Every year since 2011, the ‘Kigali Up’ music festival has brought together world-famous musicians for a weekend of live musical performances and other fun activities in Kigali.
This year is no exception, with some of the biggest names in music on the continent like Alpha Blondy and Ismael Lo already confirmed to perform.
Other foreign acts that will take part in the festival include Manou Gallo from Ivory Coast and the all-female Congolese band, Nkento Bakaji. Some of the local acts lined up include gospel crooner Gaby Kamanzi, and the Nyampinga All Star band.
This year’s festival will be held from August 19 to 20 under the theme “Women in Music.”
Moses Opobo had a chat with Mighty Pop, the organiser of the festival. Excerpts:
What inspired this year’s theme “Women in Music”?
Well, we don’t see many women in music and in the arts in this country. So we really wanted to encourage women and young girls to take note of this as a professional career, and not just in music but in all other areas where the creative industry touches.
It’s been the case every year at ‘Kigali Up’ where we’ve always been aware of the gender inequality, but this year we are focusing a little more on it.
This year, the venue moved from the Amahoro National Stadium to IPRC Kicukiro cricket ground. Why is this?
The new venue is just like how we got the old venues. We always try to look for the best sight for a festival. Right now the stadium is under renovation so there isn’t much that can be done there. The new venue, IPRC Kigali is bigger and we can do more things with it.
There are many more venues within Kigali that we’re hoping to explore in the future and IPRC Kigali is just one of them.
What has the journey been like for ‘Kigali Up’ since its inception?
The objective of ‘Kigali Up’ is to build the music industry in Rwanda and push the culture of playing live music in Rwanda to get it up to standard and put local music out there. We have been building this festival and I think so far we’re going in the right direction.
We have seen Rwandan artistes going to play at other international festivals because of ‘Kigali Up’, we have seen international artistes here in Rwanda whom the Rwandan audience has been introduced to, and they have seen how live music is played professionally.
In terms of capacity building we’ve been doing workshops from the very beginning of the festival in 2011, there is also a big improvement in terms of Rwandan artistes’ performances.
What about the revenue side?
In terms of generating revenue, as a festival we haven’t seen much yet and this was expected because we are still building this festival. But pretty soon, probably in a couple of years I’m positive that we will start to see good revenues because the work we’ve been doing is to reach out to various stakeholders and show them how this business is done, how it can generate income and contribute to the country’s GDP, and showcasing excellence in organic music and what we’re capable of as Rwandans.
So the road has been smooth and rocky at the same time but none of that is new because we were expecting it. We’re getting to that point now where we actually have so many people interested in merging with ‘Kigali Up’ after seeing the potential it holds. I believe that we are on the right trajectory and our projections so far are good.
So how does the festival manage to draw big international acts every year?
‘Kigali Up’ team is a group of volunteers. We all have our contacts here and there, so when we approach big artistes we talk to them as artistes, not as big corporations. ‘Kigali Up’ is organised by artistes for artistes and that’s how we reach out to the big names.
We look out for them as artistes, and then look for people who can sponsor them. We work as human beings, not as machines, although in the end it is business. We reach out to government institutions that give us venues free of charge. We go to embassies and the private sector and ask to work together. When we eventually save enough money we will bring even bigger artistes because we will be able to afford them.