From New York to Kigali: Koojo on nurturing his talent in Rwanda

Koojo entertains revellers at a past Nyege Nyege festival. Courtesy photos.

The first time he came to Rwanda, August 2017, was during the KigaliUp music festival where he was scheduled to play with his New York based band, King Holiday. After only a week in Rwanda, Koojo canceled his ticket back to New York and decided to stay in Rwanda to record his debut solo album.

“What prompted me to stay was that it was a new chapter for me and I was just so struck by the beauty and how friendly people are. We went to Kibuye and as a very visual person, I had so many things racing through my mind. I was having some hard times in New York and it was a blessing to come and perform in Rwanda.

It was really within a matter of weeks and months that I found my way to start working as a creative person amongst amazing talent here. It was somehow an easy decision to stay here and just see what I can do,” he explains.

The Ghanaian- American recording artiste, real name, Leslie Kodzo Alexander DuMouchel, since relocating to Africa has been recording his album in Kigali and Accra and is currently putting the finishing touches on his three part solo album titled “New born”, a fusion of R&B, soul, funk, pop, rock, Hip-hop, Afro-soul and Afro-pop, incorporated with some traditional sound.

“I fell in love with Rwanda’s traditional sound and the dance. There is something about the rhythm and this project that I have been working on has really been inspired by the rhythms of the continent. As I grow as a studio producer, I want to incorporate traditional sounds, and continue working with local talents. I feel there is a big wave happening with African music to the world and there is so much talent especially in Rwanda and I just want to be a part of it,” he said.

Yesterday, he released his first solo song ‘Unconditional’, and after playing the main stage at Nyege Nyege Festival in Jinja this year and opening for Jidenna at the recently concluded Kigali Jazz Junction, Koojo is preparing to bring his upcoming album to the stage for 2020 tours.

“I’ve been here since 2017, now I’m traveling more and preparing to do tours in 2020. I would like to eventually buy property here and settle here once I have more stability and I’m able to get my music off the ground. This is my first time releasing music as Koojo so I’m still very new to the world, and there’s still a lot of work ahead of me to get my music out there and heard,” he revealed.

“As a creative person, my priority is looking at the bigger score and how I can create art for social cause and have an impact on our communities,” he added.

 Sometimes as a creative person it’s a very challenging road to take especially when you don’t have the tools or resources. For Koojo, his hope is to help nurture young aspiring artists and give people the tools to do their art and create more opportunities.

Debut film

In the acting, Koojo was featured in a role as Bob Marley in the American HBO Drama “Vinyl” in 2016. He also played a small role in Steven Spielberg’s new dramatic film titled, “The Post” last year.

With such experience, in addition to the album—which is scheduled to be released early 2020, Koojo is in production to direct his first debut film. The dark, comedy and adventure film will be paired with the album and scheduled to be released next year.

“I really want to help bring a spotlight to the global audience—if that means helping on the production side and cultivating the sound with local artistes, and using my contacts, and network to spotlight these sounds to the global stage—that’s something I feel I’m very passionate about. I’ve been here for quite sometimes and even if I go with my travels and tours, I feel like this is home, and home is where the heart is.”

 Promoting his bands

Koojo has been the band leader of Brooklyn based “Astro-Soul” band King Holiday since 2012. Koojo has played extensively with his NYC band King Holiday throughout Los Angeles, NYC, Miami (Art Basel 2016), U.K, and Canada. He has opened for international recording artists such as Jidenna, Paloma Faith (U.K), Santigold (U.S), Mumford and sons (U.K), Thundercat (U.S), Ismaël Lô (Senegal) and many more.

 “I started off as a dancer back in the day and moved to Los Angeles, I started drumming in the band. At the time I was working with another singer to see how I could take my inspiration, to write songs and also plays rhythms. It was shortly after my experience as a drummer that’s when I really learned to multitask as a band manager,” Koojo says of his experience.

Koojo is currently a frontman and bandleader with projects in New York, Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda, and although somehow challenging to bring people together to rehearse given his love for the sound of big band, brass, vocals and percussion, his hope is that he continues to grow with his online audience, book more shows, keep the big sounds that he has created with the bands.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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