She has been seen singing in different groups with a very soothing and soft voice.She is a towering mother commonly refered to as ‘Mummy’ for her social character and love for children.
Her real name is Maria Mukankuranga, she survived the 1994 Tutsi genocide that claimed a million lives.
Mukankuranga’s music message targets the young generation promoting; culture, unity, peace, and reconciliation using her singing talent.
Our reporter Dianah Mutimura visited her office at Kimisagara under the organization, ‘Maison de Jeunes’ where she works as an accountant and Mukankuranga shared about her life.
Her office is decorated with photos of artists that specialise in Rwanda traditional songs such as Ceccile Kayirebwa, Masamba and others. At Maison de Jeunes, Mukankuranga teaches Rwandan youth how to create their own jobs and to respect their culture.
Mukankuranga says she was born in 1943 in former Kibungo currently part of Eastern province. She was born to Gacinya Faustin and Mukamujyenzi Asteria, both of whom passed away. She is a mother of three also all of whom died like their father and grandparents.
She says that even if God took away all her children, God blessed her with the love for children and the needy people. She says that she adopted four children all orphans and raised them from an early age and they are now in the United States of America where they are persuing University degrees in different fields. Mukankuranga later adopted more three children.
Asked about when she started her singing career, Mukankuranga said she choose to sing traditional songs which she started singing at a very early age inspired by her mother to love singing to avoid becoming shy among her friends and that people regularly told her she has an amazing voice.
“This made me proud and I would sing at different gatherings during the youth stages in what we used to call ‘igitaramo," She narrates with a jovial smile.
Mukankuranga explains that she liked singing traditional music because Rwandan traditional songs have a melody that brings out a beautiful sound of the song and this makes it different from other cultures around the world.
By adhering to traditional songs, Mukankuranga says she seeks to keep Rwandan culture alive and give chance to future generations to learn about their heritage because parents of today do not have enough time to interuct with their children while others have lost their parents, relatives and society elders that would teach about the importance of culture.
Mummy believes that through music, culture cannot perish because music does not die.
Mummy says that her hobbies are to see traditional music concerts live, to pray to the almighty lord for her relatives and friends and the nation.
Asked about what inspires her in traditional music and who still keeps her breath in music up to now she says, ”My uncle Karinganire Vienne, my niece Uwera Florida with whom I composed the song called ‘Itsinzi after RPF had gained victory.
“Those people give me strength to continue singing and writing many songs to different dancing troops of which I am even a member, like indahemuka and Ballet National”.
Asked why she chose to help the young children and train them instead of the popular dancing troops, “I train young children starting from primary school until secondary school ensuring that they grow with knowledge about their culture and learn to love it when they are still young.”
“ I call them ‘Utunyange’, it is a God sent sign from heaven and declared Jesus as his own beloved son and I too consider young children as angles sent from God. When they are dancing and singing with me I feel over joyed and releived at heart.”
However, Mukankuranga believes that cultural music is threatened by emerging modern music. According to her, modern music is trying to dominate cultural music and its not the right thing to happen.
She thinks that if these young artists would mix cultural songs with modern songs both could produce agreat melody, but if they continue to sing the way they do, there is a possibility that Rwandan culture could perish and the future generations emerge without knowledge of the past.
“Music is doing a bit well to the young talented musicians for examples Miss Jojo, Kitoko, Man Martin and others but the problem is the young generation are forgetting what history is all about and the elders also seem to be less willing to teach the youth.
“They should try to sing more similar to their traditional songs so that it can help keeping the record of Rwandan culture,” She urges.
Mukankuranga calls upon the Government, parents and people in the society to support her in teaching the future generation about their culture.
Children should be brought up understanding the history of where they are from and how important it is to know their culture.
As told to Dianah Mutimura.