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Nu Kigali: Rwanda’s underground music

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By JEFFERSON RUMANYIKA
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Rwanda’s underground music scene, known as Nu Kigali, is in full swing.

After years of stifled growth — generally being ignored by everyone who should have cared, from the mainstream media to public stakeholders — this new crop of artistes embrace a do-it-yourself approach to create a vibrant parallel national music scene.

But what is Nu Kigali? It is a creative philosophy that is centred on artistes’ freedom from being boxed into genres — as evidenced by the cross-genre collaborations — and an attitude that does not conform to mainstream media norms and expectations.

Nu Kigali is also a movement, a sort of New Age renaissance of the Rwandan creative art space, with creatives investing in others in a communal fashion. This artistic revolution is not just about a group of ”rebel” musicians but an army of industry enthusiasts that includes photographers, music venue owners, designers, bloggers and curators, to mention a few of the creatives involved.

This thriving cultural landscape has morphed into a hotbed of creativity brewing alternative sounds to those popular across the city and country, creating a nexus between musical genres like folk, house, trap, neo-soul, spoken word, funk and percussion.

The diversity, sound, experimentation and energy that goes into Nu Kigali is about surviving the strait-jacket of mainstream music industry. It is a life of resilience.

With the rise of social media, the underground artistes of Nu Kigali can now share their music and other creative works laterally as well as collaborate over the internet.

Unquestionably, social media has played quite a significant role in enabling them to push out their work from the sidelines, an otherwise uphill task if they had relied on mainstream channels like TV and radio to get to the audiences.

The creative world in Rwanda has always operated through a series of gatekeepers when it comes to adopting new trends: The innovator (artist), the early adopter, the late adopter, the early mainstream, the late mainstream and finally the conservative. But now it is possible and normal for music and other trends to go straight from the innovator to the mainstream.

Nu Kigali is also ending the common misconception about African music as perceived by Western media that tends to lazily band together all African music into a genre dubbed World Music.

Nu Kigali artistes are breaking that mould and starting conversations that have compelled local and international music enthusiasts to appreciate the eclecticism, complexity and variation of the music that comes out of Rwanda and Africa in general.

Green Ferry musicians Ice Nova and Prime Mazimpaka

Green Ferry musicians Ice Nova and Prime Mazimpaka perform at Mamba Club in Kimihurura, Kigali. PHOTO | ANDREW KAZIBWE | NMG

Who are the people behind Nu Kigali?

As a socio-cultural phenomena, Nu Kigali has come to be identified with various acts based in Kigali and a number of them based in the diaspora.

What sets them apart from other underground scenes is that Nu Kigali creatives use English, French and Kinyarwanda, with some artistes mixing all the languages in a single piece.

Rwanda has a huge number of returnees (those who came back to the country after the 1994 genocide) who grew up in neighbouring countries as well as in Europe and North America, speaking a variety of languages.

Mainstream Rwandan music is performed in Kinyarwanda only.

The main acts behind the Nu Kigali wave are artistes such as Angell Mutoni, Mike Kayihura, Mucyo, Eric 1 Key, Selektah K’Ru, Sogokuru, Maktain, Prime Mazimpaka, Kanaka, Malaika Uwamahoro, Eloi El, Shavu, Nicole Musoni, Precious Keza, Weya Viatora, Bushali, Stella Tush and J Dub among others.

These creatives are of different ages and backgrounds and identify with being different by being more in touch with world trends and breaking away from typical Rwandan aesthetics. They push the limits of what can be done better with an international appeal.

Rwandan musicians

Rwandan musicians join counterparts from other countries as they perform at the Great African Caravan in Kigali late 2018. PHOTO | ANDREW KAZIBWE | NMG

Some of the noteworthy acts to look out for in 2019 are:

Angell Mutoni
Angell Mutoni, 25, is a poet, rapper and singer-songwriter based in Kigali, whose genre is a mix of Afro hip-hop, soul & R&B and pop. However with an eclectic musical taste, she enjoys experimenting and discovering new sounds.

Born into an artistic family, her father and uncle performed in a band. She started her artistic journey by performing spoken word in 2011 and morphed into a musician.

She first featured in a song called 2011 by Kanaka (formerly known as Darkecy) and released her first group album, Dim Witted, in 2012. She released her first solo mixtape project Epidemic of Words in 2013, followed by other musical projects: Rise album (2014), mixtape Epidemic of Words 2 (2015) and her latest Seedling (2018). She is currently working on her official debut album to be released later in the year.

Mike Kayihura
Mike Kayihura is a 25-year-old singer–songwriter based in Kigali whose genre is a mix of neo-soul, R&B and hip-hop. He is influenced by the music of Stevie Wonder.

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He started singing at the age of 13 with the Christ Church choir in Kigali. Kayihura was privileged to study music in Ethiopia where he was trained to sing and write music.

