There was a convincing thought that whispered to my consciousness: It was not a thought of personal interest; but it was carved out of displayed talent and confidence that he exudes. He is amicable and carries himself like a person who had been bequeathed the gift of greatness.
This was my first impression of Riderman, the man who needs no introduction in the music industry. The winner of Primus Guma Guma competition has been around and he has seen the music industry evolve.
Emery Gatsinzi, 27 a.k.a Riderman, is one of Rwanda’s leading Hip-hop artistes and the Primus Guma Guma Super Star 2013 winner. Born in Bujumbura Burundi on March 10, 1986, Riderman was raised in a devout Christian family of Etienne Rukwavu and Peruth Kantetere. He is the first born in a family of five children.
He enjoyed music and poetry writing from an early age, and after attending a Lucky Dube concert at Amahoro stadium, he was inspired to combine these talents to begin performing as a Hip-hop artiste. Riderman formed his first group, UTP in 2006 and later formed a band called Soldier, with two other teenage boys, performing as the group’s lead singer before embarking on an independent career and releasing his first solo album on December 28, 2009.
Riderman describes himself as a very crazy person when he is on the stage and yet in real life he considers himself as a shy and very humble God fearing person. The rapper is a student at RTUC, where he is pursuing a course in tourism
The New Times’ Sarah Kwihangana had a chat with the superstar on a range of issues. Below are the excerpts:
Q: What exactly was on your mind when you remained on stage just the two of you (you and Urban Boys) at the climax of Guma Guma music competition ?
A: Oh My God! I was kind of shaking and really scared. But Urban Boys are my friends and I wouldn’t feel so sad if they won the competition.
My heart was racing so fast and deep inside I was begging and asking God to let this be my turn to shine. The show’s host Lion Imanzi announced me as the winner, the first thing I said was Halleluiah! I knelt down and praised the Almighty Lord for the great miracle He had done for me.
Q: How do you intend to use the Rwf24million you won in the competition?
A: Since 2011, I founded a studio to promote the upcoming artistes. So part of the money will be going to my studio to keep helping those talented artistes, especially the rappers because we have very few sponsors. So I would like to help them make their dreams come true.
Q. What inspired you to venture into this business?
A: I grew up loving poetry and when I started listening to the rap and Hip-hop music, I realised that it was a kind of modern poetry. I was like, okay! I think I can do this too because I used to write poems in secondary school. So I would do my poems, while singing.
I also liked the way Tupac (RIP) used to do his poetry through his music and I just felt like the way he was writing his songs was the way I was writing my poems. It was then that I knew I am able to do it. So I started exercising and rehearsing and in 2006 I followed my dream.
Q: How many albums do you have to your name?
A: I have four albums under my label Ibisumizi and each album consists of 15 singles.
Q. Does your music convey any particular message to the public?
A: When I am writing a song, I always focus on different things affecting our society. I sing about peace, the fight against violence, encourage people to love our country and urge Rwandans, especially the youth to work hard. I also write party songs, because mostly this industry is about entertainment.
Q: Which artistes would you wish to do collabos with (within and outside) of Rwanda?
A: I have been working with most of the local artistes, but there is this one artiste I would really love to work with but I have never met him. He is called Ben Rutabana. He is out of the country and I am one of his biggest fans. If I could ever get a chance of meeting him, I would request him to do a collabo with me.
I respect Kidumu as well and he is like a role model to me because I grew up singing some of his songs. I wonder why I have never worked with him but I will try my best to make it happen.
I wish to also work with Navio from Uganda and Diams from France. I would die to work with Diams; she is crazy, talented and God fearing.
Q. You are currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Tourism at Rwanda Tourism University College, (RTUC). How do you intend to balance your fame as a musician and studies?
A: I just find time to work within my schedule. For example, I can dedicate a week to studying and another on something else. It’s hard to balance both; I actually suspended my studies last year because I had to do a concert outside of the country.
It is not easy, but I try to manage. I intend to stop the music for a while and concentrate on my studies because I want to complete my course next year.
Q. One would regard you successful in the music industry why are you still studying?
A: It’s always good to finish something that you have started, and being successful in music is not only because I am talented but because I am educated.
For instance, the knowledge I acquired from ULK in marketing and management has helped me a lot in managing my music career and fellow artistes. In everything we do, it’s always good to have that knowledge from school. If for some reason I lost my voice now, I should be able to do something else. Basically it’s very important to have an option.
Q. What are some of the major issues in Rwanda’s showbiz industry?
A: Corruption! Some artistes bribe journalists to promote them by playing their music on radio stations and television. Of course, this affects the poor and upcoming artistes who do not have the money to do the same. So, how and when shall these artistes ever be recognised?!
Sponsorship is another challenge. Until now, I can say the major sponsor for this industry is Bralirwa, spending enough money to promote local artistes.
I would like to appeal to companies to sponsor Rwandan artistes. Usually, they organise competitions but the prize money given to the winner is not enough to even record an album. The situation is very complicated for the Rwandan artistes.
Q. Do you think music can really make a difference in our society?
A: Of course, music brings life and you can pass a great message through songs.
Like in 1994, most musicians at that time would use their songs to promote genocide ideologies. People would base on the message they heard to execute the Tutsi – and this was really dreadful.
But you can do it in a good way. For example, companies hire us [artistes] to sing about their products, and in turn they get a lot of clients. I believe that music can change everything. If you use it to promote peace or patriotism then people will listen and follow.
Q: What kind of music do you enjoy?
A: I definitely love reggae. But when I am home relaxing, my choice of music is country music.
Q: What major challenges have you encountered in your career?
A: Not having sponsors and corruption. Like I said earlier, there are so many people who can try to bring you down by paying journalists to tarnish your reputation.
This makes it hard for one to get sponsors. It happened to me in 2010, when someone paid a journalist to delete my music on Radio and also tarnish my name, but I thank God that it’s behind me now.
Also, Hip-hop music was not appreciated before because most people used to associate it with wrong people and its only today that some people are beginning to appreciate and embrace it.
Q: Tell us about your love life. Is Riderman single, in a committed relationship or married?
A: Oh yes! I am seeing someone and we have been dating since 2008 and we have big plans which I cannot tell you now. What I can say is that, I love this lady so much and she means everything to me.
Q: How do you feel winning the Primus Guma Guma Super Star 2013 after two unsuccessful attempts?
A: I am so thankful to God, my fans, my family and the media for their support.
I have realised that in life you don’t have to give up because you tried something and you didn’t succeed. Giving up is never an option. You have to work extra hard to achieve it. I worked so hard to get there and it paid off.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I am working on my fifth album, which will be out in December so I am preparing that but I definitely have to go back to school next year.
Q: Do you have any message for your fans?
A: I just want to say thanks to all my fans. I love you so much because I wouldn’t win if it wasn’t for you. Continue to support me and I will not disappoint you. I am also calling on companies to sponsor the local talent. Rwanda has talented musicians but they lack finances to develop their talent.