November 2016

So far with my blogs, you have seen Leontine in action teaching two separate classes at the Meg Foundation and the Kigali Music School. In this blog post, I will got more into depth about her classes and share a little bit about her life, her aspirations, and her role as a woman drummer in Rwanda.

Leontine is the same age as me (22) and started training as a community music youth leader with Musicians Without Borders in 2009. It took one year to train as a music leader. In 2012, she started drumming lessons with one of the Kenyan MwB teachers. In addition to lessons, she watched YouTube videos to learn new rhythms and improve her drum set skills. She would watch the videos, write down the rhythms, then play them on the drums when she would have the chance to practice on a real drum set.

Leontine found her passion teaching music and now wants to be a full-time music teacher with the help of MwB and their teacher training courses. This super woman stops for no one. She has her own band that plays at local functions and weddings, where she not only drums, but also sings! She plans to go to university in the near future and study music in the hopes of traveling internationally with her music. Because of her positive attitude and amazing chops on the drum set, many young girls, including her younger siblings, see her as a role model. People even come up to her during gigs to ask if they can learn from her! Leontine’s parents are incredibly supportive of her choice to pursue music and help her create many opportunities for her to excel in music. No one can stop this firecracker!

Leontine works at a couple of schools and organizations around Kigali as a community music leader. In my previous post, you’ve seen her teach the kids at the MEG Foundation, but now I’ll explain what she teaches at the Kigali Music School and the WE-ACTx for Hope clinic that works alongside MwB.

The Kigali Music School

There are three drum students that Leontine teaches every Monday at the Kigali Music School. During class, each student is given a certain amount of time on the drum set to master the rhythmic patterns of the week. Leontine teaches standard drum set rhythms from a traditional rock beat to reggae. She then finds popular Rwandan music to sing along to while the students play to help them keep a steady tempo and feel the groove of the song. It’s one thing to play a certain rhythm on the drum set, but it’s another to understand how to groove with a song and embellish when appropriate.

The three students, who were all boys, respected Leontine greatly and always seemed eager to play in class. If she wrote a rhythm down on the board, they would quickly write it down in their journals and start tapping out the rhythms on their legs so they could be perfect when it was their turn on the drum set. Some got the rhythms faster than others, but with time, each of them would get the rhythm and play it with the class during group performance time.

During one of the the classes, I showed them a little bit of a basic standard jazz swing. This was much harder than I anticipated because none of them really listen to jazz. It was a difficult concept to explain swing-eighths to them (for the non-musicians, think of the cymbal part that is at the beginning of the Pink Panther theme song). It took them a while to understand that jazz drum set is about grooving to the beat all while keeping a steady tempo. You have to learn to not listen to yourself, but to the band in front of you and tailor yourself to them, not the other way around.

Below, you can see a video of Leontine talking about her time teaching with MwB:


WE-ACTx for Hope Clinic

Leontine also teaches at the WE-ACTx for Hope health clinic. To recap from an earlier blog post, WE-ACTx for Hope has teamed up with MwB to help support the needs of children and young people living with HIV. Different musical activities and music therapy sessions are embedded in the clinical support structure providing opportunities for positive creative expression and social empowerment through musical interaction (taken from the MwB website). Leontine and other youth members would come everyday to the clinic and would engage with the children while they were either waiting for their parent’s or their own treatment. You can imagine how difficult it is for a child to understand why he/she has to go to a clinic every week to take medication. Luckily, the musical activities MwB organizes for them really brightens their day and makes going to the clinic something to look forward to. They get to play around on the drums, sing songs, play musical chairs, etc. It’s a safe place where they can forget the outside world and just be a kid.

Well friends, this is my last post for Rwanda. It had its ups and downs, but overall, I have learned so much from the people I met here, be it music or not. Thank you everyone I met and worked with in Rwanda and I really look forward to working with y’all again!

Next stop: Seoul, SOUTH KOREA

-Rwanda has an incredibly strict noise ordinance to the extent that many restaurants and bars have decibel  readers.
-Real butter can be hard to come by sometimes. On the expat Facebook group, many people will tell you the secret places they find their butter, and some people even make their own.
-MwB has around 30 djembes for group music activities. They weren’t in the best of shape, so I decided to tune them and teach Leontine and other youth leaders how to properly tune djembes (Thanks for the how-to tutorials, Dingi!)


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