The most trending names on the local showbiz circuit at the moment are Charly, Nina, and Alex Muyoboke.
Music lovers and fans of Charlotte Rulinda and Fatuma Nina Umuhoza (Charly na Nina) woke up to shocking news on Tuesday morning that the duo had severed all professional dealings with Decent Entertainment, the artiste management, booking and events company to which they had been signed.
The duo spent five years with Decent Entertainment, which is widely credited for their phenomenal rise from obscurity to bona fide house-hold name status.
The pair quickly secured their place as the premier girl group in the country, before going on to become arguably the most dominant fixture on the local music scene.
While many people may be only now learning about Decent Entertainment, its owner, Alex Muyoboke is a man that needs no introduction to anyone with a slight inclination for Rwandan music.
Without trying to take anything away from the Indoro hit makers, the general consensus in local music circles is that Charly na Nina would never have been who they are as we know them today, if it had not been for their professional association with Muyoboke and Decent Entertainment.
Without a doubt, Muyoboke’s track record as a musician manager is impressive, having in the past handled other such local musical heavyweights like Tom Close, Urban Boys, Dream Boys, Social Mula, and Big Farious from Burundi.
What made it hard for fans of Charly na Nina to accept the latest developments is the fact they chose to not state the reason for ditching Muyoboke.
“Charly na Nina would like to announce that they are parting company with Decent Entertainment with immediate effect. We are taking control of our own careers, setting up our own management agency to manage our own affairs, as well as promoting our music,” read part of the statement posted on Facebook.
Following the Tuesday morning announcement, the duo’s known telephone numbers have been consistently off, while Muyoboke’s own phone was constantly engaged, perhaps from the numerous calls from curious callers and media.
“Now I can’t say anything. I’m still thinking about it because the girls surprised me. But Decent Entertainment is still working,” Muyoboke said when called Thursday morning.
Muyoboke further disclosed that at the moment, he is giving artiste management a break to concentrate on the label’s other business interest – events management.
“Decent Management does not only manage artistes. We are also into Event Management. Recently we organised a Silent Disco event in Burundi. I am not managing any artistes at the moment. About managing other artistes, I’m still thinking about it. For now I am focusing on events. My next event is DJ Pius’ first album launch which will be in June or July,” he said.
Equally taken by surprise was DJ Pius, although he describes the move by Charly na Nina as “not something new.”
“In the music business whenever you make any progress the number of challenges increases. Sometimes, the musician makes faster progress as compared to their management team. Maybe they (Charly na Nina) think they have reached that level where they need to advance their careers to the next level. Regarding problems with their manager I don’t know of any,” Pius says.
Eugene Habimana, aka Cobra of the former Cadillac Nightclub, believes that the development should serve as a learning curve for other local musicians.
“I don’t think the conflicts musicians get with their managers is a big issue because music is like any other business where you can agree or disagree. You must work hard. Music means practice. When you work hard as artistes, managers will fight to sign you.
“Here in Rwanda we have very many good musicians, but they must know their value. Give yourself value by working hard and knowing how to deal with people so that when you separate with management, life goes on or you can even change management,” Cobra says.
Cobra, however, believes that artiste management as a business is yet to be fully explored on the local music scene. He decries the acute shortage of professional artiste managers.
“I think many people fear this responsibility because they know the kind of work they have to put in before they can reap profits. It’s a lot of work. Manager is just a name but what makes someone a good manager is action. You must secure at least four gigs per month. If you fail to do this then your musician will be like a spare tire,” Cobra adds.
So why are local artistes so short-lived in their dealings with professional managers?
Remmy Lubega, founder of the Neptunes Band and brains behind the Kigali Jazz Junction thinks the reasons are varied.
“I think it’s a mixture of so many things, but in a growing industry like this one, I’m personally not surprised because on both ends you find unprofessionalism –from management and from artistes.
“Usually artistes tend to be very humble in the beginning, but when they get up there, the fame comes and they don’t know how to manage it. They start listening to all sorts of advice, they start receiving so many proposals for a better arrangement and work relation and sometimes forget where they came from,” Lubega says.
Like DJ Pius, Lubega contends that it could have been a case of the artistes getting ahead of their management label.
“Maybe the onus was on management to up their game. You have to upgrade every time in line with the rate at which your product is growing. You need to tighten up in terms of how you manage them and I personally think this is what happened with Muyoboke. He is a very great guy but I didn’t see him streamline his management to be that where as the artistes grow, you also try to make strategies to protect the interests and realign the popularity of your acts,” Lubega says.
He does not rule out the possibility of artiste-poaching by rival music labels.
“There are many established brand managers out there that would wish to take on a finished product as opposed to starting from scratch. That is always expected in any business,” he says.
Or could it be that the two parties had more than a handful to handle?
Managing a girl group, Lubega contends, “is one of the hardest things in the music business. There’s a lot that goes into women than a boy band. Just managing one girl is a lot of work.
“Before a lady comes on stage there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that requires money. They have to look different all the time. That pressure is always on to keep up with trends. For example Beyonce only managed to last with her manager because he was her father. Every time they would have quarrels they would part ways then come back together as family.”
In conclusion, Lubega says, “What has happened is not new. We just wish them the best in their journey and wish Muyoboke the best as well. Personally I’m not surprised at all about their change of mind. I think many people are whispering into their ears and engaging them in discussions on how they can up their game, and giving them an international perspective of where their talent can take them, and maybe Muyoboke may not have the connections as such, at least according to Charly na Nina. But what I know for a fact is that he has sacrificed to make them what they are, because I do not know where they both came from. I can only wish him well.”