Interview: Alexander Star on his experience in Rwanda

Alexander performs during Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Kigali over the weekend. /Craish Bahizi.

American singer, songwriter and rapper Alexander Star is not a new name to some Rwandans.

The Emmy-nominated rapper was in the country for the second time, where he headlined the three-day Ubumuntu Arts Festival, from July 12 -14 in Kigali.

The New Times’ James Peter Nkurunziza sat with the “That’s what I do best” star on Tuesday, before he flew back to the US.


Tell us about yourself …

My name is Alexander Star. I’m 32 years old, and come from Miami, Florida. I’m a singer, songwriter and rapper. I love travelling, meeting and working with people from different cultures. I’m married, and father of one.

Tell us about your first visit to Kigali?

I was first introduced to Kigali last year, and it all came from a performance I had in Morocco. I performed at a Global Leaders’ Conference in Rabat, and Samantha Lakin, who has been living in Rwanda for the past six years, saw me performing, and she liked my music that aims to create positive energy of love, to empower and inspire all people.

Alexander Star after the interview with The New Times at Kigali International Airport shortly before his departure to the US. James Peter Nkurunziza

When she returned to Rwanda, she spoke to Hope Azeda, founder of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival, about me and we got in touch, and before I knew it, I was in Rwanda for the festival.

You composed the theme song for last year’s Ubumuntu Arts Festival. Tell us more about it…

Before last year’s festival, Azeda asked me whether I would compose a theme song for the festival, and I told her that I would be honoured to do so, but asked her to get me a Rwandan artiste I could work on the song with to be authentic. 

That’s how I teamed up with Andy Bumuntu, and together we worked on the song, “Show me the way.”

We actually recorded Andy’s verse in my hotel room. I fused the track and recorded it, and later sent it to Umubano Academy. The track features children’s choreography that added elements of the varied styles.

What are some projects that you have done with other Rwandan artistes apart from Andy Bumuntu?

Besides Andy Bumuntu, I have not recorded with another Rwandan artiste. What I am seeking to do right now is to connect with other Rwandan artistes, who are really about the people and do music that is meant to spread love and the spirit of unity in society.  I will be open to any artiste that has the same direction with me musically.

What has been your experience in Rwanda given the fact that you have been here before?

The first time was amazing in every sense of it, as it was my first time here. The second time was really special, because people knew who I am, and they knew the lyrics to my songs— that is a whole other experience. Going somewhere once, and being remembered when you return is so amazing. Seeing the same loving faces I saw last year, and even new ones showing me love and support is an experience I really cannot explain.

What is your most memorable moment in Rwanda?

Even if I have a number of them, I should say, going out to Akagera National Park was a breathtaking experience for me! I was way out in the wilderness for the first time in my entire life, and that honestly changed my life. It was perfectly silent, and I got thoughts I had never had before. It was magical and I will always remember Rwanda for that. I want to come back one day and just go out there by myself with no phone and computer, the acceptance I have gotten in Rwanda has been incredible.

Lastly, tell us about your life as an artiste.

I began writing my music when I was just seven. I have achieved a lot from music but still feel like I am just starting. I do my music basically to give hope to those that need it most, motivate and show them that they are loved and can fulfill their dreams. Unlike most artists who make music to brag and show off, I do my music to inspire and help others get to where they want to get.