He released his first song, Let Your Worries Go, featuring Benny Black, in 2014, followed by nine other songs: Tina (2014), Towards Everlasting (2014), Temptation (2015), Buri Munsi (2015), Ndugu Kalisa (2015), Maria in L.A. (2015), Mama and the City (2016), Nina With The Side Eye (2018), Religion (2018), Over the Sun (2018). He is set to release a live album in the next few months.

Mucyo
Mucyo is a singer-songwriter, whose genre is a mix of neo-soul, R&B and experimental R&B. She is deeply influenced by old school R&B, hip-hop and jazz artistes Erykah Badu, A Tribe called Quest, Lauryn Hill, Common, Jill Scott, The Roots and Aaliyah to Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday and Marvin Gaye.

She began singing by doing covers of Erykah Badu, India Arie and Monica at events.

She released her first song, I Do Remember featuring Trey Vessels in 2015 and was featured in Trey Vessels’s You Wanna Go Home and Fly? in the same year.

Mucyo had her breakout year in 2018 with the release of her first album Blur, which featured Mike Kayihura and was well received in musical circles, then followed by a single Raindrops, with Mike Kayihura. She is set to release her second album, Free, this year.

Eric 1Key
Eric 1Key is a 37-year-old multilingual hip-hop rapper, poet, spoken word artist, blogger, and advocate of Kigali’s blossoming live music scene.

He is deeply influenced by hip-hop acts like the late Tupac and Biggie Smalls. He says he learned English through hip-hop as he was trying to understand the message in the songs.

Born to a Rwandan mother and Congolese father, 1Key has lived in the DRC, Republic of Congo and Uganda. He started his music career by performing poetry at Spoken Word.

He released his first song in 2012, Mr Hypocrite, followed by a stream of poetic songs after lacing beats on his live Spoken Word pieces. He released his debut album, Entre 2 (Between Two), in 2015 it was well received with its mix of traditional Rwandese melodies, soulful folk, celebratory rock, bouncy reggae and conscious hip hop poetry.

This was followed by other musical projects: Experimental (2016) and Alkeymie – The Slamtape (2018). He released a single, Mandwa Mfasha, this year and is expected to tour and release other projects later on in the year.

Angell Mutoni rapping at an event in Kigali.

Angell Mutoni rapping at an event in Kigali. PHOTO | ANDREW KAZIBWE | NMG

Nicole Musoni
Nicole Musoni is a singer-songwriter based in Montreal, Canada whose genre is a mix of soul, R&B, hip hop and experimental electronic music. She draws influences from the likes of Celine Dion, Erykah Badu, Lara Fabian and Jill Scott.

As the eldest daughter of popular Rwandan artist Evariste Musoni, she has a natural inclination to music. She released her first musical project, a short tape Chasin’ Dreams Short Tape which was released in 2012, this was followed by her sophomore project, Chasin’ Dreams Chapitre Deux in 2013.

She is set to release an album in 2019, which was preceded by the premiere of Die With Me, a video of her lead single from the album produced by Kaytranada.

Sogokuru
Sogokuru is a Rwandan–Burundian rapper, producer and graphic artist based in Belgium who focuses on hip-hop and various art forms.

He started recording music at the age of 16 alongside hip-hop artiste and co-founder of MLG, Steezy Steez. He creates art spaces for the younger generation to share experiences.

He released his first song, Got Till It’s Gone in 2013 when he was in rap group MLG with Steezy Steez, which was followed by their first mixtape, Quiet Words Loud Thought (2013).

He released his first solo musical project, Kanura (2016), a mixtape that was received well on the musical scene and showed his rapping prowess. He released a collaborative album, Ijoro, with Yannick MYK and Remy, followed by his debut album, NCSSR in 2017. He and is set to release other music projects through the year.

Green Ferry Music
Green Ferry Music is a local hip-hop collective which has pioneered KinyaTrap, a local variation of Trap music, in which they rap in Kinyarwanda, and a major hit with their youthful fan base.

The hip-hop collective comprises Prime Mazimpaka, Maktain, Bushali, Pogatsa, BThrey, Ice Nova, the songstress Weya Viatora and Dr Nganji, who is the founder and producer of the label.

The Green Ferry Music label was the most consistent label in 2018 churning out albums, extended plays and mixtapes in 2018 with the release of Prime Mazimpaka’s album A Thousand Hills Prodigy, Maktain’s album Seasons Change, Bushali’s album Nyiramubande, Pogatsa’s album Ngoma, B-Threy’s album Nyamirambo, Ice Nova’s album Ubuvanganzo, Weya Viatora’s Flame, Dr Nganji’s Doze and treen Ferry Music’s Mixtape Vol 1 & Vol 2. Green Ferry Music is set to release various musical productions in 2019.

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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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