The last time I was in Rwanda I only spent 24 hours there yet it felt like a good three days so when I actually returned to Kigali this September for a good three days it felt like a great week – I will try explain why.
After a busy week coordinating and managing three events as part of South African rapper K.O’s first media tour in Kenya, I have attended the wedding of the year on Saturday and two parties on the same night before catching my flight to Kigali on Sunday morning.
I arrive in Kigali and head straight to the Amahoro Stadium to meet my colleagues at Coke Studio Africa (CSA) in a press conference. We are in Rwanda in preparation for the launch of the song ONE – a peace anthem. As the Publicist of CSA, my work here is to assist in managing media interviews and all PR opportunities. My other duty is to enjoy myself, and this place to the fullest! It’s awesome to be reuniting with all the artistes and their entourage. Had really missed them all since the end of filming the third season of CSA in Nairobi.
We are staying at the historic Hotel des Milles Collines Kempinski – the film Hotel Rwanda was based on the actual events that happened in this very hotel in 1994. At this serene and neat hotel 1,268 people took refuge during the genocide as the manager at the time, Paul Rusesabagina, acted to save lives by granting them shelter. I discover later that the film Hotel Rwanda starring Don Cheadle wasn’t actually filmed here but the fact that I am staying at the hotel where thousands found refuge is such a special thing for me. The rooms are pretty simple and classy. I love that the hotel has paintings all over – it provides a sense of homeliness. Their outdoor patio – where we always have breakfast – is like heaven.
As soon as I arrive at hotel I am met by Ishimwe (a young Rwandan visual artist) who I had prior met at Kigali UP Festival during my first trip here. He’s brought me a painting of myself. He says he made it because he likes my pictures and writing. Despite the fact that it does look like me in the next 20 years, I am in such awe. It’s so touching when someone who doesn’t know you to do this kind of thing. We talk about his career, constantly switching between English and French. His English is as terrible as my French and vice versa, so we find a middle ground. Ishimwe will be finishing art school in a few months and would like to embark on his first solo exhibition, take up photography and find a resident program at an art centre. We vow to join forces to make all these happen.
Finally Watching Mafikizolo Live in Concert
After finally settling in, I call over my Rwandese friend – Bruce. He’s the most legit person in the entertainment scene here, his latest project being the first-ever Mafikizolo concert in Kigali, happening tonight. From about 4:00 p.m. we start to hang out. He even takes me to the airport to pick up ice Prince and Alikiba after which he scoops me for a 25 minute-ride out of town to the venue where Mafikizolo are playing in Rwanda for the first time ever tonight. I have never seen Mafikizolo in concert so I am more than excited.
When we arrive it’s cool to see the festival packed. Bruce leads me straight to the backstage VIP area where I meet Mafikizolo. I remind them that we met in Nairobi last year and I was the last to interview them. They seem to remember me but I am not too sure. Nevertheless, we have a great conversation with Nhlanhla. I am quick to tell her that she’s one of my biggest role models and style icons, and that her ways truly inspire many young African women. Her smile is worth a thousand words. Being backstage with Mafikizolo observing them prepare for their show is like watching a movie. Theo doesn’t speak much. He keeps throwing dance moves and fixing his lovely Maasai regalia, which he says he purchased in Tanzania. Nhlanhla wants her lady dancers to shorten their half coats. She literally pulls out a thread and a needle and starts stitching up.
When it’s finally show time, they are playing half live—it’s a cocktail of colour, dance, classic songs and synchrony between the dynamic duo. I enjoy the show so much I can’t even describe how awesome it was. Anyone who hasn’t seen Mafikizolo in concert must make a point. Through their performance, you can see maturity and experience – and years and years of investment. None of their band members sounds greater than another; it’s a balanced mix. The performances of Khona and Happiness make me so happy.
After the concert, I sit in the backstage watching Bruce coordinating Mafikizolo interviews and selfies with fans – it takes Forever. By this time, I have hardly slept two hours straight in the past 48 hours. I just want to go home. But I have to wait for Bruce to finish the job. It becomes so crazy that I am so tempted to put on my Publicist boots and yell, “Everybody Order! Now leave!” I don’t.
Kigali nights out are like nights out in Europe. Concerts don’t go over 1:00 a.m. and people leave for home soon after events, unlike in Kenya where there’s always an after party. Bruce drives me to the hotel alongside Makeda, the loveliest lady I’ve met in Kigali. She’s also a radio presenter and DJ. We enjoy conversation about the music industry in East Africa and the fact that Stromae is half Rwandese, and almost played in Kigali. Bruce was bringing him in until he fell sick… He hopes to bring him in before year ends, can’t wait!
On the next day, we enjoy an awesome celebration of the Peace One Day at the Petit Stade at the launch of our Coke Studio Africa produced peace anthem – ONE, written by Zwai Bala and performed by Coke Studio Africa artists: Maurice Kirya, Ice Prince, Dama Do Bling, Alikiba and Wangechi.
At night we’ve got a low key after party at the hotel. Bruce and some new friends from Rwanda come over to our hotel. Most of them are industry players and recognise me from the Mafikizolo concert. “You looked so serious though,” they note. Lol. It’s so great to talk challenges in our music industries and many are similar. Makes me realise why Africans need to unite more.
By Tuesday morning, I am sad and disturbed beyond what words could describe. First of all, I don’t understand what has been happening to me in Rwanda. The time just seemed to not move (in a good way). It seemed and felt as if I was able to use only about 10 hours in achieving productivity I could generally achieve in two days. When I napped or slept, I would always woke up feeling like I was late to work or something, only to realise it was always around 5:00 a.m.
I don’t need to blog again about the cleanliness in Rwanda. It’s impeccable. Read my previous blog post on Rwanda here. The only stray thing I see is a bottle of water left at the airport counter by one of my colleagues. Wonder who that was, either way I dispose it for them. I miss to see my other Rwandese buddies: Nelson and Bonheur who are away on business. However, I really enjoy my time in Rwanda this time.
As I am heading to the airport, this time there are no hard feelings. I have slept enough, seen enough, been gifted with a painting of myself and just about done everything I wanted to do over the trip.
Thank you to each and every person who made my trip in Rwanda amazing. I feel so blessed.
BONUS: Check out the song ONE below: