Her vocals are unquestionably good to listen to. And when she goes low, you think she can’t do the highs, until she proves you wrong. A mixture of high and low octaves has taken her places.
“I love music because it makes me feel so safe and that is who I am.”
Linda Umurerwa, stage name Linda Montez, started singing at the age of five, when her father would bring home CDs of country music.
“He loves music, although he is not a singer like me,” she says, adding that “As years went by, I kept loving music more and more.”
In Primary, Umurerwa was a shy girl who didn’t want anything to do with exposure. She only sang when she was at home.
However, she came out of the shells when she went to high school. She joined a choir, and could perform a few songs in school concerts. That is where people knew she was a good singer, and it’s where she got the name ‘Montez’.
“I loved Hannah Montana. They said ‘Montana’ was someone else’s name, so they turned it to ‘Montez’. I ended up being Linda Montez like that,” she says.
In 2018, the 22-year-old was a finalist in ArtRwanda - Ubuhanzi, a national project, which aims at identifying and supporting young talented Rwandans in the creative arts industry.
“My friend sent me a message telling me I should go for the completion. But at first, I doubted. And then I asked her why.”
When her friend told her the government and Imbuto Foundation are involved, she thought it was a serious initiative to give a shot.
She went for the auditions, and she only sang for a few seconds until the judges said she passed. “It felt weird because I didn’t sing the best part. They didn’t want to hear how high I reach.”
She didn’t feel angry or happy, but surprised at how fast the judge told her “you got five YES. You can go home.”
Reaching the finals wasn’t that easy for her. She had to lose friends as more and more people were being dropped, and things got tougher at each stage.
She had to pass two more stages until the finals. Unfortunately, she didn’t win, but she was arguably among the best performers.
“I got sick at the finals. I was told I had a cyst on my vocal cords and advised not to strain them. So, I sang ‘Say something’ and I did my best accordingly. I am even glad that I stood out when I was sick, because I was advised by the doctor to spend three months without singing. I felt like my life was ending but I recovered eventually.”
The Voice Afrique
Umurerwa and her peers from the competition then participated in different activities and projects of mass education on government programmes. Sometimes they went upcountry.
They had gone to Rusizi District, when her friend approached her to go for The Voice Afrique. She said “No! It can’t reach Rwanda. It happens in America, South Africa and other big places. He told me I could just try. I said I didn’t want to.”
The requirement was to send a video introducing yourself in French, and performing a song. Umurerwa’s friend proposed that he take her the video and do the rest by himself. “He forced me into making the video, and then I just let him take it.
She was called after like two months. “An international number called me. ‘Are you Linda Montez?’ I said yeah, the person said ‘You were chosen to be part of The Voice; you are going to South Africa’.
“I just wanted to remember when I applied for it, and I was like ‘that thing worked!’.” However, she was still sceptical of the authenticity of the information.
She couldn’t wait to board a plane, going to South Africa, and especially sing for the world, but time came and off she went.
For her auditions, she was given ‘Moi je vérifie’ by Naza as her audition song. Although she didn’t want to sing the song, it earned her points and something she had never imagined would happen.
Naza himself reached out to Umurerwa on Instagram to tell her how happy he was that she sang his song better.
“He said he was so surprised, he was really honoured to see me sing his song and turn it into a good song,”
“What surprised me the most is that a lot of my fans are from Congo, France, Cameroon and Togo. People thought I was from Congo,” she says.
Umurerwa was dropped at the second phase as the contest intensified but she adds that the only Rwandan on the finals, Alyn Sano will make them proud.
Her way forward is to make her songs, which she says will happen soon.
“I am not the kind of person who releases a song because I did it and liked it. I will wait for the right time and see if the song is really fit for the time, people, and country. It takes a long time but I want to do it the right way.
“I want to make a song that will stay, even when I die or decide to quit music. I want to make something memorable,” she concludes.Follow glory_iribagiza