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.

On Memory & Hope

I heard mourning is nationwide, your loss is personal though
Collective memory? But trauma is individual
Commemoration is periodic, your grief permanent
History’s selective as if events were tournaments

Suicidal thoughts jam on memory lane
Survival above all is a struggle to stay sane
Yet somehow you maintained
Bet no external consciousness would last a day in your brain

The past is non reversible, and present isn’t always a gift
The future unpredictable especially when gazed from a cliff
But since the only way is forward, familiarize with haze and mist
Trust the process, believe in the magic of life
Have faith in darkness when the stars and the moon don’t shine
If you can make it through the night, well, the sun will rise like a prize

I wish you find purpose and relief before you get to rest
You survived the worst, I hope you live to see the best
For what it’s worth, you’re worth it

#1key

Kwipasa muremure

Abakinnye karere si ngombwa kubasobanurira icyo “kwipasa muremure” bisobanura. Abakurikira umupira bo sinabibarusha. Si no mu mupira gusa ushobora no kwipasa muremure mu buzima busanzwe. Urugero ni ukujya mu kabari ufite gahunda n’inshuti iza kukugurira ugatumiza byeri ya nshuti yawe igahura n’ikibazo ntize telephone yawe ikazima. Wenda aho wavuga ko harimo n’ubudebe. Uwabivuga nutazi icyaka icyo ari cyo uretse ko ushobora gusanga nawe ari muri ba bantu batunga imodoka igira retorovizeri igura amafaranga aruta umushahara wabo. Uti uyu ni umusongarere. Ukavuga utyo utunze terefone ihenze kurusha moto kandi nta na mobayiro money irimo yo kwishyura urugendo rwo kuri moto rwa make. Ugasekwa nukodesha inzu y’ibihumbi magana ariko agahora yikopesha amakara kwa mama Mutesi. Nawe wakongeraho ingero niba wayotse [Kuyoka ni ukurishyira mu nkoranya mwongeraho ko ari ikiryogo. Eh! abuzukura bacu bazakeka ko kera mu gihe cy’abami b’abatafugenge habayeho ikiryogo ari cyo cyabyaye ikinyarwanda cyabo]
Umuntu yakwibaza ati igitera kwipasa muremure ni iki? Ese nuko umuntu aba yabuze ubundi buryo? Reka reka! Abantu dukunda ibituvuna nubwo tudakunda kubyemera. Mu mukino w’umupira w’amaguru uwipasa muremure aba yabaze nabi. Yabigira akamenyero akitwa umuswa. Ikindi kandi ntaba ashaka gukinisha abandi bakinnyi. Yumva ko ari we kamara. Nyamara agakoresha imbaraga nyinshi yiruka inyuma yigihombo.
Uyu munsi nafashe bisi iva kimironko njya mu mujyi mara isaha n’igice umushoferi azunguruka hose ashakisha umuhanda. Navuyemo ntaragera iyo njya nkomeza n’amaguru kuko ukwihangana kwanjye kungana n’ururo. Impamvu urugendo rwatinze nuko umuhanda bisi yari isanzwe inyuramo wagenewe abanyacyubahiro baturutse mu bihugu bitandukanye by’Afrurika baje kwitabira inama nkuru nyafurika kw’ishoramari. Sinanze abashyitsi rwose. Udasurwa aba ari umugome. Ariko na none dushyize mu gaciro, ndavuga ka kandi abayobozi bahora batubwira, hatumvikana ka kandi baciramo, kubuza abaturage uburenganzira bwo gukoresha imihanda yubatswe n’imisoro yabo ngo nugushimisha abashyitsi bangahe… ibyo ni ukubatesha agaciro! Nabisanisha na rya kandamiza rikorerwa abana ngo bicare hasi bahe intebe umushyitsi nkaho uwatumiye umushyitsi atigeze atekereza aho aza kumwicaza. Igisekeje kandi kinababaje nuko iyi nama igamije kwiga ku buryo abanyafurika twashyira hamwe ngo tuzamure ubukungu bw’umugabane yateje kandi izagukomeza guteza