In rememberance of musicians killed during the Genocide

AS SOME musicians such as Simon Bikindi were busy urging for the annihilaton of the Tutsi during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, some of their colleagues in the profession were targeted by the killers.
  Rugamba (R) with a relative. Net photo.
Rugamba (R) with a relative. Net photo.

AS SOME musicians such as Simon Bikindi were busy urging for the annihilaton of the Tutsi during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, some of their colleagues in the profession were targeted by the killers.

The list of performing musicians who were killed during the Genocide cannot be conclusive as it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of musicians who were killed during the time.

A list published by the Association of Rwandan Musicians (LIRAM), shows only 14 musicians were killed during the Genocide but these were mainly prominent at the time. There are other ‘underground’ singers who were killed too.

The list includes André Sebanani, who was the frontman of Orchestre Impala. He is remembered for his famous hits, such as Mama Munyana and Urabaruta, among others.

Sadi Gatete, who was a member of Orchestre Abamararungu, Lotti Bizimana from Orchestre Ikibatsi, Eugène Rugerinyange of Orchestre Ingeli, Mimir Murebwayire, one of the few female musicians at the time and a member of Orchestre Les Citadins and Emmanuel Sekimonyo, famous for his stage name Manu Tabaro.

Prominent too, among those killed was Cyprien Rugamba, one of Rwanda’s most eulogised legends, who was the leader of Amasimbi n’Amakombe. He was killed in April, 1994.

Saulve Iyamuremye, a member of Indahemuka choir, Berchmas Rwakabayiza and Jean de Dieu Kayigamba, both members of Chorale de Kigali and Bernard Kalisa from Chorale Ijuru, are among those documented to have been killed during the Genocide.

Other prominent solo artistes killed during the 1994 Genocide include Rodrigue Karemera remembered for songs, such as Urwibutso rw’Umutoni and Ndakwibuka, as well as the musical couple of Agnes Uwimbabazi and Dieudonné Bizimungu.

The New Times visited Abdoul Makanyaga, one of the country’s legendary musicians, who knew most of the musicians killed during the Genocide and performed with a number of them, at his home in Gikondo to discuss the lives of the deceased.

Makanyaga, says he quit two bands; Le Copain, after it was hired to perform for the military in Camp Kigali as well as Orchestre Abamararungu after they started involving themselves with bad politics.

“I had another job to sustain me as a technician in the American Embassy. I used my savings to set up my own band Inkumburwa with my colleagues but it was to be disintegrated during the Genocide,” says Makanyaga.

“Most of my band mates including those we were with in Le Copain were killed during Genocide against the Tutsi. I still have photos of people like Gideon Tshondo. In my own band, Jean Nepomuscene Rutagambwa and many others were killed,” he recalls.

Beyond the prominent musicians killed, Makanyaga also remembers some of his colleagues who were playing in bands, including Francois Xavier Hategekimana and Charles Rutaganda, who were   also slaughtered

He also has memories of Andre Sebanani, who he started with in Ryta Jazz Band back in 1971, where they performed together for about two years.

“He was a wonderful man. We did a song together called Rugamba uri Imparata at the time before he left to join with others in Impala Orchestre. He was a great composer of love songs. He loved people and wanted people to love each other.”

“They were pioneers of music along with others who were killed during the genocide,” Makanyaga added.

Makanyaga further says that most of the musicians killed during the Genocide were those who never involved themselves in singing songs that separated people along ethnic lines. They focussed more on love and social cohesion.

On the other hand, there are others who used music to incite hate and violence among the people, saying there are no words that can express what they were doing.

“I know many musicians who desisted from taking that path but sadly there are those who decided to put their energy in inciting people. I believe our job as musicians is to sing songs that spread peace and harmony, not hate,” the 65-year-old musician says.

Makanyaga called on fellow musicians to be agents of change by singing songs that contribute to nation building, encourage social cohesion and have a sense of nationalism.

“Sing about your country, encourage people to love one another, sing about development for all Rwandans, that is what we are ought to do,” Makanyaga says.

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