Encounter with The Culture

Growing up poor in the 80’s in a small village with no electricity somewhere at the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaïre then), I didn’t know what television was till I was about eight or nine years old. My grandfather’s small radio operating with batteries, which I pounded gently and exposed to sun rays for recharge (miracles of science!), was my only source of music entertainment. I remember the distorted sounds of soucousse, rumba, zouk machine, reggae, funk, and pop due to bad reception when my granddad wasn’t listening to the News about wars ravaging almost every part of Africa. I don’t recall listening to any Hip Hop music back then. My most memorable encounter with Hip Hop was right after the end of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda when I moved to Brazzaville, the capital city of the other Congo. For the first time, we had a TV set at home. I was finally able to put faces to some of the familiar vocals that rocked my eardrums. I began to connect the pieces. For instance, watching Michael Jackson’s play with his zipper in his dance routines answered the question “Who’s bad?” The more I paid attention to details in the music videos, the more I realized the influence of television on my surrounding.

For the couple of years that I attended a private school in Brazzavile, somehow I ended up in the circle of cool kids. Cool kids are those who want to look like stars on TV and who other kids want to emulate, you know! I didn’t grow up with what they had. They wore t-shirts with Hip Hop legends on them, didn’t button their shirts, sagged their pants, wore boots or fresh sneakers on the regular. Some of them would clip fake earrings on their lobes and put on a US flag bandanna to look exactly like their idols. Those kids were also called branchés (plugged in or connected). They read comic books, magazines on music, sports, played basketball in the streets and talked a lot about rap and movies. They had interests. I did not have much. I was a shabby boy from the village who couldn’t speak their language. Some of them sang along to French rap songs. I could barely articulate my needs to go to the bathroom in class. On the other hand, my English was almost nonexistent. It’s only recently that I realized Dr. Dre didn’t say “wawawess” in California Love but “Wild Wild West”. But I didn’t care. Nobody cared. And that’s exactly what I loved about this art form. The I-don’t-give-a-fuck-as-long-as-it-feels-good attitude.

With time I developed a certain thirst about the content of the music. I needed to know why black people were angry and why they used more words on a standard song than anybody else. I had to learn the language. I studied over time, used TV and radio as more as learning tools than entertainment sources. Beyond speaking French, and English later, I wanted to understand the lyrical content of rap songs. Luckily some music magazines included posters of celebrities with lyrics of their hit songs in their issues. But again, I did not have the level to comprehend. I could only grasp a few words after cross-checking with my pocket dictionary. For the slang, I had to wait till the early 2000’s with the availability of the Internet in Rwanda to do my own researches about the meaning of some songs. That helped me a lot improve my English as well. Soon, I was hooked and started writing to myself in a journal format. Then somehow I stumbled upon rhymes, today they call me a Hip Hop Poet.

I have consumed more Hip Hop culture than any of my African cultures without moving from the continent and I have come to realize that Hip Hop goes beyond the beat, the dance, the graffiti, the dressing, the hair styles, the gestures, the slang… it is the most influential culture of our time. It’s too present, too loud, too bright and so versatile it can’t be contained. Right now somewhere in a deep villages, kids with no shoes on are rhyming on a bucket beat.
Africa has thousands of Hip Hop heads, MC’s, producers, dancers, etc who have been influenced by The Culture and are now redefining their continent with the same fire the pioneers started with. I am happy to know that many are doing it justice.
Hip Hop is alive.
Peace

~1key

Powa 254 - 1key
Iyadede Sabrina (on the guitar) & 1key jamming at Pawa254, Nairobi, Kenya.
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Choices

I wish I could live from my art. Seems impossible in this corner of the world. For now. Some day maybe. That’d make me so happy.

I’ve been on survival mode for a while. Lost pretty much every tangible item I owned. No biggie. I was prepared for it.

I lost a lot of weight, lots of blood. I collapsed a couple of times during my trips. Life was testing me. I got through it all. Victorious.

It’s not about any god. It’s having faith (in whatever and) in the process. Once you’re 100% in line with your path, it all comes together.

I have never felt this whole my entire life. I have discovered feelings beyond names. I have met incredible artists, amazing people.
I’ll keep doing the best I can to create, produce, promote beautiful arts. Probably not as much as I have for the last past 1 & half year.

