Tchatching Icyusa Cy’ Ingenzi is a Rwandan artiste based in the U.S.
He specialises mostly in the Rwandan traditional music and dance, commonly known as, Gakondo.
While on a trip back home to welcome his first born, he could not travel back to the U.S. after restrictions against the new coronavirus, led to the suspension of all in and outbound flights.
Turning his misfortune into something good, he used the lockdown and the commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi period to do record a new song in a bid to maximise his time.
The song “Reka ndorera”, was released last week on all his social media handles. In an interview with The New Times, he shared his journey in music and what his career aspirations are.
When did you venture into music?
I started doing Gakondo from the age of about 12. Being born and raised in Burundi as a refugee as many Rwandans were, I often attended Rwandan gatherings where I learnt Gakondo which was often performed on functions.
Professionally though, I started in singing in Rwanda in 1996 when I was part of a Rwandan cultural troupe called Intare, which is currently defunct.
I was a part time member as I juggled school and music. I soon committed fully into it when I moved to the U.S. and a little bit of Canada.
What draws you to this particular genre of music?
It’s special to me because it’s my identity but also it is beautiful and captivating. When I ventured into Gakondo, I was attracted to its beauty, how people sing, dance, the poems, and the “kwivuga”.
How has it been like doing this kind of music abroad?
It wasn’t easy. I went to America for studies, but it was hard for me because I was away from home even though it was not the first time I was not out of my country, Rwanda.
Also, the audience that I was singing for was not as welcoming as Rwandans back home because I was singing about Rwandan culture.
It was hard for me to adjust in terms of the culture, the weather, but especially in this genre to people with foreign cultures, but I fought harder because I realised it was an opportunity to put our culture out there and it was worth fighting for.
When did you record your first song and which song was it?
The first song was with the Intare troupe. I went to the studio for the first time with them and we were very nervous but excited at the same time. My first recorded song on a personal level was when we recorded an album with a friend in Canada.
The songs were well received especially in Europe with people encouraging us to continue singing. We had a few songs that we sent here in Rwanda that people liked like, “Rwanda Nziza” and “Senorita” that were played at weddings.
What has the experience been like promoting your songs back home in Rwanda, while living abroad?
It has been very difficult. We have so many talented artistes but it’s not all of them that succeed in promoting their songs. I did what I could, which is why I sent some copies in Europe and Rwanda and I sold a lot of copies at a local library. I did not succeed 100 per cent but I did what I could.
What do your songs seek to communicate mostly?
Most of my songs are about positive change, for example when I sing “Rwanda Nziza” I want people to appreciate the country’s resilience despite what it has gone through as well as the beauty of the country. I also have a song, “Ejo heza”, which talks about a promising future for this country and that we need to work together if we want to achieve a lot. I also have another one “Uri Umuhanga”, which encourages people not to underestimate themselves and their potential.
About your new song, what is the message you intend to put across?
I was supposed to travel back to the U.S. in May but when I’m home its magical. Amid the pandemic and remembering the victims of the Genocide I came up with a song, “Reka Ndorera”.
It sounds like a sad song which is not typical of me, but I thought it was important to talk about the sadness we all feel when it comes to that time. The song reminds people that this situation is part of life but ultimately, we will come out stronger.
What are your career aspirations?
My plan is to build on Gakondo, our identity. As we are being reminded to fight for our dignity, I want Gakondo to have a dignified place in music.
If you look at the youth today, the tendency is that they want to be like youth from elsewhere and copy their music styles. I need to work with fellow Gakondo artistes to progress and the young generation in embracing themselves.Follow https://twitter.com/SharonKMugabo