igihombo mu gihugu igihe cyose izamara. Urugero: umushoferi ko ataza kurenza amaturu abiri ku munsi araveresa iki itike ikiri kuri magana abiri mirongo itatu kandi aza kunywesha amavuta inshuro nyinshi ate n’umwanya ashakisha umuhanda nk’amazi yabuze aho atoborera? Umumotari wanyishyuje igihumbi aha magana atanu nawe akayatamo azenguruka Kigali ashakisha umuhanda iyi nama imumariye iki? Ibi murabona atari ukwipasa muremure? Si ubwa mbere, nubushije haba inama ihuza abakuru b’Afurika habaye ikibazo cyo kugenda. Ubu noneho byahumiye ku mirari kubera imvura. Ubwo uribaza gutonda umurongo muri gare ukanyagirwa utazi ko hari bisi iza kuboneka? Ese ubundi ko inama iba yateguwe amezi n’amezi mbere, kuki ntawatekereje ku buryo abaturage bazakomeza imirimo yabo batabangamiwe?
Ubwo hagati aho sinakubwira ibyongereza biba byaciye indimi ngo twahinduye Afurika. Byo nyine guharira umuhanda abantu mirongo na ukabuza uburenganzira bwa miriyoni na- nabyo wakagombye kubyibazaho. Niba ari imena bigeze aho ntimwabategera kajugujugu ko zihari? Iki kibazo Afurika iragihorana, abayobozi bafatwa nk’imana kandi bakagombye kuba abakozi b’abaturage. Nubwo ntawakopfora ngo avuge ko yabangamiwe n’amahitamo y’ubuyobozi si ukuvuga ko biba bitagaragara. Agahinda k’inkoko…
Icyo maze kubona muri iki gihugu ni uko imigambi myinshi ari myiza ariko ishyirwa mu bikorwa rya byinshi ntiriba ryizweho neza. Atari uko iyi mihanda mishyashya ntiyakabaye icukurwa uku bwije uko bukeye ngaho ngo fibre, ngaho ngo twabaze nabi tuyagure, ngaho ngo yatobotse; ngaho abaturage bahawe inka babuzwa kuragira… nibwo usanga mu Mushyikirano muzehe atonganya abayobozi nkaho ari abana bo mu mashuri abanza. Ibyo byose ni ukwipasa muremure. Kugira igitekerezo cyiza ntibihagije ngo ukore neza. Yego hamaze kubakwa byinshi mu myaka makumyabiri n’ine ishize ariko ntibihagije. Kubaga igihugu ni uguhozaho. Ikibazo gikomeye ni imyumvire y’abayobozi bamwe na bamwe. Nibaza ko iyo bumvise ijamba “kubaka” bahita batekereza amatafari. Wenda niyo mpamvu Kigali yubatse ariko ikaba ituwe na bake kubera ubushobozi. Ugasanga umucuruzi w’imyenda akodesha akumba ku madorari igihumbi kandi agurisha ishati kuri makumyabiri ku bakiriya bari mbarwa.
Ubu dufite ikibazo gikomeye cy’urubyiruko rufite ibitekerezo byubaka ariko kuko bitajyanye n’imitekerereze ishaje y’abayobozi bamwe na bamwe bigatuma bitwa ibipinga. Nimureke dupinge ntitugifite ubuzima bumwe. Iyo abenshi mwahaze ntimwibuka ko mwigeze gusabiriza. Mumbarize minisitiri w’urubyuruko niba nta soni agira iyo abashyitsi bamusabye aho bakwidagadurira akabura icyo abereka? Ese wa mugani, abaha akaradiyo ngo bumve ikinamico iyo bamusabye aho barebera za teyatere? Ese ayo madovize ni itegeko ko ajya mu ngagi gusa? Abahanzi ntibayakeneye ngo biteze imbere? Abafite utubari ntibayakeneye?
Niba koko umutekano ari wowe nkuko tubyemeza isi, kuki ntawe utekanye ku mufuka uretse abatuye mu duce tudasa n’ahandi? Nibaza ko tumaze gusirimuka ku buryo tutagikeneye kwiyerekana uko tutari. Kuba umuzungu avuga ko tuba mu bihuru, si ngombwa ko tubyuka twubaka amagorofa akarara amurika ijoro ryose ntawe amurikira kandi nyamara abenshi bakiri mu bihuru, wasanga icyihutirwa ari ukugira amazi n’amashanyarazi mu ngo zacu twese. Nidukomeza kwipasa muremure urubyiruko rw’ubu ruzagira akazi gakomeye ko gusana aho kongera itafari ku byubatswe.
Tworoherane kandi duhorane amahoro.
~Agafunguzo

