When he broke out on the music scene in 2017, he was touted as the next big thing in the Rwandan music industry. His vocals and ability to infuse traditional and modern music made him a huge prospect. But until today, one can argue that the ‘warumagaye’ singer is yet to make a major breakthrough as a singer but his story mirrors that of many musicians who come up and are expected to blowout but for some reason they don’t. Some go on to fizzle out of the limelight, others become one hit wonders as it is normally said and others simply just give up on an industry that is not paying as much as one has to invest to remain relevant. To begin with, Victor Rukotana is not a one hit wonder and by far he cannot be described as an ‘upcoming artiste’. Indeed, he has a number of songs to his name which garnered very good airplay, including his breakthrough “Mamacita” released in October 2017, featuring Uncle Austin, who at the time was his manager. He went on to release a number of other songs including ‘Sweet Love’, ‘Promise’, ‘Warumagaye’, ‘Se Agapo’, ‘Kideyo’ and ‘Love, among others. Most recently he released ‘Igipfunsi’, still with Uncle Austin and he is currently working on a number of songs. Not under pressure Rukotana is not bothered by the fact that some think his music career stagnated or died a premature death. To him, music is not about pumping out song after song but rather creating and trusting the process. “Musically, artistes are always in the background preparing, creating, learning and planning the next move because you can’t be an artiste who simply drops music and sit and wait to drop the next one,” says the 26-year-old singer. Rukotana believes that while it’s good to make an effort in the beginning in a bid to establish one’s name into the music industry, it is more important to go back to the drawing board, take in feedback and work on what people want exactly. To him, if people have given you a chance to listen and a stage to perform, you don’t just give them anything and everything but rather crafting out the very best of what you can offer and that is what he is doing with his upcoming album. The singer is creating something he believes will connect him with the fans and with his current management, he thinks it will be just a matter of time before he wins back the hearts and minds of music lovers. While at it, Rukotana wants to direct his focus specifically on traditional music or ‘Gakondo’ because that is where his heart is and it is more fulfilling. He however says that people have to understand the rigours of the music industry. “People have to know that doing music here in Rwanda is not something easy as they might think but all in all we keep pushing,” Rukotana says, adding that in most cases artistes have to take on other jobs to be able to pay for the studio and shooting videos. No bad blood Though he parted ways with Uncle Austin’s label in 2019, there is no bad blood between the two and he credits the radio personality and singer for giving him a launchpad on which he started his music career. “I started with Austin and now we are not together anymore because we got to that point where he wanted to take my career and then allowed me to be on my own. Building an artiste’s career is like building a house,” “Austin built a foundation for me and now I have to build the remaining part of the house on my own,” Rukotana said, pointing out that venturing out on his own in itself is growth. This is mainly so because work with labels comes with its own challenges, either because some label owners focus on growing their labels and brands instead of the artiste, and that becomes a challenge. Focusing on Gakondo Rukotana found his niche in Gakondo or traditional music and that is what he is focusing on. He believes traditional Rwandan music can go places if well packaged and produced with a modern touch “First of all, I love traditional music a lot. It is where my heart is and that is where it begins and ends for me. I love traditional music and I believe it will take me where I want to be as an artiste,” he said. With the support of his new management, I.M Ent, Rukotana is reinventing himself in a series of shows dubbed ‘Dutarame u Rwanda’, - a tour which will take him around the country to meet his fans and traditional music enthusiasts. “It is a new strategy we are deploying, bringing Victor Rukotana closer to the people. The more people come to sing and dance with us, the more they get closer to my music and the more they relate to it,” “This is not just a show where people will come to enjoy music but also a good platform for all Rwandans and friends of Rwanda to come and reconnect with their roots, learn more about culture and have fun while at it,” Rukotana said. With that approach, he believes the future is bright for him and for the music as well. His dream is to take ‘AfroGakondo’ to the world. ‘AfroGakondo’ is a fusion of traditional music and afrobeat. It is a style he believes can have the appeal of the continent and the world. “That is my future plan. It is an initiative that will bring people together to have fun traditionally as one. The future really holds a lot for me,” he said. Born 26 years ago in Ngoma District, Eastern Province, Victor Rukotana, real name Victor Mporera, adopted the name ‘Rukotana’ from his grandfather, who was equally talented in traditional cultural dance and music. He moved to Kigali in 2014 with the main mission of launching his music career and it is a mission he has not abandoned yet. He started singing early on as a child, having been born in a musical Christian and traditional family. He kicked off his singing career with his brother and friends who were equally strong musically, especially in traditional but in 2018, he decided to embark on a solo career. Catch Victor Rukotana perform with Abamararungu Group this Friday at Mundi Centre, Kicukiro.