IN A world where dancehall music mostly makes sense in a nightclub, Abubakar Mugisha aka No. 1 Suspect Badman is giving ragga and reggae a new image. Based in South Africa, the 31-year-old Rwandan musician was born in Uganda and is involved in charity work, has performed and collaborated with renowned musicians and is currently ruling airwaves in Uganda and Rwanda. In an interview with The New Times’ Dean Karemera, the singer talked about his charity work, his inspirations and the fate of Rwandan music. Excerpts;
Your music is hitting in Rwanda and Uganda at the moment, when did your music career kick off?
I have been in the music industry for quite some time now. I used to do karaoke back in high school but when I relocated to South Africa, I started recording. My first song, Xenophobia, was recorded in 2011. It was inspired by how Xenophobic South Africa was becoming back then and I thought it would be good to raise awareness about the issue through my talent.
What inspired you into joining the music industry?
I have always loved music but my talent was my biggest inspiration. Secondly, I realised that there are many issues that can be addressed through music and I decided to take the mantle in giving positive messages through music. Lastly, I was inspired by Jamaican reggae music. They usually carry positive messages in their songs.
We don’t have any dancehall ragga/reggae musicians to speak of in Rwanda. How did you break out?
It is not easy. It takes hard work, talent and being down to earth to be able to make it in the industry. I knew that if I was to make it out there, then I would have to sell myself first before other people market me. I’m proud that I have been able to do well and perform with big stars in Africa as well as promote my music internationally.
How do you hope to capitalise on that to improve on the popularity of your music style in Rwanda?
Well, I believe that the first thing is to use music to deliver positive messages. As a country we need that and once people realise that I offer such messages in my songs, they will listen to them.
You have collaborated mostly with Ugandan artistes; do you plan to work with Rwandan artistes as well?
That would be awesome. I would like to introduce dancehall, ragga/reggae music to my people. I already have a Kinyarwanda song out and I’m planning on doing more. More so, Rwanda has a lot of talented young people who I believe can make good dancehall music.
What is the inspiration behind the messages in your songs?
I grew up as an orphan and made some bad decisions along the way. I always feel like I want to share lessons with other orphans so that they know they are not alone and there’s a brighter tomorrow. I wish I could shout for my messages to reach everyone because if my message changes at least one person’s life, I will be a happy person. I would also love to spread a message of hope to my country that has suffered in the past but is now a beautiful country that is changing its image.
What do you think of the music industry in Rwanda? Is it ready to conquer the region?
Rwandan music is going places but there’s still a lot of work to do. Musicians need to target the global stage and make tours around the region and beyond. We should spread out and show the world what Rwanda has to offer in the industry. We can only promote our music and take it to greater levels if we all worked together.
Who are some of the musicians you’ve worked with on your songs?
I have worked with Ugandan musicians such as H.E Bobi Wine and Eddy Kenzo and I have a song with GNL Zamba that will be out soon. I also have shared a stage with King Shango Capleton, a renowned reggae artiste from Jamaica during a tour in 2012 when I was chosen as his supporting artiste. My songs include Gal you know, Give Thanks, Mama, Morning Star and Wine Glass, a Kinyarwanda song, among others.
Let’s talk about your charity work.
Yeah, I’m into charity and I have other people whom I work with. We usually sit and decide on where to go. I also perform for free and the proceeds go to an orphanage or any other use that can change lives in society. I do all this because I believe we have to be the change we want to see in the world. When we set an example, we inspire other people.
Who is your role model?
I would say that I’m my own role model because if everyone thought of themselves in the same way, we would be better people. However, there are other great people, alive or dead, who inspire me but I believe that we first have to look at ourselves as role models before we look up to other people.
Are you dating?
Not at the moment because I have been busy with my career but I will one day.
Any parting words?
I would like to thank all my fans who have supported me throughout my career. Without their good taste in music I would not be where I am today. I would like to ask them to vote for me online in the StarQt Awards where I was nominated in the Best Vocal Artist category. It would mean so much to me. They can also look me up on social media using my stage name.