Entre 2 album review: En Root

Track 11: En Root (“In Root/En Route”)

The album’s message of a united humanity – which 1Key expresses in his previous song Universoul – nicely leads us into Entre 2’s reggae song: En Root (“In Root”). Over bouncy rhythms, the album’s entre deux (“between two”) motif persists until the end. As the title of the song suggests, 1Key is “in root”. The poet’s journey completes a full circle when he returns to his search for a connection to his “untraceable” roots. In the hook, 1Key sings in English:

“Take me to the roots of my family tree

Lead me to the truth and set me free

Save me from the dark, my world is full of lies

My shining star…”

1Key reveals that he emerges himself in technology “in order to get close to strangers/Hoping that the world will be better if we just accept to mix.” (Translated from French to English) The artist unsuccessfully tried to find himself through religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, traditions, and profession. In the end, 1Key tells us:

“I decided to embrace the fact that I’m this mass, or rather this mess that absorbs whatever the world throws at it, you know?

Who or what I am is no longer a big deal

I’m here and that’s all that matters…”

Breaking away slightly from his heritage, 1Key tells us that he has reinvented his personality. Rather than “in root”, he is now “en route”; the poet has “put the pieces together” and is on a new universoul journey…

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With that, the piece transforms into 1Key’s appreciation song. The artist thanks his Grandfather, his mother, his aunties and his Uncle Faustin, who raised 1Key with his Grandfather. He also thanks his son. 1Key thanks music producers Barick, Junior Kafi, and Joe. He shows appreciation to the artists featured in the album: Dady Cassanova, Samy Kamanzi, Ricky Password, Brian Corpus, Jason Ntaro, Nono (Mhinganzima), and Natacha. He also thanks Tony Mwesigwa and Reniout Dujardin for “the amazing job on the cover”, and the founders of Spoken Word Rwanda (Diana and Betty) and Kwivuga Kampala (Nunu – who is also Rwandan). 1Key gives thanks to living legend Cecile Kayirebwa and her son Eric Soul, as well as Nelson, who invited 1Key to perform in Rwanda’s KigaliUp Festival for the first time. He thanks his colleagues and friends (Dorene, Colin and Josh) and members of Ze Clew: Kaneza, Fiona, Leah, PK, Dan, Gladys and Sam. Ze Clew is a WhatsApp group, with members from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. 1Key told me: “It’s a friendship group. The idea is for us to assist each other when travelling between these countries”.

Now here is my opportunity to thank you Eric 1Key! As an “outsider” in a country where privacy, distrust and caution have become normalised, I will be forever grateful for meeting you. Our first “interview” lasted for five intense hours! Since then, you have gifted me with many more hours of your time. Those were extremely busy days for you, with full time work, parenthood and preparation for your first live show. But patiently you helped me to translate all eleven tracks on your album. Your direct and open approach to discussion has taught me more than I could have imagined. It’s been a privilege; it’s been a lot of fun! Thank you for trusting me with your words.

Thank you, Merci, Murakoze!

Ceri Whatley

PhD African Studies/Anthropology of Music

University of Birmingham, UK

AHRC-M3C

 

Entre 2 is available on Soundcloud – Entre2 and for sale on digital stores iTunesSpotify, and Amazon. 

Eric 1key is very active on social media where you can find him discussing and debating all kinds of things. For updates and live info, follow Eric1key on Twitter: @eric1key, Facebook: Facebook/eric1key, Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/eric1key or email for bookings at ericonekey@gmail.com

 

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Song lyrics and translations

En Root (“In Root”  [Track 11 on Entre 2 album]) 

Prod. Barick (Kigali). Vocals: Yego Studio (Kampala); English, French.

[Intro] [Intro]
Alright! Entre2 has been a beautiful journey Alright! Entre 2 has been a beautiful journey
Yeah. Lots of discovery Yeah. Lots of discovery
So I thought maybe we could take another small trip So I thought maybe we could take another small trip
What do you say? Right? Come with me What do you say? Right? Come with me
[Hook] [Hook]
Take me to the roots of my family tree Take me to the roots of my family tree
Lead me to the truth and set me free Lead me to the truth and set me free
Save me from the dark, my world is full of lies Save me from the dark, my world is full of lies
My shining star My shining star
Take me to the roots of my family tree Take me to the roots of my family tree
Lead me to the truth and set me free Lead me to the truth and set me free
Save me from the dark, my world is full of lies Save me from the dark, my world is full of lies
My shining star My shining star
Woyooo Woyooo
Woyooo Woyooo
[Verse1] [Verse1]
C’est le retour d’âge d’un adulte prématuré It’s the mid-life crisis of a premature adult
Les boots dans l’asphalte, en route, le parcours est inauguré I’ve got my boots on the road, en route, the journey has begun
Les yeux dans les étoiles, je cours après mon ombre My eyes are lost in the stars, I’m running after my shadow
Car retracer mon histoire c’est recoller les décombres Because walking on the path of my history, the whole of it is putting the pieces together
Mes traces ressemblent aux marques des pieds sur la plage My traces look like footprints in the sand
Aussi belles qu’elles paraissent, elles disparaissent avec la vague Although beautiful, they disappear with the waves of the ocean
Racines intraçables, je suis superficiel comme une algue My roots are untraceable, I’m superficial like algae
C’est haut du gratte-ciel que je cherche la base du baobab It’s from the top of a sky scraper that I’m looking for the base of the baobab
Sur cet arbre généalogique, je ne sais sur quelle branche m’accrocher On this genealogy tree, I don’t know which branch to hang on
Donc je me livre à la technologie pour me rapprocher des étrangers So I emerge myself in technology to get closer to strangers
Espérant le monde sera mieux si on acceptait tous de se mélanger Hoping that the world will be better if we just accept to mix
A peine la troisième generation des peuples soumis It’s only the third generation of a subjugated people
L’histoire de ma nation reste fondée sur un mythe The foundation of my nation’s story is a myth
Je crois pas qu’on ait apparu comme en un jour des champignons I don’t believe we appeared one day like mushrooms
C’est pourquoi je cherche mes souches comme le noyau de l’oignon This is why I’m looking for my layers, even though it seems like peeling an onion
 —
On perd la voie de nos ancêtres, l’occident profite We lose the way of our ancestors, and the West benefits from this
On se vend aux enchères depuis que le dollar est notre devise We auctioned ourselves since the dollar became our currency
Main d’oeuvre bon marché, l’Afrique reste en crise Man power is very cheap, so Africa’s economy remains in crisis
Les Etats se multiplient plus on se divise Countries multiply the more we divide
 —
[Hook] [Hook]
Take me to the roots of my family tree Take me to the roots of my family tree
Lead me to the truth and set me free Lead me to the truth and set me free
Save me from the dark, my world is full of lies Save me from the dark, my world is full of lies
My shining star My shining star
Take me to the roots of my family tree Take me to the roots of my family tree
Lead me to the truth and set me free Lead me to the truth and set me free
Save me from the dark, my world is full of lies Save me from the dark, my world is full of lies
My shining star My shining star
[Appreciations] [Appreciations]
It’s funny how It’s funny how
I’ve been looking for myself all this time I’ve been looking for myself all this time
Only to realise that I was here the whole time  Only to realise that I was here the whole time
I tried to find myself through religion I tried to find myself through religion
Race, ethnicity, nationality, traditions, even profession Race, ethnicity, nationality, traditions, even profession
But none of these things worked out for me man But none of these things worked out for me man
So I reinvented my personality So I reinvented my personality
I decided to embrace the fact that I’m this mass, or rather this mess that absorbs whatever the world throws at it, you know? I decided to embrace the fact that I’m this mass, or rather this mess that absorbs whatever the world throws at it, you know?
Who or what I am is no longer a big deal Who or what I am is no longer a big deal
I’m here and that’s all that matters. I’m here and that’s all that matters.
So today I’m here to say thanks So today I’m here to say thanks
Because I don’t believe there is such a thing as self-made Because I don’t believe there is such a thing as self-made
We all need help from one another man We all need help from one another man
So I’m gonna start with my Grandpa – rest in peace beautiful soul. So I’m gonna start with my Grandpa – rest in peace beautiful soul.
Thank you for teaching me by simply being you. Thank you for teaching me by simply being you.
Thank you mom. I know you don’t know much about how I do what I do, but you believe in me. And that means a lot. Thank you Mum. I know you don’t know much about how I do what I do, but you believe in me. And that means a lot.
Thank you Tantine Chantal. You changed my life. Rest In Peace. I wish you were here. Thank you Tantine Chantal. You changed my life. Rest In Peace. I wish you were here.
Thank you Faustin. You’re my childhood everyday hero. Thank you for all the sacrifices. Thank you Faustin. You’re my childhood everyday hero. Thank you for all the sacrifices.
To my son. You’re my balance in this crazy world. I love you. I love you. I love you.  To my son. You’re my balance in this crazy world. I love you. I love you. I love you.
To all my aunties: Didine, Yvette and Mukaza, and even the other Didine. Thank you for being here and thank for making me feel special. Thank you for not judging me.  To all my aunties: Didine, Yvette and Mukaza, and even the other Didine. Thank you for being here and thank for making me feel special. Thank you for not judging me.
Yeah. I have a dream that one day we can sit around a table and laugh all together. Coz you know for sure we have so many comedians in the family.  Yeah. I have a dream that one day we can sit around a table and laugh all together. Coz you know for sure we have so many comedians in the family.
I also wanna thank Barick. You played a huge part in Entre2. I mean literally. I’m proud of you bro. I mean hang in there just a little bit, passion pays bro, it pays. I also wanna thank Barick. You played a huge part in Entre2. I mean literally. I’m proud of you bro. I mean hang in there just a little bit, passion pays bro, it pays.
Junior Kafi, your touch is divine bro. Keep doing what you do. Junior Kafi, your touch is divine bro. Keep doing what you do.
Dady Cassanova, Samy Kamanzi, Ricky Password, Body of Brian, Jason Ntaro, Nono, Natacha. Thank you so much for pouring your hearts on this project. Dady Cassanova, Samy Kamanzi, Ricky Password, Body of Brian, Jason Ntaro, Nono, Natacha. Thank you so much for pouring your hearts on this project.
Tony Mwesigwa, Reniout Dujardin. Thank you guys for the amazing job on the cover. I can never thank you enough. Tony Mwesigwa, Reniout Dujardin. Thank you guys for the amazing job on the cover. I can never thank you enough.
Diana, Betty, Spoken Word Rwanda, Nunu, Kwivuga Kampala, Cecile Kayirebwa, Eric Soul, Nelson, Kigali Up. Thank you for the vote of confidence. Diana, Betty: Spoken Word Rwanda, Nunu: Kwivuga Kampala, Cecile Kayirebwa, Eric Soul, Nelson, Kigali Up. Thank you for the vote of confidence.
Dorene, Colin, Josh, thank you for the support. Keep it real. Dorene, Colin, Josh: Thank you for the support. Keep it real.
Kaneza, Fiona, Leah, PK, Dan, Gladys, Sam, Ze Clew… oh Corey, yeah! Shout out to Ze Clew! Kaneza, Fiona, Leah, PK, Dan, Gladys, Sam, Ze Clew… oh Corey, yeah! Shout out to Ze Clew!
You’re my friends, you’re the friends that I’ve always wanted to have. So stay true. Keep it cool. I love you. Be happy. You’re my friends, you’re the friends that I’ve always wanted to have. So stay true. Keep it cool. I love you. Be happy.
And to everyone who shares my music on social media, I really appreciate. It means a lot to me.  And to everyone who shares my music on social media, I really appreciate. It means a lot to me.
Thanks to all you tweeps, to my friends on Facebook. Thanks to all you tweeps, to my friends on Facebook.
Ah! I don’t know! I don’t know where this music is gonna go, but I’m ready. I can let it take me wherever you wanna take me. Ah! I don’t know! I don’t know where this music is gonna go, but I’m ready. I can let it take me wherever you wanna take me.
Thanks everyone. Yego! Thanks Joe! Big up!   Thanks everyone. Yego! Thanks Joe! Big up!
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Entre 2 album review: Universoul

