Meddy Saleh reveals why he wants to step back from video directing

A great music video brings a song to life and Meddy Saleh is one vanguard of a music video director behind many of the most buzzed-about and shared local videos over the last few years.

He has done everything from showcasing picturesque visuals in Gaz Mawete’s Olingi Nini- depicting love and nature to a narrative wedding theme in Butera Knowless’ Urugero and leveraging a communal jam of drama and talent reveal in The Ben Tom Close’s Thank You, Saleh is one of Rwanda’s finest talents leading the industry from behind the lens.

Saleh shoots and directs most of Rwanda’s hit music videos.

Starting out

Saleh was born in Rwanda and spent most of his childhood in the town of Gisenyi, in north western Rwanda, but made daily trips to Goma where he had his early education.

In 1994, he moved to Kinshasa to continue his studies before they were eventually cut short.

“I always lied to my brother that I was sick so I could stay at home and watch movies. That is how much I loved movies and the truth is that I never finished school because of that. I told my uncle who was paying my school fees to stop wasting his money because I wanted to focus on making videos,” he shares.

His passion for videos was sparked when he went to Tanzania for a year, to see a friend whose job was to film music videos. It was then that he learned the basics about filming and decided to returned back home and began with making short films before returning to Tanzania for another six years to garner more knowledge.

“Coming back to Rwanda I met Eric Kabera at a Cyber café and he was interested in working with me. It was from him that I later learned more about documentary movies and because being the pioneer in the industry, for me it was a dream come true.”

Together they worked on documentaries for UNDP, the documentary Through my eyes, as well as other different short movies.  He was later invited to Uganda, for the Maisha Film Festival, for a year, to train aspiring filmmakers about professional filming.

Meddy Saleh doing his thing

“I got a chance to do short movies with Lupita Nyongo and other actors until I came back and did consultancy for Rwanda Television for one year, which was a good opportunity for exposure and experience but I decided it was time to do my own things and rise up the ranks.”

“This is because every time I wanted to my own things, I didn’t have the time to because I had to give priority to other things other than my own.”

His breakthrough into music video directing was in 2009 working with local RnB Faisal Ngeruka, now called Faisal Kode, for that was when he indulged fully in the project doing scripted videos before he started working with other artistes.

He loves working with people who he can have fun on set with, because I want to build memories. Currently he is working with fast rising RnB singer Yvan Buravan under his label New Level, on so many projects, with whom he says it was so easy for him to build his script.

Last year he directed and featured in one of the singer’s video ‘Oya’ alongside his ex-wife, Mbabazi Shadia popularly known as Shaddy Boo, a local socialite, and the video sent tongues wagging. He reveals that came up with the concept.

“As an ex couple that has two daughters together, we support each other very well and we are best friends so it was easy.”

We wanted to have a comeback of something that can make people talk because there was a space of three months and Buravan had no video at that time. I brought the idea and others supported it.

Saleh has directed all of Yvan Buravan’s videos.

When you’re a filmmaker it’s easy because it’s not like its real, you’re just acting. The idea came in easily but at the time, I almost pulled out.  She’s good at acting, while being my first time, I was a bit shy because I’m always behind the camera,” he says.

At this point in his career, many may perceive him as having reached the peak of his career, he believes otherwise.

“I am still learning and I am learning every day because shooting videos is not something you learn overnight.”

Besides making videos, Saleh is involved with promoting and marketing a local brand, KGL, that makes caps with the brand logo.

“I was in love with the creativity and when they put me on board I had to put mine too, he says of his other position.

He further reveals that he is currently preparing a TV show, Profile even though he’s tight lipped about it.

“There’s TV show that I am preparing for online TV, although I won’t say much about it now but it’s called Profile. Readers should get a hint from the title.”

A word for aspiring videographers

Saleh experienced resistance as a young video director but nonetheless found his niche as a videographer for the country’s biggest musicians.

“For those that have intentions of joining the field, I advise that they only pursue if it is their passion.

People discouraged me a lot but I pushed and that’s what gave me courage. My advice is that people should not to give up their dreams, he says.

His visuals mostly communicate love and art.

Future plans

The 39-year-old’s journey has taught him the importance of nurturing talent as an artist and how the ability to take criticism allows people to progress in anything that they pursue.

He has since built a small empire in his home, where he has trained three professionals that he works with and emphasises his role as a documentarian, as well as a mentor to aspiring videographers and directors.

“I see myself as a consultant because I’ve been training different people and most of them are doing their own thing but I want to have people who work for me or work together because I don’t want to touch a camera anymore. I’ve been in this field for a long time and now I feel like I need to put people there to do the work while I supervise. So I see myself having a big company where I will only be supervising the work.”