Sentore on the state of traditional music in Rwanda

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Jules Sentore.

Jules Sentore is a traditional composer and dancer. The 26 year old is one of the 21 grandchildren of the late Athanase Sentore, the tunesmith who was well known for his exceptional traditional music.

The ‘Umpe Akanya,’ singer started as a traditional dancer at a very tender age before taking to singing. Now, one of the biggest traditional artists in Rwanda, Sentore was also part of the singers that graced the Umurage Nyawo, Kamaliza concert yesterday evening.

Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa caught up with him on what his musical journey has been like and his take on traditional music in the country.

What makes you passionate about traditional music?

I fell in love with traditional music because of my legendary grandfather at the age of five. Like any young person, opting for modern music could have been possible but what I sing is a tale of where I come from and honestly, you cannot compete with American or Jamaican artists who are doing music that is their culture. Traditional music for me is a part of me and our culture and it’s only natural that I should be doing it with ease.

Do you find this kind of music self-sustaining?

Music in Rwanda is still wanting which is why artists are still trying to push it to become bigger. Doing music here is a real struggle, but one that is worth it. We currently have music contests that award us, like Primus Guma Guma, and besides, the fact that it is only source of income to a person like me who is a student, proves to you that it is self-sustaining. Everything you set out to do can work for you as long as you get out of your way to do your best.

Have your expectations been met since you started singing professionally?

Let’s just say that I am living my dream already. I have already achieved most of what I wanted to achieve because as an artist, I had always wanted to sell out my albums, stage successful concerts and perform at festivals and this has been achieved. I participated in FESPAM in Brazaville and several other concerts in Germany and USA.

As a traditional singer and dancer, what can you say you enjoy doing the most?

I am more of a singer and composer because my fans enjoy my music the most. I just dance to compliment my music but I can say that I am more of a professional singer and that is what most of my fans prefer.

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Jules Sentore performing.

What tribute do you give to legendary singer Kamaliza?

Kamaliza is a legend and has contributed a lot to Rwandan traditional music. She has inspired many artists here and inspired me as well. We practiced all week for the concert and gave our best. Participating in her concert was a very big opportunity for me and an honor for my music career.

What are some of your musical challenges?

We still need investors to support our music. People have started to honor traditional music as part of our culture but then we need more singers. Many people get surprised at a young person like me doing traditional music, but I want to see that change. We still need many artists whose passion is directed towards traditional music.

Where do you see the future of your music career?

Performing in every place in Rwanda and gaining more popularity. I dream of performing in front of larger crowds and our traditional music known in every corner of the world.