Patrick Nyamitari is living testimony of the lengths to which humility and versatility can take a musician on their career path.
Born on August 16, 1986, in the Eastern Province, Ngoma District, the singer, songwriter and performer is best known to many for his gospel songs like Uri Imana (You’re Lord), and Mesiya (Messiah), to mention but a few.
The artiste further lends his powerful angelic voice to a handful of popular Rwandan all-star songs, another indication of his dedication to the local music industry.
Today, he also serves as president of the Rwanda Music Federation (RMF). Previously known almost exclusively for his gospel music, Nyamitari has over the years cultivated a reputation for his versatility in different music genres.
That journey of versatility started around 2012, a turning point in the musician’s long career – one when he earned his maiden nomination for the Primus Guma Guma Superstar competition, where he emerged 20th.
The following year, he released Nimunyumve (Listen to Me), in which he calls on all Rwandans to reconcile in order to leave a legacy of love and unity to future generations.
That same year, he attended a regional music contest, the Tusker Project Fame Academy in Nairobi, where he was among the semi finalists.
He released Nyirakidederi as homage to ‘an ugly village woman’ he loves despite public opinion. He says it is heart, attitude, personality and uniqueness that attract him the most. Although the song attracted the wrath of sections of his fans, Nyamitari stayed true to self, churning out non-gospel hits like Pole, Nta Herezo, Umuntu ni nk’Undi, Nguhobere, Kalema, and Wallah.
If anything, his musical transformation has been proof that good music is good music, regardless of genre.
This year, Nyamitari scaled new musical heights when he was invited to perform as guest artist at the March edition of the Kigali Jazz Junction, a signature monthly jazz event organised by RG Consult Ltd.
At the moment, he is planning on collecting all his singles (both released works and those still in studio) into two or three albums.
He is also engaged in some music label competitions for some radio stations in France, a good opportunity to introduce himself to the international audience.
The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi found a young Nyamitari in Kigali, under the care of his two aunties. When the Interahamwe approached their home, his two aunties in a bid to shield the children from the imminent horror, sent them outdoors, where they scampered for safe havens.
Next thing Nyamitari knew, he was in a Karubanda orphanage with many other child survivors.
One day, an old family friend and serving soldier at the time came to pick Nyamitari up from the orphanage. They set off on foot through Nyungwe Forest en route to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On the trek, Nyamitari sang Shalom, Shalom Amahoro ku Bari Hafi (an old gospel song that literally translates to Shalom, Shalom, peace to those far).
After three months, his benefactor got in touch with Nyamitari’s father, who was working in Kenya at the time. The father was relieved to learn that his son was alive and well, having made several futile attempts to trace his family’s whereabouts in vain.
Through another old family friend called Rushambara, Nyamitari was returned to Kigali to reunite with family.
“I went through a lot at the time (and at such a tender age), and music was my perfect psychological release,” he reminisces.
At the tender age of seven, Nyamitari started singing and dancing in different church choirs and, it’s in this atmosphere that his talent was spotted and nurtured.
In 2003, while a student at St André High School in Kigali, where he studied Hygiene and Sanitation, he wrote and performed live a song called Il est temps on the occasion of the international day of Saint André. It was his first ever stage performance and after it, the school headmaster was so touched he publicly announced a school bursary for him for the next two school terms.
The head teacher sponsored the recording of Nyamitari’s eight-track album, which he recorded at a studio owned at the time by an old friend called Eric Clapton. The album was however never released to the market.
In 2007, two years after high school, he recorded his first song Uri Imana (first in the sense that it was the first to be released on the market). The song quickly attained hit status across the country.
Two years later, he recorded another gospel hit titled Mesiya, which made him the shining star of the year 2009. The same year, he was invited to perform with the East African superstars in a 15th Genocide commemoration song dubbed Never Again.
In 2010, he released his first album Niwe Mesiya (you are the messiah), which won Best Local Gospel Album of the Year at the Groove Music Awards.