“Turikumwe”: The Ben, Mike Ellison collaboration

The Ben confirmed to The New Times in an interview that he did a track with Michael Ellison, alias MIKE-E. The “Turikumwe” song was produced by Wendome studio, in Royal Oak, Mi, and released on December 23.
The Ben and MIKE-E
The Ben and MIKE-E

The Ben confirmed to The New Times in an interview that he did a track with Michael Ellison, alias MIKE-E.

The “Turikumwe” song was produced by Wendome studio, in Royal Oak, Mi, and released on December 23.

The seeds of “Turikumwe” were planted in Kigali, on the evening of July 26, 2010, when MIKE-E took to the stage at the Pan African Dance Festival (FESPAD), at Amahoro Stadium’s main parking lot and carried the crowd through a journey he calls Afroflow. 

Backed by DJ Invisible, the singer brought everybody to their feet with poignant lyrics, cultural dances and the call and response chant that was the seed of “Turikumwe”.

MIKE-E interpreted the letters of “RWANDA” to mean: Rebuild With Africa Never Divide Again, and everybody joined in loudly and proudly. He describes the moment as one of the most memorable experiences of his career.

“As African-Americans, any time we step foot on the African continent it is meaningful,” MIKE-E said.

“Seeing a sea of beautiful Rwandan people smiling and hearing them chant “Rebuild With Africa Never Divide Again” over and over was humbling and overwhelming. I felt an instant connection with the people and the country,” he added.

During his week in Rwanda, MIKE-E experienced and appreciated the country’s culture, music, food, language, history, as well as the beautiful landscape known as “the land of a thousand hills”.

The star was deeply moved and influenced by visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and speaking to survivors, who persevered over terrible pain. Beyond the sadness, Mike was inspired by their [survivors] courage and the way Rwandans were collectively rebuilding the country.

One of Mike’s hosts taught him that “Turikumwe” meant “We are together” and that the deeper meaning was “We are together even when we are apart.” This touched the star, because he was still mourning the untimely death of his father, Bob Ellison, only a few months before FESPAD.

MIKE-E wrote the verses for “Turikumwe” during the long flight home.

“I got rave reviews from close friends and family, and read about MIKE- performance in Kigali. My friends in Detroit connected me to MIKE-E when he had just returned from Rwanda,” The Ben noted.

“He told me about “Turikumwe” and asked if I would translate some lyrics into Kinyarwanda and sing on the record,” The Ben said.

“I was very happy and honoured to be a part of this project. It was an opportunity to remind my country, my fans and my family that I was still with them all the way. I got so much impressed seeing a big artiste like Mike-E, who really wants tell the world the truth about the Rwanda of today,” The Ben recounted.

“Mike wanted to speak from the perspective of Rwandans. When he says “we” in the song he is simply being respectful of us, not trying to speak as if he experienced the Genocide. He is sharing the feelings that Rwandans expressed to him,” The Ben explained.

The song is a celebration of how far Rwandans have come and where they are going. And as “Turikumwe” song says, it is also a reminder that the: world watched while Rwandans wept”. The world stood by and did nothing to stop the Genocide.

Most importantly, the song speaks to all African nations about peace, reconciliation and improving our lives together.

Apart music, The Ben said that he plans to enroll in the school of music in 2012.

“There is also a possibility of me coming back home. I love and miss my country, my home and my people!” The Ben concluded.

MIKE-E is an actor, Hip-hop and Spoken Word recording artist, songwriter and producer. The Detroit-based lyricist was born in Ethiopia, where he supports orphan outreach and healthcare programmes.

linda.mbabazi@newtimes.co.rw

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