but for the new generation they are mere religious songs. The memory charge of these songs is therefore fragile and is likely to disappear. The article insists that these two songs are “unintentional musical monuments”: they differ from built monuments as they are mobile and able to reach out to those who remember or commemorate. These two gospels also became warning signs of war, especially of the assassination of a president: they are therefore ominous songs which, in the imagination of those who witnessed the civil war, have the capacity to act and cause a regicide. Listening to or hearing these songs activates individual or shared memories of the past, but at the same time it induces reactions linked to the political present and projections into a possible future—this reminds us how much memory lies at the junction between past, present and future.
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Submitted on : Monday, January 24, 2022 - 10:39:22 AM
Last modification on : Friday, April 29, 2022 - 10:13:01 AM


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  • HAL Id : halshs-02865032, version 2


Ariel Fabrice Ntahomvukiye. Burundi, des gospels dans la guerre : lieu de mémoire invisible ou signe de mauvais augure ?. Sources. Material & Fieldwork in African Studies, IFRA Nairobi, 2020, pp.121-140. ⟨halshs-02865032v2⟩



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