Legendary Rwandan musician and cultural icon Cecile Kayirebwa has released a ground-breaking collection of four short stories derived from some of her most memorable songs, in e-book format.
Titled Wowe utuma mpimba, the poetry e-book is the first of its kind by a Rwandan musician. It contains the text to four of Kayirebwa’s most iconic songs before, during, and after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The e-book officially went online on October 1.
It was published and is being distributed by Market Fifty Four, a publishing house based in the Netherlands that specialises in release and distribution of short African stories in their original language on digital format.
An e-book is an electronic version of a book that can be read on a computer or a specifically designed hand held device like a mobile phone.
Kayirebwa is only the second artiste to be published by Market Fifty Four. The first was Somali writer Hanna Ali, who was published last year.
The stories in the collection are all an interpretation of Kayirebwa’s past musical works, designed to offer deeper insights into the message in the songs.
The poems are, Inzozi data yandoteye (Dreams of my father), Tarihinda, Ubutumwa (The message), and Nkunde mama (Love to mama).
‘Inzozi data yandoteye’was written for Kayirebwa’s uurukumbuzi album released in 2016. In the song, Kayirebwa tells the story of the prophetic dream her father had about a gifted daughter who will take Rwanda traditional culture beyond and throughout the world with her voice, words, and music.
Tarihinda is an exhortation and encouragement to the pleasure of dancing, singing, and reciting poems with joy and happiness. In it, she pays tribute to famous artists, dancers, inanga players and singers familiar to most Rwandans.
The third poem, ‘Ubutumwa’ is a depiction of the dying moments of a victim of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It captures the last thoughts and words of Kayirebwa’s brother at the instant before being caught and losing the battle against the killers.
Nkunda mama (Love to mama), is a reflection on the unconditional love of a mother. Kayirebwa reflects on the strong bond with her own mother, recalling memories full of tenderness.
“This is a humble attempt to bring Kinyarwanda, my mother tongue, the language of my people and my ancestry to you, the readers,” writes Kayirebwa in her forward for the English collection.
In the course of the month of October, the publishers will also release the 2nd and 3rd collection of Kayirebwa’s works, translated to English and French respectively. The English collection will be titled My Muse, and the French collection Ma Muse.
The fourth and last collection will embody works in Kinyarwanda, English, and French.
About the translations, Kayirebwa had this to say: “The translation of my songs in both English and French does not aim to sing them in the language of Shakespeare or Moliere. It is simply to ensure their understanding by my listeners.”
In the same forward, Kayirebwa reiterates the words of German philosopher, composer and poet Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, that “without music, life would be a mistake”.
According to Eric Soul Kirenga Karengera of Afrogroov, a local creative company in charge of the project's coordination and creative direction, revenues from proceeds of the sales will be shared between the musician's not-for-profit organisation, and Market Fifty Five, the publisher.
The project is a collaboration between Market Fifty Five, Kayirebwa’s not-for-profit organisation, Ceka I Rwanda, and Afrogroov.
As Project Manager, Karengera was in charge of submitting the content and making it ready for publication.
Editing, proof reading, and translation of the texts for the English and French collections were done by a team that included local spoken word artist and rapper Eric 1Key, Rose-Marie Mukarutabana from the Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (RALC), and Arnold Nkusi, a former TV journalist, fan and long-time collaborator of Kayirebwa’s.
Alice Karekezi, a scholar at the University of Rwanda will write a forward for one of the two upcoming collections.
“When Cecile Kayirebwa talks about what she’s been doing for the last 40 to 50 years, it’s to preserve the traditional cultural heritage of Rwanda through poetry, music and dance. The product that she was able to package and distribute widely is the music. But a song comes with different elements — the melody, and the words or the poetry. We see her as a singer but she is really a composer and poet,” added Karengera.
“What people got to understand was just a small aspect of her creative process — the music. Now is going to be the opportunity for people to understand what she is talking about in her music. It’s an opportunity to expose a very rich aspect of the cultural heritage of Rwanda to the wider world, and also especially for the new generation of Rwandans to know where the Kinyarwanda is coming from.”
Payment for the eBooks is strictly through online platforms (Paypal), with more options like Visa, Master Card, and Mobile Money also planned.
Later, there will also be physical copies of the books, where people can order on a case-by-case basis at a slightly higher fee.
Digital copies of the works are available online at www.marketfiftiftyfour.com.