Jazz music settles in Kigali | New times


This the monthly edition of the monthly Kigali Jazz Junction is only a few hours away. Ugandan jazz maestro Isaiah Katumwa is set to make headlines alongside Rwandan Andy Bumuntu.

The show at the Kigali Serena Hotel will not be its first appearance at Jazz Junction, however. In October of last year, he headlined one of Kigali Jazz Junction’s busiest concerts since its inception in 2015.

Saxophonist Stella Tushabe (far left) will perform alongside Katumwa and Bumuntu on Friday evening. Katumwa traveled with her 14-year-old son Michael Katumwa (far right), an aspiring saxophonist, guitarist and singer.

In many ways, Katumwa is to jazz music in Uganda what Kigali Jazz Junction is to Rwandan music lovers; both can be credited with having introduced many people in both countries to the hitherto little understood world of jazz music. They demystified the genre.

Started in 2015

Today in Kigali, the influence of the jazz genre is gradually extending beyond the limits of the Kigali Jazz Junction and the Neptunez Band, which are responsible for popularizing the genre locally.

Whether they are corporate event planners, wedding planners, private parties, or even government functions, the number of jazz-oriented musicians on the artist roster continues to grow.


Instrumentalist, singer and songwriter MoRoots during her performance at the Kigali Jazz Junction in Kigali in December of last year.

Kenneth Agutamba is the public relations manager at the Bank of Kigali and a jazz enthusiast who has attended his fair share of local jazz concerts.

“I like Jazz, but a certain type of jazz; I like rap jazz. It’s a fusion sub-genre of hip-hop and jazz, developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I love driving while listening to this kind of music, my favorite artists being A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Guru and Souls of Mischief. This sub-genre is not quite common here as we are still dominated by classical jazz, which I think Isaiah Katumwa represents. Nonetheless, I love his shows and will attend this one too. Sometimes they surprise with acts bordering on jazz rap, and I hope to be pleasantly surprised this time around, ”he says.

For him, however, jazz music has always had a place and followers in Rwandan society.

“I think it’s not a new love. That love has always been there. He attributes the genre’s growing appeal to a number of factors:

“Coherence, family outing (jazz music shows are generally designed for the family and Kigali being a family town, that’s fine), and finally, the economy. Where everything else seems overpriced, a jazz performance and a little fun is what most city dwellers can afford. See even the comedy nights are full these days, because we have to laugh, forget about the harsh hustle and bustle, ”says Agutamba.


Remmy Lubega MC-ing at one of the Kigali Jazz Junction events.

Remmy Lubega, Managing Director of RG Consult, the organizers of the Kigali Jazz Junction also agrees with Agutamba’s assertion. For him, it was “just a state of mind that there was no jazz music in this city”.

Lubega talks about the time, in 2015, the year it all started.

“I didn’t agree because many artists are multi-talented and all they need is confidence and give them the support they need to improve their talent, so I knew that we have jazz players, singers and people who love jazz as a genre but like any other African music industry apart from South Africa which has raised their jazz level to an international level, we were supposed to work a lot and bring Rwanda on board, ”said Lubega.

Lubega argues that at the time, a single problem interrupted a barrier between local jazz musicians and jazz music fans; lack of professionalism.

“In terms of organization, in terms of repertoire and presentation, and taking that as serious work where someone has to do rehearsals, practice and think about their playlist and also how they’re going to be. ‘dress up and perform’ he says.

With the Neptunez Band, which he founded, Lubega took advantage of a unique genre to create something unique, and which belongs entirely to the group.

It was a platform where he spotted untapped potential.

“People tend to forget that Kigali is now a cosmopolitan city. It has diversified a lot in terms of the tastes and style of its inhabitants. We have seen people from all over the world take up space to open businesses and even acquire citizenship to stay, live and work in Kigali.

“It was therefore a question of discovering what would be a social factor of unity for people and which could only be music and the arts”, explains Lubega.


Jose Ategeka, saxophonist of the Neptunez Band joins musicians Charly and Nina on stage.

Josh Semugabi, Keyboardist and Music Director of the Neptunez Band, said, “People are slowly moving away from paying big bucks for artists who come with a CD, pretend to sing for a few minutes, and then they get a million.

Ssemugabi argues that more and more people now see a sense in paying a band, which performs from the time the guests arrive until the end of the function.

