Cecil, you broke our hearts

To many of us Cecil Kayirebwa isn’t just a Rwandan cultural icon. She is a poet, composer, singer songwriter and choreographer. She is a music goddess, sent by other gods to entertain, educate and calm our weary spirits. We love her and at one point, we thought nothing on God’s green earth was going to stop us from adoring her.

To many of us Cecil Kayirebwa isn’t just a Rwandan cultural icon. She is a poet, composer, singer songwriter and choreographer. She is a music goddess, sent by other gods to entertain, educate and calm our weary spirits. We love her and at one point, we thought nothing on God’s green earth was going to stop us from adoring her.

Like David played the harp for King Saul every time he felt low, whenever things are low with most people, they turn to Cecil’s music and gradually regain some spirit. I remember watching my mother listening to her healing voice with eyes dropped to half-mast as she savored every word, every sound that sailed freely straight from traditional instruments such as the umuduri and ihembe.

All was well and there is no ailment that Kayirebwa’s song did heal, until recently when she accused some media houses of playing her music “for years” without her permission and failing to pay her royalties.

Of course she was right, she toiled so hard for so many years, and she deserved every penny. But when some people, old people who don’t know or even want to know what intellectual property law or copy rights  means heard that she stopped TV and some radio stations from playing her songs, they took it personal!

They felt ‘their’ Kayirebwa betrayed them; they loved her whole heartedly and in return she chopped their hands off when they extended them for a hug.

One day I returned home to find my granny with the saddest face that I’ve never seen before, “who has died? “ I asked attempting some humor! Kayirebwa said no more playing her music, apparently just woke up and said she doesn’t want anyone playing her songs, she said this threatening an explosion of waterworks.

My brains scrambled to shift gears; I shifted from foot to foot like a kid in an urgent need of a potty. I tried to explain the whole thing but no amount of explanation could convince her that she can still listen to her favorite “Humura Rwanda” hit.

Till today, you can never hear a Cecil song in our home, and personally whenever I hear her songs played, I remember the pain she caused my entire family.

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