Track 10: Universoul ft. Abaasa

Universoul is the ultimate track on the album. The collabo features Abaasa, a Ugandan music producer and (predominantly gospel) singer who lives in the UK. The artists connected on Twitter and began a conversation which progressed to Skype. Abaasa created the beats for the track and recorded his vocals for the chorus, which projects an uplifting, feel-good mood:

“I’m more than what you see

I’m free like the air you breathe

Je suis imparable, je suis untouchable, universoul

I’m untouchable like a dream

Unsolvable like a mystery

I’m untouchable, I’m unstoppable, universoul

Universoul…”

Abaasa emailed the demo to 1Key, who remembers escaping a noisy bar to listen to it. He told me: “It has an 80’s feel. I was born in ‘81. It was exactly what I needed!” 1key laid his vocals in French, at Yego Studio in Kampala. The contrast between 1Key’s French verses – which are rapped poetically and with purpose – and the English chorus, with its cheerful, sing-a-long quality, creates a beautifully original mood. Abaasa returned to Uganda for the Christmas holidays and the two artists met in person for the first time. They finalised their song, which was mastered by Ugandan music producer Nelson.

Entre 2 is a coming-of-age album. As we progress through the tracks, 1Key explores the twisted roots of his heritage, in search of a meaningful identity. In Universoul, 1Key makes peace with his life history, carving pride and meaning out of shame and isolation. He proclaims:

“My birth, a result of accidental conception

 Is a beautiful error just like the creation of penicillin

Such a dreamer, I aspire to make a contribution to this life

As valid as that of Fleming in medicine

When I was a kid, I wanted to become a doctor

Today my poetry heals hearts.’”(Translated from French to English)

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Courtesy of Eric 1Key

Among the ambiguities of 1Key’s life, what becomes clear is the poet’s sense of self. 1Key has transitioned from “identity crisis” to a position of artistic certainty.

1Key is half-Rwandan and half-Congolese. He has lived in the DRC, the Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. As a multi-lingual artist and conscious citizen of the world – who accesses online space and engages with current global debates – 1Key is at once Rwandan, African, and in his own words: “Universoul”. He tells us:

 

“I am a delta between multiple rivers

Lots of cultures coexist in my system

I come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time

 I am a mixture of everything, neither homogenous nor heterogeneous

Human. That is the signature of my genes.” (Translated from French to English)

 

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Courtesy of Hope Azeda

This emphasis on a united Humanity, where entwined linguistic and cultural influences exist in harmony, is reflective of the hopes of many Kigalians today. In 2015, I witnessed the birth of Rwanda’s Ubumuntu Arts Festival, which brings different artists from around the world to Kigali. The festival is the brainchild of Hope Azeda, the founder and Artistic Director of Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company.  Hope and I discussed what it means to be Rwandan today. She told me:

 

“So this is the Rwandan thing! We know that we speak different languages, and that we are a diverse culture, and the audience connects to that a lot. I think our differences make us strong. It has become very musical!” (Hope Azeda, 22 July 2015)

Ubumuntu means “being human”, and the festival responds to issues on a national and regional, but also global scale. Hope told me:

“It’s about restoring humanity in a world where humanity is facing extinction… it is a subject that is faceless. It’s not white, it’s not black… it has no religion, you know? Or it’s a mirror for every religion. So for me that’s why people love it. Humanity is a universal gift, but we abuse it…” (Hope Azeda, 22 July 2015)

While it true that 1Key is interested in politics, he makes it clear that he is not a politician. Despite embracing his Rwandan cultural identity, 1Key told me: “nationalities are over-rated! They are the cause of wars…” He raps:

“I am liberal and my world is not a third party

 I am far away from your imaginary boundaries that create real enemies

Away from your “united nations” to exploit the vulnerable ones and racial divisions of your “united states”…” (Translated from French to English)

In the words of 1Key himself:

1Key

1World

1Love

Let us continue to spread the word…

Entre 2 is available on Soundcloud – Entre2 and for sale on digital stores iTunesSpotify, and Amazon.

Eric 1key is very active on social media where you can find him discussing and debating all kinds of things. For updates and live info, follow Eric1key on Twitter: @eric1key, Facebook: Facebook/eric1key, Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/eric1key or email for bookings at ericonekey@gmail.com

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Song lyrics and translations

Universoul ft. Abaasa [Track 10 on Entre 2 album] 

Prod. Abaasa (UK), mastered by Nelson (Uganda). Vocals: Yego Studio (Kampala); French, English.

