Tusker Project Fame All Stars winner Alpha Rurangira talks to Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah of The New Times before he sets off to Kenya to perform in a star studded gig as part of the regional music award.
Has events in the last 3 months refined your career in any way?
Yes, the events in the last 3 months has. For instance the Tusker All Stars was good. It was a milestone in my career. It was a learning experience.
Has it refined your career going forward?
Yes it has, much as one can say that it is a journey we are travelling. Along the way we learn to grow further. Learning keeps you posted knowing that you have responsibility over society.
Some people say that you never won the Tusker All stars, claiming that all the stars won in equal measure.
People are entitled to say what they have to say.
What I am saying is that that they claim that there was no number one or two or three or four in the contest.
The same people do not seem to be following such events closely.
Then it means that you have to put the record straight.
It is unfortunate to hear such remarks. However, for those who bothered to read and see the regional news it was all there.
I must add that entertainment and media is all linked up. It does not matter whether it is local or regional news.
The truth is that during the contest was on a winning streak each and every week of the contest. We had 8 weeks and I was top throughout. It was in the news. So to put the record straight I emerged number one in the contest.
That is very good. With such good performance, can it be said that you are making money? Is music sustaining your life?
Can one say that the music industry in Rwanda is sustaining you 100 percent?
No. I can say that maybe music is sustaining me partly, to the tune of only 25 percent.
What does that mean?
It means that while some progress has been registered the journey to be covered is still long for the music industry in Rwanda.
Going forward , what needs to be done? Especially, when one considers your achievements. If you managed to top East African artists, then the question is- why is it that you still cannot sustain your self from music? In other countries of the East African Community, top musicians are now able to rely exclusively on their musical talents.
One thing that I must highlight is that Rwandans love their music. However, what is also a fact is that Rwandans do not seem keen on supporting their own artists.
I will give an example. Someone calls you for to perform in his weeding.
He loves you very much, he is a big fan. But it all ends there. This particular fan cannot give you the kind of money worth giving a top musician. That is where the challenge is.
The best of way of sustaining a musician is to support him in order for him to advance his career. It is a relationship that should work both ways.
If that cannot happen then there is a problem. All I can say is that Rwandans have not reached that level of appreciating our music in a manner that can enable us support our livelihoods.
Meaning that, we are only left with taking music as a side deal. Which is not a very good way of thinking about this industry.
People need to understand that music is a profession like any other. Closely related to that is that we need new policies to protect and nurture talent.
Can you give an estimate of how many CDs you have sold so far?
I cannot give a number as it is very low.
Don’t you think that such figures are depressing?
Very much. Especially when one considers the awards that I have won. There are numerous. I am not talking about national but I am talking about bigger awards. I am talking about things like African Music Awards.
Then, how is Alpha going to sustain his music at least in the short term?
One way is through thinking outside the borders of our country. That is not to mean that home is not the best. However, you cannot wait for the industry to grow, as you need to grow up fast as time is of essence here.
It is said that you are a beneficiary of a presidential scholarship. Are you going to abandon your music to concentrate on studies?
If it works out as promised, then it will not disrupt but boost my career as a musician. This is due to the fact that I intend to study music business.
Where do you intend to pursue your studies?
In the United States of America (USA).
What is your latest music all about?
My latest music is called “Child of Africa”. It is about giving back to society through assisting the famine victims in the horn of Africa. It is about showing concern and solidarity with those affected by famine in that part of Africa.
That is a very good initiative.
It is about those with plenty giving up some to those who do not.
How are you actually, going to do it?
As an artist I consider myself to be a mirror of the society. So given that fact, it is about mobilizing society to take serious action through music. I have individuals backing me up on that one.
That is the best way of involving my country in coming to the assistance of the victims of famine in the horn of Africa.