It’s rare to find young people who are passionate about traditional music. However, Deo Munyakazi is quite a head turner—he is a budding artiste doing traditional music. He is passionate and proud to be identified by this genre. His talent is as refreshing, appealing and fascinating as his persona.
The-24-year-old might be new on the music scene, but within a short span he is already being touted as a rising traditional music star. Some of his songs include, Ikaze ikibondo, Ngwino urebe, Si impanuka, Twimakaze umuco, and Urakwiriye mwami, among others
“I’m a proudly Rwandan traditional music artiste, and I play Inanga very well,” this is the first response you get when you ask him to describe himself.
Like most established traditional instrumentalists, Munyakazi had the passion right from a young age. “I had a passion for traditional music and knew that l wanted to be a musician. I always had a rhythm in me from a young age and would find myself trying to play traditional instruments, especially Inanga, which I later mastered,” he says, adding: “Music runs in my family lineage. My great grandfather used to play Inanga, though I attribute the inspiration and enthusiasm to some of the country’s popular artistes like Emanuel Habimana and JMV. Mushabizi.”
Munyakazi has performed at different events and festivals with some of the leading traditional musicians, such as famous Rwandan vocalist and composer Cecile Kayirebwa, and Guy Beaujot from Belgian. Last year, he worked with Henhouse Prowlers- an American band, during their tour to Africa. He also did a fusion with the band in a mixed sound of Inanga, violins, acoustic, and banjo.
Inanga, is a Rwandan traditional harp-like instrument made out of wood, with strings which run above a wooden trough. The origin of the traditional musical instrument dates back to the time of kingdoms, as it was played during rituals, for the king in Palace to make him happy and sleepy, and in harvest celebration, among others.
In Rwanda, legends like Bernard Rujindiri, Viator Kabarira, Joseph Sebatunzi, Thomas Kirusu, Jmv. Mushabizi, Habimana Emanuel, Sophia Nzayisenga, and Daniel Ngarukiye, are among the artistes responsible for making Rwandan traditional music popular in the region and beyond.
Munyakazi encourages young people to embrace and learn how to perform some of these traditional instruments.
He says that as the creative industry advances, music schools should feature courses for traditional instruments not only modern instruments and that social media should be another tool to showcase Rwanda’s traditions and culture.
Munyakazi currently performs at weddings and social events. He is a fourth year student of Modern Languages, Arts and Creative industries at the University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences in Huye District.