The System is a Rapist

Bad news bad boys, no Happy New year for you because #MenAreTrash. Apparently I shouldn’t be saying that and should instead say #IamTrash because apparently there is a good 0.1% of good men out there. But that means you would agree that there is a lot of trash in our system(s). If you think trash is a strong word, let’s go with “prejudice towards women” in general. I look at my chats with friends discussing women empowerment and I cannot believe I said the things that I have said. Or the sheer fact that I believed I was right and entitled to think so. My killer line used to be “If women spend as many hours working as men, who will take care of the kids?” While I would be labelled sexist by feminists, many men would cheer for me. You could be the most feminist man on the planet but there are things your system cannot understand about being a woman simply because you are not one. So I’m not going to be pretentious and claim that I do but for what it’s worth I like spending time listening to their stories. For the past few months I have been paying attention to few Rwandan women that I met, especially female artists – young, amateurs, professional, legends – and I was speechless to have a glimpse of the amount of prejudice, injustice, disrespect they endure on a daily basis. I couldn’t help but ask, “What do you think is the reason men treat so badly the same women who carry them into this life then look after them their lifetime?” The answer was a question. “Why don’t you ask men that?” Now how do I ask men who are “always right?” “Always working hard day and night to put food in the kitchen when all the women can do is boil and fry the food?” “Men who fight other men over territories to provide a safe haven for their women and children?” So the other day I burst the bubble by tapping into the Rwandan culture. The culture of rape to be precise.

This is something I only realized this year by interviewing old women in rural areas. I learned that our grandmothers were forced to marry at a young age. As young as twelve years old through rituals that were designed to blind their perceptions of reality in order to take advantage of them. Of course this is my current realization and interpretation of what I learned. You are entitled to your own opinion. I will talk loosely of marriage and sex practices. For instance, I learned that the sisters and friends of the young bride-to-be had to sing sad songs to make her cry on her wedding day but this was crafted to make the ritual seem like she was sad to leave her family but a truth that we were not told is that she was a child terrified to death to forcefully marry a man she had never met before and who probably was already married to three, four, six, ten or more other wives acquired through the same process. Yes acquired is the word. Let’s be honest, that dowry is not as sacred or symbolic as it seems. It’s strictly business. The groom was buying. And if you know the phrase “Sinagukoye se?” (Did I not pay to have you?) is still used in Rwandan homes when a woman tries to rebel in her home. A reminder that she is a private property. The amount of cows (old form of money) depended on how much the father estimated the beauty of his daughter-to-be-sold. That’s harsh? Think about the act itself.

When it came to sex, rape was scripted in such a way that it became part of the rituals. The newly wed couple would wrestle till the man overpowers the young girl. And that was acceptable. Then you would argue, that cannot be true. What about kunyaza? Why would the man insist on making the woman squirt if he didn’t care? Well, if he cared so much he wouldn’t marry a child, force himself into her and shame her with names like Mukagatare if she did not squirt at all. On the other hand, a man who wouldn’t succeed to have overpower the bride and have sex with her for at least the first three nights was shamed. Then in some cases, his father, more experienced in the matter, would get in the mix to rape the girl and set the example. That too was culturally accepted and called gukazanura.

When I mentioned that we come from a culture of rapists, I got lynched on twitter. I understand we highly think ourselves. Myths have it that some of us are semi gods bla bla bla… maybe that’s where our sense of entitlement comes from. To think we are the epitome of greatness. I get it when feminist stand to fight patriarchy. It is stupid and totally fucked up! But what are you replacing it with? In the end we all know that power corrupts even the best of us. You would think Rwanda, having the highest number of women in parliament all these years and having some of the best rankings with #HeForShe is better suited to reform the patriarch system but guess what? When I tweeted about the insane amount of under-age girls raped while nobody mentioned the rapists’ whereabouts or any social justice procedure, I fell off my chair to learn that the resolution from the parliament, with the highest number of women seats in the world, was to jail any girl who would have sex before she is eighteen. Your men must be proud of you, ladies. You are officially condoning rape and damaging the victims.

