East Africa’s Got Talent confirms Himbaza Drummers are eligible for the competition amid controversy

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Clouds Media launched the East Africa’s Got Talent TV show in April 2019, which is part of the Got Talent franchise started in 2014 by Simon Cowell. The show is currently being screened on Citizen TV and will be shot in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

The show has been adapted for the East African Market in partnership with Freemantle SYCO and Rapid Blue Productions from South Africa. The Kenyan version of the show will be sponsored by Safaricom and Coca-Cola.

The judges of the show are Jeff Koinange (Kenya), Gaetano Kwagana (Uganda), Vanessa Mdee (Tanzania), and DJ Contact Makeda (Rwanda) who are set to choose the winners of the Ksh. 5 Million grand prize.

So far there have been three episodes of the show screened. Some outstanding acts include dance crew All Eyes On Us from Uganda, Jua Kali Drummers from Kenya, Sonda ya Dhiru, a seven-member (all male) band/choir from Tanzania and Himbaza Drummers from Rwanda.

There has been controversy about the inclusion of Himbaza Drummers in the competition. Willy Nyamitwe, Counselor at the Presidency of Burundi, on his Twitter account termed their inclusion as not original as the drummers were using Burundi Drums. He said “Not Original and not Authentic at all. These guys should be ashamed for debasing the quality and the cultural originality of Burundi drums in Rwanda”.

The Sacred Drums of Burundi are classified as Intangible Heritage of Humanity at UNESCO. The Himbaza Drummers are originally from Burundi but they are are however legal residents of Rwanda.

According to Clouds Media, entry to East Africa’s Got Talent was open to people who are legal residents of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania irrespective of their nationality. This therefore means that the Himbaza Drummers were eligible to enter the competition.

Clouds Media released a statement that reads as follows;

Clouds Media International FZ LLC, the commissioning broadcaster, and Rapid Blue, the producers of East Africa’s Got Talent, have taken note of the concerns raised in certain quarters around the Burundian refugees playing the country’s traditional drums on the show.

Entry to the show was open to anyone who has the legal right of residence in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania irrespective of their nationality. The drummers are legal residents of Rwanda and are therefore legitimate contestants on the show.

Contestants apply as individuals and we can confirm that no act was entered by any government as an official representative of a nation.

We deeply regret if any offence has been taken by the inclusion of the drummers but wish to state that East Africa’s Got Talent celebrates a wide diversity of talent and takes special pride in showcasing the cultural heritage of the region.

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