Contrary to images many Americans have of Africa, in three years of reporting on the continent, I haven't seen any bare-breasted women in grass skirts – or heard all that many drums.
So, it was a surprise for photographer Mel Freeman and me to suddenly hear loud rhythmic booms recently in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura.
It turned out to be the practice session of a top national drumming group – the Komeza Cultural Association. Such teams traditionally played for kings – and now compete at festivals.
The 15 or so teenage guys carried – on their heads – hollowed-out tree-trunk sections weighing 60 to 80 pounds. All beating together, it was like standing near a speaker at a rock concert: Booms reverberated in our rib cages.
Then individual dances began. Each member came out from the circle to do a shimmying dance – like American break dancers. The crowd cheered hardest for a handicapped guy who spun acrobatically on crutches.
"Once you've heard the drums," boasted group leader Eric Ndoricimpa quite rightly, "you'll never forget them."