The RDF military band music is synonymous with the liberation struggle

L-R: WOII Pierre-Damien Nkurunziza, Sergeant-Major Robert Kabera, and Lt. Col. Gilbert Ndayisabye. Willy Mucyo

‘Swag’ is the first thing you notice when you meet Sgt. Maj. Robert Kabera. He got quite famous when he was a sergeant, his stage name being ‘Sergeant Robert’.

His swagger is an added value to his rap skills and voice that makes every Liberation day celebrations on televisions and radios.


What comes to many the minds of many Rwandans when Liberation day is mentioned, is the army music. The ‘Army Jazz Band’, where Kabera was a soloist, may sound familiar to many.


Perhaps because the then sole television, Rwanda Television (RTV), always played this kind of music every July 4, because the music by the soldiers is synonymous with the liberation struggle.


Kabera joined the army in 1993, and was immediately part of the military band because of his talent and passion for music. He had only sung in church choirs.

“I loved singing when I was little. I used to sing in church, protestant Christian songs mostly.

“When I joined the army, I was lucky to discover that they had great morale. Every activity like sports and training always had music.”

Ever since Kabera has proved a great artist, he still sings in the band, and as a solo artist.

WOII Rtd. Pierre-Damien Nkurunziza, aka Maji Maji, was also an icon in the band. Given that most people call him by the name of his song, ‘Maji Maji’.

He also didn’t have a big musical background, but singing is something he has always enjoyed. “I composed a school anthem when I was still in primary school.”

He was part of the 600 RPA soldiers that first came to Rwanda, and he says it was no trouble for him to fight and compose at the same time.

Even when he’s retired, he keeps composing songs that call for the development of the country.

Some of the military band's most played on liberation day are ‘Kama jeshi’, ‘Majeshi makali’, ‘Ibigwi by’inkotanyi’, ‘Maji Maji’, and ‘Intwazarugamba’, among others.

They are songs that not only soldiers themselves enjoy, but all who people who relate to the liberation struggle in one way or another.

Lt. Col. Gilbert Ndayisabye, the commander of the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) military band regiment explained to The New Times that the band’s aim is to perform army songs.

The major events where the band performs are state ceremonies and military ceremonies. But the band’s component of ‘jazz band’ whose aim is to boost the morale of the soldiers also makes songs that the whole public can enjoy.

“Most of our music is about the spirit of working for the nation. The songs that we sing are mostly targeted at the youth. We want them to understand why we serve through the military. At a later stage, that is when we motivate people to even join the army through the songs.”

Ndayisabye further explains that the band doesn’t just play for the sake of playing. “You need to create something that sends a message; what you want to capture.”

The RDF military band is not only enjoyed through the jazz band but also on their instrumental harmonies, their well-organised parade and performances on their officers’ weddings, among others.

The band has won the hearts of many, and not just on liberation day but also the many functions they display their highly spectacular skills.

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