Diana Teta on upcoming Kigali Jazz Junction performance, new album

Diana Teta. Courtesy

A week ago, songbird Diana Teta jetted into the country from Mamo, Sweden, where she is based, and the following day, released her 12-track maiden album, “Iwanyu.”

However, that is not the core mission that brings her back home, after a nearly three year absence. In this time, she also performed at a few gigs in Brussels, Belgium, and in the U.S., as part of a project dubbed ‘Music Action Lab’, where she teamed up with other musicians from across the globe.

“I dropped the album a day after I arrived in Kigali, because I wanted to make the announcement after setting foot in Kigali,” she said.

Teta performing at a past event. Courtesy. 

Teta is in the country to perform at this month’s edition of the Kigali Jazz Junction, slated for this Friday, March 29, at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village. She, and French zouk musician Medhy Custos are the show’s headliners.

Teta will fly back to Sweden shortly after her performance, but she vowed to return at the end of the year to officially launch her album.

“For now, I’m here for Women’s Day celebrations,” she says about her Friday performance, whenThe New Times meet her for this interview, at the Neptunez band compound in Kicukiro-Niboye, where she was for rehearsals.

Organisers themed this month’s edition of the Jazz Junction, “Women’s Edition”, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, which falls on March 8.

It will be Teta’s first appearance at the Kigali Jazz Junction stage.

“They (organisers) contacted me earlier, but I was very busy with the album. They contacted me again at the beginning of this month, and told me the concept was around the Women’s Day celebrations, and I said okey, I have a few songs reflecting on the beauty of women so I would be very happy to share and give my contribution,” she said, adding: “Of course it was also the perfect opportunity to come and promote my album. I think the Jazz Junction is one in many ways to promote artists and I’m very grateful for the fact that they are also inviting local artists. They promote live music, real music, so in that sense it’s also encouraging us to do better.”

Iwanyu album

“Iwanyu” is Teta’s first studio album since she embarked on her professional music journey in 2013. Since that time, she has enjoyed musical success with such singles as; “Tanga agatego”, “Ndaje”, “Velo”, “Birangwa”, and “Kata”, among others.

“I’ve been releasing only singles, and finally now in 2019, I just dropped an album, which means it’s been a very long process. It took me a lot of thinking and putting it all together. All the songs were recorded live. I worked with nine musicians who took a lot of time to practice each song. I also worked with three different producers (recording, mixing, and mastering), so it’s an album produced in a very different way than I used to do things.”

The album is a buffet of diverse musical styles, with a big Rwandan traditional music influence, some jazz, and a touch of classical music.

“I’m playing with musicians who come from different music backgrounds like classical, jazz, I have three French musicians on the team, three Rwandans, a Senegalese percussionist, and two Brazilians, so it’s a big project. It is called Iwanyu because it reflects on home. It simply means home, and there’s no place like home. And I was in the right position to write about it because I was away from home, and I think that’s when I really connected to where I come from.”

The album was internationally released on March 15, and is available for sale on platforms like iTunes and Spotify. Some of the songs on the album are; Iwanyu, (the title track), Juru ryanjye, See me, “Uwanjye”, “Call me”, and “Turn around”.

“With this album I’m aiming at music festivals that promote culture, so I really want to promote where I come from, and when sing, I sing about history and reflect about what it means to be Rwandan and how I feel inside.”

If all goes well, Teta intends to officially launch the album in Rwanda later in the year.

“My dream is to bring everyone who worked on the album to show them my home because I constantly speak to them about Rwanda and would really love them to see the country for themselves.”