[Verse 1: Eric 1key] [Verse 1: Eric 1key]
Je suis brillant de nature I am brilliant by nature
C’est pas le talent dans l’écriture It’s not the writing skills
Les phares, les voitures The headlights, the cars
Les projecteurs des stades The stadium beams
Le bling bling ou le swag, qui font de moi une star The bling bling or the swag, that make me a star
Je suis né à la belle étoile I was born under the stars
A l’aurore du dernier jour d’Avril At the aurora of the last day of April
A l’aube du premier jour de Mai And the dawn of the first day of May
A la fin de la saison de pluies, mais crois pas que je suis né de la dernière At the end of the rainy season, but don’t you think that I was born yesterday
Je suis un delta entre plusieurs rivières lointaines I am a delta between multiple distant rivers
Plein de cultures cohabitent dans mon système Lots of cultures coexist in my system
Je viens de nulle part, en même temps de partout I come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time
Je suis un mélange de tout, ni homogène ni hétérogène I am a mixture of everything, neither homogenous nor heterogeneous
Humain avant tout, c’est la signature de mes genes Human. That is the signature of my genes
Des fois j’ai l’impression que mon existence est une conspiration universelle Sometimes I have a feeling my life was conspired by the universe
Car ma naissance suite à une conception accidentelle My birth, a result of accidental conception
Est une belle erreur comme la création de la pénicilline Is a beautiful error just like the creation of penicillin
Reveur, j’aspire à faire une contribution dans cette vie Such a dreamer, I aspire to make a contribution to this life
Aussi valide que celle de Fleming en médecine As valid as that of Fleming in medicine
Quand j’étais petit, je voulais devenir docteur When I was a kid, I wanted to become a doctor
Aujourd’hui ma poésie soigne les coeurs Today my poetry heals hearts
Si tu veux savoir qui je suis, tu me trouveras If you want to know who I am, you will find me
Parmi ceux qui croient que le hasard fait bien des miracles Among those who believe that everything happens for a reason, however random
[Chorus: Abaasa] [Chorus: Abaasa]
I’m more than what you see I’m more than what you see
I’m free like the air you breathe I’m free like the air you breathe
Je suis imparable, je suis untouchable, universoul I’m unstoppable, I’m untouchable, universoul
I’m untouchable like a dream I’m untouchable like a dream
Unsolvable like a mystery Unsolvable like a mystery
I’m untouchable, I’m unstoppable, universoul I’m untouchable, I’m unstoppable, universoul, universoul, universoul
Universoul… Universoul…
[Verse 2: Eric 1key] [Verse 2: Eric 1key]
J’ai pas le front patriotique, ni le derrière merdique des politiques I do not push patriotism upfront like dirty ass politicians
Mes organes n’ont votre sens du sacrifice My organs do not have your sense of sacrifice
J’ai l’syndrome John Q, je ne donnerai mon coeur qu’à mon fils I have John Q syndrome, I would only give my heart to my son
J’veux pas d’édifice à mon effigie quand je serai parti I do not want structures in my effigy when I am gone
Je veux pas qu’on me traite de héros, nombreux sont morts pour des faux idéaux I do not want to be treated as a hero, many died for false ideals
Je paris qu’ils se retournent au fond de leurs tombes quand ils observent ce qu’on a fait de ce monde I bet they roll over in their graves when they see what we have done to this world
Je suis pas international, je crois pas aux frontières I am not international, I think not at the borders
Je suis plutôt libéral et mon monde n’est pas un tiers I am liberal and my world is not a third party
Loin de vos limites imaginaires qui créent des réels ennemis I am far away from your imaginary boundaries that create real enemies
Loin de vos nations unies pour exploiter les plus démunis et des divisions raciales de vos états unis Je m’évade à travers les couloirs de la vie Away from your “united nations” to exploit the vulnerable ones and racial divisions of your “united states” I escaped through the corridors of your life
Mon âme slalome vers mon étoile, viens si t’as envie, mon univers est infini My soul roams towards my star, join if you want, my universe is infinite
Mon hymne est un freestyle au rythme de mon coeur My anthem is a freestyle on the rhythm of my heartbeat
Mon drapeau tout comme ma peau n’a pas de couleur My flag, just like my skin, is colourless
Je suis fait d’eau, de terre, d’air mais aussi de lueur I am made of water, earth, air but also light
C’est pourquoi tout comme ces astres au milieu Des ruines et des désastres je brille de mille feux That is why just like celestial bodies, in the middle of ruins and disasters, I shine bright
[Chorus: Abaasa] [Chorus: Abaasa]
I’m more than what you see I’m more than what you see
I’m free like the air you breathe I’m free like the air you breathe
Je suis imparable, je suis untouchable, universoul I’m unstoppable, I’m untouchable, universoul
I’m untouchable like a dream I’m untouchable like a dream
Unsolvable like a mystery Unsolvable like a mystery
I’m untouchable, I’m unstoppable, universoul I’m untouchable, I’m unstoppable, universoul, universoul, universoul
Universoul… Universoul…
[Outro: Eric 1key] [Outro: Eric 1key]
Je suis apatride pas métis I am stateless not half-caste
Mon esprit ski entre les galaxies My spirit skis between galaxies

Entre 2 album review: Gêne-Aise

Track 9: Gêne-Aise ft. Cassa & Samy Kamanzi  

Powerful poetry is born out of pain. Enveloping us, it demands our full attention; creating a ripple of silence, our minds become consumed by the words. Our bodies are effected too: goose bumps on our arms, a lump in our throat, or a knot in our stomach. Perhaps a tear down our face. This is what I experienced when I watched 1Key perform Gêne Aise live for the first time on the #expericment. I understood how much this meant to my friend, and there was no way to escape his pain. And yet the pain was lightened by the pleasure of this shared experience. Through his music, 1Key brought us all together: an audience of friends and strangers, from Francophone Rwandans to Anglophone North Americans, to me, the emotional British anthropologist on my final evening of fieldwork!

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Kigali, Rwanda. 2016. 1Key performing Gêne Aise live on the #expericment. [Courtesty of Innovation Village]

Gêne-Aise is 1Key’s most intimate piece. It tells his life story, a story which is shared by many Rwandans, but is not often talked about openly. The track is a collabo between Cassa (or Dady Cassanova) – a Rwandan who lives in Canada – and Samy Kamanzi, who, like 1Key, is half-Rwandan and half-Congolese – and who was living in France at the time. Once again, new digital technologies triumph in their capacity for enabling musical collaboration!

The initial idea for Gêne Aise was developed by the three artists, through the circulating of voice notes using WhatsApp. Samy produced the music for the track and emailed it to 1Key. 1Key took the track to Dustville Studio in Kampala, where he added some beats using Logic Pro. He layered in his vocals and emailed his progress to Samy and Cassa, who continued the process, and so it went on. According to 1Key, it was a complicated endeavour, due to the three artists all using different, incompatible recording software.  When listening to the beautifully haunting harmonies in the Hayaya yoyoooo sections, it is difficult to imagine these challenges.

The opening section of Gêne Aise switches back and forth between Cassa and 1Key, and between English, French and Kiswahili. The tone is set instantly when Cassa sings:

“I’ve been holding on for too long

I’m gonna let it all go through this song.”

Indeed, 1Key tells us:

“Tonight there will be no metaphors in my verses

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone to talk to you with an open heart.” (Translated from French to English)

Later, in his verse, 1Key tells us:

“I was born in exile in my father’s country… /

… When my grandfather’s neighbours were slaughtering his brothers

He found asylum in this land which belonged to his forefathers before

It is complicated but basically I was born between the anvil and the hammer

In this region of the Great Lakes known for the blood that flows

Between two large countries, one known for genocide and its bravery

The other for its size, its riches and its endless wars…” (Translated from French to English)

Here, 1Key is explaining his complicated family history. Son of a Rwandan (Tutsi) mother and a Congolese father – who he has had limited contact with – 1Key was born in Goma, eastern DRC – which used to be a part of Rwanda. 1Key told me: “I have always felt more Rwandese. Rwanda is the family and the traditions I know.” 1Key and his family were living in the DRC as refugees; lines 2-3 of the above extract refer to the 1959 massacres in Rwanda, which led to vast numbers of Tutsis fleeing Rwanda to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.

Rwanda on the map

On the map: Kigali-Rwanda; Goma-DR Congo; Kampala-Uganda. Source: World Sites Atlas (2016)

In the album’s second track (Mal Appris), we learned that 1Key was exposed to poverty, hunger and disease, while growing up in Goma. This track reveals how 1Key also “received the treatment of the cockroach” – cockroach being the derogatory term used to describe Tutsis in the de-humanizing campaign, which contributed to the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. (Translated from French to English) As 1Key’s narrative continues to unfold, the rapper softly tells us how he went on to spend time in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, and then Kinshasa, DRC, before he finally “landed in the arms of Rwanda.” (Translated from French to English) 1Key tells us that, while it feels good to be accepted in Rwanda:

“…it’s heavy to bear

The weight of knowing that I can no longer put my feet

On the land which has seen me rise because the volcano has erased it.” (Translated from French to English)

This is in reference to the 1997 volcano lava flow disaster in Goma, which destroyed his childhood home.

Gêne-Aise is wordplay: apart, the two words translate as “discomfort” (Gêne) and “ease” (Aise), while together they become like Genesis. Indeed, 1Key’s personal creation story is defined by such dichotomies, as he attempts to understand the twisted roots of his life history. This is a story of rejection and suffering, of poverty and abuse, of war and peace, and of loss and pain. At the same time, this is a story of perseverance and strength, and of rediscovery. Towards the end of the song, Cassa sings:

“Strong like a stone, I keep rolling on (on and on and on).”

