Honore Iyakaremye, alias Honoray is a gospel musician, producer and musicians manager.
In an exclusive interview, Iyakaremye said that piracy is killing Rwanda music. “Those who copy other people’s songs are like leeches that suck on our blood. They eat from other people’s sweat and Rwanda music won’t grow unless the authorities seriously clamp down on this vice.”
Iyakaremye manages a number of stars, including Jean Paul Samputu, 2003 Kora award winner in traditional music category and the Albino duo of Fidelle and Patric. The New Times’ Joseph Oindo caught up with Honoray at his studio where he talked exclusively about Rwandan music.
Q: Who is Iyakaremye?
A: I started singing when I was five years old. I’m a chip off the old block. My father was a grand gospel singer in Adventist choir called Abasaruzi. He inspired me into taking gospel singing as a career. I could play piano and other acoustics when I was five years.
I have so far released two albums, New Life having 6 songs and Amen containing 13 songs and a number of hit singles like Ubugingo Bushya in 2002 and Ngwino Mwami the following year.
In 2004, I went to study music and sound engineering in a Christian school of music called Nexus Trust in United Kingdom for two years and after graduation proceeded to a university in Plymouth where I majored in Music Industry management. I did some voluntary work in UK before coming back to Rwanda.
Q: What did you do when you came to Rwanda?
A: I established a music school and studio to practice what I had studied. It was not easy at the beginning because most Rwandans don’t value music as a career. They don’t think that music is a fertile ground for investment. When you approach financial institutions, they bluntly tell you that they cannot support you. A number of musicians also do it as a hobby and not as a career. So it was difficult getting people to enroll in my school.
Q: What’s your take on Rwanda music?
A: Rwanda music is quite vibrant but people still don’t want to invest in this industry. Those who do CDs don’t get returns because people don’t want to buy original CDs. Piracy has really destroyed Rwanda music. Rwanda population is also very small. Out of the 11 million or so, only a small fraction of people will buy CDs, and this small fraction is concentrated in Kigali. The countryside people will not buy.
This has inevitably killed the morale of musicians and investors. It’s those who do concerts that get something small to take home, and this is also pittance. Gospel music all over the world is a major source of income for singers but here in Rwanda, they don’t get anything at the end of it.
Q: So what do you do currently?
A: I teach piano, guitar and other acoustics and do recordings. We have 30 students in our music school called Gospel Music Fabric (GMF) in Kicukiro. I also do concerts and manage a number of artistes.
Q: What advice can you give to musicians?
A: Every musician should have a manager. Music is like business; when you have a great manager, then your business won’t collapse and vice versa. It’s also better not to discourage ourselves that music in Rwanda doesn’t pay since giving up is not a solution. The traditional music is attractive to even the foreign market and Rwandan musicians should really invest their energy in this category. The musicians should be united in fighting piracy.
Christians should also support their musicians by buying original CDs and DVDs. It’s unfortunate that some of them don’t do this by buying pirated CDs. When you copy someone’s song, you are stealing from him, and this is unethical and unchristian. This is leading to the death of gospel music in Rwanda.
Q: What’s the way forward?
A: In a number of western countries, it’s mandatory for children to be taught how to play piano at a young age. It helps to open up their brains and they become creative thinkers. This same idea should be applied here. We should set up music studios in every school in this country and teach our pupils music at a very young age. You will discover how many latent talents are here in the country.
We plan to liaise with the ministry of education when the right time comes so that we have one representative to teach music in every school. We had approached the ministry of culture and services on a similar idea but they were not willing to buy it. But this is the only way to go when we want to promote Rwanda music.
I also plan to build a bigger music school that will cater for all genres of music and release more albums. But I will first survey the market because I don’t want to invest in something that will result into a big loss for me.