- Issue March 18, 2017
Andy Bumuntu Speaks to Mellowviews
By Portia Uwase Zuba
Before I met with Andy for this interview, I was nervous. Nervous because I was meeting with a budding local celebrity, and I didn’t know what to expect. Nervous because it was my first time interviewing a person for a project I am really invested in. However, I had worried about nothing. Andy Bumuntu is a cool guy with whom I had a wonderful conversation. I began by asking:
What has your musical journey been like?
I started singing in 2009. At that time, my friends kind of pressured me into singing, because they thought I was able. I sang in the school choir, and after three years it felt like the perfect time for trying something else. In 2012, I joined a band called Oxymoron and met other aspiring singers, guitarists, and songwriters including Yvan Buravan (another rising star who is famous for songs like Malaika, and Just A Dance). We didn’t take ourselves too seriously. We were just a group of friends who shared a passion for music. I learned a lot about songwriting in Oxymoron, and it was around this time that I started writing my first single “Ndashaje.” After a while, we realized we had different approaches to our music and took different directions. I became a karaoke and wedding singer, and started earning some money from my music. In 2014, I met with Bob Pro and we started working on Ndashaje which was released two years later in September.
Wow… so it took you four years to release your first song?
Yes. I like to take my time on things I deeply care about, and I hope the audience can tell I invested my all in my projects.
Okay, so where do you draw your inspirations from? The songs you have are not exactly what we would call mainstream…
My inspiration comes from listening to people. “Mukadata” was inspired by a friend’s story. That said, I didn’t want to be too specific. It took me time to come up with a much more general story for the song. A song most people who grew under those circumstances would relate to. After the song was released, more friends opened up to me about being raised by step parents. That was bigger and special to me than all the critical acclaim I got for the song. I also like to move around the streets of Kigali to observe all the activity going on. There is also this place near Bambino that is so full of trees that I go to at 4 am in the morning to meditate and to write music. I believe I come up with the best lyrics in that place at that time (laughs…).
We hear you have a background in theater. Does that influence your music in any way?
Theater doesn’t influence the lyrical content of my music, but it played a huge role in my music video, especially the parts that required people to emote. While we were shooting the music video of “Ndashaje”, I kept calling “cut”. All the actors in the video thought I was being such a pain, and I don’t disagree with them (smiles). We finished the shoot at 4 am in the morning, because of me.
So, you are a perfectionist…?
Perfection is difficult to attain, if not impossible. I believe in being real. I joined Mashirika (a big performing arts and media company in Rwanda) in 2013, and I have learned that acting is not about pretending, but “being” and living your character’s life. That is why I tried my best to ensure that all the people in my video were as earnest as they could be in their emotions. I tried my best to ensure that we told a story in the video, and hopefully we succeeded.
How would you describe your genre of music, and why did you choose that genre?
My music is an amalgam of folk and blues. I chose this genre, because I believe it compliments my voice well. I think every artist chooses a genre that brings the best out of them. It’s hard for me to imagine a person like Michael Jackson singing in Kenny Roger’s style, because Michael Jackson’s voice was better suited for pop music. Similarly, I think I am likely to be more successful in blues and folk than I would be in Hip Hop. I am also fascinated by Blues as a genre, because it has its roots in the black culture.
What challenges have you faced so far?
Most Rwandans are used to getting music for free. This is a major challenge for me, and tons of other artists out there. Most of us have other jobs to pay for our music, yet our music should be able to pay for all the other future projects we have. Therefore, you will find some artists singing one song now and taking months to release another song, because other work commitments take away from the time that should be spent making music. The other challenge is that Rwandan artists don’t collaborate as much as they can to promote Rwandan music, but it is changing, albeit slowly.
Lastly, what are your plans, and what should we expect from Andy Bumuntu?
I plan to release another single on the 2nd of April: a song about commemoration. I have always wanted to sing a song like this one for quite some time, because I believe every Rwandese should know about “the ugliest part in Rwandan history” and do everything in his power to ensure it never happens anywhere. “Mukadata’s video will be released with another single (probably my first love song as the pressure is quite enough now, laughs…) sometime in April too. I am hoping to continue making music that will not only touch people’s hearts, but also have the Rwandan identity at the core. Music that will incorporate our wonderful, unique three time beat. I also hope to release an album this year, although I am not sure when, as I take too long to come up with lyrics.