Make me feel something

Listening to Andy Bumuntu’s Mukadata, a friend remarks that this is a song even my parents would happily listen and relate to. I keep digging into why this song has that ability to transport you and feel real in a way that other recent Kinyarwanda songs don’t approach, even Buravan’s Malaika in all its great execution pales in comparison.

Despite enjoying music of other Rwandan artists, none has captivated me in recent time quite like Andy Bumuntu’s music does, even with the few songs he has released. Is it the subject matter, lyrics or vocal expressionism? I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Maybe it’s all three. Andy’s music in comparison to his contemporaries seems more authentic, not just of sound but of how emotion is expressed. The specificity of his lyrics are more cathartic than the more vague lyric expressions that abound in popular music on our local radio stations. It is reminiscent of the lyrical writing style of Dream Boys when they started out.  

I am the first one to admit that I’m skeptical of the nostalgia that my friends have for Karahanyuze style of music, after all longing for a certain era limits objectivity. Still, the storytelling found in Kinyarwanda songs of bygone eras seem more authentic. I stare at current music videos and can’t help but feel like there is an over-expressionism of emotion that is fraudulent in a culture where people keep their emotions pretty closed off.

The expression of emotions such as love -- because popular music revolves around love songs -- varies across cultures. A study found that most non-native English speakers say “I love you” more in English than in their native languages. Overall they also find such expressions in more frequent use now than previously; a generation constantly updating their status to inform virtual “friends” about their feelings on a myriad number of things perhaps?

So a theory presents itself that current musicians could simply be part of this global trend towards more expression in their music composition. Even when there is a hard-to-verbalise loss between these two different ‘styles’ of music or lyrical writing, I am reluctant to label current love songs inauthentic, but I insist on my preference of music that doesn’t sound redundant or a short-cut to telling a story.

My choices in music have always leaned towards music that evokes something with the occasional playlist of feel-good-music.

I recently found a Zimbabwean rock band in the 1970s whose music was censored during a time that Zimbabwe was still called Rhodesia, under the apartheid-like rule of a white minority. Many young Zimbabweans joined the struggle because of the music that band played; it was part of what kept them going in an uphill battle.

As we start the commemoration period I can’t help but recall that while my parents felt the need to shield me from graphic images shown or testimonies told of what happened in 1994, the music played during that time is what came close to making me understand the breadth of our tragedy and process the loss, devastation of our people.

If you look at music through the lens of time and history, it chronicles the social, entertainment, political events of that time. So what does our current music say about our time?


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