The recent Burna Boy Xperience in Kigali could be a game changer on the local music concert scene.
Featuring Nigerian Afro beats sensation Burna Boy, the massively successful concert raised the bar for local concert promoters in many aspects, from pre-event hype and marketing, partnerships (corporate and institutional), to the layout of the concert venue.
Speaking of venue, organisers took a big gamble and chose to take the show where nobody had dared before; the Intare Conference and Events Arena in Rusororo –not your regular Kigali high end concert venue.
But who brought Burna Boy to Kigali?
Derek Kyaruhinda ./Courtesy photo
That question got repeated even more after the run-away success of the concert on the night of Saturday March 23.
But many would be shocked at the relatively small profile of Entertainment Factory Ltd, the company that brought the Burna Boy Experience to us.
Having been established barely two months ago, Entertainment Factory is probably the newest Events company in town.
“We basically registered the company to do this event. This was our first event as a company,” explained Mathew Rugamba, one of the five partners who spoke on behalf of the rest.
Mathew Rugamba ./Courtesy photo
Rugamba is better known in fashion circles, as the founder and creative director of House of Tayo, a local fashion line. His co-partners are Kevin Rugamba, a cousin, Derek Kyaruhinda, and Arnold Kwizera, while the last is a silent partner.
Kevin Rugamba is an educator at the African Leadership University (ALU) Rwanda, and also a DJ. Kyaruhinda is the owner of Choma’d Bar and Grill in Nyarutarama, while Kwizera is a media and PR personality in Kigali, who also co-hosts the morning drive show on Royal FM.
Arnold Kwizera ./Courtesy photos.
“The reason we came together as partners is because everyone comes with a certain expertise that you need for events. So each of us went into this after doing our own events, that’s why this thing worked. It wasn’t like we were starting from scratch,” said Mathew Rugamba.
“My role is mainly concept development. We look at the act, how to build up to an event, communication about the event, and what partners make sense to work with. As with any new business you tend to play many different roles, but that is what I tend to focus on the most,” he further explained during this interview at the House of Tayo workshop in Gacuriro.
Going by his choice of venue for the interview, it was obvious he still has his fingers in the fashion world:
“Fashion is still my full time job. I’m still part of the fashion industry but I saw an opportunity with Entertainment Factory and took it up. If you look at all places with a thriving fashion industry, they also have a good entertainment scene. Whenever,
there are events and shows, people ask, what am I going to wear? I’ve seen it personally that every weekend there is an event in Kigali, sales go up. So it feeds into my other business.”
According to Rugamba, some 3,700 people attended the concert. The Intare Conference Arena’s normal sitting capacity is about 2,500.
Strength in partnerships
One of the early successes scored by organisers came from securing a partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in staging the concert. RDB aptly pegged the concert to its Visit Rwanda initiative that seeks to give foreign tourists more reason to visit the country.
Such a partnership went a long way in boosting the concert’s credentials in the eyes of potential corporate sponsors. Heineken Rwanda, and RwandAir were some of the big corporate sponsors to throw their weight behind the concert.
“A lot of times you see people trying to get support from government, without looking at what the government’s goals are. One of the things government is trying to build now is the MICE strategy, and that’s how the country intends to generate a lot of its income. Some of the conferences going on in Kigali are huge and bring in a lot of money. But what events are bringing people into the country, outside of conferences? That is something we realised. So rather than going to RDB to ask for support to stage a concert, we went with a proposal that said the goal is to grow the entertainment scene in this country. We talked about something on a grander scale than just this particular concert. If we need to grow our Events scene, then we need to organise events that draw in foreigners.”
Rugamba noted that people reached out to organisers from as far as Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, the DRC, South Afric, and Nigeria regarding the Burna Boy concert. A few delegates to the just concluded Africa CEO Forum in Kigali also attended the show.
“At RDB, we mentioned the fact that people fly into Rwanda for conferences, then fly out. However the idea for these conferences is to have these people in Rwanda for as long as possible. Also we felt that the Intare Arena was being very underutilized. We had to show people that you can do a world class event in this space. Different government stakeholders said we’d shown them a new way to utilise the space.” He added:
“This whole belief that Rwandans don’t know how to party or to enjoy themselves is a bit misinformed. We just need to work around creating the context or ambiance that will allow for people to really enjoy themselves.”
What made the Burna Boy concert a success?
Social media blitz
Organisers staged such a spirited social media campaign, by the time people got to the Intare Conference Arena, they felt they were already a part of the concert. With lyric videos to Burna Boy’s popular songs posted daily, fans knew which songs to sing along to.
The old concept of VIP seating with huge tables at the front row was done away with:
“It kills concerts because the artist feeds off the energy of the crowd, and part of the crowd that really wants to get rowdy are so far behind. The set up alone changed the environment completely,” said Rugamba.
The venue was divided into three sections; ordinary, VIP, and VVIP. The VIP area came with its own bar and cocktail tables, and a wider bar selection, while VVIP came with its own bar and lounge area, bathrooms, and a great balcony view.