Arnaud Mugisha Gatera, professionally known as DJ Marnaud, is an exception. Last year alone, the hunky received invitations from three different local universities to give their students a career talk, following persistent requests from the students.
“I was hyped at the prospect of inspiring thousands of students, but I wasn’t available as I had different tours abroad,” he says, and adds, “But I want to do it this year.”
More than just a disc jockey
At the East African Party concert at Amahoro Stadium’s parking lot on New Year’s Day, DJ Marnaud fell just short of overshadowing the night’s main act, US-based Rwandan artiste Meddy.
He was an MC, singer, hype man, and everything in between. He even brought his own live band on stage. And, boy—they didn’t disappoint.
His virtuoso performance brought back memories of the Liberation Day concert at the Kigali Convention Centre in July, 2017, when DJ Marnaud opened for Nigerian singer Mr. Eazy. This is where it all began.
By his own admission, it was his first major gig, and he has never looked back. It was the night when DJ Marnaud proved his hype man credentials.
“After Mr Eazy, I was part of all the biggest concerts in town. Every time I would go on stage there would be a change,” he says.
Later that year, he took his magic to the Mutzig Beer Fest at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Nyamata, before opening the stage for Nigerian dancehall act Patoranking at the KigaliUp Music Festival.
“I’ll be in Belgium on March 9, at the Birmingham Palace, for an event organised by Team Production ASBL. From there, I’ll go to Paris, where I’m scheduled to perform with DJ Princess Flor.
Started in 2015
Yet, three years ago, hardly anyone knew DJ Marnaud, whose first DJ contract was at The Mirror Hotel’s Class Club in 2015.
“It was little money but I was so hyped to just get the contract. I was honoured to work with DJ Focus and DJ Kags, the biggest DJs at the time.
He played at different clubs in Kigali, ventured briefly into Tanzania, before returning to play at Cocobean Bar in Kacyiru.
“That’s where everyone really knew about me,” he reminisces.
A member of the Dream Team DJs, Marnaud is a hype man and not just a DJ, but a personality DJ.
“There is a time to mix and a time to hype people. In a club, I hype, but not that much. I just give you your playlist—what you want to hear. In a club it’s more about dancing.
“In a stadium people are not necessarily dancing. You only have about 30 minutes to make people feel they are in a concert. When you do a good mix, people will feel like they’re in a nightclub not a stadium.”
Last year, the jockey showcased his other talents; singing, and entrepreneurship, opening his own joint, Marnaud’s Bar (former Trattoria).
Bape, his collabo with boy group Active was one of the biggest local club hits of 2018. He followed it with Ribuyu, featuring DJ Pius.
“This (singing) was something on my mind; why would I play 10 consecutive songs all from Nigeria or other countries and not Rwanda? There are many good local songs but they don’t fit a club format. So I decided to try one. I met with Active at Bob Pro Studio and he did a beat for us. I did the song for my personal use, just to play it during my sets. I didn’t know it would go everywhere.”
He promises more collaborations this year, with many pending projects in studio.
Early in December last year, he unveiled Marnaud’s Bar, located in Kimuhurura.
“It’s under my name because it’s my hustle. It came from my money. There are no shareholders. Everyone was worried for me because I took over a bar that was dead. But we sold out on opening night. All drinks were done by 1am.”
Last year, he toured Burundi with Buravan, Kenya with The Ben, before travelling to Nigeria to open for Wiz Kid in December.“I was supposed to connect to China in January but because of some issues I didn’t go.”
This year, he intends to tour Europe, Canada, and the US. He also plans to stage a show titled ‘Marnaud’s Experience’ later in the year.
“It will be a big concert with artistes and other DJs, and it will be my best performance ever.”
DJ Marnaud attributes his musicality to his mother, a chorister in the Catholic Church to this day. At just five years of age, his mother took him to music school to learn piano. He did dance and choreography under Sick City Entertainment, and traditional dance with Inganzo Ngari Cultural Troupe as a teenager.