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From the land of 1,000 hills

Hindurwa, a music group from Rwanda, entertained a captive audience at Jesuit
by: Jaime Valdez, Rwandan group Hindurwa performed during an assembly at Jesuit High School Wednesday morning.

Jesuit High School students got a spirited taste of Rwandan culture Wednesday with the appearance of the group Hindurwa, who danced, sang and played music from their native country.

By the time they were done, dozens of Jesuit students joined the eclectic group onstage for a final number.

Hindurwa's appearance was sponsored by the Portland-based Africa New Life Ministries, a Christian organization that helps disadvantaged Rwandan students.

Pastor Fred Katawa, the executive director of Africa New Life Ministries' African branch, gave a snapshot of his country, saying his homeland is frequently called 'the land of 1,000 hills.'

However, Katawa reminded students of the horrific 1994 Rwandan genocide that took the lives of so many in that country.

'One million people were killed,' said Katawa of a genocide that was concentrated over 100 days. 'Families killed each other. Classmates killed each other.'

With that reminder, Hindurwa took the stage, opening two 45-minute shows with traditional African drumming performed by group members that included Enric Sifa (lead singer and vocalists), Emma Twebaze (keyboards), Brian Bizimungu (vocals) and two new singers, Moses Mbona and Jean Claude Nshimiyimana.

Before launching into 'I'll Go Home,' a personal song about living on the streets, Sifa said he didn't attend school until he was 15.

'I lost my parents in the war in 1994,' Sifa told students. 'I grew up on the street because I didn't have a home.'

At 22, Sifa has composed more than 70 songs.

The group later performed 'Free Call,' a song about not needing a cell phone to talk to God, and a finale, 'Vahanze,' a song that sent Jesuit students up on the stage to join in the singing and dancing.

Tony Morones, who along with his wife, Serena, founded Africa New Life Ministries, said the organization has more than 70 Rwandan staff members.

'We sponsor over 2,000 students,' he said. 'We currently (have) six orphan homes.'

Each home serves 16 students. Also, the agency has a home for street kids and a place for high school and college students to stay as they determine what to do with their lives.

After the performance, Brett Griffin, a student at St. Andrew Nativity School who traveled with fellow sixth-graders to Jesuit to see Hindurwa, said he wasn't disappointed.

'It was exciting,' he said.

Both Jesuit High seniors Elise Veley and Ramazan Muhammed, who introduced the group, said they were glad to get Hindurwa to play at their school, the second time over the course of a year.

'They're good people,' said Muhammed, who came from Rwanda 10 years ago. 'I like their stuff.'

Veley met group members during one of two mission trips with Africa New Life Ministries.

She said when she returned to the country she was impressed with how stable the country appeared to be.

'It's beautiful country too,' she said.