When you think of Reggae music, the first name that comes to mind is Bob Marley. Even though people first knew about Bob Marley in the 70’s, the name still lingers to this day.
For starters, he was the man who turned Jamaican Reggae music into an international phenomenon, and with the help of a few others along the way established reggae as a worldwide genre of music.
In Rwanda today, music largely involves folk music from Africa. One of the most popularly recognized Rwanda music is Ikinimba. The Ikinimba has managed to achieve its popularity because it portrays the various stories of the heroes and kings of Rwanda.
Over the years, Rwandan music evolved into what it has become today. Under the influence of Jamaican Reggae music, various bands sprouted before and after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
With a message of inspiration various bands became popular like ‘The Holy Jah Doves’, ‘Imena’ and others. The latest success story is that of Rwanda’s very own Alpha Rwirangira who won this year’s Tusker Project Fame competition and confessed that he derived his motivation from Reggae music.
Thanks to legends like Bob Marley and Africa’s Lucky Dube, more musicians have blossomed to fame through singing reggae music.
Influence on society
Reggae music has influenced Rwanda’s society in many ways. Youth are the most susceptible to adopting the reggae culture that is closely tied to Rastafarianism.
Martin Mulinzi is a 17 year-old student studying at King David Secondary School. His dress code is coloured up with the reggae colours of green, yellow and red. He is a reggae music fan and wherever he goes, people call him ‘Ras’ because of the image he portrays. Mulinzi’s favourite song is, ‘Nobody can stop Reggae.’
“It is obvious that I love reggae music,” Mulinzi says, “it’s my culture man…I love mama Africa and I love my motherland.”
Mulinzi said that he does not care when people call him names.
“…they say that I am spoilt and assume that I am not in my right mind,” Mulinzi added,
He feels that many people misunderstand him and reggae music which has played an important role in shaping his morals. The message is positive and helps the youth to become responsible with their lives.
“It is absurd that the older generation has victimized the youth for what we love. If I was not in my right mind, I would not be talking a lot of sense like this,” he said.
Douglas Mico, is 20 years old and loves art and fashion design. He believes that the message in reggae music is unique and carries a positive message.
“Reggae carries a relaxing and refreshing message because it is positive,” Mico said.
On the other hand, he said that most people have a wrong impression about Reggae music.
“People think that when like reggae music, you must either grow dreadlocks or maybe smoke weed but it’s not always the case,” he said.
He said that Reggae music is synonymous with the Rastafarian Culture and most reggae musicians he believes smoke weed.
“Most of the musicians look up to reggae legends like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear and other Rastas as their role models,” Mico said.
As a result, the public image of many musicians is influenced by smoking weed. He cited an example of Ugandan Musicians like Bebe Cool and Bobby Wine who get into fights after smoking weed and depict violence.
Mico said this influences the youth negatively, especially music fans.
Hair style is not an exception when talking about Reggae music. In the Rastafarian culture, dreadlocks are significant because they imply a commitment to what they believe.
According to Mico, “more youth are becoming comfortable with wearing dreadlocks since it’s trendier.”
In Rwanda however, these youth face a challenge of getting denounced by the public’s misconception especially by the older generation.
“When it comes to looking for jobs, people with dreadlocks are denied opportunities just because of their appearance yet they have the potential and qualifications to get the job done,” Mico said.
Mico argues that wearing dreadlocks and loving reggae music in Rwanda is becoming more of a trend that should not be perceived as wrong.
Two sides of Reggae
On the other hand 19 year old Jerry Karangwa who is in his S.6 vacation, said that Reggae is about having dreadlocks and smoking weed.
“Reggae is about dreadlocks and weed. It talks about African hustle, and to summarize it all; Reggae is Bob Marley,” Jerry said.
His favourite music is Rock, but the vacist said that his best artist is Bob Marley.
“I liked him when I came to Rwanda. Rwanda has more Rastafarians and reggae music receives more publicity than in Uganda where I came from,” he said.
“I like reggae because its message brings unity among people. The influence is both negative and positive, in terms of fighting genocide ideology, reconciliation and it also increases the friend base as we socialize,” Jerry added.
To sum it up, Tumaine is popularly known for his well kept dreadlocks. He is a Rwandan business man and artist who designs T-Shirts and comes from a family of a pastor. His favourite music is Reggae, Zouk and slow classics.
“I am purely a Christian and my family was shocked when I wore dreadlocks but they gave me time and realized there was nothing wrong about my hair,” he said.
Tumaine said that dreadlocks are a style and Reggae music carries a strong message for everyone.
“I love the message from reggae music because it is patriotic and gives a good message to the youth,” Tumaine said.
As result, Reggae music in Rwanda has taken ground. It has become the most popular and favourite music among the youth as it creates unity and encourages peace and love in society.