Lyceum opens with thunderous beats

Music tailored to the thrones of African kings will echo from Lee Hall auditorium this Sunday.

Courtesy of the central African nation of Burundi, the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi kick off this year’s Lyceum event series at 3-7:30 p.m.

 Their style became known as the “Burundi beat” in the west and has pulsed through the veins of its drummers for centuries, inherited from their fathers before them.

According to the group’s official website, the ensemble has toured the world since the 1960s but originally performed ceremonies such as births, funerals and the enthronement of kings.

Western musician Joni Mitchell featured them on her 1975 album “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” and inspired 1980s British rock bands Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow.

Luther Wells, associate director of theatre at FAMU and Lyceum committee member, explains how the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi were chosen.

“The committee works from a compiled list of various artists, speakers, politicians etc.,” he said, “but we are open for other suggestions and recommendations.”

Thomas Brooman coordinated the first World of Music Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival in 1982, which started the “World Music” boom after he attended a performance by the drummers.

The polyrhythmic Burundi beat is composed of the Inkiranya, Ibishikiso, Amashako and large Ignoma drums. Representing the powers of fertility and regeneration, the drums are home-made and crafted from hollowed-out tree trunks native only to Burundi.

Tickets are available at FAMU’s Alfred Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium for $10, $15 and $20, depending on seat locations. Subsequent performances by Sulaiman Hakim and the Langston Hughes Project with Malcolm-Jamal Warner are also set for this year’s Lyceum series.

“I hope that all of us, students, faculty and staff, can be lightened on what’s to offer beyond Tyler Perry and other urban entertainment,” Wells said.