Right now I’ve got to get back to employment full time. I got too many debts. Our economy isn’t steady enough to offer part time jobs.
Thank you so much for keeping up with my crazy mind. For accepting me. For loving me. Sorry for being harsh. I got that tough love.

I’m not quitting the arts. How can I? I ain’t even takin a break. I’m just saying time is gonna be a challenge but I’ll rise above.

Life is about choices so I wrote about them and invited a couple of talented artists with whom I share the journey to help me say it better. Remember their names: Weya Viatora, Nganji Arnaud, Dany Beats.

Mukabuzizi

Mushubati i Muhanga, Amajyepfo

Mukabuzizi.jpg– Nari ngiye kubabaza uko mumeze ino ariko ndabona bikomeye. Sinari nzi ko abantu baba mu kiraro nk’inka… Turahera he se? Witwa nde, wavutse ryari?
– Nitwa Mukabuzizi Marie-José. Nkubwire ko navutse ryari se? Ntabyo nzi.
– Wenda wagerageza kumbwira hari ku ngoma ya nde? Hari amapfa akomeye waciyemo?
– Ndibuka ko hari ku ngoma ya Rudahigwa. Inzara yo ndayibuka ariko nari nkiri muto.
– Ubwo ushobora kuba waravutse mu mpera ya za mirongo itatu cyangwa mu ntangiriro ya za mirongo ine.
– Ndabona abandi bari kubumba. Abatwa baje kuba ababumbyi bate?
– Reka nkubwire uko nabibwiwe na data. Ngo kera habayeho umutwa abona inka zikama amata aboga nuko aheraho abumba atereka munsi ya ya nka. Nuko nabamukomotseho twabaye ababumbyi. Tukabumba inkono tukajyana kw’isoko bakatuguranira n’imyaka.
– Ubwo nyuma mutangira gucuruza.
– Yego.
– Inkono muyigurisha angahe?
– Ni nkaho ntayo. Iyo ugize amahirwe bayigura 250Frw uretse ko nta ukigura. Keretse amavaze iyo hari abantu babisabye.
– Kandi ubwo muba mwavunitse…
– Gusa se? Hari izipfuba, izimeneka… kuzotsa bisaba umwanya n’ubushishozi. Iyo ubumbye ukibagirirwamo akatsi inkono irameneka ugahomba.
– Kariya keru musiga inyuma ni irangi?
– Ni ingwa. Ni igitaka cy’igitare tuvana hepfo iyo mu gishanga.
– Nuko muba abasigajwinyumanamateka. Uretse ko bigaragara, ubundi iyo nyito uyumva ute?
– Byaranshobeye! Nibaza nti ese ni uko turi bake? Nuko nta bwenge se? Uretse ko atari iby’ubu. Kuva na kera iyo habaga ibirori abatwa twaheraga hanze kure y’amarembo iyo tukinjira ari uko baduhamagaye ngo tuze kubyina no kuririmba.
– Urabizi byombi?
– Ubu narashaje ariko kera nari mbizi.
– Imbyino z’ubu uzibona ute?
– Barabivangavanze. Hari igihe numva uko baririmba n’uko babyina nkisekera. Ni imbyino n’indirimbo tuba twarahimbye kera bakaziyitirira bakanabikora nabi.
– Muracyatarama se?
– Yego rwose iyo twaguwe neza ducinya akadiho.
– Kuba babitaga abasangwabutaka byo byaje bite?
– Mbese ngo kera umutwa yatemaga ishyamba cyangwa igihuru agatura bwacya akimukira ahandi bityo bityo. Hari n’imvugo ya kera bavugaga ngo “Gatwa atema ishyamba, gahutu akahahinga, Gatutsi akonesha.”
– Warabyiyumviye?
– Yego
– Ko numva se ngo ahabaga abatutsi bakomeye ntihaburaga abatwa.
– Nibyo. Abatwa bari bazi gutarama no gukina igisoro. Nuko bakicara bakabuguza n’abatutsi bagaterana ubuse ntihagire urakara.
– Hari urwenya rwinshi ku batwa. Ibyo urabizi? Ubona ari ku yihe mpamvu?
– Ni ukutubonerana. Ubona tutari abantu nk’abandi se?
– Cyangwa nuko muri bagufi?
– Ni ibyo.
– Hari ukuntu iyo abantu bigana abatwa basa nkabagoreka ikinyarwanda. Ni byo se mugira uburyo muvuga?
– None se hari aho wumvise nica ururimi? Ibyo ni nka kwa kundi mushobora kuba muri benshi hakavamo umwe urandaga wenda bagahita babitirira bose. Ni nkuko twaseka uko abahutu bamwe bavuga.
– Hari n’ibindi numva ngo muvura umugongo…
– Ibyo ni iby’abatwononera abana baba bashaka kudutesha isaro. Umugongo se abagabo bacu ntibawurwara? Hari umuti aguha se? Ni mubiri-na-mubiri nta kindi baba bavuga.
– Iyo umuntu bamwise umutwa usanga ari nk’igisebo. Iyo muri hanze abantu ntibbaavuga ?
– Ubu urasokoza, ukisiga, ukambara agakweto, haba ikirori nawe ugaseruka usa neza nta guhezwa. Abavuga ntibabura ariko babikora bongorerana.
– Ese usanga ari iyihe mpamvu umuryango w’avarwa utari mugari?
– Bakomeje kutwicisha uburozi. Bagaha umwana akajumba bugacya byarangiye. Umugabo yasogongera ku kayoga ahantu nawe agapfa bityo bityo.
– Impamvu ni iyihe?
– Simbizi.
– Ufite abana?
– Yego ndetse n’avuzukuruza.
– Abana bariga?
– Yego rwose. Dufite mitweli, Kagame yaduhaye inka ubu natwe turi abatunzi.
– Ubona umuryango wanyu nk’abatwa uzaba ukiriho mu myaka nka 50 cyangwa 100?
– Sinamenya iby’ejo mwana wa.

