Comments by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Edouard Bamporiki, on the type of music produced by Rwandan musicians today, drew mixed reactions on Wednesday after he said that he would resign rather than seeing his ministry support musicians who sing explicit lyrics.
Bamporiki, while appearing on the morning talk show ‘Zinduka’ on TV and Radio 10 on Tuesday, criticized local musicians who he said have gone astray, producing music with sexualised lyrics that could mislead young people into sexual activity or promote fornication.
In the talk show which lasted over an hour, the State Minister was asked whether the government would support artists who he accused of producing ‘undesirable content’ and he said that he would rather resign instead of seeing the Ministry support such artists producing ‘obscene’ music.
Bamporiki said that musicians let down the country during the New Coronavirus pandemic outbreak by producing sexually-laced music instead of producing content with a positive message that the country needed in that difficult time.
He was referring to some of the recent local hits such as ‘Igare’ by Mico The Best, ‘Saa Moya’ by Bruce Melodie’, ‘Ntiza’ by Mr Kagame and Bruce Melodie and ‘Ubushyuhe’ by DJ Pius and Bruce Melodie, among others.
Bamporiki said that these musicians have ‘gone astray’ by singing songs that openly promote sexual immorality, losing ‘Rwandan values’ in the process.
He warned that these artists who had already gained fame are likely to lose fans if they continue to sing songs that don’t add value to society.
He warned that while it is important to get views on Youtube or fame among the young people, musicians should think of the impact their music, especially videos, have on young children who look up to them, jokingly adding that ‘Youtube is not your fathers”.
“They don’t even attempt to hide it. They can come up with terms that are suggestive in the audios but whatever they tried to cover up in the audio comes out in the video,” Bamporiki said, comparing the trending style of music as ‘an attack on the country and the culture’.
Bamporiki said that some make it too explicit, it borders towards criminality of indecent exposure and they should not be surprised if they are summoned by Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) on suspicion of committing crimes.
“As we think of social support for musicians and members of the creative industry, we look at different things, but I would say that I would rather resign from my position rather than seeing this support go to artistes who sing explicit content,” Bamporiki said.
His comments drew mixed reactions, with some callers speaking in support of the State Minister, while the conversation spilled over to social media on Wednesday, with some supporting him while others accused Bamporiki of being disconnected from reality, especially by young people.
Others accused the media of blowing up the context in which the State Minister raised the issue out of proportion, but the message was clear.
“People need to listen to the whole conversation. His message was very clear. It is illegal to distort one’s message and transmit it in a manner different from what the person wanted to mean,” argued RBA journalist Basile Uwimana, in defence of the State Minister.
“What the journalists wrote did not match what he said. His comments are clear and interesting. People should first listen and analyse before talking about information that they do not have,” said Bruno Shema, who accused those who criticized Bamporiki of jumping to conclusions.
However, another person with the handle @Rutambi_ in a long thread on Twitter accused Bamporiki of not seeing the bigger picture.
“Dear @Bamporikie, I just read in the news about your plans to stop/ban art and, or music that promote fornication tendencies and as a concerned citizen would like to tell you this. The problem is not the songs, I can’t stress this enough how songs don’t even come close to promoting what you’re calling sexual tendencies,”
Rutambi said that in the world of technology, where 5-year-old kids are smart enough to operate smartphones, banning music and art that is explicit will not stop it.
“There are unlimited sources of that content and I for one have never listened to a Rwandan explicit song and thought to myself “hmm lemme go check that out and see how it’s done”. They don’t talk about things that we don’t already know (even young kids),”
“We tweet, post, share this kind of content every day and we see much more of it on statuses than we hear it in music and let me remind you that people interact with this content much more like this than with the music,” Rutambi said.
His views were supported by singer Nirere Shanel, who is among those who criticized Bamporiki for trying to censor creative arts.
“If you honestly believe that your child would get out of your home and go have sex because he/she heard some weird words in a song, then... actually, the problem is not your child or the artist. The problem is you. You are looking at your soul!” said Cynthia Umurungi.
But others like Douglas Murinzi believe more research is needed to ascertain the impact of such songs and the messages they carry among young people.
A debate is needed to understand the motivations of @BruceMelodie to spread such messages within Rwandan society. @Bamporikie must do research to understand if a part of Rwandans (mostly youth) is what they want to listen to and why before blaming the artist,” Murinzi said.
Karangwa Sewase also spoke in defence of the State Minister, saying that Rwanda should not allow imported cultures to eat into the lives of young people like a weevil when they can be avoided.
In a tweet following the social media storm, Bamporiki stood by his words, emphasizing the need to protect young people from harmful content.
“It’s our responsibility & duty as leaders and parents to ensure that we provide a safe and productive environment for our children to learn, to grow and to explore their talents -while shielding them from harmful content and negative influences -for a prosperous #Rwanda,” Bamporiki tweeted.
Bamporiki said the government tends to empower Rwanda Art Council (RAC), a body that advocates for the development of the creative industry and regulates arts. He, however, hinted at the possibility of a music and art board, which among other things, will be vetting content to ensure that it meets the standards before it is released into the society.