Twenty-six-year-old Deo Salvator Iratwumva is a self-taught Rwandan guitarist, and a master of the finger-picking technique. This technique is used to play folk, country-jazz and blues music.
An established recording artiste, Iratwumva is a music curator and the founder of Fingerpickers in Africa.
He studied Music and Social Action at Yale University. Joseph Njata caught up with him recently and below are excerpts;
When was Fingerpickers in Africa founded, and what are the main objectives?
Immediately after completing my course in music and social action that was offered by Yale University, I founded Fingerpickers in Africa in 2019.
The objective was to gather fingerstyle guitarists and promote fingerstyle music across Africa. In addition, we had a major focus to train upcoming guitarists.
Talk about your time attending music classes...
Before I enrolled for my music course, I had studied accounting at the University of Rwanda but I could tell that my heart was elsewhere, to play guitar.
Iratwumva during the interview with The New Times at his home in Kigali, recently. Photo by Joseph Njata.
I started online search looking for courses that would cover music and social psychology. I was very lucky to find one that was offered by Yale University and I had a great time studying music.
What is fingerstyle guitar and why do you think it’s unique?
When playing Fingerstyle guitar each of the right-hand fingers play independently and what make it unique is the fact that, it sounds like a band playing different notes simultaneously.
I am talking about different notes like deep bass notes, harmonic accompaniment, the chord progression and percussion.
When did you first fell in love with guitar?
I grew up in a musical family and at a very tender age, I was inspired by my uncle who’s a classical musician and a former military sousaphone player. While growing up I fell in love with guitar and I remember watching my cousin play it for fun at their home.
What are some of your memorable performances?
Over the past two years, I have performed at various musical events that includes; Ubumuntu Arts festival, Nyege Nyege Festival, Isaano festival and Hamwe festival.
I have also shared the stage with great artistes like, Nigerian singer Johnny Drille, Romanian singer-songwriter Alexander Star, a Grammy awards nominee from Florida, US and the Great African Caravan, a group of 12 artistes who had embarked on over 180-days road trip in different African cities performing.
Talk about your siblings, is there someone else who’s in music industry?
I would say that my family is quite musical. My sister and brother play piano and they both sing too. As I mentioned earlier, my uncle is a classical musician and multi-instrumentalist. His son is a pianist and his daughter a drummer. Two of my cousins play guitar and my brother in-law is a bassist.
What have you achieved so far as fingerpickers in Africa?
As we speak, Fingerpickers in Africa has nine members and we have hosted several free guitar workshops in Rwanda and Burkina Faso. We recently hosted an online festival where fingerstyle guitarists from Rwanda, Burundi, Burkina Faso and Nigeria participated. The event was sponsored by Fingerpickers in Africa Academy and it was the first of its kind in the continent.
Talk more about that online festival, who were the participants...
We were very lucky to bring on board some internationally renowned guests like, Goodwyn and Ricky Lace from Nigeria, James YoYo from Burundi and Josué Bananjos from Burkina Faso. We also had Arnaud Nganji, Israel Pappy and myself from Rwanda. All our concerts were streamed live on Fingerpickers in Africa’s Instagram account.
Can you talk about the upcoming fingerstyle boot camp masterclasses and the kind of mentors on board?
The forthcoming guitar fingerstyle boot camp will offer training for aspiring guitarists and will be facilitated by Thomas Leeb, a professional guitarist. Other guitarists tutors include; Don Ross, Petteri Sariola, Pino Forastiere, Mike K J Dawes, Newton Faulkner and Lowden Guitars, among others.
What is your message to upcoming artistes who want to be fingerstyle guitarists?
I would advise them to keep practicing playing guitar as much as they can because it’s never too much to practice. They should also make sure the chord or the note is clear and on time.
Lastly, I would advise them to take advantage of internet and watch as many YouTube tutorials as possible. This is something I have personally incorporated into my daily routine practice.
What do you think is the future of African music after Covid-19?
I believe the future of African music is very bright because we have a lot of young talents across the continent and we are blessed with rich cultural diversity. I believe we have got all what it takes to take African music to the international scene.