World musicians come to Rwanda

The last of tourists  from the recent Kwita Izina gala a fortnight ago are yet to pack their bags for home, and Kigali is already gearing up for another huge cultural fete. 
American singer Joey Blake. Sunday Times/Courtesy photo
American singer Joey Blake. Sunday Times/Courtesy photo

The last of tourists  from the recent Kwita Izina gala a fortnight ago are yet to pack their bags for home, and Kigali is already gearing up for another huge cultural fete. 

The third edition of the annual KigaliUp Festival is in the last stages of its preparation. Slated for July 13th and 14th at the Amahoro National Stadium, the two-day music gala will bring together a diversity of internationally acclaimed musical acts from as far as Mali, the US, Kenya, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Burundi and Rwanda. 

Basically, KigaliUp Festival will bring together the music of Rwanda, Africa and the world on the same stage in a two-day extravaganza. In all, expect over 25 artistes belting out organic compositions, both old and new, in genres as varied as folk, jazz, Reggae, gospel, hip hop and funk. 

Among the bigger foreign acts lined up is Habib Koite, who brings with him Mali’s beautiful, intricate melodies and rhythms through his unique guitar approach and restrained, intimate singing style. Other international acts lined up are; Tony Osanah (Argentina/Brazil), Maia Von Lekow (Kenya), the American Gospel artiste and composer, Joey Blake, and Burundian Reggae band, Lion Stories. 

But the show is not all about international acts. Rwanda, the host, is well-represented by a crop of some of its finest crooners.

Local acts that have been cleared for the prestigious stage are; Gabi Kamanzi, Jay Polly, Ras Kayaga, Mani Martin, Dream Boyz, Riderman, Rafiki, Liza Kamikazi, Ikobe, Babu, Koudou, Patrick Nyamitari, Impala, Safa Papy John, Makanyaga, Strong Voice, Alarme, Nubian Gypsies, and Tolerance Musica. Others are Sophie Nzayisenga, Moise, Blessed Sisters, Urunana, and Rehema. 

The concerts will kick off at 2:00 pm and run till 10:00 pm on both days. To accommodate the huge number of performers and their stage sets, two separate stages (Stage One and Stage Two) have been rigged. The first artiste to step on stage on Saturday, July 13th, the opening day is our very own Makanyaga, who will be followed by Jay Polly, Ras Kayaga, Tolerance Musica, Mani Martin and Gabi Kamanzi. Malian maestro Habib Koite will headline. 

Rwandan/Canadian songbird Nicole Musoni will be trying to prove that even though she and her family relocated to Canada 23 years ago, her roots are still deeply embedded in Rwanda.

She is the eldest daughter of the popular Rwandan artist Évariste Musoni. A five-year-old Nicole was with her father when he performed in the famed Odéon Palace auditorium in Bujumbura, Burundi, and when the family moved to Canada and her mother started giving lessons in traditional Rwandan dance, she took part in her mother’s dance classes. 

Nicole contends that she is back to her motherland for the music, not the money: “I have come to perform here for the love of my country, the passion of its music that my father worked hard to promote.”

Mighty Popo, a Rwandan musician based in Canada is the brains behind the festival. 

“This festival aims to enrich the cultural landscape, enhance the capacity of the music and art industry, and contribute to cultural tourism and economic development in Rwanda. KigaliUp promotes original music – traditional and modern alike – from independent artists throughout Africa and the African Diaspora. Its diverse musical palette embraces Rwanda’s ancient musical expressions along with other sounds birthed from Africa’s deep, diverse musical traditions,” he explains.

“Some of the artistes lined up for the day will be experiencing live performance for the first time in their lives. This is an opportunity for them to showcase their skills and take their music to the international stage.

“The main aim of the musical extravaganza is for the artists to push the boundary of culture and entertainment and that’s why they have invited renowned international artists to share their experiences with young, upcoming Rwandan musicians.This is going to be a cultural fusion that’s going to highlight all that which is beautiful in Rwandan music and empower young artists. It’s not going to be all about entertainment but using the music to promote tourism here in Rwanda,” he says. 

But the festival won’t be about music alone. There will be sessions for cultural exchange in the cultural villages, where fans will be able to mix and mingle with some of the artistes. You can also expect a carnivore-like atmosphere, with beer and roast meats and play areas for children. There will also be an assortment of art and craft pieces and local fabrics on sale.


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