Green Ferry Music, a den of youthful rappers

Prime Mpazimpaka. (Courtesy)

Green Ferry Music, a local hip-hop collective returned to one of their most popular concert venues, the Mamba Club in Kimihurura on Saturday night.

This time, it was an album launch/listening party for one of its artistes, Pogatsa, who was unveiling his debut solo album, ‘Trap Ngoma Ijyana’. Since February this year, Green Ferry has been dropping solo albums of some of the key rappers in the fast-rising and youthful music unit.

Pogatsa is one of the rappers that is creating a niche fan base with ‘Kinya Trap’, a local variation of Trap Music, in which he raps in Kinyarwanda. The other artist is Bushali. The style is a major hit with their youthful fan base.

‘Trap ngoma Ijyana’ is a blend of cultural elements from Rwanda, and American trap music influences.

Bushali and Pogatsa were among the pioneer crop of rappers in Green Ferry Music, founded in 2012 by Dominic Ngabonziza. Better known by his showbiz moniker of Nganji On The Beat, he is also the resident audio producer at the Green Ferry Music studios in Kicukiro.

Started in the ghetto

Nganji describes the story of Green Ferry Music as “a long one”. “We started in a small room of Rwf50,000 in neighbourhood of Nyabisindu. I was sharing the room with a guy who had a CD burning business, so we split the rent”.

At the time, it was just him in Green Ferry Music, with no artists.

“A friend called Cedric helped me with his studio equipment.”

Shortly after setting up a basic studio, he had to travel outside the counrty to Uganda to further his studies. He enrolled for a degree in Computer Science.

“But soon I dropped out of school because I wanted to do music,” Nganji reveals, adding simply that;

“My idea was to produce good music”.

He returned to Rwanda in 2014, determined to resurrect his music projects. The following year, he moved the studio to the bigger and better location it currently occupies, on the top floor of Diamond House in Kicukiro.

Getting the artistes

Before quitting his studies, Nganji had met Bushali and Pogatsa while on school breaks. Upon his return, they were the first rappers he worked closely with, until more talent joined the fray.

“In Kicukiro I met Prime Mazimpaka and Maktain, and the same day they came we did a song called Pockets like this. We started with that chemistry and then other artists came along.”

Hitting the stage

Green Ferry Music first hit the stage in a big way in 2016, at a concert dubbed I Am Hip Hop Season I, held at the Blu Note Bar in Downtown Kigali. The success of that concert would later spawn a series of I Am Hip Hop concerts at different venues across town. The concerts did a lot to boost the individual artistes’ visibility as well that of Green Ferry Music.

Nganji credits Mazimpaka Prime for coming up with the idea for I Am Hip Hop.

“I think the journey of Green Ferry and its artists started at the time we did that show. We had energy on stage, people started noticing the artistes assigned to Green Ferry,” he says.

They staged four more shows under the theme of I Am Hip Hop; at Mamba Club, The Root House, Discovery in Nyamirambo, and at Platinum Club in Kibagabaga.

“I wanted us to get in the business of finding venues and staging shows because before that, we never really went out for shows. When I met Njanji he was more into recording and shooting videos,” Prime revealed.

“It was about us getting together and presenting our music to the public and demonstrating that Hip hop is a culture here in Rwanda that we recognize as artists. I wanted something that represents that culture but I couldn’t do it alone.”

Initially Prime had planned it as a one off concert. “When I met the team after the first concert, they brought up the idea of doing it regularly. We started thinking of how to make it bigger by incorporating other elements of hip hop like graffiti, dance, and fashion in one show.”

Solo projects

With the success of I Am Hip Hop, the focus now turned to working on individual albums for the different artists.

First to drop an album was Bushali, who launched his Nyiramubande (echo) album at Mamba Club in February. Maktain’s album, Seasons Change was next to drop, then Mazimpaka Prime’s a ‘Thousand Hills Prodigy’ in April. Ice Nova dropped his Ubuvanganzo album in June, before B-Threy released his album titled ‘Nyamirambo’.

Pogatsa’s launch of his ‘Trap Ngoma Ijyana’ album last weekend was the latest in the trend.

Green Ferry Music derives its core fan base from high school and university students, and is willing to grow with it.

“The generation born before the Genocide are also very into our music, people born in early 90s. They are now graduates,” Prime quips.