Eric 1Key (real name Eric Ngangare) is one of Rwanda’s most exceptional creative talents. He is a multi-lingual hip-hop poet, spoken word artist, blogger, actor and advocate of Kigali’s blossoming live music scene. Born to a Rwandan mother and Congolese father, 1Key has lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda – where he lives today. Between November 2014 and February 2015 – and while living in Kampala, Uganda – 1Key created his debut album Entre 2 (“Between Two”).
Entre 2 – which boasts eleven carefully constructed tracks – is reflective of complex contradictions and dichotomies in 1Key’s own life. Throughout the album, we hear multiple voices singing and rapping in Kinyarwanda, French and English – as well as in Kiswahili and a bit of Lingala – reflecting the new Kigali today. Indeed, Rwanda’s capital city is home to vast numbers of Rwandan returnees, who grew up in neighbouring countries – as well as in Europe and North America – and then returned to Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide, speaking a variety of different languages.
As a PhD researcher interested in musical connections between Kigali and Kampala, I have enjoyed the privilege of getting to know Eric. Through his album, 1Key took me on a journey through a world of traditional Rwandese melodies, soulful folk, celebratory rock, bouncy reggae beats, and conscious hip-hop poetry. He introduced me to Rwandan and Ugandan music producers and artists – with whom he collaborated with on the album – who live in Rwanda, Uganda, France, Sweden, the UK and Canada. But most importantly, 1Key helped me to translate and “decode” his words. His poetic, playful, multi-layered, seductive, defiant, honest words.
I hope that this series of eleven song reviews – complete with lyric translations and audio links – enhances your understanding of 1Key’s outstanding album, and that you enjoy it as much as I do.
Entre 2 is available and free for download on 1key’s souncloud page