Behind the scenes of the music played on radio and danced to in night clubs are music producers who sit long hours in front of a combo of a computer, piano, mixers and a host of other music instruments such as guitars and drums by their side. Most times, their work goes unnoticed as the artist receives most credit for songs and albums.
Patrick Umuhoza, also known as Lagaff, is one of them. Although he stands at 5’5, while at work he gets all the attention. The 24-year-old producer, with a five-year experience to his music note belt, has worked with artistes such as Bulldog, Fireman, and Pacson, among others. He is also the ‘beat-man’ behind legendary ChuChu Mihigo’s music and has worked with several East African artistes.
“This young man’s job is exceptional, I couldn’t ask for more from him. I have no reason to go looking for another producer,” Chuchu Mihigo says of the producer.
Lagaff produces several genres of music but he says he has an attachment to afro-beat probably due to where he grew up.
“I was born in Rwanda but when I was three, my family moved to Gabon in West Africa,” he says.
“Most of the music I grew up listening to were of deeply African roots, so I had very little, if any, Western influence in terms of music. The music I grew up following had an African signature to it, mostly from Ivory Coast or Ghana. It was music with heavy drums.”
Lagaff returned home for his final year of high school and joined a music school thereafter.
“I studied music and production for two years and graduated to of my class; I was awarded a scholarship to a music school in France but I had visa problems. I was so attracted to music that I wouldn’t imagine taking another career,” Lagaff says.
He then worked in various studios before moving to his current one Ingenzi International Records.
Although Lagaff says he cannot claim to be an artist, he says he makes his own music once in a while when it rings in his head for long.
“At times I also sing when inspired but I am not keen on pushing my music to radio stations. A while ago, I recorded a French song with a friend from Ivory Coast, surprisingly it got massive airplay in stations all over West Africa and parts of France earning us a lot of media attention. A West African Network even offered to direct and produce its video clip.”
You would imagine that producers have it easy at work or work few hours; Lagaff works long hours. “I get to the office not later than 8am and rarely leaves earlier than 7pm, at times I work way past midnight. There is always work, mostly is mastering and blending the beats to vocals. Other times I am just making beats. It is a rewarding line of work as there is a relation to the amount you put in and your progress and how much you will make,” Lagaff says.
“In this line of work, your progress is determined by how often you beat on your craft. The longer I am in the studio making beats, the better I get,” he says in determined English.
“Some people download ready-made beats and use synchrony applications but personally I don’t think that does justice to the art; it doesn’t make you better,” he says.
While working with artistes, he has noticed a trend. “Most of the artistes are talented and creative, what they lack is originality, they are always trying to be like someone they saw on TV, which is distractive, there are a few of them out there who have maintained their originality and are getting places,” he says.
The producer says another thing holding back artistds is lack of airplay.
“Some of the upcoming artists are really talented. They make really good music but it is a challenge getting it played on radio,” he says, before launching a tirade at unscrupulous radio presenters.
“Some radio presenters ask for handouts for them to play an artiste’s music. It is already a challenge for them to raise money for production, let alone bribing presenters. It is sad that getting airplay goes down to who you know at a radio station and how much you have. Many artistes drop demos and new releases at radio stations but I am sure few get looked at.”
“Our artistes don’t make money from music sales, the money is from music performances and brand endorsements,” Lagaff says,
In an interview with this paper, last month, radio presenter Ginty (Cynthia Umurungi) said at times some radio presenters and management could be to blame for them quality of music played on radio since they rarely look out for talent but for brides from artists.
When not recording or producing, he busies himself with online tutorials learning the latest in music production, “using online tutorials is almost the same as sitting in class, you can learn on the latest on production. Whenever I listen to music, I try to figure the work that has been put to it.”
Lagaff says he is putting up his own record label where he will sign artists who have talent and are unique regardless of their finances.
“I have noticed that lack of finances is holding back many artists who would otherwise take over the industry. I am putting up a record label that will sign them, produce their music, manage them and even market them.”
Of the state of music in the country, the hit maker says “currently the industry is at its infancy, it is developing though still very young, that’s why I am a little worried when we try to westernise it too much. Now is the time we should give it our identity.”
When not busy in the studio, Lagaff passes time by listening to music. “I mostly listen to a lot of West African music, Kwaito and French Music. I prefer French music to American music which I consider noisy”
He looks up to producers such as Timberland. “Previously I used to look up to some local but found out few of them have passion for music,” he says.