Date: 27th-October 2008

On Friday night, one of the Kigali Serena’s huge lobbies was on fire as a sea of people flocked in to watch Rwanda’s most celebrated traditional vocalists performing live.

This time round, there was no room for hip-hop, R’n’B, or even recorded music. The band, which comprised six male singers and a lady, did a full bobble rhythm, jamming and flame spitting. The night was incredibly amazing! By 8a.m., the hall was full to capacity.

The event was attended by high ranking government officials who included among others; the First Lady Jeannette Kagame, Minister of Culture and Sports, Joseph Habineza, Youth Minister Protais Mitali, Minister of Public Service and Labour, Anastase Murekezi, and Senate Aloyse Inyumba.

The Belgium-based Rwandan ace singer, Jean Marie Muyango, for the first time performed with a group of more than five Rwandan local musicians. The middle-aged singer, considered Rwanda’s cultural ambassador overseas, had a number of hits including: Humura Yage and Sabizeze.

The organisers of the concert – Frack Kalisa, a.k.a KA and Boniface Murwanashaka, both presenters on Contact FM, jumped on the platform and thanked their esteemed sponsors who made it possible for the concert to be successful.

Clad in a black bump dinner dress, the only female singer, Umwari Fani, joined the predominantly male band, belting out in a loud tender voice: "Rwanda, I love you so much!" The "yes" response was deafening! The tall and graceful star swung from the rafters and sang her song Ibyiza By’urwanda. She then introduced her touching song Ngizo zajye, always played during the Liberation and Heros Days. Many from the audience broke into tears as they remembered the dark days of the 1994 Tutsi Genocide.

Each singer did a couple of hits, using backup from the group. Worth noting was the fact that each singer had a unique rhythm. The maestro singers sent the crowds screaming and cheering for more. Fans (young, old, VIP and ordinary) got on their feet, singing and dancing along with the singers. The concert was worth every penny the revellers paid.

Many admitted that the show was beautiful, given the fact that Rwandan music plays an important role in maintaining the country’s culture. "The show was extremely amazing. It was my first time to see Muyango and Umwari Fani singing though their songs are played on all local radio stations and TV," said Jean Claude Hanimana, 25. "I’m extremely thrilled that I didn’t miss the show," said one of the fans identified only as Nyiraneza. She added, "It has brought joy to my life!"

Like many other African societies, Rwanda has a variety of music and dance, which range from acts that demonstrate epics commemorating excellence and bravery, humorous lyrics to hunting. Rwanda is known for her long history of folk music and has a prominent presence on the international music scene.

That presence is growing, as Rwandan music dominates the international music audiences. The music is laced with Rwandan folklore, indigenous religious undertones and rich culture ensembles. Muyango is among the few Rwandan cultural singers based in Europe. The brilliant singer and songwriter sings with nostalgia about the history of his country before colonialism, when musicians like him sang the praises of kings, hunters and warriors.

The 1994 Rwandan Genocide also provides a thematic backdrop for some of his songs, whose melancholic tone captures the hearts of his fans, even if they don’t understand his language.

The Monitor