Meanwhile, 1Key makes reference to rappers who continue to inspire his art, namely: Soprano, Kery James and Tumi Molekane. Like them, 1Key’s poetry is “real” and sometimes sad. In the words of 1Key:

“Tumi said to me “It kills you and heals you at the same time”…” (Translated from French to English)

Entre 2 is available on Soundcloud – Entre2 and for sale on digital stores iTunesSpotify, and Amazon.
Eric 1key is very active on social media where you can find him discussing and debating all kinds of things. For updates and live info, follow Eric1key on Twitter: @eric1key, Facebook: Facebook/eric1key, Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/eric1key or email for bookings at ericonekey@gmail.com

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Song lyrics and translations

Gene Aise ft. Cassa & Samy Kamanzi [Track 9 on Entre 2 album] 

Prod. Samy Kamanzi (France), in collaboration with Dustville Studio (Kampala) and Cassa (Canada); English, French, Kiswahili

Cassa: I’ve been holding in for too long Cassa: I’ve been holding in for too long
I’m gonna let it all go through this song I’m gonna let it all go through this song
1key: S’il y a du silence entre mes fous rires 1key: If there is silence between my laughter
De l’absence de joie dans mon sourire An absence of joy in my smile
C’est parce que mon historie est inédite That is because my story remains untold
Samy: Usiku na mchana najificha Samy: I hide myself day and night
Mambo mengi siwezi sema There is so much I cannot say
Ukiona nacheka usizani ni furaha If you see me laughing don’t assume I’m happy
1key: Ce soir il y aura pas de métaphore dans mes vers 1key: Tonight there will be no metaphors in my verses
Je sors de ma zone de confort vous parler à coeur ouvert I’m stepping out of my comfort zone to talk to you with an open heart
Hayaya yoyoooo Hayaya yoyoooo
[Verse 1: 1Key] [Verse 1: 1Key] 
Je suis comme tout artiste, mon art vient d’un vide I’m just like any artist; my art comes from an empty place
Mon gouffre de je le remplis de vers de poésie I fill my void with glasses/verses of poetry
Ivre de melancolie, comme soprano j’en deviens accro aussi Drunk on melancholy, I get addicted to it like Soprano
Oui je pratique un art triste, réel comme Kery Yes I practice a sad art, real as Kery
Tumi m’a dit “Il te tue et à la fois te guérit” Tumi said to me “It kills you and heals you at the same time”
Voici donc une session de thérapie pour le meilleur et le pire Here, therefore, is a therapy session for the best and for the worst
Je suis né à l’exil au pays de mon père I was born in exile in my father’s country
Une partie de moi a hérité la terre de l’autre du même master A part of me inherited the land of the other from the same master
Quand les voisins de mon grand-père égorgeaient ses frères  When my grandfather’s neighbours were slaughtering his brothers
Il s’est réfugié sur cette terre qui appartenait aux siens plus tôt He found asylum in this land which belonged to his forefathers
C’est compliqué mais bref je suis né entre l’enclume et le marteau It is complicated but, basically I was born between the anvil and the hammer
Dans cette région de grands lacs connus pour le sang qui y coule In this region of the Great Lakes known for the blood that flows
Entre deux grand pays, un connu pour son génocide et sa bravoure Between two great countries, one known for its genocide and its bravery
L’autre pour sa taille, ses richesses et ses guerres interminables The other for its size, its riches and its endless wars
Les deux se haïssent, certainement pour des raisons minables The two hate each other, certainly for minor reasons
Cassa: I’ve been holding in for too long Cassa: I’ve been holding in for too long
I’m gonna let it all go through this song I’m gonna let it all go through this song
1key: S’il y a du silence entre mes fous rires 1key: If there is silence between my laughter
De l’absence de joie dans mon sourire An absence of joy in my smile
C’est parce que mon historie est inédite That is because my story remains untold
Samy: Usiku na mchana najificha Samy: I hide myself day and night
Mambo mengi siwezi sema There is so much I cannot say
Ukiona nacheka usizani ni furaha If you see me laughing don’t assume I’m happy
Hayaya yoyoooo Hayaya yoyoooo
[Verse 2: 1key] [Verse 2: 1key]
J’ai vu le jour entre la haine et l’amour I was born between hate and love
Derrière cette petite maison enduite de crépi rouge Behind this small house coated with red plaster
En 92, moins de 12 ans deja In ‘92, before I was 12 years old
Je subissais le traitement du cafard I received the treatment of the cockroach
A cette école de planches près de l’aéroport de Goma At this school of planks near Goma’s airport
Rejeté du Kivu, 3 ans à Brazza Rejected from Kivu, 3 years in Brazzaville
De kin, j’ai atterri dans les bras du Rwanda From Kinshasa I landed in the arms of Rwanda
Ses collines m’ont accueilli avec du lait caillé Its hills welcomed me with yoghurt
Des sourires jusqu’aux oreilles et Nkundamahoro comme cahier Big smiles and Nkundamahoro as note books[1]
Je dois l’dire, ça soulage de se sentir accepté I have to say it feels good to be accepted
Mais en même temps c’est lourd de porter But at the same time it’s heavy to bear
Le poids de savior que je ne peux plus remettre les pieds The weight of knowing that I can no longer put my feet
Sur la terre qui m’a vu naitre car le volcan l’a efface On the land which has seen me rise because the volcano has erased it
[Verse 3: Cassa] [Verse 3: Cassa]
Let go of what you think you know Let go of what you think you know
You got no idea about where I come from You got no idea about where I come from
My hometown’s been erased by a volcano My hometown’s been erased by a volcano
I coulda be homeless but I said “no no no” I coulda be homeless but I said “no no no”
Wherever I lay my head, that’s my home (home home home) Wherever I lay my head, that’s my home (home home home)
Strong like a stone, I keep rolling on (on and on and on) Strong like a stone, I keep rolling on (on and on and on)
(X 2)  (X 2)
Samy: Usiku na mcana najifica Samy: I hide myself day and night
Mambo mengi siwezi semaa There is so much I cannot say
Mikiona naceka usizani ni furaha If you see me laughing don’t assume I’m happy
 —  —
Hayaya yoyooo… Hayaya yoyooo…

[1] Nkunda amahoro (“I love peace”)

Entre 2 album review: Chasing Ghosts

Track 8: Raison d’Etre (“Reason to Be”)/Chasing Ghosts ft. Jason Ntaro & Body of Brian 

As we progress further through 1Key’s eclectic album, the tone shifts once again. 1Key’s eighth track – Raison d’Etre/Chasing Ghosts – was inspired by the soulful, folky quality of Ben Harper’s single Please me like you want to (2011). The music opens with the comforting sounds of an acoustic guitar and the passionate voice of Body of Brian, who sings his verse in English.

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Kigali, Rwanda. 2016. 1Key performing on the #expericment. [Courtesy of Innovation Village]

As the artists on the track contemplate their “reasons to be”, the album’s entre deux (“between two”) theme reappears. Once again, 1Key articulates his frustrations with the entrapments of a capitalist society. In order to emphasise the omnipresence of money, the wordsmith inserts multiple variations of the word “money” throughout his verse: L’argent, thunes, money, maille, blé, pognon, fric, beurre (“butter”), and pain (“bread”). In French, the rapper asks the question:

“In a consumerist society even the dream is for sale

What’s the right choice between passion and employment?” (Translated from French to English)

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Kigali, Rwanda. 2016. 1Key performing on the #expericment. [Courtesy of Innovation Village]

The track – which is about selling your soul to make money – is reflective of 1Key’s unease with his position as both an artist, concerned with “speaking truths”, and as the Creative Head for an advertising agency, where he is paid to sell ideas – whether he believes in them or not. 1Key tells us “…I sold grams of my soul/When I put my pen at the service of capitalism/For little money, I lost balance.” (Translated from French to English)

1Key was excited to collaborate with his favourite Ugandan poet for this track. Jason Ntaro shares 1Key’s concerns with the ever-demanding nature of capitalism. In verse 3 he tells us:

“Now I’m convinced that I’m working hard

But hard enough is not even hard enough

And so I sit, watch my shrivelled shadows and laugh

And fall willingly into this crack…”

Like 1Key, Jason Ntaro feels burdened by the repetitive emptiness of a life chasing money, rather than a life enriched by authenticity and meaning.

In May 2016, 1Key quit his job in advertising to pursue a full time career as an artist. As a fierce promoter of Kigali’s live music scene – which is severely under-funded – 1Key has been organising a series of live shows: the #expericment. The first show saw the evolution of the storyteller. As one fan tweeted: “[1Key] Came in like a slave and left like a rock star…” Indeed, it is beautiful watching 1Key evolve as an artist, among his family and his friends – and with a fast-growing audience beyond that. The second show was simpler: a band, a stool and a storyteller, with 1Key using this self-made-platform to invite other storytellers (singers, spoken word poets and comedians) to the stage. 1Key oozes stage presence and his third show in the series – which he called “Sexpericment” – playfully explored gender themes and sexuality.

Exp 3_Profile

Courtesy of Eric 1Key

In order to meet the financial demands of a live show, 1Key regularly appeals to his fans on social media sites, encouraging them to buy his album, and to purchase show tickets using mobile money. In January 2016, 1Key released The Free Song, with Don Nova, J Dub, Sickspits, Natacha, Arafat, and Khalil. (Prod. Jay P) 1Key’s opening line is unambiguous:

“I’m an artist, art is what I practice/If it’s free how do I eat? How do I survive?”

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Courtesy of the internet 

1Key’s perseverance in appealing for investors, and also for more creative spaces – there is still no national theatre in Rwanda – is relentless. In a recent blog post, he wrote:

“Special thanks to everyone who went out of their way to buy tickets with mobile money for the first time. Someone had said, “Rwandans don’t believe in pre-sales unless you are Stromae and they all don’t have Mobile money.” True! One fact though: About 60 Rwandans and non-Rwandans bought their tickets with Mobile Money (mostly pre-ordered) then skipped the Champions League final to attend the #expericment.”

Once again, 1Key proves himself a pioneer!

