A year ago, Ramadhan Mupenda, founder of The Mane Music, started the music label as, in his own words, a “hobby”.
“When we started out, I didn’t think it would grow this big. But having grown up around musicians most of my life, living with artistes and supporting them, I decided to do it as a hobby,” he said.
One year down the road, The Mane Music is not only a bona fide artiste management label in the country, it is also a serious going concern, a business, as opposed to someone’s hobby.
Currently, The Mane Music is working with three musicians signed to the label: Safi Madiba, Queen Cha, and Marina.
“I decided to do it (artiste management) as a business because I had been spending a lot of money in music to support some artists and to go with them to concerts,” Mupenda further explains.
The music label is located in Kagarama, Kicukiro, where it has set up offices, complete with a recording studio, and resident producer Lil John The Real Beat. The label also boasts a mobile sound truck that is deployed for most of its upcountry shows.
In March this year, The Mane Music officially launched in style on the local music scene, flying in Tanzanian Bongo Flava star Harmonize to headline the two launch concerts –in Kigali and Musanze.
Harmonize is one of the singers signed to Wasafi Classic Baby (WCB), the music label owned by Tanzanian singer Diamond Platnumz.
Mupenda, the founder of The Mane Music, revealed that the main inspiration for starting the label was the huge success of Wasafi in Tanzania: “According to their background, they started from the bottom and are now at the top.”
Although Marina is the lesser established of the three artistes signed to The Mane Music, she was the first to work with Mupenda, the owner.
“By that time it was not really a music label yet,” Mupenda clarifies; “I was just a manager of Marina.”
It was much later, when Safi Madiba signed to the label, that he suggested Marina’s name to Mupenda, and soon a deal was signed.
“The reason I signed him is because he was my good friend from the time he was starting his career. The first time I knew him was because of his voice. He was singing in a group –Urban Boys, and in any group, every member has his style and his fans. So I was his fan when he was still with Urban Boys. He was the group’s vocalist so he was always starting and ending their songs,” says Mupenda.
The two first met formally in 2012, and have been friends since.
“When I met him we became instant friends and started doing everything together. It is now six years. I met him in 2012, and at the time I was living in Musanze and he was in Kigali. He used to come to my home whenever he took a break from music,” he notes.
“That time I wasn’t ready to start something like a music label to support him professionally because to manage musicians you need some money. So I decided to concentrate on my other businesses while saving for the music because I had a dream to one day become a music manager,” adds Mupenda.
He is grateful to Madiba for helping him kick start his dream of artiste management. “We sat and he told me all there is to know about artists and artiste management. I learnt that music business is a risk –to take your money and invest it in someone –anytime they can die and there’s no insurance for that.”
Mid last year, Safi Madiba was among the artistes on the Rwandan All Stars song, ‘Too Much’, that also featured other artists like Jay Polly, Nizzo and Humble Jizzo from Urban Boys, and Khalfan and Marina. While at the recording, he was impressed by Marina’s voice, and recommended her to Mupenda.
Mupenda reveals: “A few days later Safi again returned to me and advised me to register a company and start doing things professionally, and that was the beginning of The Mane Music, with Marina as my first signing.”
Four months on, Safi Madiba signed, and after another three months, it was Queen Cha’s turn to join them.
For Safi Madiba, the decision came after he quit Urban Boys, following his marriage to Judith Niyonizera.
Mupenda says: “He (Safi) explained that he didn’t know if he would continue with Urban Boys after his marriage because of his new responsibility.”
After a month we met again and talked. I proposed a management deal and he was skeptical, saying we were friends. But we agreed to give it a shot. That’s how he became the second artist on the label.”