Eric Mugisha, a local event organizer agrees with Lubega that professionalism has gone a long way in bringing jazz to a large audience in Kigali.

“In the past, people felt that bands were just trying the music. They thought the musicians in the band play music but are not stars like the pop artists they see on TV and hear on the radio, ”Mugisha said.

While pop artists can be confident in their ability to draw crowds, their live band counterparts fare better in terms of professionalism and overall performance.

For local jazz enthusiasts, the genre became even more palatable when local musicians familiar to them also began to embrace the jazz music scene.

Lubega believes this new platform has saved local musicians a lot of miles and a better understanding of their music from fans who never normally access it.

Some of the local artists who have graced the Kigali Jazz Junction stage are; Mani Martin, Patrick Nyamitari, Nubian Gypsies, Green Hills Injyana Assemble, Charly & Nina, Beauty For Ashes, Hope Irakoze and Ben NgaboKipeti.


Party-goers have fun at a past event at Kigali Jazz Junction. (To file)

Foreign acts that have staged memorable jazz concerts in Kigali include; Mayonde Masya from Kenya, Isaiah Katumwa from Uganda, Maurice Kirya from Uganda, Seyi Shay from Nigeria, Tito Al Uribe from Chile, Christina Kamau from Kenya, Myko Ouma and Moroots from Uganda and Lillian Mbabazi.

After his memorable performance in Kigali in December 2015, an elated Uribe could not hide his joy and promised to promote jazz music in Rwanda by opening a school to teach “real jazz music”. The project has yet to get off the ground, but Uribe has revealed that it will offer a seven-year course format like that at Berkley College of Music in California, United States.

“I am proud to see Rwandans making a monthly program to come and honor this event,” said Lubega.

“The conference has become a more regional and continental discussion on Kigali as a destination for jazz music. Many artists are now trying to register for the event. So we look above us and see the big picture because this genre can bring the quality niche market and appreciate this great country, its people and its way of life, ”Lubega adds.

Regarding the future of jazz in Rwanda, Lubega said: “The industry is not yet defined, what we are doing is promoting gender and talent, we are perhaps doing it more strategically than the rest of the world. kinds of industry, but that’s because we’re passionate about what we do. The fans who come leave happy and keep wanting to come back for more.

“There is more to jazz even if we don’t do well on radio and television; however, we are taking steps towards a better image of this country as a destination for this highly acclaimed genre of music. I can assure you that there is a series of great jazz and soul artists who want to be a part of it because they have recognized us as one of the most cohesive jazz events in the region.


Neptunez Band during a past event. (To file)

“We are planning to spread our wings and also use European and Asian artists, especially destinations RwandAir can go to, as we are passionate about selling and branding this as a product and service that makes us proud. to be Rwandan.

“It should be noted that jazz events also provide a great experience for local artists who really have what it takes to present rich music live. This musical exchange and experience we offer go a long way in inspiring confidence and providing a platform to learn and aspire to be where international artists are located.

Why jazz is growing in popularity



I think music is music, any kind of music can work, it all depends on the organization and how people promote and organize their concerts and events. The organization has helped promote jazz music; the organizers are sure to be good.

Dieudonné Ishimwe, Managing Director of Rwanda Inspiration Backup


Katie carlson

I love jazz, I can say that I would like there to be more diversity in music in Rwanda in terms of what is played on the radio and what is most popular. Jazz is growing in popularity because it is new, different and interesting to listen to. It’s also relaxed but not boring which is why Rwandans like it, it’s not too abrasive like hardcore rock and roll. Plus he has African roots, I would research that because it’s fascinating.

Katie Carlson, wife Activist


Jody phibi

I think it’s growing because when you watch events like Jazz Junction, it works well. The first one isn’t so much but now it’s getting better, people are loving it and can’t wait to see the next event. I think he’s growing up and for me he doesn’t need to compete with other genres, I mean his jazz, it’s a style apart. I love jazz and I always make a point of being there when I can for concerts.

Jody Phibi, Musician


Prossy Mbabazi

People like new stuff, especially if it’s interesting, and jazz falls into that category. It’s the novelty of the neighborhood and people have fallen in love with it. The serenity and elegance that accompany it are the key to its popularity.

Prossy Mbabazi, Administrator

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