Habarugira on mission to build Rwanda’s first-ever music museum

Photos of local artistes on display during the exhibition.

While Patrick Habarugira is the president of U&I Ark, a non-profit organisation which recently organised a weeklong music exhibition dubbed ‘Kigali Music Exhibition Week’, with a target to not only preserve Rwanda’s music heritage but also contribute to the promotion of cultural tourism.

Although Habarugira’s background is in sports reporting where he rose to fame as a sports journalist and documentarist at Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA), he felt that having the first-ever music museum in Rwanda would not only create an opportunity to showcase the history of Rwandan music to the public but also to contribute to Rwanda’s cultural tourism.



Patrick Habarugira, the brain behind the initiative. Courtesy photos.


He sat with Sunday Magazine’s Eddie Nsabimana, and briefly explained the organisation’s future plans to turn the exhibition into a music museum that will serve as a promotion hub for Rwanda’s music history and secure a music heritage.

You have a background in sports, how did you come up with such a music-related idea?

Sports and culture are aligned. It’s all about entertaining people. Rwanda’s music is taking shape for sure and is embarking on a tremendous rise, but culture remains a concern worth paying attention to so that the music development can do better in line with cultural values.

The idea came with a focus to promote Rwandan culture through music but we later realized that it is a small element and we broadened the idea to find a proper space where the public can learn the history of Rwandan music.

Some folklore music has disappeared and some artistes have been forgotten because we have no safe space or database to store or archive their history. That’s all we want to respond to through this initiative.

Why do you think the initiative is important?

We have a very big problem that Rwanda’s music history is nowhere to be seen. Most people hardly know where Rwandan music has come from, and how it has evolved, because there are no conservation platforms for our music.

Elsewhere, musicians have their music history documented on Wikipedia; but how about Rwandan music? I believe the initiative of documenting the history of Rwandan music would not only help artistes to have a background but also be a source of reference for academic and research purposes while it can also boost cultural tourism.

What inspired you to set up a music museum and what is your target?

I had a chance to visit the French Music Museum in Paris and it really inspired me to push the idea I already had before to take shape instead of waiting for international firms to come and do it for us.

We are trying to trace, identify, conserve and archive Rwanda’s music history and prevent it from disappearing.

The museum will also serve as an appropriate exhibition and promotion hub for our music.

How do you plan to archive Rwanda’s music history?

While we are planning on building our own music museum, the Institution of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR) has lent us a five-room space for an exhibition which is opening later this month at the Rwanda Art Museum in Kanombe.

They include a room reserved for chronological materials for music, one for musical costumes or styles which musicians used to wear, a room for the history of music as well as photos and short biographies of artistes, music producers, some journalists, DJs and music managers, historians and anyone who played a big part in Rwanda’s music development.

We will not ignore anyone but we want to start with those from previous generations whose music risk being erased.

There will also be a room for music collection where visitors can watch music videos of the late 1960s-90s through big TV screens and another room for audio songs of artistes of all generations and personal headphones used in the silent disco events will be availed to help each visitor to listen to their favourite music.

A special room was also reserved as a store for different musical instruments, traditional or modern, where a visitor can feel free to play whichever they are excited to listen to.

It is a big project but we are ready to successfully make it happen.

So far we have already gathered biographies of at least 300 artistes, traditional dance costumes, chronological musical instruments. We can start with these in the exhibition and keep gathering more historical data for our music as long as we find the budget.

We are looking to build a museum in a digital way to help people from across the globe visit and access its data wherever they are.

What challenges have you encountered so far?

Our challenges are financial. The government is supporting us to achieve what we started but we are still short of money to fund research on our music.

We really need support and encourage the private sector and other organisations to invest or support our projects and help us make it a success.

When do you plan to open the music museum?

We have a one-year renewable memorandum of understanding with INMR to lend us exhibition space for Rwandan music but our target is that we will have our own music museum in the next two years.


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