Entre 2 is available on Soundcloud – Entre2 and for sale on digital stores iTunesSpotify, and Amazon. 

Eric 1key is very active on social media where you can find him discussing and debating all kinds of things. For updates and live info, follow Eric1key on Twitter: @eric1key, Facebook: Facebook/eric1key, Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/eric1key or email for bookings at ericonekey@gmail.com

https://soundcloud.com/eric1key/raisondetre-chasingghosts-feat-jason-ntaro-brian-corpus

 

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Song lyrics and translations

Raison d’Etre (“Reason to Be”)/Chasing Ghosts ft. Jason Ntaro & Body of Brian [Track 8 on Entre 2 album] 

Prod. Lo Rider (Kampala); English, French.

[Verse 1: Body of Brian] [Verse 1: Body of Brian]
Wohhh! I’m losing myself Wohhh! I’m losing myself
It’s like I’m searching for something I don’t know It’s like I’m searching for something I don’t know
Could be the missing piece to my puzzled soul Could be the missing piece to my puzzled soul
My guts they tell me what I need is somewhere out there My guts they tell me what I need is somewhere out there
I have no clue where to look so I try everywhere I have no clue where to look so I try everywhere
It’s like whisky to an alcoholic, crack to a crackhead It’s like whisky to an alcoholic, crack to a crackhead
Except I’m missing something that I never had Except I’m missing something that I never had
[Hook] [Hook]
Eric 1key: Eric 1key:
Je cours après le vent dans ma quête I’m chasing the wind in my quest
Chaque jour je cherche ma raison d’être Each day I fabricate my reason to be
La Terre tourne et le cycle se répète The earth turns and the cycle repeats itself
Body of Brian: Body of Brian:
I traded my soul for a few notes I traded my soul for a few notes
Now that it’s gone up in smoke Now that it’s gone up in smoke
What reason to live and die for?       What reason to live and die for?
I feel like I’m chasing ghosts I feel like I’m chasing ghosts
Eric 1key: Eric 1key:
Je cours après le vent dans ma quête I’m chasing the wind in my quest
Chaque jour je cherche ma raison d’être Each day I fabricate my reason to be
La terre tourne et le cycle se répète The earth turns and the cycle repeats itself
[Verse 2: Eric 1key] [Verse 2: Eric 1key]
L’argentne fait pas le bonheur, la pauvreté non plus Money does not create happiness, poverty neither
Certainement parce que le bonheur existe depuis des lustres bien avant les thunes Certainly because happiness existed way long before “money”
No money, no life mais la maille n’offre pas l’immortalité No money, no life but then money doesn’t make you immortal
No pain, no gain alors on souffre puis on die pour le blé No pain, no gain so we suffer and die for money
C’est pas l’amour du beurre qui nous motive à gagner le pain It’s not the love of “butter” that pushes us to get “bread”
Mais surtout la peur de ne pas en avoir au réveil le matin But the fear of not having “butter” in the morning when we wake up
Le pognon est une drogue, impossible de rester lucide Money is a drug, it’s impossible to be lucid
On en devient accro et son manque peut résulter en suicide We all get hooked on it and its absence can lead to suicide
Société de consommateurs, le rêve est commercial In a consumerist society even the dream is for sale
Entre la passion et l’emploi, c’est quoi le bon choix? What’s the right choice between passion and employment?
L’artiste se dit heureux malgré sa vie de sutures So artists convince themselves they are happy, despite their miserable lives
L’employé est malheureux car s’il bosse dur And the employed are unhappy because when they work hard
C’est juste pour payer ses factures It’s only so they can pay their bills
Moi qui n’ai jamais voulu vendre mon art I never really wanted to sell my art
J’ai vendu quelques grammes de mon âme But I sold grams of my soul
En mettant ma plume au service du capitalisme When I put my pen at the service of capitalism
Pour un peu de fric, j’ai perdu l’équilibre For little money, I lost balance
Deux poids deux mesures Making the choice will never be fair and balanced
[Hook] [Hook]
Eric 1key: Eric 1key:
Je cours après le vent dans ma quête I’m chasing the wind in my quest
Chaque jour je cherche ma raison d’être Each day I fabricate my reason to be
La Terre tourne et le cycle se répète The earth turns and the cycle repeats itself
Body of Brian: Body of Brian:
I traded my soul for a few notes I traded my soul for a few notes
Now that it’s gone up in smoke Now that it’s gone up in smoke
What reason to live and die for?       What reason to live and die for?
I feel like I’m chasing ghosts I feel like I’m chasing ghosts
Eric 1key: Eric 1key:
Je cours après le vent dans ma quête I’m chasing the wind in my quest
Chaque jour je cherche ma raison d’être Each day I fabricate my reason to be
La Terre tourne et le cycle se répète The earth turns and the cycle repeats itself
[Verse 3: Jason Ntaro] [Verse 3: Jason Ntaro]
Chasing gold but no goal, so chasing ghosts Chasing gold but no goal, so chasing ghosts
Wasting life growing old Wasting life growing old
This is not the story that I was told by those of old This is not the story that I was told by those of old
Now I’m convinced that I’m working hard Now I’m convinced that I’m working hard
But hard enough is not even hard enough But hard enough is not even hard enough
And so I sit, watch my shriveled shadows and laugh And so I sit, watch my shriveled shadows and laugh
And fall willingly into this crack And fall willingly into this crack
So, I sell out So, I sell out
I sell my soul as I sweat and toil I sell my soul as I sweat and toil
Constantly planting crops in hard barren soil Constantly planting crops in hard barren soil
But I stress and I boil But I stress and I boil
In this system I am the clown In this system I am the clown
And now… And now…
Heavy this load, I try to cope Heavy this load, I try to cope
This tug and war has a slippery rope This tug and war has a slippery rope
Complacency replaces me Complacency replaces me
Ignorance embraces me Ignorance embraces me
My shadows stare into my periphery My shadows stare into my periphery
And I realize that I am empty And I realize that I am empty
[Hook] [Hook]
Eric 1key: Eric 1key:
Je cours après le vent dans ma quête I’m chasing the wind in my quest
Chaque jour je cherche ma raison d’être Each day I fabricate my reason to be
La Terre tourne et le cycle se répète The earth turns and the cycle repeats itself
Body of Brian: Body of Brian:
I traded my soul for a few notes I traded my soul for a few notes
Now that it’s gone up in smoke Now that it’s gone up in smoke
What reason to live and die for?       What reason to live and die for?
I feel like I’m chasing ghosts I feel like I’m chasing ghosts
Eric 1key: Eric 1key:
Je cours après le vent dans ma quête I’m chasing the wind in my quest
Chaque jour je cherche ma raison d’être Each day I fabricate my reason to be
La Terre tourne et le cycle se répète The earth turns and the cycle repeats itself
Brian Corpus: Body of Brian:
Mmmm feel like I’m chasing ghosts Mmmm feel like I’m chasing ghosts

Entre 2 album review: Politricks

 

Track 7: Politricks

According to 1Key, Politricks is his “most dangerous song because it’s not politically correct.” In Rwanda it is unusual (taboo, even) to directly and publicly talk (or sing) politics, unless to reinforce the status quo. And yet 1Key tells us: “Today I found its [politics] nose in my business, what should I do?/I’m sorry Mum, I will not keep quiet”. (Translated from French to English) Indeed, poetry is a medium through which we are able to experience how the personal is political. In his previous track (Entre 2), we learnt that 1Key values honesty, and that he exists “without filter between thought and speech.” In our conversations, 1Key told me: “I’m not into politics, but I’m sad to see the same stories over and over again”, an idea he articulates in Politricks when he asks the question: “How can we be so fooled when history repeats itself in a loop?” (Translated from French to English)

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Courtesy of Eric 1Key

While Entre 2 narrates the story of a “Hero” and a “Coward”, Politricks explores disparities between the powerful and the powerless, or between “the voices” and “the voiceless.” (Translated from French to English) As a conscious “citizen of the world” – who accesses online space and engages with current global debates – 1Key addresses subjects such as: cosmopolitanism, patriotism, Pan-Africanism, Black Power and Democracy. In Politricks, 1Key inserts selected quotations about politics, which he has found online, in addition to his own words. For example: “Democracy means “you are free to talk” and dictatorship means “shut the fuck up”…” And: “But remember that “in parliament, there is talk and lies” ~ Léon Campion.” (Translated from French to English) 1Key has also borrowed the colloquial term Politricks – the word ‘politics’ altered to convey the empty-campaign promises often experienced after politicians get elected – for the title of this track.

Like Entre 2, Politricks is heavily influenced by hip-hop and exudes a serious and dramatic mood. The robotic effects on 1Key’s vocals contribute to the sinister quality of the track, while perhaps also representing the passive and obedient nature of many Rwandans – an issue that 1Key explores in Entre 2. In the opening lines 1Key tells us: “Welcome to Politricks/I’m going to teach you everything…/…that you already know Mouahahahahahahaha!” And later in the hook:

“Trick me, trick me, trick me – till I lose control

Promise, promise, promise – till I give you my vote

Trick me, trick me, trick me – till I lose control

Promise, promise, promise – till I give you my vote.”   

