To come to Burundi is to find a wonderfully friendly people living in a warm, almost idyllic climate alongside Lake Tanganika! The landscape is rich and green – some have called it the ‘Switzerland’ of Africa. Burundi is a vibrant young nation – but it has a dark secret. Years of ethnic conflict between hutu and tutsi tribes have seen waves of violence engulf the country and left many bereaved and traumatized. No-one seems sure who is to blame or how it started, but war has left its destructive mark everywhere; poverty is easy to find. The young Christian musicians I met there in 2015 told me they feel a deep responsibility to pray for their country – they are trying to find their way in life and build a new future largely without having the benefit of advice from an older generation.
I first worked with Patrick in 2009 when he was part of a creative songwriting workshop held by Mercy Ministries in the north of Rwanda. The song he wrote, Harira Mana (Lord, forgive) made a big impact at a Christian conference there and was later widely acclaimed in his home country.
Now Patrick has also established a reconciliation ministry called ‘Three in One’ which has brought together around 35 young singers and musicians that attend different churches in Bujumbura. He was keen for me to come and work with them, so in November 2014 I travelled to Burundi for the first time to hold a songwriting workshop. The group of singers that worked on this CD together were drawn from a cross section of different churches in Bujumbura and have since called themselves ‘Shengero Murika’ – here’s how Patrick has described the shared vision of the group:
“Shengero Murika is a new worship initiative calling the church of Burundi to be salt and light for our nation. To help us, we called other musicians and singers from various churches in Bujumbura to join with us in making this CD. These songs make clear that our ethnic, regional, political and social differences must be removed. Only the church can bring the light of Christ to heal and restore the broken hearts of many Burundians. Let’s encourage each other to be salt and light to the world! TWARAHAWE KUMURIKA!”
Out of this songwriting workshop, we chose 11 songs which appear here. Having worked on the tracks at home in the UK, I travelled back to Burundi with Joel in February 2015 to record the vocals and some of their traditional instruments – like the famous Burundi drums. The album is sung entirely in kirundi, Burundi’s native language, and the title is ‘Twarahawe Kumurika’. The songs were mixed in the UK in April, but sadly a fresh wave of violence has now broken out across the nation. We hope you enjoy these powerful amazing songs – please take the time to pray for Burundi as you listen!