Rwanda Fiesta: A show par excellence

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Revellers enjoyed the show. / Faustin Niyigena

Thank You Diamond Platnumz. Thank you Morgan Heritage. Thank you Yvan Buravan. Thank you Charly and Nina.

Thank you DJ Pius, Vanessa Mdee, Chege, PrimeTime Promotions, Akagera Aviation, RwandAir, Tigo Rwanda … Thank you Golden Tulip Hotel and thank you to all Rwandan fans of music.

Collectively, you are the reason the Rwanda Fiesta music extravaganza at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Nyamata last weekend was a massive success.

For this was no ordinary music concert. It ranks high up there, among the best that Rwanda has seen. Certainly for Nyamata town and the Golden Tulip Hotel, this was without a single doubt the biggest musical feat in that neck of the woods.

If you missed out, you had better summon your gods of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) because it’s not too late.

I had the privilege of sitting down with the man responsible for bringing the Fiesta party down to Rwanda a few days before the event: That man is Lee Ndayisaba and, if his utterances are anything to go by, then those who missed out need not worry.

“It’s been sixteen years of Fiesta and it’s the first time it’s moving out of Tanzania. This is the first edition of Fiesta in Rwanda but it will be happening every year in the summer,” Ndayisaba revealed, vowing that;

“Next year we don’t want to do just one event. We’ll do five events across Rwanda.”

This was the first time the Fiesta carnivore was coming to Rwanda. It was the sixteenth edition of a journey that started in the year 2000, in Tanzania. All previous fifteen editions had taken place in different parts of Tanzania. Incidentally, Ndayisaba is Rwandan and not Tanzanian.

The event did not start out as Fiesta, but rather as Summer Jam. The first edition of the Summer Jam was headlined by the musical group, BCBG, from the Democratic Republic of Congo. A few years later, it changed name from Summer Jam to Fiesta.

And Ndayisaba is not a man whose words are to be doubted, even going by just his track record of Fiesta Rwanda so far.

Initially, Tanzanian Bongo flava star Diamond Platnumz had been announced as the sole headline act. As the concert date drew closer, Ndayisaba and his team announced a surprise addition to the list of headliners, marshalling in the celebrated Jamaican family reggae band, Morgan Heritage.

Not many people believed that a band of Morgan Heritage’s standing, being announced almost as an afterthought would show up. Well, the doubting Thomases were proved wrong!

With the surprise addition, many had anticipated at least a hike in the entry fee, but the organizers chose to stay put, maintaining the entry fee at Rw f 10,000 and 25,000 for ordinary and VIP seating respectively. That was a plus.

But Fiesta has amassed a big track record over the years in terms of doing A-list events. Previous editions have seen internationally acclaimed musical heavyweights such as Jay Z, Ludacris, TI, Kat De Luna, 50 Cent and Rick Ross headline.

With such a reputation, it was no surprise when Ndayisaba revealed to me that so many regional musicians had approached organizers with offers to fly into Rwanda at their own cost and perform at the Rwanda Fiesta free of charge.

In fact, Chege, one of the Tanzanian artists that graced the Rwanda Fiesta was one such artist. He personally called Ndayisaba with the said request, and when it was granted, went ahead to make a promotional video announcing his presence at the concert. Two more such requests came in from Ugandan artists but were turned down.

Far away in Nyamata

But why would someone in their right state of mind want to steer clear of the known concert venues in Kigali in favor of a location so virgin, so untested and so far off the beaten track? Nyamata, the fledgling township where the Golden Tulip Hotel , the venue calls home, is located some twenty kilometers from the Kigali City Center. And as far as music and other large outdoor events go, neither Nyamata town, nor the hotel had ever been tried and tested.

So, why, why, why?

“I chose Nyamata because there’s never been anything in Nyamata,” Ndayisaba started emphatically in defending the choice of venue:

“So I talked to myself and said; why don’t I do something and build other regions other than the regular places where people do events? I went and checked the place out and loved it.”

Indeed, there were early signs of a successful show. The Mayor of Nyamata and the Rwanda National Police, organizers said, “were extremely kind, with the mayor actually thanking us for bringing so many people to Nyamata”.

According to Ndayisaba, an impressive 1,400 tickets were sold on the first day alone, the buyers all corporate entities as opposed to individuals.

If there is one thing that could be taken from the choice of venue, it is that a good show will always attract the crowds, and it doesn’t really matter if revelers have to cross a river to access the venue.

Diamond Platnumz

He came, he saw, he sung, he conquered. So loved and adored by his legion of Rwandan fans, the least he could do was love them back, and sure he did just that.

If there is one thing that his Rwandan fans need to do to cement their affection for Platnumz, it is to coin a homegrown nickname for the Number One star. For now though, we can be content with Chibu Dangote and Simba, his current nicknames.

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Tanzanian Bongo flava star Diamond Platnumz performs at the first edition of Rwanda Fiesta music show yesterday in Nyamata at Golden Tulip Hotel. / Faustin Niyigena

Chibu is a nice guy. Cool too. People that judge him before listening to him think that Swahili is his only asset of treasure, linguistically speaking. But that is because they haven’t heard him speak English. Dude’s English is more than just dope. The intonation is just right. The tone and pitch just right, accent clean, and syntax just good. In fact, never mess with Dangote when it comes to speaking posh English.

Morgan Heritage

Peter “Peetah” Morgan, Una Morgan, Roy “Gramps” Morgan, Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan, and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan are the five siblings who together make up the world-famous reggae band. Their father is the equally well known legendary Jamaican reggae artist Denroy Morgan. Talk about keeping the family name alive!

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Peetah from Jamaican reggae band Morgan Heritage on stage. / Faustin Niyigena

However the band’s Rwandan tour of duty featured only three out of the five band members; Peetah, Gramps and Mr. Mojo. Not that anybody was complaining though!

All five siblings have been with the band since it was formed in 1994; Peetah and Una Morgan on vocals, Roy “Gramps” Morgan (vocals/keyboard), Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan on rhythm guitar, while Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan does vocals and also plays percussion.

Rwanda Decides