She is best known for her contemporary Rwandan music, but really she is skilled in many different aspects of music. Miss Jojo is currently the most famous female Rwandan musician.
At 26 years, she is a composer, song writer and has already recorded numerous songs that have placed her high on the music charts of Rwanda.
Her music is jammed with different feelings and thoughts that make people come in touch with daily life situations.
‘Mbwira,’ translated as ‘Tell me’ was her first hit song in 2006 that placed her in the spot light of various concerts and airwaves across the country. With one album out, she is yet to launch another early next year.
“I call this a game, because I do not see it as a music industry as such,” Miss Jojo said, agreeing that Rwanda’s music industry still has a long way to go.
She narrates her story, like every other musician who discovered their singing talents while still young.
As a child she danced and sang in a traditional dance troupe. However, her interest in song writing was heightened after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi when, at eleven years of age the talented young girl lost her mother to the genocide. Naturally, she started writing songs and singing, as a process of healing.
In 1996, in her senior one in a village school deep in Rwamagana, she was part of the school choir. Here for the first time, a gospel song she wrote was sung publicly by the choir and that is when she realized that the crowd loved her; little did she know that she would be famous.
Recently, already popular, she heard a choir singing her maiden song, and to this she reacted with exhilaration.
“My song is coming back to me! This makes me happy,” she said laughing quietly.
The years that followed, her talent was nurtured; she wrote more songs, sung them and won poetry competitions before she completed her secondary education at Survey Secondary School, in Rwamagana.
The combination of her upbringing, and influences created in her the unique sound that comes through her vocals.
With a unique brand of creativity, Miss Jojo dispelled all external society criticism that she is wasting her life as a learned girl singing and exposing herself to the public. She has a degree in English and Literature, attained at the National University of Rwanda (NUR) in 2006.
“Everyone was telling me not to do it. They said the society viewed girls who sung as loose and reckless…I had a story to tell, I loved music and I over came these challenges at the end of the day,” she said.
By this time her schedule was crowded with appointments to be hosted on various radio shows and to perform during concerts.
“When I performed, Rwandans loved me, they kept shouting, ‘we want to see Miss Jojo, we want to see Miss Jojo and this was my beginning which was very successful and hopeful,” she said, “…and if Rwandans, can feel me like this, I knew that there was nothing else I could do but to sing words that could change their lives.”
That she can create her own music and experiment freely with her vocals is something that Miss Jojo enjoys in her music career without worrying about answering to anyone.
“I am happy to provide a gift that makes people happy,” she said adding that, “If fans still remember me, it’s a gift for me and it’s something that is very valuable and I have to pay much attention to.”
As the first female musician in Rwanda, challenges cannot be done away with. Miss Jojo says there are times when she felt afraid, especially when ‘people were talking.’
“I love positive criticism but I hate people who tell lies about me,” she said. At the end of the day, she chooses the bigger side of remaining true to Rwanda’s positive values. “Being a singer, involves marketing yourself, but being a woman, this is very tricky, I try to stick to our values and remain proud of myself as a Rwandan woman,” Miss Jojo said.
“Most of my fans are children under 15, I am a role model to them, I have to be careful about the things I do— I am young, I feel the vibes of modernity but I pay more attention to them (children) because I am an example and I am not only living my life but a life of a generation, I do not want to mislead people, so I try to keep myself clear,” she said.
Miss Jojo is a rare musician in Rwanda’s music scene, much of her work is revolves around, projects with other musicians.
Currently she is in partnership with Intore Masamba and are working on a project to promote the new education model in schools that is child friendly and involves the promotion of children’s rights.
‘Ishuri Ishuti yanje,’ was performed at the 5th National Children’s summit last week on Thursday, November 12th.
She has created more musical works that involve and advocate for the rights of orphans and vulnerable children, girl’s education, the role of parents in families and activism against HIV/AIDS among the youth.
“If they can listen to our songs, that means they can listen to these messages of hope and change their lives,” she said.
Miss Jojo continues to compose songs and leaves significance behind her trail. She wants to be as successful as Yvonne Chaka Chaka and she speaks of her success with reverence because, “she is a woman, she is strong, learned, a successful mother, an activist and she works hard to capture people’s emotions when she sings, she travels a lot and she is successful.”
She is also thrilled by Beyonce Knowles because “she is lively and a hard worker who brings new entertainment every time she releases an album.”
“I want to be like Chaka Chaka, one day I want to be the ‘Queen of Africa, representing Rwanda to the world as I sing songs full of rich messages, no matter how long it will takes I will work towards that,” Miss Jojo said.