We need to sustain the Rwandan culture, says traditional singer Munyakazi

24-year-old Deo Munyakazi plays the Izita, also known as the Inanga which is an instrument that is made up of strings and wood with pentatonic scale.
Deo Munyakazi.
Deo Munyakazi.

24-year-old Deo Munyakazi plays the Izita, also known as the Inanga which is an instrument that is made up of strings and wood with pentatonic scale.

He is a rising traditional music star who has had the passion for the instrument right from a young age. He had a chat with Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa on his experience in the field and plans for his career.

 

You’re a young man with modernity right before you, why choose to go traditional?

 

I started learning how to play the Inanga in 2012 from a legend called Jeanvier Mushabizi, an inanga player. I used to play piano and guitar but I realised that they are originally western yet the Izita is our traditional instrument and our identity. 

 

I developed a strong passion for this instrument because I realised that it’s the heritage, legacy and beauty of Rwanda. I also felt that there was a need to sustain our culture and teach the young generation and keep it alive for generations to come.

Can you say that you have taken pride in your journey so far?

Having performed with Cecile Kayirabwa, Henhouse Prowlers, which is a famous band in America, Guillame Perret a saxophonist and Kesia Jones who plays his own style ‘blufunk’ which is a combination blues and funk gives me the impression that I can blend with all kinds of music styles. 

I also had the opportunity train students at the Nyundo School of Art and music how to play traditional instruments.

What response have you gotten from the public?

I’ve learnt that Rwandans don’t give the Inanga instrument value. They think it’s for the uneducated and elderly and some say it doesn’t belong to me but I’m glad that my parents and other elderly people are however are in support of my decision and they are amazed at doing what has faded out in my generation. The youth are slowly catching up and slowly appreciating.

What are your future plans?

I recently got a bachelors degree in Modern Languages, Arts and Creative industries at the University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences and I dream of using my skills to be creative with my Inanga by doing collabos with international artists like Richard Bona, Manno Gallo, Ally Keita, Joel Sebunjo, Muqi Li, Alif Naaba and Lokwa Kanza. 

I’m planning to create other Inanga styles and incorporate it within different styles of HipHop, Reggae and zulu and also release videos of my songs. I also have a dream of setting up Inanga School of music and I’m teaching interested people how to play the Inanga on YouTube. I’m using social media to spread our spirit of the Rwandan culture all over the world.

What is your message to Rwandans?

Our culture is very rich but some Rwandans are clueless about it. This is the time to know deeply about our culture through different mediums that are sustainable. Through loving and showing pride in it, the world will come to know of it too. 

I meet some people who tell me that they have seen the instrument for the first time. My wish is that the world identifies it as a Rwandan traditional instrument.

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