Tidjara Kabendera is a TV and radio host at Rwanda Broadcasting Agency and presents the East Africa Connection Show that airs every Saturday on RTV. She is also a Swahili language advocate and music promoter. She had a chat with Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa about her career journey thus far.
How did you join journalism?
My later father Shinani Kabendera was a sports journalist from 1973 -1994 working with Radio Rwanda reporting mostly in Kiswahili and English. When the genocide began we moved to his native country, Tanzania. He also worked with BBC until 2000 when he passed on. Shortly after his passing, I joined university and decided to pursue Journalism in Tanzania, so I could carry on his legacy even though I wasn’t passionate about sports. I completed my course in 2003 and came back to Rwanda the following year and joined Radio Rwanda.
Where did you derive your passion in entertainment?
My father was also an entertainment reporter but his passion was mainly in sports. For me, I love music instead and not so much a sports enthusiast. At school I always actively participated in entertainment shows and even though I don’t go to night clubs, listening to music is what I enjoy most. When I joined radio and TV, there were so many entertainment programs that needed presenters and I was happy to be part of them.
You have also been a Swahili language advocate. How does it make you feel, now that it was made an official language?
My father was always proud of reporting in Swahili. He loved his mother tongue and he made us love it as well. When I came to Rwanda, media houses needed Swahili journalists and I was lucky to find a job.
With time I realised that language was not valued in this country which was discouraging but just like I treasure Kinyarwanda I also love Swahili and its songs because it’s my father’s language. When Rwanda decided to make the language official, I was excited because my efforts and that of my father’s have not been in vain.
I saw a big difference last weekend when we held a Swahili festival with an entire discussion conducted in Swahili language. In schools and universities, the language is being taught and is being promoted in several institutions.
Businesses in Rwanda are also expanding as East Africa continues to integrate, and many are eager to learn and I feel happy. I have also met many journalists who have been inspired by me and evenlearned Swahili and it makes me happy.
How has your entertainment show ‘East Africa Connection Show’ contributed to promoting Rwandan music?
The entire show is conducted in Swahili and it basically covers East Africa’s music scene. All these countries speak Swahili and I have expanded my viewership across East Africa and I am happy about it.
Now people who know Swahili, especially Tanzania are learning about Rwanda which is evident from the comments we get about the show. With over 5,000 followers of the show on Instagram, half of them are Tanzanians, which proves that my efforts to promote Rwandan music are not for nothing.