At five years, having been brought up in a musical Christian family, Clementine Uwitonze, commonly known by her stage name Tonzi, had already began her musical journey, singing in church choirs.
In 2004, she decided to embark on a solo music career, releasing her first album that same year and staging a successful concert in 2008.
“Nine years into my solo career, I have had six albums, performed at many concerts, sung with many artists and have had many invitations to perform outside the country which is a good experience,” she says.
Considered to be among the country’s A-lister gospel artists, Tonzi reveals that despite releasing several gospel hit songs, the journey has not been rosy.
Her job as a morning show presenter on contact FM in 2006, did not go well with many of her fans.
“I have had many challenges with the biggest of them being the mindset of the people. As a public figure people will not be afraid to hurl their judgments at us because they think that when you do gospel music, you cannot do any other job,” she says.
“I was trying to earn a living by doing several jobs for companies only for people to tell me that singing should be about fully ministering to God. We are Christians living on earth, we need to work to be able to feed our families,” she says.
Seeking and giving support
Given these challenges as a solo singer, she thought of seeking support from her fellow artists and ‘sisters’ who shared her ordeal.
Together they formed ‘The sisters’ group that comprised of four female artists Irene Gabby Kamanzi, Phanny Gisele Wibabara, Aline Gahongayire and Tonzi, and together they won several music awards.
“When I saw how much we had achieved, I realized that we needed to bring other female gospel artists on board so we can share our musical journey and serve God together. That is when the concept of the ‘All in One Gospel Ladies’ came up,” she says.
The ‘All In One Gospel Ladies’ began last year with a number of female gospel singers; Pastor Jackie Mugabo, Diana Kamugisha, Pastor Rose Ngabo, Tonzi, Phanny Wibabara, Gaby Kamanzi, Aline Gahongayire, Rachel Rwibasira, Assumpta, Kareen, and Alice Big Tony.
The artists pursue different solo careers but team up together once in a while to perform together and release a mixtape of their favorite songs.
The aim is to unify the artistes and in the long run, promote their music. Together they have staged two concerts and performed with élan on stage, which has seen the group build up their fan base as well as performed outside Rwanda.
“We have many talented and passionate singers in this country but if we do not support them, their talent is bound to die. As a group, there is a sense of sisterhood within us. We compose songs together and do a mixtape of our songs as a way of lifting each other up and motivating each other,” Tonzi says.
This, she reveals, also cuts down on the costs involved in recording songs and shooting videos singlehandedly.
Why an all-female music group? I ask.
“We need to see more female photographers, producers and even artists. Our calling is to be together, encourage each other because I know that women can and that it is good to encourage each other,” she responds.
The group released their first song ‘woman of honor’ on women’s day, sung in several languages and are planning on doing another one together.
Tonzi was this year also invited to perform at one of Uganda’s Judith Babirye’s concert, who is one of the biggest gospel artists in Uganda. She returned with a couple of lessons.
“Ugandan people love entertainment and will support their artists regardless of their age. That is different with this country, where concerts are mainly for young people. They also have several organizations that support them. I need to see a more vibrant audience and support within the gospel industry in this country,” she says.
A married woman, mother of two girls and business lady, Tonzi says she had a successful career with the help of her husband who has been so supportive of her.
She is currently working on her sixth album, and recently released her song ‘Aho’.
Her other song ‘I am a victor’ will be released on Sunday ‘because it’s my birthday,” the singer who turns 37 years old today reveals. The song will be inspirational, about her life’s journey and testimony.
I have several concerts to perform at and my biggest concert will be next year hopefully.
Her advice to aspiring gospel artists.
“They need to know what they want and have discipline and know their calling. Don’t do something because someone else is doing it. Do what you know, and do it with all your heart. Be humble and let your talent brand you,” she advises