However some young woke women have had enough of this shit and are taking the matter in their own hands to seek social justice realizing that as years go by, their scars open wide while sexual predators who had assaulted them roam freely and continue to prey on other women, making new victims.  @My250Tweets which is a collective twitter handle created by a Rwandan woman for the purpose of allowing Rwandans across the world to share their experiences, is being used as a platform to give a voice to rape victims coping with trauma in an insensitive system that does not want to take responsibility.

While I personally know some of the alleged rapists as people whom I drink, play, interact with often; some of them have qualities that I look up to but that does not mean they are incapable of rape. You have heard of pedophile priests, intellectual genocidaires, corrupt leaders… most of these characters actually use their influence commit these crimes.

Article 11: Rwandan culture as a source of home-grown solutions
In order to build the nation, promote national culture and restore dignity, Rwandans, based on their values, initiate home-grown mechanisms to deal with matters that concern them. Laws may establish different mechanisms for home-grown solutions

Our constitution is pro-homegrown solutions. This is how you see fit and there is nothing wrong with it. It’s an upgrade of the traditional courts taken notches up.

“The tendency to aggression is an innate, independent, instinctual disposition in man… it constitutes the powerful obstacle to culture.” – Sigmund Freud

I am not pointing fingers here. All I am saying is that we, men, are weird beings in our nature and we need to keep each other in check. And ladies, please don’t be shy at pointing at those sexist comments, jokes that we make. We won’t know if you don’t tell us your perspectives. Sorry it’s too much work but we are in this life together. I am so sorry for all you have been through as a people.

As for the legal procedure, I am not familiar with how Rwandan police deals with rape cases that are reported a while after the crime has been committed and there is no evidence. But somebody said that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, right? If your name is dropped, you probably have something to do with it. But obviously anyone accused of rape would defend themselves with phrases like “I didn’t do it.” “I don’t know that woman.” “I have never met that woman.” “We used to date; I didn’t give her the ring. She got mad. Bitches be crazy.”

Now I am just here wondering what is the way forward?

  1. How do you know the victims or the alleged rapists are telling the truth? You put them under the lie detector?
  2. What do the rape victims want to be done for them?
  3. What do the rape victims want to be done to the rapists?
  4. Can one victim’s testimonial be considered as evidence?
  5. Can more than one testimonial be considered as evidence?
  6. What happens if the alleged rapist is proven innocent but their reputation has been damaged?
  7. What happens to the victims whose identity has been publicly revealed?

