How Rwandan RnB has blossomed into vitality

By Alain Jules Hirwa
On 3 October 2019 at 01:17

Rwanda’s music industry, like most of things Rwandan, has metamorphosed into vitality, attracted more refined artistes, diversified genres, a growing fan base and a booming appreciation from music consumers.

Of all the genres that have sauntered on the market and conquered, the R&B music has had a more profound appeal and reign.

This explains why the artistic endeavor has, to its clan, six of the eight Primus Guma Guma Super Star contests.

R & B stands for rhythm and blues, a form of music that originated from the 1930s, among African Americans who combined Blues and Jazz.

Its journey in Rwanda starts in the 2000s when a majority of its pioneers came on the scene. Among its pioneers in Rwanda are Maniraruta Martin, known as Mani Martin, who recorded his first single “Urukumbuzi” in 2005.

The song was backed by drum rhythms, and, in it, Mani Martin used smooth, lush style of vocal arrangements, elements that make it R & B. Dr Claude, family name, Jean Claude Iyamuremye, who according to The New Times, released his first album in late 2006, can be undoubtedly credited to be among its forerunners.

His songs too incorporated a variety of instrumental melodies accompanied by drum beats.

His voice was softer than that of Mani Martin. In 2006, Tom Close, real name: Muyombo Thomas, in a group named Afro Saints, recorded his first songs.

His songs were more on romantic subjects than Mani Martin who started with gospel songs and Dr. Claude who sung about more of autobiographical messages, songs in which his name recurred most often such as “Contre Success”.

Miss Jojo; birth name: Josiane Uwineza, the singer and actress Ruth Nirere, also known as Miss Shanel, and Liza Kamikazi are the pioneers of R & B among women.

Ngabo Medar, known as Meddy, started with songs like “Ungirira Ubuntu”, a gospel song that included moderation of tones, sometimes taking high pitched sounds as those by Michael Jackson who one cannot hesitate to say was the inspiration behind his moonwalk dances in the song’s video.

The Ben, Knowless, Urban Boys, King James, Kamichi, and Dream Boys, all of whom got exposure mainly from 2008 to 2009, are other main pioneers whose tremendous contributions to the popularization of the R & B in Rwanda one can never overlook.

On the rise of those musicians, Rwanda saw a boom in other modern forms of music such as Afrobeat, Hip Hop, and gospel.

There are those who did not remain active in the music industry. Among them are Dr. Claude and Liza Kamikazi.

However, those who remained on the scene even exported Rwanda’s music to the furthest reach.

In 2010, Meddy and The Ben left the country for the USA, and, ever since, have based their music there.

They have become one of the major music artists on the continent. In 2016, Meddy was nominated for an MTV Africa Music Award, in the Listener’s Choice category.

Their followership too has increased, Meddy receiving, early 2019, a Silver Play Button, a recognition from Youtube to a channel that reached one million subscribers.

Those pioneers inspired a great pool of more talent. Among those who began their music, early 2010s are Elion Victory, Queen Cha, Christopher and Bruce Melody. In the late 2010s, too, came a huge pool of talent among which one cannot forget to mention that of Yvan Buravan who even went beyond to win the Prix Decouverte RFI 2018.

To speak of R&B music in Rwanda is to speak of Primus Guma Guma Super Star contest. The first of its kind, in 2011, was won by Tom Close, marking R&B music as the most popular form of music in that early stage of the contest.

The very next too was won by an R&B musician, King James. In both the years 2013 and 2014, Hip-hop music dominated the music industry of Rwanda and enabled two of its artists to win over R&B musicians the two Primus Guma Guma Super Star awards of those years.

However, from 2015 up to today, R&B musicians have remained the only princes of the throne; Butera Knowless, Urban Boys, Dream Boys, and Bruce Melody winning it successively like queens and kings acquiring the throne from one royal family of R & B.

It is no doubt that R&B music in Rwanda has come to rule; getting the first Rwandan musician among nominees of the MTV Africa Music Awards; raising the first Rwandan musician to win the Prix Decouverte RFI 2018; honouring for the first time in Rwanda a Silver Play Button, and to win six of eight Primus Guma Guma Super Star contests.

But, does it portray enough of the culture of Rwanda in a way that would make it differentiable on a global scene? We shall discuss that in our next issue.