Amza Niyonzima, commonly known by his stage name Akami Eli, is a Rwandan artiste/ fashion designer based in South Africa.
Known for songs like Abana Bawe, Jiva Usogope and Nuzigera Ubabara, Akami started singing in 2005, a year before he left Rwanda for South Africa.
After a long year of settling in he met a young Rwandan audio and video producer whom he started working with. He later discovered his other talent in fashion; he started by buying other people’s clothes and redesigning them for his friends and himself to wear.
Last year in June he started his own clothing line called Ma Casi Afrika which has a strong following in South Africa and hopes that he will bring Ma Casi to Rwanda soon. Sarah Kwihangana talked to him about juggling these two very demanding careers.
Briefly tell us who Akami is?
Akami Eli, is a singer/songwriter, model, entrepreneur and fashion designer from Rwanda but lives in South Africa. Akami is passionate about fashion and entertainment in general and has a great love for humanity.
What do you think of Rwanda’s music industry as compared to South Africa’s?
South Africa has been leading in this industry for quiet sometime now and has been presenting and winning music awards internationally. Rwanda music is growing and it has proven that shortly we will be on a great level. If we look back to where we were in 2005, you can see that we have what it takes to be the best in Africa.
What do you think Rwandan artistes should do to get there?
I think that the artistes in Rwanda are doing their best but they need support. There is need for financial and logistic support for Rwandan music to be taken to the international stage. We also need to see more collaborations of Rwanda artistes and other international artistes.
You have been in SA since 2006. Do you have any plans of coming back home?
(Laughs) Good question. East or West, home is always the best. I will come to Rwanda. Rwanda is my home and my pride, so yes I will come home.
Tell us about your clothing line
My clothing line is called Ma Casi Afrika. It means strong Africa. At Ma Casi we combine African culture with modern street wear to come up with a unique style. It’s made in Africa for Africans and friends of Africa.
What inspires you to do what you do both musically and fashion wise?
I am inspired by people and the environment around me. What brings my creativity is the situation/challenge or a problem in the community. If I am surrounded by love, my songs are all about love. For fashion, it’s the same thing. I want to give people something they will feel comfortable in.
As far as fashion is concerned what do you think of Rwanda’s fashion industry?
Fashion in Rwanda is there but we have not shown the world that it’s there yet. It’s our time to show the world that we are the heart of creativity.
Do you consider yourself a fashionista?
What are your favourite brands in general?
When it comes to scents what is your favourite scent of all time?
Nine Degrees and Diesel
Who is your favourite fashion designer in Rwanda and internationally?
In Rwanda that would be Joselyne but internationally, I love Paul Smith’s work.
Who would you love to work with in both Music and fashion?
In music I would like to work with rider man and Knowless and in fashion, Joselyne.
Would you prefer girls or cars?
Girls, because they make the world go round!
Jeans or suits?
A sexy dinner or a wild night out?
I’m an outgoing person so I would like to go on a wild night out.
If you flipped a coin and became a woman what changes would you make?
I believe in the power of women and I feel that women are capable of running the world. I wouldn’t change anything but dress to impress.