‘That’s Africa, man’: how a young musician captured the music of Rwanda | Global development

MeIn his studio in Kigali, Rwanda, Michael Makembe sat down at his laptop and began playing traditional vocals recorded on the street. Music producers add layers of afrobeats and drums, mix percussion, unique harmonies and chords played on the keyboard. Then he looks back on what he’s done so far.

“That’s the groove,” he sings, telling documentary makers at Rwandan media organization IGIHE. “That’s Africa”

25-year-old Makembe wasn’t always interested in traditional Rwandan vocals and instruments. Growing up, he mostly listened to foreign artists such as Michael Jackson and Bob Marley. It was when he attended music school that he felt the urge to connect with his roots.

In Bigogwe, northwestern Rwanda, people make music together. Photo: Making Rwanda Sound

“When I was young, I didn’t have the opportunity to be exposed to Rwandan traditions,” he says. “I realized I needed to connect with my roots and talk to my hometown through music.”

In 2018, he decided to travel across Rwanda, visiting remote communities and collecting recordings of voices, poetry, songs and traditional instruments.

Makembe has collected nearly 1,000 different sounds in five years. He hopes to open an audio museum this year where people can go and listen to them.He also wants to launch Sounds of Rwanda, his library online for a global audience. I think.

“I had to connect with my home and take the time to understand, discover and explore its traditions. Rwandan music is who I am and who I am,” he adds.

Makembe began by researching various communities and their musical traditions before traveling to meet these communities, sometimes living with them for a week or two. He picks up equipment and a camera to record sounds that interest him, such as singing, clapping, playing musical instruments, or even the sounds of people cooking or digging.

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He is often asked what he does and where his vocals go. “It was a journey of preaching to people and telling my thoughts.

he is making a donation All his work to date has been self-financed by other creative work, gigs, music production and festival appearances.

One of Makembe’s most cherished experiences was on Nkombo Island in Lake Kivu, between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Most of its population makes a living from fishing. They speak a different language than the Kinyarwanda spoken in other parts of the country.

A female fisherman sits in her boat and on the shore, talking to Makembe.all wear national costumes
Fishermen and Makembe on Nkombo Island in the southwest of the country. Photo: Making Rwanda Sound

Makembe recorded a fisherman singing at work and found one whose voice stood out. “He was a different person. I had to understand him. I’ve always tried to push his story. When he sings, it’s a true story and he believes Thing.

“He’s poor. In his community, he doesn’t have much, so he doesn’t have a say. Without a voice, you’re nothing. He has no power. The way he tells his story is Through song.”

Since then, Makembe has kept in touch with the community and held a concert in Kigali last September.

He plans to release his own album this year using some of the sounds he has collected. “We take influences from his childhood and blend modern sounds with tradition,” he says.

Makembe has also collaborated with other Rwandan artists such as Ishu Kevin and Bushari, who are part of the country’s burgeoning music scene creating new genres using elements of Rwandan and other African cultures. I’m here.

“The industry today consists of a younger generation creating traditionally-influenced styles such as Kinyatrap and Afrobeat,” Makembe says.

“It’s a start. It’s a growing movement. We’re among the people who make it happen and inspire it.” [our young people]We provide solutions in their language. I wish I had this when I was a kid. ”

Instagram: @michaelmakembe

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