Farewell to Africa’s only cowboy

Abbe Marc Barengayabo, composer of Burundi's national anthem

Marc Barengayabo, the composer of Burundi’s national anthem (pictured), didn’t seem to realise he came from a landlocked country in the middle of Africa.

Just take a listen to his anthem. It’s the sort of tune someone could only write if they spent their days dreaming of cowboys and kung fu movies.

It starts off normally enough, a military march like many of the world’s anthems. But 18 seconds in, it suddenly turns into the soundtrack to a Bruce Lee film. Then the percussion starts clopping, and the strings start swaying, and it changes again, sounding like a cowboy lolloping into town on a worn-out horse.

I always wanted to ask Marc what on earth he was thinking about when he wrote it. Why he thought this tune would inspire the people of Burundi to build a new nation.

Unfortunately, I’ll never get the chance. He’s just died, aged 79.

If you want to read about him, there’s an obituary here. It doesn’t mention if he composed any other pieces, or if he was actually obsessed with films. But it does contain this amazing statement from his government: “The Government of Burundi implore the Almighty to grant [Marc] ample reward for loyal service to the Catholic Church and his country, and welcome him to his vast Paradise.”

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