RWANDA’S MUSIC INDUSTRY has, over the years, metamorphosed into vitality. It attracted more refined artists, diverse genres, a growing fanbase, and burgeoning appreciation from music consumers.
Wondering how local artists like Kenny Sol, Ish Kevin, Juno Kizigenza, Ariel Ways, Mike Kayihura and more are using their talents to make the world listen?
Here’s what you need to know about the growth of Rwandan music.
The birth of music in Rwanda
Rwandan music dates back to the early 1880s, when Rwandans created distinctive musical instruments like “Inanga”, an eight-stringed harp-like instrument, which was played by the most well-known Rwandan artists like Athanase Sentore.
‘Ingoma’, traditional drum made of skins, ‘Umuduli’ (a traditional single-stringed bow), ‘Iningiri’ (a violin-like instrument played with a bow) and ‘Icyembe’ (a box with acoustic strings on it ), all of which are used to create sounds.
Miss Shanel and Ish Kevin are one of R&B and Drill music genre in Rwanda. Courtesy photos.
The sound produced by the instruments was used to help ‘Intore’, a group of young boys who used to dance for the king, and at other traditional gatherings like ‘Igitaramo’, and also to provide a melody for singers who mainly told the beauty and strength of Rwanda through songs.
During the post-colonial period, Rwanda produced popular local groups like “Imena”, “Nyampinga”, “Les 8 Anges”, “Les Fellows”, “Impala” and many others which took influences from all over Africa, especially from the Congo. like Caribbean zouk and reggae.
When the Genocide against the Tutsi took place in 1994, the music industry was thrown into utter disarray. Many traditional musicians were killed in 1994 alongside stars of the time like André Sebanani, Siprian Rugamba, Orchester Impala and many others.
The making of R&B and hip-hop in Rwanda
After the genocide, music slowly returned and new stars emerged. In due course, other contemporary musical genres have emerged, including R&B, hip-hop, and contemporary gospel.
The likes of Mc Mahoniboni jumped on the hip hop beats that were taking over, especially in the black community in the United States, and brought him to his country. In 1999, he blessed the industry with new hip-hop releases like “Kubaka Izina” which took over the local airwaves and made Hip Hop the new face of Rwandan music.
Inspired by Mahoniboni and bands like 50 Cent, Snoop, Eminem, Diddy and many more, different rap groups like Tuff gang were eventually formed which accelerated the rise of rap culture in Rwanda.
Around the same time, Tuff Gang Crew, made up of top rappers like the late Jay Polly, Fireman, Bull Dog, Green P and P Fla, with the help of producer Lick Lick, a street hip-hop pioneer who narrated the style of street life and gangs in Kigali.
A number of tracks like “Amaganya”, “Kwicumu” and “Gereza” followed and pushed the genre from Kigali to other corners of the country. By then, the R&B genre had also gained deeper appeal and reign in the Rwandan music industry.
R&B’s journey in Rwanda began in the 2000s when the majority of its pioneers entered the scene. Among its pioneers, Martin Maniraruta, known as Mani Martin, who recorded his first single “Urukumbuzi” in 2005.
After a few months, famous Dr. Claude, Miss Jojo, Miss Shanel and many others released hits like “Tukabyine”, “Contre Success” which can undoubtedly be credited among the forerunners of the genre in Rwanda.
By then, people had already started jamming the new genre. It was hard to walk into a club, pub or house party and leave without hearing songs like ‘Ndarota’, ‘Siwezi’, ‘Enda’ among many others playing in the background.
To talk about R&B music in Rwanda is to talk about the Primus Guma Guma Super Star contest. The first of its kind, in 2011, was won by Tom Close, marking R&B music as the most popular genre at this early stage in the competition.
The creation of RNB accelerated the inauguration of other genres, including Afro beat, Trap, Amapiano, EDM and many more.
