Liza Kamikazi is back

Star speaks about juggling music and motherhood.She is remembered for her 2009 hit song Rahira, which she did with The Ben, and other songs that made her a household name.
Proud mother Liza Kamikazi poses for the camera. Courtesy photos.
Proud mother Liza Kamikazi poses for the camera. Courtesy photos.

Star speaks about juggling music and motherhood.

She is remembered for her 2009 hit song Rahira, which she did with The Ben, and other songs that made her a household name.

However, 25-year old Liza Kamikazi took a break from the music to focus on her family, only returning to the music scene at the beginning of 2013.

The New Times’ Linda Mbabazi caught up with the songwriter/actress and she spoke about her music, future plans and family. Excerpts:

TNT: Who is Liza Kamikazi?

LK: My name is Solange Umuhire Liza, but I am best known as Liza Kamikazi. I am a singer/songwriter, actress and a mother of two – a boy and a girl. I have been married for a year now but when I got married, I already had one kid that I had adopted. He is now two years and a half.

I was born in 1987 in Tumba, Huye in the Southern Province. I’m second in a family of five...we are three girls and two boys. My parents are both teachers.

Huye is where I attended all my studies, from primary to high school and, then, the National University of Rwanda, where I graduated in Journalism three years ago.

I have been in the music industry for almost six years and have one album and more than 40 singles to my name. I’m currently working on my second album, dubbed Iwacu, which I will release sometime this year.

TNT: Your music has transformed from mainstream Afrobeat to a more contemporary Kinyarwanda traditional style. What inspired you to switch?

LK: From childhood, when I was seven or eight, I started listening to a lot of music but I was mainly attracted to traditional music – songs by the likes of Muyango, Kamaliza, Cecile Kayirebwa and others.

I began my career in the music industry as a primary school student singing in a church choir. When I was in high school I began teaching myself how to write songs and composed my first songs and I continued learning through recordings and from other musicians.

At that, a lot of music was being played on radios, and I could not resist listening to all the music. But when I was in secondary school, I met new friends, especially from Kigali and that is when I started to get in touch with modern music.

My interest in music at that point got mixed up or I sort of got confused if I may say, but, fortunately, this allowed me to develop a taste for different music genres.

At 18, I became more interested in Pop music. However, for six or so years, I tried to mix traditional and modern (pop style) music. Now I feel I have reached a point where I need an identity and focus.

I want people to listen and identify me by the type of music I do, which is a sign of maturity. Of course with my new status as a married woman, it also comes with a change of who I am, and what I do. I have had to rethink what I do but my dream has always been to do something Rwandan, something African.

TNT: You have switched to a style which many modern musicians might find challenging, especially at the time when many artistes use auto tune. What gives you the confidence?

LK: What gives me confidence is my passion for music – my love for arts. This is something that won’t change any time soon. It is part of me, it is part of my life and I realised if I had to do it for a living, or to be able to leave a legacy behind, I cannot just be doing something just to make a hit.

I don’t want to do something where I will be on the stage today and people clap but tomorrow no one remembers the song. So I had to rethink about my style and, fortunately, my husband, who is also a trained musician and producer, supports me in this vision.

It was not easy because I had started like any other musician using auto tune and playback but now here I am with a dream to do something different and I want to see where it can take me. I am pretty confident that it will work out.

TNT: You are certainly gifted with a great voice, is Rwanda going to see a new Cecile Kayirebwa or Maria Yohani in you?

LK: (Laughs) I cannot tell. Of course those ladies inspired me, especially Cecile Kayirebwa. I don’t know if I will ever be like her but I want to be yet another but different artiste who will take Rwandan cultural music a step ahead. I look at the likes of Kayirebwa and Florida Uwera as my role models alongside others like Angelique Kidjo, Miriam Makeba, Kajanine and all those renowned African women musicians. I listen to their music a lot.

TNT: You have re-launched yourself as a musician after a break with your family. What should we expect next?

LK: There is a lot to expect from me. I cannot tell because I also surprise myself. There are many more surprises coming, in a positive way. The break gave me the opportunity to reflect on many things and come up with new ideas. Watch this space.

TNT: Tell us about your new album?

LK: I have been working on it for quite some time now, even before I got married. Actually by the time I got married the recording was done. It is an Afro-fusion, with a contemporary touch. It has several traditional songs and some African songs on it. It also has a touch of Jazz and Blues. It has eight singles. I recorded them with Frank Mastola (a local music producer).

I also recorded some of the songs with different people, including my husband, David Ward, who’s a guitarist, and Mani Martin, who added some vocals, among others.

The album talks about my journey, as I try to discover myself as a Rwandan and African singer. I want to find where I belong in music. That is why I called it Iwacu – which means my roots or back home.

TNT: How do you manage to balance motherhood, and your career as an artiste?

LK: Well, I would say that I always keep on mind that my career is part of my life as a mother and not the other way around – meaning that family comes first. So far, it has been working even if sometimes it is not easy but I am so lucky because my husband supports me in my music. As they say, where there is a will there is a way; so the passion I have for the arts has to find its place in my family life. And thanks God it is happening.

TNT: Lastly tell us about your love life, how did you meet your husband?

LK: (Sighs). What a coincidence! We actually met here, at Umubano Hotel (where the interview took place), and that was in August 2009. I was organising my first album launch.

At that time, Hope Azeda of Mashirika was my manager. She had heard about a group of people who had come in to train musicians, one of them was David Wald, and she said these people could actually give me some bit of training before I could go on stage. The rest is history as they say.

Actually, for some reason the launch never happened. It had to do with organisation and timing but I continued working with David and in 2011 we walked down the aisle.

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