Jeanne d’Arc Ingabire Butera, also known as Knowless, has a nickname most people in her village still call her - Kabebe. Born 23 years ago to Jean Marie Vianney Butera and Marie-Claire Uyambaje in Ruhango district, Southern Province, Butera recently participated in the Primus Guma Guma competition where she came in third.
As the only female contestant throughout the contest, Knowless was up against some powerful names in the game, the likes of Riderman, who emerged winner, and Urban Boys, another crowd favourite. The singer spoke to Séraphine Habimana about her journey.
How did you start out?
I began my career as a member of Maranatha Choir. By then, I was still in secondary school. I got my talent from my mother who was a lead singer in a Seventh Day Adventist choir. I lost my parents when I was only four. I felt lonely and was always crying. Most of the time I used to be alone, just writing words down. Honestly I got inspiration to start writing songs from what happened to me.
But your songs are more about romance and not your history. Why?
Music is what I do. I expect to earn from it. It is not just to amuse myself. That said, what the public wants is what I give them. It’s all about the fans. When people like Medy and The Ben hit with their romantic songs, I decided that is the course I would take because that is what the fans want. If I started singing about my life, I probably wouldn’t have gotten as many fans.
You are quite beautiful and famous, how do you handle the limelight?
(Laughs) I am very simple and really nice to everyone. I don’t consider myself famous. I am still the ‘Kabebe’ they know from the village. I like having people around me.
I don’t feel special or turn people away. They are the ones who made me who I am now and without them, I would not be Knowless. Many people may think that fame and money have changed me but I am still ‘Kabebe’. Those who collected water, firewood and played games with me know that I haven’t changed. I know my past and where I came from.
You used to do gospel before going secular. Why the transition?
I did not leave gospel music per se; I changed my course a bit. I even have gospel songs prepared for my third album. The problem is that with gospel music, I cannot make the kind of money secular music makes. However, I am still a Christian who fears and respects God.
What are your future plans?
I want to go international. I get inspiration from Cécile Kayirebwa and Brandy Norwood. When I feel sad I listen to their music and it gives me the strength to keep going.
How do you handle haters?
At first, it bothered me but now I do not mind if people or the media invent stories about me. It just makes me want to get up and work even harder. I know what I want and where I want to be so I do not have time for them.
As Brand Ambassador of MTN, has that helped your career?
I am blessed; they support me musically and provide a firm platform for my career. This is why I have to work very hard. You harvest what you sow, after this long journey; I can now taste the fruit of my sweat.
What was this year’s Primus Guma Guma Super Star competition like?
Ooh la la. Actually, I did not enter the competition expecting to win. My music is not based on it. However, I do not accept that I lost it because they have never showed us the results yet most of the competitors asked for them.
Any advice to the women?
Some women lack confidence. When I started, it was not easy. I wasn’t sure when I would get here, but motivation and confidence definitely helped me. Focus on your dreams and fight to achieve them.
Are you in a relationship?