– Nta kuntu mwanshyiriraho se nk’akaririmbo nkereba uko mucinya akadiho? Ndagura!

Njunga

Bweramvura bwa Kinihira, Amajyepfo

njunga

– Ese musaza Njunga ufite imyaka ingahe?
– Va kuri ibyo, umva! Inzara ya mbere yabaye mu Rwanda ni Rumanura hari mu 1918. Iyo narayibariwe. Iya kabiri yitwaga Gakwege. Hari mu 1928. Naragiraga inyana na sogokuruza wawe. Nyuma haza Ruzagayura. Iza ifite icyivugo. Ngo “Narishe ariko nyirabicucu yarananiye”
– Nyirabicu…??
– Uwo ni uwari ufite inka.
– Ruzagayura yo ni iya Ryari?
– Yabaye hagati y’1941 n’1945. Icyo gihe nari muri Zayire nkora mu makawa hepfo ya za Masisi.

La Voi(e)x La Légende

lvdll“My next music project. An EP perhaps.”
I posted this April last year. I am convinced now is the time. And it’s going to be an album. An album about people, cultures, traditions and more that I hope to discover on the way.
The album will come with a book or rather the music CD will be in the book’s pocket.
I have a feeling it’s going to take more than a year to complete. I’m not in a rush anymore. Entre2 was a draft. I want to spend more time on this. So if I become less present on your walls or stweets, you know I’m offline working.
I might start the first line on the book today.
Thank you my people for being part of the journey. I appreciate your generosity and attention. Take care of yourselves.
1Key, 1Love

Eric 1Key – after the ‘Expericment’

Published on December 04, 2016 by Moses Opobo for the New Times

I was already familiar with Opobo’s work, which he shared on his Facebook page and we even got deeper after a few arguments related to how I view the work of entertainment journalists in Rwanda. He is absolutely right when he says;

The slam poet, rapper and blogger has cultivated another parallel reputation over the years – ranting. So much so that, day in, day out, he has to contend with the frequent question: “Eric, why do you like to criticize?”

When he asked me to meet him so we could discuss about my work, I said to myself, “I hope he did his research.” Indeed he did and we had a good couple of hours delving into the #Expericment series.

Basically it was testing the waters to see what business model could work out, and 1Key stretched his imagination and creativity to the limit. In all, he did four Expericment shows staged at different venues in Kigali, each with a different theme and concept; from politics to sex to identity.

Read More…

Thank you, Mr. Opobo for your interest in my work, and rants 🙂

All the best!