The Most Popular Traditional Musical Instruments in Rwanda.

In Rwandans’ social and cultural gatherings, songs and dances were since a long time ago performed in accompany with musical instruments. This is an overview of the common instruments featured in Rwandan traditional music, currently referred to as ‘gakondo’ music.


Photo courtesy: Deo Munyakazi

Hopefully the most sophisticated traditional music instrument in Rwanda, the Inanga is a traditional oval-shaped harp that is made out of wood with strings tied at the edges. Inanga is currently the leading traditional instrument widely incorporated in contemporary music both in studio recordings and live performances.

Sophia Nzayisenga playing Inanga.


Photo by Barthazar Mudahemuka

Umuduri is a single-stringed traditional bow-like instrument which consists of a string supported by a flexible wooden string bearer, with a chopped calabash attached to the bow to act as a resonator. A wooden stick and the inzebe rattle are used playing umuduri.

A young talented umuduri player


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Iningiri is a violin-like instrument which is made of a chopped tube (mostly a horn), a stick, small leather, and a single string. Iningiri is played by rubbing gently the string of a small bow to the one of iningiri.

Abanyarwanda twariyunze by Ntamukunzi played with iningiri

IcyembePhoto by James Gahemba

Icyembe is a music box in wood with staggered metal spikes between eight and twelve. It is similar to the ‘mbira’ known in different parts of Africa.


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The ikondera is a Rwandese aerophone instrument mostly played as an ensemble ‘amakondera’ of five different types. Amakondera are made in horns or bamboos.

Amakondera by Inganji mu Nganzo.


Photo by Afrifame Pictures
Umwirongi is a flute mostly made from the stem of the intomvu plant or bamboo. The umwirongi usually has between two and six round finger holes located on the lower part of the instrument. The umwirongi was originally an exclusive instrument played by herdsmen to pass time or to keep any cattle predators at bay at night.

Rwandan Umwirongi


Photo courtesy: Kigalitoday

Ingoma (i.e. drum) is the widely used Rwandan traditional music instrument and probably the easiest to learn. It monopolized the Rwandan traditional dance which most of the time does not necessitate other instruments to be incorporated. Besides playing the musical role, ingoma was also a symbol of the sacred royalty and the power of the King and would also be used in several royal rituals. The ingoma are made of wood, which is covered with cow leather pegged on both ends, and are commonly played with short sticks named ‘imirishyo’.

Ingoma Nshya, Rwandan women drummers.


Photo courtesy: Abimicomyiza Collection

Amayugi are small spherical bells made from a fine sheet of iron to be attached to dancers’ ankles. The blacksmith curves the cut iron to give the instrument its spherical shape and places two holes in the folded section. A small iron ball is placed inside before each bell is folded. The iyugi’s sound is produced when the iron ball hits the walls of the instrument.

Intore dancing with Amayugi

Other common Rwandan traditional musical instruments are urusengo, ikinyuguri, inzebe (commonly accompaning umuduri), and karigombe (a children’s own-made and immovable musical instrument).


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