First it was our own diva Knowless who was denied a visa to perform at a concert in Canada. Then RnB star King James was also shown a red card when he tried to secure a visa to Canada where he had been invited for a music show organised by the Rwandan community living in Canada.
In the celebrity music world getting a visa to perform outside one’s country is usually like a walk in the park. These are supposed to be ‘VIPs’ who only travel to perform on invitation and after return home to their waiting bevy of fans. They are not looking for the visa to go and do odd jobs to survive. At least that is the perception in the mind of a typical music fan back home.
So why is America and Canada ‘humiliating’ our ‘celebs’?
Well observers say that looking at the list of local musicians who have travelled to the US and Canada to perform at concerts, but never to return home, you wouldn’t blame the US or Canada for the latest development.
And now, the latest victim of the visa denial are Dream Boys, who were scheduled to perform in Belgium with Urban Boyz and Jay Polly but have failed to obtain visas, according to information obtained by press time.
However, entertainment observers say that the Dream Boys’ case might be their own making. Last year in December, they were offered visas to perform in Belgium on condition that they return immediately after the concert, but they didn’t return until January 3 this year. The ‘over staying of their visit’ had prompted rumours that the group would not come back. Critics say this time the Belgian embassy chose not to take a risk of giving the Dream Boys a second chance to “over stay their visit’ or worse still join the many others who have never returned back home.
Now, the latest in a series of scandals involving Rwandan artistes who get visas to perform in Europe and never come back is that musician Mani Martin might not return back from France where he had gone to attend singer Miss Shanel’s wedding last month. Reports coming in from France indicate that Mani Martin is currently in talks with several people for long term opportunities and may not be coming back soon.
(Don't Cry by Mani Martin. Source: Mani Martin/YouTube)
The disappearance of Rwandan musicians abroad is not something new.
It can be traced back to 2011 when popular musicians Meddy and The Ben disappeared while in America where they had been invited by the Rwandan International Network Association for a concert.
Stories of their disappearance were received with shock from their fans back home and in the international community which had invited them. Since then, other musicians have also left the country and not returned.
Last year, Musician Kitoko left the country saying he was going for further studies in America but didn’t make it to college. Close relatives say that he is now doing odd work and is not likely to return and revive his career.
(I Can See by The Ben. Source: Press One Rwanda/YouTube)
In September last year, Mani Martin and Kesho Band were invited to perform in France at a music festival, however only two members out of the six member team returned home. Among the two was Mani Martin.
Following suit in disappearing act of artistes is Kamichi, who left the country promising to be back soon but his coming back soon has become too long that his fans have started jokingly saying that he will come back with Jesus.
Kamichi left the country saying he was in search of music partners such as producers and a manager who can help him with his career growth. However, close reports indicate that he had an invitation from a close female friend which made it easier for him to get a visa.
(Barandahiye by Kamichi. Source: Inyarwanda TV/YouTube)
The last person to leave was Producer Lick Lick, a well known music producer who, with the help of Meddy and The Ben, also left the country and joined them, together with Kavuyo K8 who was already there pursuing further studies. Together they formed Press One Music Label. Later, things didn’t go well and Lick Lick left the music label and headed to More Records in Dayton Ohio.
All these artistes with the exception of Kavuyo K8 disappeared while in the US and this has raised questions as to why Rwandan artistes, who are big back at home, decide to stay abroad permanently. It is this reason, some entertainment observers say, that is hindering the issuance of visas to other artistes who have been invited to perform abroad.
(Nasara by Meddy. Source: Press One Rwanda/YouTube)
So why do artistes leave?
Most artistes who have left the country did so claiming that their style of music had no place in Rwanda. However, seasoned music expert Lion Imanzi says they go abroad thinking that things are easy.
“There are two fundamental problems here. The first is that most artistes fail to understand the music industry at home and secondly, they fail to assess the music industry of the place they are going to. They go abroad thinking they will easily make a name but they don’t study the realities of the music industry there,” he says.
Lion Imanzi adds that it is unfortunate to see young talented artistes leaving the country thinking they can make it abroad yet even the locals there find it difficult to break through their music industry. Our music industry is growing and quite frankly we have several artistes making it big here.
“It’s a common mistake made by most of the artistes. When they see a person like R Kelly, they tend to think that everyone is like him but forgetting that he’s probably one out of many who made it. So, when they fail to see prospects locally, they decide to go abroad which doesn’t make sense. For example, I do believe that Meddy and The Ben would be doing much better if they were here because making it in America is very difficult,” Imanzi says.
Asked if the disappearance of artistes might be a reason that embassies are reluctant to issue visas to other artistes, Lion Imanzi responds in the affirmative saying that it is possible.
“It is most likely that embassies would refuse to issue visas if such things are happening. When any person is applying for a visa, he is asked to bring various documents as evidence that you will return but if we have artistes who are unreliable, that might affect other artistes’ chances of performing abroad,” Imanzi adds.
In what entertainment enthusiasts say might be a big blow to our music industry, if artistes are denied visas to perform abroad, it is left to be seen if some of them will throw in the towel over chasing the American dream and return or if other home based artistes will follow suit. Either way, artistes will still dream big, they just have to make good choices.