It’s not common to find young artistes who aspire to join the cultural genre. For most, genres like R&B and hip-hop are their main inspiration. Because of this, Wanny Umutoni decided to join Gakondo music (a traditional style of music), hoping to inspire other young talents as she believes this music ‘belongs to Rwandans’. Using her craft, the 22-year-old’s goal is to promote cultural music in Rwanda and beyond. Starting out Growing up, Umutoni says she did not really see herself as a Gakondo music artiste, as she was raised singing in a choir during church services. However, she says, she was a big fan of the genre from a tender age and would sometimes perform at weddings — the most recent being her sister’s in 2019. “I thought about pursuing a music career the day I sang at my sister’s wedding last year. People loved my performance and I started getting invitations to sing at weddings,” she tells The New Times. At the start, the Rubavu-born singer would receive a number of bookings to sing at weddings because people loved to see her perform, though she had no songs of her own at the time. She would sing other artistes’ tracks at wedding ceremonies, especially songs by legendary musicians like Kamaliza and Cecile Kayirebwa. As time went by, after realising that people loved to see her perform, she decided it was time to start music as a profession. She started her own compositions in 2019. She looked at all genres, and chose Gakondo, as it was what she admired as a child. ‘Umwiza’ was the first song of her career, a tune that she says inspired her to record more. According to Umutoni, there is more to Gakondo music than just entertainment. She says she wants to take the lead and inspire other young people — for them to be more interested and support it like they do other genres. Through music tours in schools and other youth gatherings, Umutoni is confident Gakondo music will gain a much bigger fan-base and appeal to even younger generations. “First of all, I want to do good music to prove to people that Gakondo music can be as enjoyable as other genres. Then I will tour schools and deliver performances that will inspire them to join me in promoting this music, so we can push it together. “Everybody needs to understand that cultural music belongs to Rwandans and deserves even more credit and recognition than any other kind of music. And I am sure we can put it on the map if we work together,” she says. Umutoni also plans to record songs with foreign artistes in the region, and sing about the cultures of other countries as a way to gain a bigger audience. She is now in the final stage of her studies at the University of Tourism, Technology, and Business Studies (UTB) in Kigali.