BEING fluent in French, English, Rwandese and Kiswahili are some of the reasons why Jacques Murigande a.k.a. The Mighty Popo, was thought suitable for the official opening of Francophone Week on Monday.
This was said by the High Commissioner for Canada here, Ian Myles, who had first met the musician 15 years ago, playing in a small concert for few people and fell in love with his music from then. “Gradually I got to know his (Popo’s) story a little bit and found it extremely inspirational.
It’s something from which I learnt many lessons on many fronts,” the High Commissioner told the ‘Daily News’ when asked why they had chosen this artist to open the annual occasion, here in Dar es Salaam. He continued with his explanation by referring to Popo as being “somebody, who started off in life with the odds against him, living as a refugee in Burundi and then in Canada”.
However, he was able to make such an “impressive contribution” to Canadian society and then eventually bring it back to Rwanda and to build strong ties between the two countries.
According to HC Myles, it’s not as if Popo ever left Rwanda and choose Canada and now left the latter for the former neither. The singer, composer and guitarist has been able to keep a foot in each place and has served as a bridge between their cultures. He loves the fact that Popo has chosen to do this through music, which he says allows people to transcend any differences there might be between them, more than any other language can. That is whether geographically, linguistically or any other cultural aspect.
“Music speaks to what’s most fundamental and brings us together. I think that’s what the world needs a lot these days. So, for me, Popo was the perfect person, for he’s somebody who is comfortable in French, because we’re celebrating Francophone Week, but he is also comfortable in English, Kiswahili and Rwandese, plus being someone who is very comfortable in many cultures,” HC Myles, who has played music since he was a child and referred to it as being “under” his “skin”, said.
For the occasion, Popo had come with seven youngsters – six men and one lady – who, he told the ‘Daily News’ are all students of his from a music programme, which he had started in Kigali three years ago.
Actually, five of them had just graduated from the first Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) music programme, which is being supported by the Ministry of Education there. When asked what made him leave Canada for Rwanda the very approachable Popo immediately replied that he had never left Rwanda.
Physically he did but spiritually he has always lived in Rwanda. He was born outside of Rwanda in Burundi and his friends were refugees, who had left Rwanda back in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“When I arrived in Canada I became a resident right away but my country, Rwanda never left me. I’ve always been home inside myself. My adopted country is Canada, but I became more Rwandan in there because Canada allowed me to be who I am.
It’s a natural move back home and things that I’ve idealised, dreamt about and heard of, I came to see here,” Popo explained. Now, he says Rwanda is going through a “heavy reconstruction”. So, seeing that his expertise is in music and he is physically home, he has to do his part towards this rebuilding. He sees his efforts as being more effective working towards building the youth and help construct a Creative Industry (CI), which is a music school and an annual festival called “Kigali Up”.
Therefore, his move to Rwanda is a “natural move back home”. One of those youngsters, who accompanied Popo is Mutuzo Jean Luc Courage a.k.a. Mutu. He is one of the students, at the school who has just graduated and played acoustic guitar in the line-up on Monday. Not only was it his debut to perform with Popo, it was also his first time to play in another country.
This has been a wonderful memorable experience for him, he said. Mutu, a 23-year-old, who was studying Physics, Biology and Chemistry, had given this up for music because it’s what he likes doing. The school of music presented an opportunity for him to get into music, on a professional platform, so he took it.
His colleague, 19-yearold Uwikunda Joel, who played a five-string bass guitar, told the ‘Daily News’ he had chosen this instead of the conventional four-string one because the lower “B” gives him “more groovy stuff” to play.
Like, all the other six members of the band, it was Uwikunda’s first time to play outside of Rwanda, which made him very happy, especially when he saw members of the audience actually dancing and enjoying the music they were playing.
After-all, he says making people happy is why they had flown into Dar es Salaam on Sunday night, played on Monday, knowing they would be flying out again yesterday (Tuesday).
Let it be noted here that had Popo not said these were his students, there’s no way the ‘Daily News’ would have thought they were anything else than fully-fledged professional musicians. Just shows what can come out from giving youngsters the opportunity to follow the profession they love.