Progress in 2013 but music album launches in Rwanda flopped

Friday January 03 2014

Asaph Music International sing to a packed Zion Temple Celebration Centre headquarters in Gatenga, Kicukiro District in Kigali, at the launch of their third music album, Icyubahiro, on December 27, 2013. Photo/Cyril Ndegeya

The year 2013 was marked by important developments in the Rwandan music and entertainment industry.

Although Rwandans found better ways to spend their leisure time, the most notable thing as the year came to a close was that people were no longer interest in album launches.

The previous year had taken with it one of Rwanda’s oldest hangouts and nightclubs, Cadillac, gutted by a mysterious fire. It had been hoped that renovations would be complete in 2013 but owner Eugene “Cobra” Habimana was still embroiled in a bitter compensation row with the insurer, Sonarwa.

READ: New Cadillac lies immobile as Sonarwa drags its feet

Nevertheless, new places came up, giving Rwandans many options to spend their money. Gaculiro-based K Club capitalised on Cadillac’s demise to introduce more nights and themes but the monopoly would not last as Club Next, which is located in Muhima, reinvented itself, years after its closure.

And just as Club Next reopened, in came another fancy outfit, known as Ryanz Club, also in Muhima, but it would soon close shop as Hotel Okapi, where it was based, went under the hammer.


Kigali also saw several night spots emerge in 2013 — from KGL to Dug Out and Chapter One — but also as many, such as Downtown, shut their doors. Such is the evolving entertainment scene.


2013 was a year of music as Rwandan musicians decided to up their game to match the competition.

It would be in order to say that rapper Emery Gatsinzi “Riderman” will have the best memories of the year after emerging the winner of the 2013 Primus Guma Guma Superstar talent search.

The Bombori Bombori singer upstaged his counterparts to scoop the prestigious crown sponsored by Bralirwa and pocket a cool Rwf24 million.

The odds were for the 27-year-old when the likes of Kitoko Bibarwa and Jay Polly did not participate.

His triumph did not, however, come easily as he faced stiff competition from Urban Boys, Dream Boys and Knowless, but Riderman’s victory in August left the public content as he had been the more deserving — at least going by the ululations of the crowd that packed Amahoro National Stadium for the finale on August 10.

Fespad fails to impress

Away from PGGSS, the year was marked by album launches and concerts that did not attract huge crowds, which would make it fair to conclude that people are tired of “album launches” that are not innovative.

The MTN Ururavu concert, aimed at celebrating Valentine’s Day, failed to impress, while several others — including Uncle Austin, Kamichi, Urban Boys and Dream Boys album launches — were not well attended.

But it is worth noting that some launches — including those by Knowless, Maria Yohani, Riderman and Mani Martin — attracted sizeable crowds.

Key events included Fespad, which began the year but was poorly organised and marred by rain, with many faulting the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) for refusing to hire private companies to run it. Jamaican dancehall sensation Beenie Man and Nigeria’s Ice Prince did lukewarm shows.

READ: Poor preparations dent Fespad fete

A few months later, RDB brought in Kevin Lytle and a multitude of other artistes to perform at Kwita Izina, the world-famous gorilla-naming ceremony, but again the show was not a big success.

KigaliUp 2013 however turned out to be impressive, attracting good crowds over the two days.

All in all, the music industry was a beehive of activity that was marked by as many successful concerts as flops.


The year saw Kigali residents treated to comedy shows, which was hitherto not a common pastime.

The Kings of Comedy show was first introduced in March, bringing in major regional comedians — including Eric Omondi from Kenya, Anne Kansiime, arguably Uganda’s top female comedian — as well as homeboy Patrick Salvador Idringi and many others.

The organisers had promised to bring back the show every two months but it was not going to be. After a second show at the end of June, there were no hopes of seeing a return of the Kings of Comedy. Disagreements and failure to bring in new funders dealt a heavy blow to the comedy show.

On a good note, however, the comedy pioneers have continued to exert their presence on the local and international scene with their frontman Arthur Nkusi launching himself as a brand while his colleagues toured Europe.

Worth noting

The monthly “Spoken Word” show grew bigger while artistes grouped under Gakondo increased the presence of traditional and cultural music.

The Rwanda Film Festival returned but for only a week, instead of two weeks, with more than 60 films, short movies and documentaries screened.

Century Cinema become the first modern cinema in Rwanda when it opened its doors in Kigali.