THOMAS MUYOMBO otherwise known by his stage name, TOM CLOSE is one of Rwanda’s leading musicians. Tom Close is set to thrill his fans with what is billed as one of the biggest concerts in Kigali in recent times. The event will coincide with the launch of his third album.
By staging the event during the 17th celebration of the Rwanda’s Liberation Day, Tom Close narrates to The New Times’ FRED OLUOCH-OJIWAH about the current and future trends of Rwandan music.
How do you connect music with medicine? It is a very rare combination you are pursuing in life.
It is very hard to explain fully the connection, but I will try. Music is my passion while medicine is my dream. I can also say that my quest to study medicine started when I was a child. While growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor.
My late mum used to suffer from ulcers and her condition affected me so much since she was always in pain most of the time. And so I promised her that one of the things I wanted to do later on in life was to be a doctor in order to provide a cure for her malady.
Also, while growing up, I developed the passion for music. That is why there is a connection between music and medicine in my life. I have a goal I am chasing and at the same time a passion.
Why are you staging a concert during the Liberation Day celebrations?
The main reason is the concept of my album launch. I am dedicating my album to our heroes. I want to pay tribute to our liberators. I am giving myself a chance to perform for them.
You are not dedicating a song to them?
A song for the liberators is coming up. I am still working on it.
It is said that music has distracted you from your studies. What is your response to this?
I am very much aware that so much is said about me. However, I must say that it is not true that music is interfering with my studies. I actually started singing while I was in my first year at campus and now I am in my fifth year. If you do not study you do not get promoted academically. It’s simple and clear.
Have you made money from music?
Whatever money I have made has been ploughed back into deepening my music career. My eyes are firmly set on the future.
Can Rwandan music scale up to global heights? Take for example stars like; D’Banj, Felly Ipupa, P Square. When are we having a Rwandan musician joining that list?
In the whole of Africa, in order to understand where we are headed to, you need to know where we are coming from. A case in point being D’Banj; he has been in music for more than 15 years.
Tom Close on the other hand has hardly five years in the industry. Much as the ambition is there it is important to take note of that very fact I have just mentioned.
Don’t you think five years is good enough?
Five years is not good enough. Added to that observation is the fact that we started from ground zero. We did not start from a base level like the rest in Africa remember that factor.
Since you are a pioneer, aren’t you working toward taking Rwandan music to the continental and even global levels?
That can happen in a few years’ time.
I personally have an ambition of becoming the best African male artist.
Will this dream become true before the year 2020?
Yes. In five years time to be precise and once I am done with college after next year, then I will have ample time to polish up my musical acts.
Does it mean that you will abandon medicine in order to concentrate on music?
Let us talk about your upcoming event. I would like to think that it is the biggest show by a local artist just by looking at who else will be performing. How much did it cost you to put it together?
The whole budget is in excess of Rwf 36 million.
Majority of it from MTN?
A good chunk from MTN but we managed to rope in other sponsors.
Why then did you jump into organizing such a massive concert?
We are used to having some of our security forces going for peacekeeping missions abroad while within our boundaries these same officers have been steadfast in ensuring that we have stability.
For the good job they are doing, it is always good to appreciate their efforts. Staging this concert is one way of appreciating their efforts.
Much as I have a very busy schedule, I decided that it had to be done.
How many fans are you expecting on that day?
For the VIP show at Serena Hotel, Kigali, we expect about 1,500 to 2,000 fans. We expect to attract over 10,000 fans at the stadium.That sounds like some good cash you are going to generate.
Are you channeling a portion of such proceeds to a course or Tom Close is expected to pocket everything that is collected? Remember you are talking about the Liberation Day.
Remember also that I talked about the costs that have to be recouped. I must also add that, in order to ensure success of staging an event of such scale, it is important to be well organized. In order to be well organized, costs have to be taken care of and this means that gate collection covers only a certain percentage of the entire budget. I must add that we are just planning to break even.
What are we expecting in the coming days after that concert?
After the concert of course the “Guma Guma” super star competition takes centre stage in Rwanda. I have to take it so that I can fast track my match towards being named best African male artist.
In order to do so, I need to perform and record with Sean Kingston.
What makes you so confident that you will be the winner?
My huge fan base makes me confident.
How many fans do you have?
I cannot tell but I do believe that I have the biggest fan base in the country. I base my thinking on my past shows. A case in point is my last album launch where over 8,000 fans turned up.
Apart from “Guma Guma” star search, what else is coming up?
More music, more videos and, more music: I am planning bigger collaborations with other regional artists. The idea is to take our music out there.
How about upcoming artists? Are pioneers like you mentoring them? What are established artists doing to tap into raw talent that is plenty?
I am planning to create an avenue that will support such raw talent. I am planning to set up a state of the art studio that will boost music recording standards locally. That should benefit such upcoming artists.
I also plan to start up a firm that specifically promotes music locally. However, such plans largely depend on how much money I will be able to raise in the coming days.
Closely related to what you are saying is this thing known as entrepreneurship. A successful musician must also be a successful entrepreneur.
Just take a closer look at some of the most successful artists such as Akon. If you are not an entrepreneur, I can tell you that it does not matter how much money you make as all that comes in will go down the drain.
Do you have what it takes to be a good entrepreneur?
The assurance I can give you is that I am trying to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset.
I will give you a perfect case. My previous concerts were largely organized by other companies. This one coming up is different .Tom Close is organizing his own concerts from now hence forth.
It is the beginning of a new journey in my life in terms of so many things. Tom Close is trying very hard to get first hand knowledge of marketing, sales and relating directly to sponsors.
Music can have both a positive and negative influence in society. What is your message to the young people in society?
To be successful you must be principled. When you are principled, then you are a good role model in society. My principles are that music is my business. I want to earn a living out of my music. .
In order to do that, I need to be a very good role model in this society. I am talking about the lyrics in my songs and my videos. I try to keep level headed.
We are not likely to see explicit music and videos from Tom Close?
Why is it that it appears that there is a similar style of music coming from artists like you and others such as The Ben, Meddi and the like?
We do not have to blame it on the musicians per se. It is a societal thing.
However, I am quick to add that such trends are fading. That was a thing of the past. There is more variety now.