Jean Paul Gatsinda is one of the pioneers of the Rwandan pop music scene. The audio producer and sound engineer is better known by his artistic moniker –Jay P Productions, or simply Jay P. His professional portfolio features beat-making stints at numerous music production houses and a few creative agencies in Kigali.
Through it all, he has had the opportunity to work with some of the renowned names on the local music scene: he has produced songs for musicians like Kitoko, Miss Jojo, the former KGB Group, Rafiki, The Ben, Miss Shanel, Riderman, King James, Lil G and Lil Ngabo.
Away from the local music scene, he has worked with foreign artistes as well –names like Professor J and Lady Jay D from Tanzania, and Navio from Uganda.
Currently, Jay P plies his trade at 08, (the “O” as in letter “O”), a music studio and record label located in Niboye Sector in Kicukiro, in the City of Kigali. Incidentally, Kicukiro is where he was born, raised and schooled.
And that explains the choice of name for the studio and record label:
“08 has a meaning. I and my business partner were both born in the 1980s and that’s the music we have listened to since we were young because 80s music is the one which is driving the world today. That’s why we are 08.”
“I grew up in a family of six children and I’m the third. My parents were both school teachers. I have a son of five years old. My brothers are talented too. One of them, S.B also sings, and works at Rwanda Broadcasting Agency as a camera man. That’s me,” he responds after I ask him to introduce himself.
Before his current work base, Jay P worked at a studio called Hope Street, which he joined in 2009:
“Hope Street Studio was producing only music and I tried to sign and promote some artists like Kitoko, King James , Rafiki, Lil G, The Ben, Bac –T and Miss Jojo but it was hard because there were no structures in Rwanda which can support artists,” he explains his decision to move on.
“Up to now I don’t think there are good structures which can promote artists to do good music but now we’re setting a new platform for the music industry which can make an artist survive longer in the industry and also gain financially from their sweat.”
About 08 studios he says:
“This current studio is a partnership between two companies to create a new label because Hope Street Studio had shut down. Some of the artists signed didn’t respect the contract we had, so it cut my energy and I decided to produce other things like jingles and adverts for companies which also brings in money besides the music.”
His new address, 08 boasts one of the most equipped studios on the local music scene. When I paid him a visit on Thursday evening, he was laying final touches to a song by Social Mula, a local musician.
His musical journey started at a tender age, about six or seven years:
“I started to love music since I was born I think. My sisters always tell me that I used to play drums and sing at home to entertain them.”
He is thankful for his parents who, though strict school teachers, were supportive of his artistic pursuits:
“They used to tell us that if a child learns music they can catch up quickly even in the classroom. So they always supported us in our music, even up to today they still support me.”
In 1998 he joined the church as a tenor singer in the choir, from where he learnt to play the piano and bass guitar, a feat that would later inform his decision to venture into audio production. He played the two instruments for six years in the church choir.
“From there I started to go and visit studios and play there, then I saw the software they were using in the studios and learnt how to use them and today I have experience of over fifteen years in studio.”
“I don’t produce music only. I also produce serial dramas, and IVRs (voice tags for telecommunications companies). There’s a different format for recording these from music. An IVR has eight beats, while music has sixteen or thirty two.”
On why he chose music production over singing he explains:
“I couldn’t sing and at the same time produce for others. It was hard so I had to make a choice: people were like; he can’t produce for us because he’s producing his music also. It was hard for clients to trust me. So I decided to just do beats, record them and build the industry. But I know how to sing and I coach artists in the studio and direct them on the proper way to catch a good melody.”
Currently he is in talks with some prospective artists that he intends to sign on to the label.
“We have both big names and beginners. We intend to have not more than three artists at a time, because it’s a full time commitment and from experience, I think in Rwanda you can’t manage a lot of artists at the same time. It’s better to choose what you’re able to accomplish at a time. However we also have other artists that drop by with their money, we produce them and they go, just like any other studio.”
“With my experience I think I can detect talent. I’m a vocalist so it’s easy for me to know a good vocalist. Music is not a lot of things; it’s two things I think; melody, and rhythm. If an artist can fall well in the beat, I can choose that artist for Hip Hop and if they can fall well both in the melody and rhythm, they can do Dancehall or any other style well according to their style and voice and lyrics.”
He spends the better part of his day producing beats, and mixing songs both from Rwanda and abroad, “because I have a very big network all over the world. In Europe they recognize my name and have my contacts so sometimes they send me their projects which I mix and send back. I’m also an online freelancer –I just work as a consultant on other people’s projects.”
To gain visibility, he markets himself through social media platforms life Twitter, Facebook, and a personal Youtube account.
“I also upload my beats on Soundcloud and people listen and buy. I record a beat, sell it, then they record the vocals and send it, I master it, and receive my pay through Western Union.”
Away from beat making, he describes himself as a “good listener”.
“I listen to old music from the sixties, seventies and eighties to choose what to sample, because there’s nothing new in music. I listen to all types of music, from which I then pick the inspiration to create my own beats.
I also take time to practice the bass guitar and keyboard to keep myself updated.”
We wind up the interview with his observations on the recently instituted copyright law governing the music industry:
“I think it’s time for Rwandans to understand that all people using music for commercial purposes should respect the law. This is necessary because artists spend a lot of money to put out good music –in studio fees, promotion, video clips and many other things.
That money will also contribute to the country’s GDP.
But also artists should understand their rights because we can’t continue like this. Some of them are saying it’s not yet the right time but I don’t agree with them because we’ve been losing a lot of money.
What we are creating is also good for the young artists that will form the next generation of musicians. It’s important for all Rwandan artists to understand that they have a right to survive from their work.”
I appreciate the Rwandan public for the love they have started to show for their own artists as opposed to Ugandan music as it used to be, and even before that, Congolese music. We also appreciate institutions like Bralirwa that are organizing events like Guma Guma and East African Party because all of these are actions that promote Rwandan artists. I can’t say we’ve arrived yet, it’s a journey and we need to get on international TV channels like Trace and MTV. We should also see Rwandan artists performing more on the international stage.”