After the silent drill team in their striking blue and black uniforms had finished their routine, and the echoing boom of their bass drum had faded away, the Army Band of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) strode into the arena.
The powerful beams from the light-clusters mounted above the walls glanced off their shiny brass instruments, which flashed brightly, as they marched past the spectators, giving their salute. They played some unusual pieces of music that I hadn’t heard before, including one very slow march, which sounded almost like a funeral processing – it was deeply stirring and hauntingly beautiful.
The program notes give a little bit about the history of the Rwandan Army Band, which is in charge of ceremonial functions in the RDF:
“The band was established during the Liberation War in 1992, and its first performance was on 8 March 1992 with only 16 members. After the Liberation War in 1994, the band was re-established with 46 members.
In 2002, Lt Col Lemeul Kayumba was appointed Commanding Officer and introduced intensive band training programs, which included building relationships with foreign bands and military music schools. The RDF Army Band maintained its own training program, but was also assisted by neighbouring countries, such as Uganda and Ghana.
In 2008 the RDF Army sent the first contingent of 20 Military Musicians to attend the South African Army Military Music Course, presented by the SA Army Band, Cape Town with the assistance of the University of Stellenbosch. The students do external examinations which include UNISA theory examinations as well as Trinity/Guildhall College London practical examinations. Many of the students achieved distinctions and appear on the role of honour for achievements in UNISA examinations.
The RDF Army Band consists of four components: Head Quarters and Workshop, Arranging and Harmony, Ceremonial, Jazz and Vocal. They perform throughout the African continent, where members are deployed on peace keeping missions.
Under the leadership of Lieutenant Leonard Ndayambaje, it will be the first time the band will perform at the Cape Town Military Tattoo.” (Program notes)