Here, the question of language reappears. It is interesting that the hook is in English, while the verses are in French. English is the language of Rwanda’s current political elite, while also being a “cool” and “trendsetting” language. On the other hand, French is the language closer to 1Key’s soul. 1Key told me that he prefers to rap in French; he enjoys how French words sound and was inspired by mostly Francophone rappers and poets. The use of language is effective, then, in widening the division between 1Key’s emotive and defiant voice in the verses, and the “zombie-like” citizens in the hook.

1Key wrote Politricks when he was living in Kampala, Uganda. The production was a collaborate effort between Joe, at Yego Studio in Kampala, and Barick, at the producer’s home studio in Kigali. 1Key recently performed Politricks live for the first time. (Check the video link below, from 09:13)

Entre 2 is available on Soundcloud – Entre2 and for sale on digital stores iTunesSpotify, and Amazon. Eric 1key is very active on social media where you can find him discussing and debating all kinds of things. For updates and live info, follow Eric1key on Twitter: @eric1key, Facebook: Facebook/eric1key, Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/eric1key or email for bookings at ericonekey@gmail.com

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Song lyrics and translations

Politricks [Track 7 on Entre 2 album] 

Prod. Barick (Kigali). Vocals: Yego Studio (Kampala); English, French.

[Intro] [Intro]
Welcome to Politricks Welcome to Politricks
I’m going to teach you everything… I’m going to teach you everything…
… that you already know Mouahahahahahahaha!  … that you already know Mouahahahahahahaha!
   
[Verse 1] [Verse 1]
Dans mon esprit In my mind
J’ai le charisme de mon grand-père, toujours véridique I have the charisma of my Grandfather, always truthful
Dans mes oreilles In my ears
J’ai les conseils de ma mère “Te mêle jamais de la politique” I hear my Mother’s advice “never get into politics”
Aujourd’hui j’ai trouvé son nez dans mes affaires, que faire? Today I found its nose in my business, what should I do?
Je suis désolé m’man, j’vais pas m’taire I’m sorry Mum, I will not keep quiet
Faire semblant et être complice de ses malices Turn a blind eye and be an accomplice of its malice
C’est parce que je cours des risques que t’écoutes ce disque If you can hear this record it’s because I take risks
Enfant seul, je veux dire fils unique Lonely child, I mean only son
Je navigue sans guide depuis que je suis petit I sail with no guide since I was a child
Comme le messie, je fais partie d’aucun parti politique Like the Messiah, I am part of no political party
Liberal, je flotte dans ma bulle poétique Liberal, I float in my poetic bubble
Faudra un dico à certains de mes compatriotes pour qu’ils My countrymen need a dictionary so that they can
Comprennent la différence entre cosmopolitain et anti-patriotique Understand the difference between cosmopolitan and anti-patriotic
Je marche la tête haute, bien en l’air comme un astronaute I walk with my head held high, really high like an astronaut
Je mate les hommes forts de cette terre se rejeter la faute And I watch powerful men of this world play the blame game
Comme une balle de tennis aux jeux olympiques As if it’s a tennis ball at the Olympic games
Avec les mains sales, ils se félicitent With their dirty hands, they congratulate each other
Et nous, on les acclame… shit! And we applaud them… shit!
[Hook] [Hook]
Trick me, trick me, trick me – till I lose control Trick me, trick me, trick me – till I lose control
Promise, promise, promise – till I give you my vote Promise, promise, promise – till I give you my vote
Trick me, trick me, trick me – till I lose control Trick me, trick me, trick me – till I lose control
Promise, promise, promise – till I give you my vote Promise, promise, promise – till I give you my vote
[Verse 2] [Verse 2] 
Le vieux-jeux reconnait le jeu des Cartesélectorales The old school recognises the game of electoral cards
Aux truffesaucune du paquet n’a autant de valeur que l’as   In truffles[1] no card has as much value as the Ace
Condamnés à l’échec, nous sommes les pions de nos rois Doomed to failure, we are pawns of our kings
Hélas ce qui compte, c’est pas qui vote mais qui compte les votes Unfortunately what counts is not who votes but who counts the votes
Pour ne pas dire “qui vole les votes” car “on les offres” It’s not that I’m saying that “they steal the votes”; we “offer them our votes”
Nos politiques, on les adule alors ils nous mènent au gouffre We worship our leaders so they drive us to the pit
Comment être aussi dupe quand l’histoire se répète en boucle How can we be so fooled when history repeats itself in a loop
La démocratie c’est “cause toujours” la dictature c’est “ferme ta gueule” Democracy means “you are free to talk” and dictatorship means “shut the fuck up”
Donc c’est par la démocratie que jurent nos dictateurs… Fuck le people So it’s in the name of democracy that our dictators swear… Fuck the people
On a été stupide de croire qu’un black à la Maison Blanche We were stupid to believe that a black man in the White House
Etait assez pour changer le décor de ce sombre continent Was enough to change the décor of this ‘Dark Continent’
On nous convint d’être des agneaux, on les crains comme des lions They convinced us that we are lambs, so we fear them as if they are lions
On leur donne nos votes, ils nous prennent nos opinions We give them our votes, they take our opinions
Saches que “dans parlement, il y a parle et ment” ~ Léon Campion But remember that “in parliament, there is talk and lies” ~ Léon Campion
[Hook] [Hook]
Trick me, trick me, trick me – till I lose control Trick me, trick me, trick me – till I lose control
Promise, promise, promise – till I give you my vote Promise, promise, promise – till I give you my vote
Trick me, trick me, trick me – till I lose control Trick me, trick me, trick me – till I lose control
Promise, promise, promise – till I give you my vote Promise, promise, promise – till I give you my vote
[Verse 3] [Verse 3] 
Que la voix des hommes sans voix empêchent les puissants de dormir May the voices of the voiceless stop the mighty ones from sleeping
Et si jamais ils dorment, que nos cauchemars les fassent gémir And if they ever fall asleep, may our nightmares haunt them
Nous sommes fatigués de mourir, laissez nos enfants vivre We are tired of dying, let our children live
Le mensonge comme l’huile flotte au dessus de la vérité Lies are like oil on the surface of the truth
Ils nous poussent vers la mort au nom de la liberté They push us towards death in the name of freedom
On s’entretue sans cause et on s’habitue à R.I.P And so we kill each other for no reason; we get used to R.I.P
Qui veut la guerre prépare la guerre, alors tous aux armes If you want war prepare for war, let’s get armed
Il y a assez de nucléaire pour réchauffer la Guerre Froide There are enough nuclear weapons to warm up the Cold War
Et fondre la terre entière au nom du pouvoir And melt the entire world in the name of power
Liberté ou main de fer, on brandit tous le poing en l’air Freedom or iron hand, we all raise our fists in the air
Ce qui est clair, c’est qu’on a rien appris d’hier What is clear is we learned nothing from yesterday
Nous ne sommes que des feuilles sur cet arbre qui est la vie We are nothing but leaves on this big tree which is life
On tombe, d’autres poussent puis donnent des fruits We fall, others grow and then give fruits
Alors à quoi bon couper l’arbre, pourquoi infecter les racines? Why try to cut down the tree, why infect the roots?
Pourquoi infecter les racines? Why infect the roots?

[1] Truffles is a Francophone card game played in Rwanda, Burundi and the DR Congo.

Entre 2 album review: Entre 2

Track 6: Entre 2 (“Between 2”)

This is the album’s middle track (track 6) and, like the album, is entitled Entre 2. Within his words, 1Key explores the “Between Two” motif, with clear examples in the hook:

“I exist between…

Birth and death

Without filter between…

Thought and speech

I live between…

Night and day

I hesitate between…

Never and forever.” (Translated from French to English)

In Entre 2, 1Key carries us into the second half of his album, which is more heavily influenced by hip-hop, and which exudes a more serious mood. The music opens with an electronic piano chord sequence, which is modified to sound like female voices and is repeated throughout the track. The chord sequence is dramatized by the click and then bang of a gunshot, over which 1Key starts to rap in French, his voice deep and his statements punchy. At the same time, the music thickens. We hear high-pitched piano notes, creating a siren effect, and then a sharp knocking sound. Next, a series of metallic rhythms are layered in, building a sense of drama as the story unravels.

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Kigali, Rwanda. 2016. 1Key performing Entre 2 on the #expericment. [Courtesy of the author]

This is a story about a hero and a coward. In the first verse 1Key pays homage to his Hero, a “Wise soldier armed with vocal chords/… defender of virtue”. (Translated from French to English) He says:

“You’re not this butterfly with flamboyant colours

Sailing between the winds of trends

You’re a chameleon, hooked on your own branch

You observe the world in every direction

You do not just stay there and watch these egocentric termites devour each other mercilessly

You sound the alarm but that makes you a target…” (Translated from French to English)

Within his words, 1Key reveals complex contradictions and dichotomies. While butterflies are beautiful in appearance, they are fickle and easily manipulated. On the other hand, the chameleon has qualities of a hero: he is defiant, he thinks independently, and he takes action. But he suffers for his heroism. This raises an important question: should butterflies (aka ordinary Rwandan citizens) behave more like chameleons, despite the sacrifices that would involve? And if the butterfly were to represent “Rwandan progress”, just how much substance is there? In Rwanda, conversations about politics are generally met with caution, and it is extremely rare (and potentially dangerous) to openly challenge the status quo. Having said that, the question of substance is reflective of conversations that I have had with many Kigalians. While these Rwandans are proud and optimistic about the extraordinary growth of Kigali, they also understand that rural Rwanda (home to approximately 90% of the population) is a completely different reality. Within Kigali, citizens have been witnessing the mushrooming of new, shiny buildings and expensive coffee shops, restaurants and gyms. As inequalities deepen, many people ask: “But who is this beautiful city being built for?”

