Tonzi: From choir girl to a force in gospel music

Clementine Uwitonze, commonly known as Tonzi, is considered a pioneer of modern gospel music in the country.

Her gospel songs such as ‘Humura’, ‘Sijamuvako’ and ‘Nzajya ngusingiza’, among others, turned her into a household name.

 

Having grown up in a Christian family, it was ntural that she treasured singing in the church and school choirs.

 

Born in Goma, DR Congo, the mother of two started her music journey at the tender age of 10, singing in an Adventist church choir.

 

Tonzi then dropped out of the choir to launch a solo career. She released her debut album with several singles.

Going solo

The “Sijya muvako” hit maker says she realised that she could not ‘survive the choir’s regulations that made it hard to collaborate with other artistes’, opting to drop out.

In 2003, the Ministry of Youth nominated Tonzi among 10 people to represent the country in FESPAM (Festivale de la Musique Pan Africaine) in Congo-Brazzaville. This was a result of her fame in several choirs like Maranatha Family Choir, New Singers, and others.

However, her choir, Patmos, told her that if she attended the festival, she would be excluded from the choir’s membership.

“I did not understand how people can stop me from representing my country in the name of salvation. So, after consulting several friends, I made the decision to attend it,” she says.

Upon return, she decided to leave the choir. Inspired by the Bible, she started crafting and pioneering her songs independently. She says that after participating in the festival, the money she earned there was used to pay the tuition of her first year in university and helped her release several songs.

The singer recalls that she encountered a countless challenges as an upcoming artiste, now that she was on her own.

“It is understandable that I was passing through hard times, and plenty of people considered me ‘a sinner’, so I rarely got help from my fellow choir members. I even began to doubt what I was doing, because I looked abandoned,” she recalls.

She launched her debut album ‘Humura’ at Hotel des Milles Collines in 2007 which was well attended. After that, she was motivated and decided to put in more effort in her solo career.

This, she says, opened doors in the industry and today, she has seven albums with more than 100 songs.

Tonzi says that she likes to do the kind of music that compels the audience to stand up and dance while getting inspired—the type of music that plays with people’s emotions.

Her journey to stardom has not been an easy one, from overcoming the insurmountable challenges to achieving considerable success in the music industry.

She has been nominated in several local and regional awards, including the EA Music Awards coupled with the local Sala and Groove Awards where she was the “Best Female Gospel Artiste” of the year.

She is also part of “The Sisters”, an all-girl gospel group that includes big names in gospel music like Aline Gahongayire, Gabby Kamanzi and Fanny.

Recently, she also won an MNI (Muzika Nyarwanda Impande) award which comes with a Rwf2m cash prize.

Future plans

Tonzi who is currently putting together her eighth album, says that in her future plans, she hopes to expand her “Birashoboka dufatanyije” non-profit organisation that caters for children with disabilities.

Recently, the female singer released a single dubbed “Bindimo” loosely translated as ‘it is in me’. Her fans have applauded the song which they say is rich in spiritual and inspiration massage that makes one praise the Lord regardless of the situation they are in.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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