Truth-folie Yours

#1key

I Am HIP HOP

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First thing first, shout-out to the pioneers
Without their work, we’d have no careers
Quit my job, became my own marketeer
Started from a blog, one-man team, now we fuckin here
Before I brag about my deeds, respect to the engineers
The designers, the architects- Nyirarumaga, Biggie and Pac
And every storyteller laying their soul on every track
You all put art in my heart, I put poetry in rap
From my early start, I just wanna give back
Design thinking till life imitates art
This is only a spark of a young star
It’s going dark when I go all lights
My bars are lit, put some welding glasses on or go blind
I’m a rare phenomenon like the eclipse, watch how you view me
Don’t mistake my silence for an ellipse when you review me
I aim at everything you say I am, if you thought you knew me
By the time you’re done defining me, it’s already a new me
I invite you to judge me, maybe you’ll see your own insecurity
Wish I could be your mirror but I bet you’d choose the selfie
Self worth is self-given or else it’s worthless, I pick what’s healthy
My spirit is so wealthy, all the Rothschild money cannot buy me
I’m priceless with a bank account constantly empty
I quit writing commercials to write my destiny
I gave up my Swatch, Irony, I gained in time
Now the world’s on my watch like a sentinel full-time
Look in the sky, I’m a hawk holding the message tight in my claws
I ain’t got no time for tiny beefs, I don’t fight small wars
Only Rwanyonga’s curving arrows would make me fall
Before you know I metamorphose, I’m a fly on your wall
Feasting on every shit that’s dope, I’m anti-AI, pro recycle
My recitals revive memories of lost souls
Call me a psycho but we all talk to dead people
You say “Rest in peace” I say “Rest in power or return for yours”
My poetry is traditional medicine for those looking for hope
It’s bitter just like the life of survivors trying to cope
With the hole in our souls that cannot be filled with alcohol
Cold hearts know no sunny holidays in these area codes
If your back’s against the rope, catapult and soar
It’s fucked up at the bottom when you got no condom
And this sick crazy bitch called life trynna fuck you live
Sometimes I wonder how many times one has to survive
To make it in this life before crossing to the other side
Millennials waiting for a white savior then I realized
Just like the devil, Jesus is a lie
At least the devil is in the detail
Well Jesus in the Bible retail
You know what those entail- Fantasy for sale
I’m breaking bad like Mr. White, about to go Heisenberg
This is just the intro like the tip of my pen is the tip of the iceberg
My vision is so clear it feels like a premonition
I got no reason to fear my final destination
I’m the architect of my dreams, this is my inception
They raise buildings, I build minds – perception
I talk fusion, they hear collision at the intersection
Confusion, not just my words, my actions are lost in translation
You can’t see through the crack yet, wait till I blow the wall
I’m coming out with a black belt, the system is about to crumble
Africa, rise, planet of the apes, I’m proud to be a Cesar
If time is a female, I’m about to seize her
I speak truth to power, I’m not a pleaser
What did you think this shit was? H.I.P H.O.P
H for His story, Her story, they’ll be told, by any means necessary
I for I coz nobody can fight for my mine like I
P for Power, knowledge or money, whatever it takes to get respect
H for Honor, for we’re kings and queens; not slaves or objects
O is for the oath that goes beyond the physical dimension
P for Progress even when it seems slow, it’s better than no motion
#1key

On Masculinity

I grew up being told repetitively
The household is like a human body
The man is the head of the whole
The woman holds it together
Kids are the members
They both follow
The man’s lead coz “he’s the brain” after all

Apparently it takes balls to be a man
But I know mammals that got bigger than…
2 to 3 inches
Heavier than 3 pounds
Of fragile eggs that can barely handle the slightest pinches

This world domination got me to question my own masculinity
Coz I realize that mistreating girls for my own perception of reality
Has nothing to do with feminity

And maybe our need to blow our expansion out of proportions
Is to cover for our pettiness, weaknesses and misconceptions

But I tell you what:
If you wanna test how strong a man is
Leave him alone, if he doesn’t cease to exist
That man is a gem

#1key

Watch the performance for the Big Men project in this video

 

A Thought For #Kenya

The hardest thing for me to swallow about the situation in #Kenya right now is to realize that the violence was expected. It was talked about. There were warnings; Signs. And now it is happening. Again. The same Us-Versus-Them rhetoric. If you knew how much Us there is in Them and how much Them there is in Us, you would know that a panga is not gonna cut it. It’s no way to settle land disputes older than your lineage’s imagination combined.
I speak as a Rwandan born in exile because some people in Rwanda in the late 1950’s thought panga was the way. Where are they now? Many of them became manure for bushes to flourish just like their victims. Neither own the land. You cannot own the earth. It will swallow you before you know it whether you are good or bad. You are a part of nature just like the remains of your ancestors, animals, trees… they’re all present in the soil you step on, the dust, in the air that you breathe, even in the stars light years away. We are all made of the same matter. There is no tribe in your DNA. There’s life, even in its smallest form. And no life is more important than another. That’s why our emotions are the same – fear, courage, sadness, happiness, love, hate… They are the reflections of the other. So if you can feel, you can be the other.

Please forgive me if this sounds ignorant or poetic while people are being killed, I’m sorry but all I want to say is that Kenyans you are being “polytricked” by the same people over again. The playbook is the same. Had it changed, we wouldn’t be having the same scenario: Create chaos, exploit the weak, come through as savior, blame it on your opponent, be a hero, amass wealth and repeat the pattern.

What’s the smallest thing you can do (or not do) to avoid the trap?

~1key