In his termite analogy, 1Key addresses additional concerns with Rwandan society. Termites live as one, which speaks to the Rwandan Government’s policy of National Unity, an idea which is also prevalent in Rwandan popular culture. And yet 1Key’s egocentric termites devour each other mercilessly. According to 1Key, this is an honest reflection of contemporary Rwandan society (or indeed any capitalist society), where its citizens habitually exploit and take advantage of each other in their increasingly individualistic attempts to gain money and subsequently status.

In the second verse, 1Key adopts the persona of the Coward, or the ordinary citizen. He describes hypocritical smiles and friends who stab him in the back, evoking our sympathy and understanding. Simultaneously, he admits to being passive and lazy, telling us: “Nothing drives me besides alcohol, sex and drugs.” (Translated from French to English) Like the chameleon, 1Key observes his world in every direction. He certainly articulates a more intelligent and nuanced view of contemporary Rwandan society than what we are used to hearing (or reading). 1Key doesn’t want to be a commercial “copy-cat” recording artist for radio and TV. Through his art, he expresses himself, explores ideas, and heals himself (and others).

Chameleon in Tanzania

Courtesy of the author.

In many ways, 1Key is a pioneer: aesthetically, his music is original and experimental, and his lyrics are fresh and provocative. A fierce promoter of Kigali’s live music scene, 1Key essentially wants to start conversations. He told me: “It’s OK to have different opinions, but we don’t talk about them.” 1Key is aware that his art may cause controversy, telling me: “Not all Rwandans are ready for me!” Indeed, his “disobedient” character – which is untypical in Rwanda – and tendency to challenge norms, as well as his body piercings and tattoos, leaves many Rwandans bewildered. 1Key laughs this off, defiantly telling us: “You want a joke? Apparently I belong to an asylum/I write crazy stuff HAHAHAHA”. (Translated from French to English)

Entre 2 was produced by Barick at his home-studio in Kigali. Barick is featured on the hook.

Entre 2 is available on Soundcloud – Entre2 and for sale on digital stores iTunesSpotify, and Amazon. Eric 1key is very active on social media where you can find him discussing and debating all kinds of things. For updates and live info, follow Eric1key on Twitter: @eric1key, Facebook: Facebook/eric1key, Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/eric1key or email for bookings at ericonekey@gmail.com

_______

Song lyrics and translations

Entre 2 (“Between 2” [Track 6 on Entre 2 album]) 

Prod. Barick (Kigali); French.

[Verse 1] [Verse 1]
Hommage à toi brave          Homage to you brave
Sage soldat armés de cordes vocales Wise soldier armed with vocal chords
Elles t’étranglent quand tu ne les utilises pas They strangle you when you do not use them
Elles tuent quand tu les utilises mal They kill you when you use them wrong
Mais toi t’as trouvé l’équilibre… Chapeau bas! But you found the balance… Hats off!
Ce couplet est une ôde pour toi, défenseur de vertu This verse is an ode to you, defender of virtue
Toi qui ne t’ai pas tu même avec la bouche cousue You did not keep quiet despite your sealed lips
Tu t’es battu malgré les mains liées You fought with your hands tied
Pour un futur où tu seras oublié For a future in which you will be forgotten
Avec ta vie t’as payé le prix R.I.P With your life you paid the price R.I.P
J’admire ton courage dans la défense de tes croyances I admire your courage in defending what you stand for
T’es pas ce papillon aux couleurs flamboyantes You’re not this butterfly with flamboyant colours
Qui vogue entre les vents des tendances Sailing between the winds of trends
T’es un caméléon, tu t’accroches sur ta branche You’re a chameleon, hooked on your own branch
Et t’observes le monde dans tous les sens You observe the world in every direction
Tu ne restes pas là à regarder ces termites égocentriques se dévorer sans merci You do not just stay there and watch these egocentric termites devour each other mercilessly
Tu sonnes l’alarme mais cela fait de toi une cible You sound the alarm but that makes you a target
Ça t’étonne pas, tu connais la musique It does not surprise you, you know the tune
Alors tu danses avec un grand sourire So you dance to it with a huge smile
On t’applaudit mais tu sais que quand tu seras parti You receive applause but you know that once you are gone
Tes écrits seront conservés dans la bibliothèque des amnésiques Your writings will be stored in the library of amnesiacs
Tes traces préservées au musée des oubliettes Your footprints preserved in a museum of the forgetful
Et ton nom restera gravé dans le vent… à jamais And your name will be engraved in the wind… forever
[Hook] [Hook]
J’existe entre… I exist between…
La naissance et la mort Birth and death
Sans filtre entre… Without filter between…
La pensee et la parole Thought and speech
Je vis entre… I live between…
La nuit et le jour Night and day
J’hésite entre… I hesitate between…
Jamais et toujours Never and forever
J’existe entre… I exist between…
La naissance et la mort Birth and death
Sans filtre entre… Without filter between…
La pensee et la parole Thought and speech
Je vis entre… I live between…
La nuit et le jour Night and day
J’hésite entre… I hesitate between…
Jamais et toujours Never and forever
[Verse 2] [Verse 2]
Hélas je ne serai jamais toi, j’ai pas ta bravoure dans ma peau Unfortunately I’ll never be you, I don’t have your bravery within me
Moi je préfère la fermer, vivre à genou que mourir debout en héros I prefer to shut it, live on my knees than die standing
Je suis le rhytme, j’attends que la Terre tourne dans l’autre sens I follow the rhythm, I’m waiting for the world to turn the other way
La vie me surprend tous les jours, me parlez pas de son essence Life surprises me every day, don’t talk to me of its essence
C’est une fine meche qui brule a petit feu… et alors? It’s a fire wick which burns a small fire… so what?
Je suis passif, hypo-sensitif, est-ce ma faute? What if I’m passive, hypo-sensitive, is it my fault?
Rien ne m’anime à part l’alcool, le sexe et la drogue Nothing drives me besides alcohol, sex and drugs
La famille? T’as vu leur regards quand t’as pas de job? Family? Have you seen their look when you don’t have a job?
Les amis? C’est eux qui te poignardent dans le dos Friends? Those are the people who stab you in the back
J’ai peur de rien surtout pas des ont-dit I fear nothing, especially what people say
Je me méfie des non-dits cachés derrière les sourires hypocrites I’m cautious of unspoken words hidden behind hypocritical smiles
Cette ère c’est notre apocalypse, rien à y faire This era is our apocalypse, there’s nothing we can do about it
Cette terre c’est le paradis et l’enfer This earth is heaven and hell
Cette vie n’est qu’un sombre tunnel, la mort, c’est en fait elle la lumière Life is just a dark tunnel, death is in fact the light
Tôt ou tard on finit tous six pieds sous terre, puis on rejoint nos ancêtres à l’etat végétatif Sooner or later we will all end six feet under, then we join our ancestors in their vegetative state
Peut être que c’est leur esprit que j’aspire, quand je tire deux coups de mon spliff Maybe it’s their spirit which I inhale, when I take two puffs from my spliff
HAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHA
[Hook] [Hook]
J’existe entre… I exist between…
La naissance et la mort Birth and death
Sans filtre entre…  Without filter between…
La pensee et la parole Thought and speech
Je vis entre… I live between…
La nuit et le jour Night and day
J’hésite entre… I hesitate between…
Jamais et toujours Never and forever
J’existe entre… I exist between…
La naissance et la mort Birth and death
Sans ilter entre…  Without filter between…
La pensee et la parole Thought and speech
Je vis entre… I live between…
La nuit et le jour Night and day
J’hésite entre… I hesitate between…
Jamais et toujours Never and forever
[Verse 3] [Verse 3]
Je suis pas suicidaire, je kiff trop la life I’m not suicidal, I love life too much
Surtout pas sédentaire, je suis à la poursuite des fun nights Especially not sedentary, I’m in pursuit of fun nights
Ce serait un drame si cette vie n’était pas une comédie It would be a tragedy if life were not a comedy
Tu veux une blague? Parait que ma place est à l’asile You want a joke? Apparently I belong in an asylum
J’écris des trucs de ouf HAHAHAHA I write crazy stuff HAHAHAHA
[Hook] [Hook]
J’existe entre… I exist between…
La naissance et la mort Birth and death
Sans filtre entre…  Without filter between…
La pensee et la parole Thought and speech
Je vis entre… I live between…
La nuit et le jour Night and day
J’hésite entre… I hesitate between…
Jamais et toujours Never and forever
J’existe entre… I exist between…
La naissance et la mort Birth and death
Sans filtre entre…  Without filter between…
La pensee et la parole Thought and speech
Je vis entre… I live between…
La nuit et le jour Night and day
J’hésite entre… I hesitate between…
Jamais et toujours Never and forever
[Instrumental] [Instrumental]
[Outro] [Outro]
Barick attends un peu… Il y a un truc que j’ai oublié de dire Barick, wait a minute… there’s something I forgot to say
En fait… In fact…
Je suis pris entre les dents comme la langue I’m caught between teeth like a tongue
En déséquilibre entre le yin et le yang  In imbalance between yin and yang

Entre 2 album review: Carpe Diem

Track 5: Carpe Diem (“Seize the Moment”)

Carpe Diem is a song that we can all relate to in one way or another. Many of us will be familiar with the Latin aphorism, which translates as “Seize the Day” or “Seize the Moment”, as it is intended here. And, indeed, many of us share 1Key’s inner battle between existing in the here-and-now and worrying about the future. In an age of instant communications, global terror threats, and economic uncertainty, fear and anxiety are arguably on the rise. Some people think about their future, with its endless possibilities and increasingly high expectations, and become overwhelmed. Many others are forced to live from day to day; crippled by political, economic and/or social insecurities, they are unable to make plans for the futures they desire.

