Burundi: Artists want association’s boss out

Musicians from Burundi have written to the minister for culture, youth and sports, demanding the replacement of the current president of the Burundian Musicians’ Association (BMA).

Nairobi-based Burundian musician, Kidum, who has accused Simbavimbere of incompetence.
Nairobi-based Burundian musician, Kidum, who has accused Simbavimbere of incompetence.

The 30 artists have accused Bruno Simbavimbere of occupying the office illegally for 13 years.

“We need new representatives of the Burundian Musicians’ Association that we will have elected ourselves,” acclaimed Nairobi-based musician Jean Pierre Nimbona, also known as Kidum, said. “We asked him to organise the election of our representatives but he refused”.

Nimbona, who signed the correspondence sent to the minister, is one of Burundi's best-known musicians.

Simbavimbere is said to have been appointed to lead the BMA provisionally, but has continued to hold on to the post for well over a decade.

In response, Simbavimbere dismissed the 30 musicians engaged in the clamour for his replacement, saying they mean nothing compared to the more than 400 other Burundian musicians.

“I work legally as I was elected in 2005. All these musicians want is to destabilise us,” he said.

For Nimbona, the growth of the Burundian music industry has been hampered because the BMA has been inactive. He accuses Simbavimbere of incompetence.

“We want representatives we trust and who are able to unite Burundian musicians in order to promote our music,” Nimbona said.

Confirming the government’s receipt of the letter, the director-general for Culture and Art, Léonard Sinzinkayo, has told the artists that he will respond only after he has examined the issue.

In December last year, the BMA, known in French as 'Amicale des Musiciens du Burundi (AMB)', which translates to 'Friends of the Music of Burundi', was criticised for being part of the ruse the Burundi government used to censor artists. This after the government granted the association express powers to decide what songs are of "good artistic quality" and, conversely, which ones are not. By applying this vague standard, the association would censor songs from being broadcast on various radio stations.

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