The future of Rwanda’s music is bright, says Mighty Popo

Jacques Murigande, better known by his stage name Mighty Popo, is a Juno Award-winning Rwandan artiste.Mighty Popo is recognised nationally and internationally as a talented musician. His voice is sonorous, his lyrics are worthwhile. He is an entertainer, musician, guitarist and composer.  
Mighty Popo during one of the concerts.  The New Times / Courtesy.
Mighty Popo during one of the concerts. The New Times / Courtesy.

Jacques Murigande, better known by his stage name Mighty Popo, is a Juno Award-winning Rwandan artiste.

Mighty Popo is recognised nationally and internationally as a talented musician. His voice is sonorous, his lyrics are worthwhile. He is an entertainer, musician, guitarist and composer.

His music reflects his immersion in a world of culture which he has navigated with grace, sensitivity and an enormous sense of exploration and fun. It is enriched by many traditions.

He is also the brainchild behind the KigaliUp festival, born out his immigrant experience, Canadian folk festival performances and frequent trips back home.

In an interview with The New Times’ Sarah Kwihangana, he spoke extensively on his passion for good music and plans to establish a music school among other issues.

Q. What kind of music do you do?

A. I do world music, though I prefer to call it Rwandan music because the base is Rwandan and the foundation is Rwanda. But it’s decorated by everything in Africa and from the afro American world.

Q. Does your music convey any particular message to the public?

A. I hope am what you can call an engaged musician. I sing about everyday life, strife and universal love not just baby I love you stuff. I also tend to go towards social justice, am an entertainer at the same time. I educate my fans. But first of all I educate myself then I share whatever I have with my audience.

Q. You are based in Canada, how long do you intend to stay in Rwanda?

A. I am going to be here for a while. I don’t intend to go back to Canada anytime soon; it’s time for me to come back to my country.

Q. So why did you decide to move back to your home country after a long time?

A. I love my country. I never left even though I was away. I have been living abroad for 27 years but I have been coming back here since 1998. So this is home and it’s where my heart is.

Q. How would you compare Rwandan music to that of Canada?

A. Rwandan music is particular; it’s pure and rooted in a place that is so deep where as music say from North America is commercially oriented although you find some amazing roots and folk music in North America and all over the world. Despite the differences its one big happy family of music.

Q. What do you think of Rwanda’s music industry?

A. The industry here is still young but growing and has a bright future, because we have a chance to start it right.

It’s actually failing in North America and the developed world, the traditional music industry is failing because of the big change that has taken place with the digital world versus the old classical conservative way of selling music.

That industry has been on a decline for a while now because digital has taken over. Here in Rwanda we have a chance to start right and the future will be bright for us.

Q. What do you think are some the challenges hindering the growth of Rwanda’s music industry?

A. Rwandans don’t have a culture of consuming art as is in other countries like Uganda, Kenya and Congo among others. In these countries people know how to consume art, they go to those shows, live music, and they buy CDs which is not the case in Rwanda.

We have to cultivate that and inform and educate the people how to consume art. We have to start with ourselves though, horn our skills by playing good music that is educative and entertaining at the same time, then our audience can learn to consume good music.

Q. Any word of advice to your fellow artistes?

A. My fellow artistes you should make use of what God has given you. Don’t abuse the power you have. You should be responsible for your wellbeing and your own reputation.

Use your talent to inspire others. Do not do anything for only yourself but live for others, you will live forever and also share what you have.

Q. What plans do you have for Rwanda now that you will be staying here for some good time?

A. Am involved in trying to set up a music school here. We will let you know soon about this project that is going to be a beautiful thing so that Rwanda can train professional musicians.

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