‘Ikome’ group; taking music, poetry and dance to the next level

'Ikome is a type of fire that is set up for cows at night when the weather is too cold. The ash from that fire prevents insects and other predators from attacking the cows,' explains Olivier Tuyisenge, the founder of Ikome
Ikome mix poetry, dance and instruments on stage. / Courtesy
Ikome mix poetry, dance and instruments on stage. / Courtesy

“Ikome is a type of fire that is set up for cows at night when the weather is too cold. The ash from that fire prevents insects and other predators from attacking the cows,” explains Olivier Tuyisenge, the founder of Ikome. Ikome is a group of five young Rwandans with diverse talents that recently came together to form a performance troupe.

It is comprised of three boys and two girls. There is the poet Olivier Tuyisenge, poetess Paola Ingabire, and two dancers; Niyomufasha Yvette, and Yannicky Kamanzi who also plays drums (jembe). The group also boasts an instrumentalist, Fred Gihana who plays both inanga and the umwirongi (traditional flute).


“We decided to call ourselves Ikome because in our shows we let people come and surround us the way cows surround fire to beat off coldness. As the fire prevents insects and wild animals from attacking the cows, our message also helps people to fight all sorts of bad things and evil in society,” Tuyisenge further explains.

Poet Tuyisenge Olivier is the leader of Ikome. / Courtesy

The group recently held its first joint performance, at the monthly Spoken Word Rwanda’s Open Mic Night held at the Cleopatra Lounge in Kimihurura. For a group that had been formed barely a month earlier, the crowd response was more than positive; And encouraging too, for a group that is yet to find anchorage on the local concert and events scene.


The multi-talented young performers gave spoken word and poetry enthusiasts a little more than what they had bargained for, blending the usual poetry with contemporary and traditional dance routines, dances and the exquisite sounds of the inanga, jembe and umwirongi.

Interestingly, before that maiden gig group members barely knew each other in person.

“I used to follow the activities of the different members before we came together as a group,” Tuyisenge reveals;

“The first time I saw Yvette Niyomufasha perform was in Uganda and I immediately liked her performance. It was at the Black Anthem Poetry and Theater Festival in April this year. I liked her creativity as she danced and did her theater pieces and I was struck by that mixture of dance and theater. I had never met her before that, only seeing her posts on Facebook so I decided to contact her via Facebook so that we could do a collaboration. When she returned to Kigali she replied to me saying she was ready to work on something.”


Next to team up with Tuyisenge was the dancer/Jembe player Kamanzi Yannicky:

“He (Kamanzi) played Jembe for me at Spoken Word Rwanda commemoration edition in April at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It was my first time working with him and it was beautiful. I realized that if we team up we can build something special,” Tuyisenge explains.

“People have got different talents,” he adds:

“For example our group has got different talents like poets, dancers and instrumentalists. We just thought of a way to mix these different talents to let people enjoy. We just try to let everyone enjoy what they love, for example if someone does not appreciate poetry they can still come to our show and enjoy the dances. Another person may come and enjoy inanga or umwirongi (flute), or amazina y’inka (cow poems). We just tried to create a group where everyone can come see what they want. We perform all these at the same time. We also plan how to manage the stage, for example there are times when the poetry stops and the dances continue.”

Ikome on stage at a Spoken Word Rwanda event. / Courtesy

Interestingly, at the time Tuyisenge made contact with Yvette Niyomufasha for a possible collaboration, the latter also nursed similar ambitions:

“Niyomufasha told me she had a project with Paula Ingabire, another poet and asked if I could join them, so we decided to all work together,” he reveals.

Niyomufasha is a dancer specializing in Rwandan traditional dance and jazz contemporary dance. At the moment she is also taking lessons in Ballet.

“I mix these to do my own things, which makes me special and unique,” she reveals.

She was first introduced to traditional Rwandan dance at the tender age of five, by a Nyamirambo-based dance troupe called Abatangampundu.

“They used to practice from near our home so one day I just went there to see them practice and saw that it was so amazing so I asked if I could join them and they agreed.”

Gihana Fred on Inanga and Jembe. / Courtesy

In primary school she joined her school’s traditional dance troupe and while in P5 was made the coach for the troupe.

“In S.3 I was again made the coach for traditional dance at my school, and in S.5 I saw Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company on stage and was inspired with what they did -they mixed theater with poetry and modern dance -everything in one moment on stage and I was very excited and tried to join the group but it was not easy because I was still at school.”

Upon completing high school she joined Mashirika where she was introduced to contemporary dance. She was later cast to perform at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival and also at the East African Nights of Tolerance (EANT) Contemporary Dance Festival organized by the Rwanda Arts Initiative (RAI).

“I only started practicing Contemporary Dance in 2016 but I appreciate my progress because I was so passionate about dancing. I joined different groups that do contemporary dance and went to social media which opened me to new opportunities like the Black Anthem Festival in Kampala. I’m concentrating on dance because it’s my passion and talent but I can also do more -I can act.”

21 year old Paola Ingabire graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the University of Kigali earlier this year.

“Before joining Ikome group I used to do art on own (poetry, writing, dancing and painting sometimes..) plus my studies.

Most of us knew each other as artists because we used to meet in different activities, then one day me and Yvette Niyomufasha started this idea of forming a group to strengthen our potential together and make something much stronger. That’s how we proposed our fellow artists to join us and they understood it well and Ikome came alive.”


While Gihana Fred plays the unique traditional Rwandan wind instrument, the umwirongi (traditional flute).

“I used to be a herds boy. That is how I learnt to play the Umwirongi. I approached some veteran umwirongi players and they advised me to learn inanga as well,” explains the instrumentalist.

“We can perform at all sorts of events because we have a diversity of talents. But one of our major aims is to perform at different festivals both in Rwanda and internationally,” Tuyisenge concludes.

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