Charly and Nina (or Charlyna Nina like they prefer to call themselves) first met in 2010 during music gig as backup singers, for Kitoko’s concert, but little did they know that their music would make it this far.
Born Charlotte Rulinda and Fatuma Nina Umuhoza respectively, the dynamic duo is not the only female pop group in the country, but has also been able to dominate the country’s music scene in a space of just five years.
Their meteoric rise to fame has been credited to hard work, good management and their tenacity in the competitive industry. Charly also reveals that humility has been key to their success.
“Music has changed some aspects of my life as a professional job. But I haven’t changed substantially as a person. It has opened me up to a wider margin of the society but I still try to live a reserved life.”
She adds: “I have been in the music industry for quite some time now and I would say that the days before Charlyna Nina were kind of low. My best moments have always been on stage listening to people sing out our songs.”
For Nina, participating in Tusker Project Fame (season 4) was a huge stride in her musical journey in terms of career development. Music to her is a ‘simultaneous profession and hobby’.
The songbirds, signed to Decent Entertainment, have since made collaborations with fellow artists Social Mula from Rwanda and Big Furious from Burundi, Ugandan artist Geosteady and ‘many more to come,’ as Nina says.
Singing in several languages, Luganda, Kinyarwanda, French, and giving room for collabos has, according to them been a big advantage to them.
“We actually want to do more of that. We don’t want to do music for only Rwandese. We want to attract Kenyans, Ugandans, and the whole of East Africa. It doesn’t make sense singing for only Rwandans. We now want to make our music global and do collabos with artists from the continent and beyond.”
“They (the artists) have shaped us in so many ways probably because most of the people we worked with throughout the year have more experience than we do so we definitely learnt a lot. I think I learnt a lot from Fizzo he has been in music for so many years. So he knows a lot,” Nina says before Charly adds.
“Collaborations are always good. We learn from each other as musicians and also learn different approaches and techniques. I would say that Indoro so far is our biggest collabo.”
Their hit song Indoro, that featured Belgium based Burundian, Big Fizzo was a breakthrough for them that saw them break their boundaries both musically and geographically, that saw them perform at different regional concerts and win several awards including the recent Hip hop ‘Song of the year award’.
Their biggest breakthrough however was their music tour in Europe.
Europe music tour
In company of Dj Pius, and Big Fizzo, the duo admits that their three week music tour in Europe was eye opening for them.
“The whole experience opened my eyes. Music is more than just singing. It is a journey and you learn from everywhere you go and everyone you meet,” Nina says.
Having initially been scheduled to perform alongside the legendary Orchestra Impala, they did not know what to expect after they left to travel without the group after one of the singers in the Impala group was denied a visa.
They performed live shows in Belgium, Paris and Geneva, with the biggest crowd being in Belgium, mainly Rwandans and Burundians.
“Revelers didn’t know what to expect because the Impala were the main singer, and we were nervous too. We were stressed out but as usual the good thing about stage is that you forget everything while on stage,” Nina says.
Charly chips in: “We got to engage with our fans in the diaspora, met new people and even promoted our music on other bigger networks and platforms. Revelers were singing to all our songs word for word even regardless of the languages involved.We thought they loved ‘Indoro’ most but they liked all our songs. It sounded surreal.”
They will be going back to Europe in October to perform for their fans “if all goes as planned” and have since received invitations from several different countries for music gigs.
Their busy schedule is what saw them pull out of the seventh season of the Primus Guma Guma competition.
“We needed more time to work on our music. We are working hard every day to put our music in our country to another level. So East Africa or even better, Africa and beyond is the direction we are looking at.”