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Carpe Diem is tattoed on 1Key’s arm. [Courtesy of 1Key]

In Rwanda’s capital city, there is certainly an atmosphere of hope and renewal. While it’s impossible to forget the absolute horror of the past, the Kigalians with whom I have lived, worked and socialised share an optimism for the future. After all, they have borne witness to their country’s remarkable recovery, since the end of the 1994 Genocide. At the same time, the majority of Kigalians continue to struggle under financial hardships, facing un-(or under) employment, unaffordable housing and rising food costs. For the young men in my research, the rare occasion of getting paid would present an opportunity to party, and to “shake of that stress”, rather than to plan ahead and save. This attitude towards living in the moment is prevalent in popular Rwandan song lyrics, such as the hit song Vuza Ingoma (“Play the Drums”) by TBB, featuring Jay Polly, with lines like: Nta kwita kuri time (“Don’t worry about time”) and: “If you getting money spend it like you get paid.”

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Carpe Diem is tattoed on 1Key’s arm. [Courtesy of 1Key]

In Carpe Diem, 1Key tells us that he lives for moments which make his spirit vibrate. The chorus embodies a celebratory, care-free quality, with rhythmic Congolese rumba beats. 1Key switches from hip-hop poetry to tuneful singing, repeating his message of Carpe Diem again and again. Whenever I listen to the chorus, I can’t resist singing along, my head flung back and arms spread out wide! The rumba style is most pronounced in the outro, which 1Key performs in Lingala, one of the major languages of the DRC. The Congolese connection is no coincidence. 1Key was born in Goma, eastern DRC, where life is particularly harsh and insecure. He told me: “In Congo, everybody has to live day-to-day”, and yet Congolese music (which has influenced the entire continent and beyond) is undeniably uplifting and contagious. The high-pitched, tinny beats in the verses also connect us to 1Key’s personal memories from his childhood in Goma. The sounding of this particular rhythmic sequence was how kerosene dealers would announce their presence, especially when it was dark, with power outages being common.

While the chorus is light and relatable, the longer verse lines are delivered with urgency and passion. I particularly enjoy 1Key’s use of imagery. He tells us that he’s decided to: “Jump on every opportunity that life presents and devour it.” (Translated from French to English) He asks the evocative question: “Why do we cling so much to the imaginary and let the present slide through our fingers?” (Translated from French to English) Forever challenging us to participate in his art, and to seek out deeper meaning, 1Key makes reference to mathematics and to the riddle of the chicken and the egg. The wordsmith cleverly ties together his ideas through word play, relating “mathematical problems” and unsolvable riddles to “life problems”, which 1Key has decided not to focus on. He’d prefer to Carpe Diem!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda. 2014. Carpe Diem! (Kelly) [Courtesy of the author]

Entre 2 is available on Soundcloud – Entre2 and for sale on digital stores iTunesSpotify, and Amazon.
Eric 1key is very active on social media where you can find him discussing and debating all kinds of things. For updates and live info, follow Eric1key on Twitter: @eric1key, Facebook: Facebook/eric1key, Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/eric1key or email for bookings at ericonekey@gmail.com

 

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Song lyrics and translations

Carpe Diem (“Seize the Moment” [Track 5 on Entre 2 album, 2015]) 

Prod. Junior Kafi (Kigali); French, Lingala.

[Verse 1] [Verse 1]
Prisonnier lié au fil du temps Prisoner bound by the thread of time
Produit d’hier vendu au present Yesterday’s product sold to the present
Livré à la merci de l’instant suivant Left at the mercy of the next moment
Entre le désir de rester vivant et la crainte ultime de disparaître dans le néant Between the desire to remain alive and the fear of disappearing into the void
Je ne suis qu’un étranger ici I’m just a stranger here
Un passager en transit perdu entre l’arrivée et l’exit A passenger in transit lost between arrival and exit
Inconnu dans ma quête, mon nom aurait dû être Ix Unknown in my quest, my name should have been X
Gausse/Gosse dans ma tête, tout me parait comme un matrix Gauss/Child in my mind, everything seems to be like a matrix
Une équation linéaire à plusieurs degrés A linear equation but with lots of levels
Les questions deviennent plus compliquées au fur du temps, malgré leur simplicité Questions become more complex with time despite their simplicity
Comme l’énigme de l’oeuf et de la poule on peut pas tout résoudre Just like the riddle of the chicken and the egg, we cannot solve everything
Ca va paraitre paresseux, con même It might sound lazy, or even stupid
Mais depuis que je traite plus la vie comme un problème But ever since I stopped looking at life like a problem
Elle est devenue plus vivable, plus facile It has become more livable
Je ne me demande plus pourquoi j’existe ni pourquoi j’écris depuis que j’ai compris I no longer ask why I exist or why I write since I understand
Que je ne vis que pour ces moments qui animent mon esprit That I live for these moments which make my spirit vibrate
Au fond, romancer l’instant, c’est ça faire de la poésie Because deep inside romancing time, that is poetry
[Hook] [Hook]
Entre le passé et l’avenir… Carpe Diem Between the past and the future… Carpe Diem
Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                               Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                        
Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                               Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                           
Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                               Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                    
[Verse 2] [Verse 2]
Parce que le passé n’est qu’un collage d’images stockées dans nos mémoires Because the past is just a collage of images stored in our memories
Un film qui varie avec l’âge car chaque nouveau détail change la version de l’histoire A film which varies with time because every new detail changes the story
Parce que l’avenir n’est qu’un mirage fait de nos peurs et nos espoirs Because the future is just a mirage made of our hopes and fears
Pourquoi s’accrocher à l’imaginaire et laisser le présent nous glisser entre les doigts? Why do we cling so much to the imaginary and let the present slide through our fingers?
Le temps passé ne revient jamais et demain ne nous appartient pas Yesterday is gone and tomorrow does not belong to us
Entre les regrets d’hier et la crainte de demain moi j’ai décidé de saisir le présent à deux mains Between the regrets of yesterday and the fears of tomorrow I decided to seize the present in both my hands
Sauter sur chaque occaz que la vie présente et la croquer à pleines dents Jump on every opportunity that life presents and devour it
Instinct animal, l’intuition guide mes pas Animal instinct, I am guided by my intuition
J’ai foi en elle c’est pourquoi je crois en moi I have faith in it, that’s why I believe in me
Mon destin est un freestyle, ma vie un spectacle My fate is a freestyle, my life a theatre
Biopic d’un artiste qui ne cesse de se battre et se débattre Biopic from an artist who doesn’t cease to fight
Une pièce dramatique dans laquelle je joue le rôle principal A dramatic play in which I am the protagonist

 

Chaque jour commence avec une nouvelle page Every day begins with a new page
Avant de la tourner, je check le tatoo sur mon bras Before I turn it, I look at the tattoo on my arm
Il lit carpe diem And it reads carpe diem
[Hook] [Hook]
Entre le passé et l’avenir… Carpe Diem Between the past and the future… Carpe Diem
Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                               Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                          
Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                               Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                           
Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                               Carpe Diem Carpe Diem                                                                                                                           
[Outro] [Outro]
Eza systeme ya invasion It’s an invasion
Toye kosimba mokolo And we came to seize the day
Eza ya yo papa It’s yours papa[1]
Simba, ma, kamata! Kamata! Seize it, grab it, get it! Get it!
Lobi ezalaka te Tomorrow doesn’t exist
Lelo ya yo lobi soki eye, eza ya yo! Today is yours, if tomorrow comes make it yours too!
Ma, kamata, ma, kamata! Grab it, get it, grab it, get it!
Simba mokolo Seize the day
Simba mokolo Seize the day
Simba mokolo Seize the day
Simba mokolo Seize the day
Hahahahaha… Hahahahaha…

[1] In Kinshasa, DRC Papa is slang for “man”, “bro”, “dude”, etc.