Kigali’s premiere monthly music gathering, the Kigali Jazz Junction is three years old. To celebrate this milestone, organisers are putting together an anniversary gig that will unfold Friday, at Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village (Camp Kigali).
Previous jazz junction concerts have all been held at the Kigali Serena hotel. Although the new venue is just a stone’s throw away from Serena, it boasts a much larger concert arena, perhaps an indication that organisers expect a larger than usual turn-up for the concert.
Dubbed, Kigali Jazz Junction (3 years anniversary), the concert will be headlined by legendary South African musician Ringo Madlingozi, and Uganda’s Bebe Cool.
In East Africa, Ringo is best known for his 1997 monster hit, “Sondela”, with other songs to his credit like “Eyakho”, “Ekuseni”, “Uthando”, and “Ngqo Ngqo”, all in his native Xhosa language. It will be his first time gracing a musical stage in Rwanda.
The other concert headliner, Bebe Cool needs no introduction, having held concerts in Rwanda before. However, it will be the first time that the “Love you everyday” hitmaker travels down to Kigali with his entire live band ensemble –the Gagamel Band.
In terms of stage repertoire, this will be the biggest Kigali Jazz Junction by far, as both headliners will be performing with their full live bands.
“Ringo is one of the most spectacular live show cases you can ever have. People know Ringo for Sondela, and they’ve grown up listening to the song. Actually it was the anthem for RTV at some point,” explained Remmy Lubega, the founder and organiser of the Kigali Jazz Junction: “And this is what we were looking for. We want a particular song that you’ve listened to for a period of time, and it never goes off the charts. It’s not bubble gum music. Ringo represents this great African artistry that is a fusion of soul, jazz, country, and African melodies all combined together to bring a functional and overwhelming performance on stage.”
Ringo and Bebe Cool will each perform with their 12-piece bands, while the Neptunez band, the resident band for the Jazz Junction concerts will support the local acts on stage.
“Bebe Cool represents the great young urban artists that have risen from nowhere in the last 15 years. People who have travelled from one country to another, looking for a breakthrough hit. I have seen Bebe Cool struggle to wipe out Congolese and South African music in Uganda … he has his own music struggle that you can’t ignore,” said Lubega of Bebe Cool.
Organizers this time issued a blank invite to all local musicians that have ever graced the jazz junction stage, with a good number already confirmed to perform.
Confirmed acts include; Mani Martin, Rosette Karimba, Makumbi Sound and Hope Irakoze. They will each perform their songs, medley style, with backing from the Neptunez Band.
King James, Intore Masamba, and Charly na Nina have also performed at the jazz junction before, but won’t be at Friday’s show as each is currently on foreign tour of duty.
“In a nutshell, Kigali Jazz Junction comes from the vibe of this great city, and jazz being a genre of music that’s consumed across the world, we didn’t want to limit people, so we came up with this monthly concept three years ago,” quipped Lubega. “We came with a theme that we thought could keep the town alive, that people who come to visit this beautiful country, at the end of the month they have where to go and have something they can relate with.”
Lubega describes as “humbling”, the way the public warmed up to the idea, from an initial attendance of 20 at the first Kigali Jazz Junction.
“I felt humbled because it was the first time in Rwanda to have a live music event that is consistent at every end of the month, where we have an audience that comes to witness great art. It’s a great strategy for this town to celebrate, in terms of artistry and in terms of what the city has to showcase,” he said.
He added: “What we’ve really been proud of is the consistence, production quality and, most importantly, the patrons that have kept us going all this time. Our excitement is over and above, and that’s why we are celebrating. We cannot take it for granted.”