DESPITE a heavy downpour, KigaliUp! Music Festival lived up to expectations by serving up the finest undiluted performances from home and aboard.
By the same token, the fairly well-attended show at the roundabout of Primature in Kimihurura, a suburb of Kigali, delivered on its promise as the first major celebration of music in the country.
And in the spirit of the theme, Mighty Popo, Shad, Shakura S’Aida, Lokua Kanza, Kidumu alongside locally-based artistes, performed well and left the revellers longing for more.
The Rwandan rhythms became the highpoint of the night, with Mighty Popo and his backup singers, displaying dexterity, elegance and impassioned performances as he brought the show to its climax with traditional music.
Exactly five years ago, Juno Award-winning Rwandan-Canadian artiste Mighty Popo, had a vision of bringing together different artistes to perform in Rwanda.
“I have always wanted to pay back to Rwanda and I am glad that the festival finally happened,” Mighty Popo said.
The singer, real name Jacques Murigande added: “It was not easy at all to make my dream come true because I did not have enough money.”
“I started contacting different people to support the project and even performed in people’s homes and I saved money,” he added.
Finally, Mighty Popo’s dream was realised: “Am very grateful to the team of music industry veterans from Canada and Rwanda, volunteers and Positive Productions for making this happen. This collaboration means we can develop music.
“We can make music grow and give it new meaning by providing musical challenges, new environment, new instruments and new ways of playing,” he noted.
Different artistes kept the revellers on their toes, with their scorching performances, despite the unfriendly weather.
“I enjoyed the Rwandan music and the performances that I couldn’t even mind about the chilliness. Generally, all the artistes delivered great performances,” Dawit Debessay, an Eritrean architect working in Rwanda said.
If anyone rocked the festival late-evening, that was the smooth Congolese Jazz maestro Lokua Kanza – Singer, songwriter, and composer. His musical trademark is intact and perhaps better presented than ever. The characteristic guitar themes, often based on a gliding chord-like structure as opposed to singular notes, make his sound easily recognisable.
He still has full power and control of his voice, making some passages terrific not only in technical execution, but also in expression, especially with a song such as ‘Mama ndagukunda.’
The highlight of the evening came when Lokua was alone on stage, entertaining the revellers at close hand, with anecdotes as he drifted through a medley of his many compositions. Creating a rare intimacy and honoring requests from the audience.
The KigaliUp! came alive with two stages and the sound equipment was friendly. Other events on the festival’s calendar included a marketplace, beer garden and a family zone.
Speaking to The New Times, Canadian Blues and Jazz vocalist, songwriter and actress, Shakura S’Aida said: “It’s my first in Rwanda and the first time I have performed here. When I met Kerry Clarc, one of the main organsiers of the KigaliUp festival and a good friend to Mighty Popo, she told me that they were organising a concert in Rwanda – and I told her that I wanted to volunteer, so we started to fundraise for the concert,” she said.
“It’s very important for me because I have always wanted to come here. I have always wanted to come to Africa and make a change not as a singer but as person. So I was so excited to be part of the festival because it had never happened before,” she added.
Shakura also noted: “No matter what I have read and heard about Rwanda, I do not understand how the genocide happened. I can tell you how kind, beautiful and lovely Rwandans are.”
“I am really touched. I have put information about Kigali and posted different things about the Rwandan artistes on my Facebook page, so people can read about these artistes and the country for themselves,” Shakura added.