The new wave
Following the rise of West African musicians such as Wizkid and Davido, Rwandan artists started doing Afro beat which involves the combination of West African musical styles like Fuji music and highlife with American jazz .
The rise of Afro in Rwanda dates back to the early 2010s when artists like Elion Victory, Queen Cha, Urban Boys, Christopher and Bruce Melody rose to fame with hits produced in the same genre.
In his recent interview with The New Times, Danny beats who is one of Rwanda’s top Afro producers said that Afrobeat is the new face of Rwandan music.
He was referring to the increase in streams, time spent on the airwaves and televisions, as well as the rise of artists and producers making the genre.
He said in 2017, the genre got a huge boost when songs like “Kungola”, “Nipe”, “Ikinya” and many more dropped, introducing Kigali’s partygoers and DJs to the genre.
After the covid-19 outbreak, dozens of artists and producers created afro bangers that have never been produced in the history of Rwandan music before. For example, the creation of “Katerina” by Bruce Melody, which has over 12 million streams on YouTube, indicated the takeover of musical style in Rwanda.
The rise of young producers like Madebeats, Danny Beats, Hollybeat, Niz beat, Ayo Rush and Element has also allowed local artists to work with Rwandan producers rather than traveling to meet Washington, Krizbeatz and Nessim pan to make a hit song.
The addition of producer Element popularly known on his tag “Eleeeh” to the Rwandan music industry has changed the Afrobeat game with hits like “Amashu”, “Inana”, “Ndarura”, “Saa Moya”, “Katapilla”, among many others. products that are always in fashion in the region.
The rise of Afro Beat inspired a lot of additional talent in the country to jump on different styles of music like Trap.
In 2017, a handful of young boys, mostly high school graduates located in Kicukiro and Nyamirambo, got together and created sounds that resulted in the Kinyatrap genre, a non-conformist musical wave.
The young boys who the world would later know as Bushali or Bushido, B-Threy, Slum Drip, producer Dr. Nganji and Dizo Last, produced the sound drawing inspiration from Trap music, a genre characterized by intricate hi-hat patterns, tuned bass drums with a long decay, and lyrical content that often focuses on street life that was pioneered by the likes of Young Jeezy, T.I., Gucci Mane, DJ Screw to name a few. cite just a few.
With hits like ‘Tsikizo’, ‘250’, ‘Ipafu’, ‘Kugasima’, ‘Sindi Mubi’ and many more, the subgenre has gained the attention and admiration of many music lovers in a short time. , a move that made him gain momentum.
KinyaTrap pioneer Dr. Nganji described it as a necessary addition to the Rwandan music industry, which gave a platform for young Rwandan musicians to thrive.
“We wanted it to be a genre that we could hear and trace our origins. We made a fusion of traditional and modern Rwandan sounds. It’s the sound of the future! Nganji told The New Times, explaining the birth of the subgenre.
The sound is played all over the country and has given a platform to many young musicians who have also started creating different genres including UK Drill.
Drill in Rwanda dates back to 2020, when local rappers and producers put their own spin on the world-conquering sound and blasted it to Kigali. It is produced by the rising generation of Rwandan music signed under drill movements such as Loud Sound music and Trappish Gang music.
According to Ish Kevin, founder of ‘Trappish’ and one of the pioneers of Drill in Rwanda, the new genre is already at the top, considering how it captures everyone’s attention using its heavy vibes and emotional bars.
The artist also cites the drill as the future of the industry, given that Rwanda is ranked among the best countries manufacturing the genre, globally. The genre has also attracted international musicians like Ycee, to work with future Rwandan musician Ish Kevin, on his track titled “Clout”, which topped charts and online streaming platforms in Africa.
Along with the drill genre, Ish Kevin was ranked among the top 12 African rappers with his single, No Cap, ranked as the fourth hard drill song in the world by daily GRM, a move that shows how Rwandan music moves and gets listened to. the world.
The growth of Rwandan music plays an important role in representing Rwandan culture in a way that makes a difference in the world.