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Remembering musicians killed during the Genocide

Cyprien Rugamba and his wife Daphrose. The late Rugamba was the leader of the legendary Amasimbi n’Amakombe. / Courtesy.

As the country begins the commemoration of 26 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, there will be no gatherings or vigils as is the normal case annually, due to the New Coronavirus outbreak and the measures to contain it.

Rwandans will commemorate in their homes and continue to observe the measures which are expected to end on April 19, well after the commemoration week.


During that horrific period, the music Industry in Rwanda is one of the sectors that lost most of its pioneers. As some musicians like Simon Bikindi used their talent for incitement to exterminate the Tutsi during the Genocide, some of their colleagues in the profession were targeted by the killers.


A list published by the Association of Rwandan Musicians (LIRAM) shows only 14 performing musicians were killed during the Genocide, but the list cannot be conclusive as it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of musicians who were killed during that time.


André Sebanani.

There are other ‘underground’ singers who were killed too.

The list of prominent artistes includes André Sebanani, who is remembered for having co-founded Ryta Jazz Band with legendary singer Abdoul Makanyaga back in 1971, and performed for about two years, songs such as Rugamba uri Imparata, before he left to join others in Orchestre Impala.

He was the frontman of Orchestre Impala where he was known for composing love songs and his famous hits, such as Mama Munyana and Urabaruta, among others.

Prominent too, among those killed was Cyprien Rugamba, one of Rwanda’s most eulogised legends, who was the leader of Amasimbi n’Amakombe. He was known for his songs such as “Ubuhanga Buhanitse”, “Inyigisho zo kubana neza ku muryango Nyarwanda” as well as other songs that are used today in the Rwandan Catholic Church. He was killed on April 7, 1994 along with his wife and some members of Amasimbi n’ Amakombe.

Orchestre Impala during one of their several trips to Europe in the 1980’s. File.

Among band members documented to have been killed during the Genocide also include; Sadi Gatete, who was a member of Orchestre Abamararungu, Lotti Bizimana from Orchestre Ikibatsi, Eugène Rugerinyange of Orchestre Ingeli, Mimir Murebwayire, one of the few female musicians at the time and a member of Orchestre Les Citadins and Emmanuel Sekimonyo, famous for his stage name Manu Tabaro.

Saulve Iyamuremye and wife.

Saulve Iyamuremye, a member of Indahemuka choir, Berchmas Rwakabayiza and Jean de Dieu Kayigamba, both members of Chorale de Kigali and Bernard Kalisa from Chorale Ijuru, are also listed.

Other prominent solo artistes killed during the 1994 Genocide include Rodrigue Karemera remembered for songs, such as Urwibutso rw’Umutoni and Ndakwibuka, as well as the musical couple of Agnes Uwimbabazi and Dieudonné Bizimungu along with many of Bizimungu’s family members.

Rodrigue Karemera.

The couple performed throughout Kigali and were famous, among others, for “Tabara Ryangombe”, a song that was recorded in the late 1980’s.

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