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.

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

The Expericment Film

I have been conflicted since the film was completed. My friend Isumbabyose, the brain behind this documentary, and I had many conversations regarding its release. Initially he made a 10min version hoping to raise interest about the full film and maybe generate some income from it but at the same time the purpose of the film is to educate about what it is to be an artist in a system that does not value arts. I’ve been working hard, pushing the envelope as much as I could but still it seems like we have many years to go. We need people who see the potential in the arts to make it an industry. Right now I feel it’s important that I share with the world today and the next about what I have learned as an independent artist and cultural entrepreneur in Rwanda. To be honest I am worried about the future of the arts in this country. The present is already a mess but I have hope that every blue moon generations will rise to the challenges.
This film is personal journey that I hope will shed light on issues that we do not talk about publicly as artists because we have a “reputation” to protect. So please let’s all learn together and figure out ways that may work for those kids who are talented but have no platform. If anything, tell them I tried and that I care about them.

#My2016

2016 was an intense year, wasn’t it? Very interesting too. Has there been any other time in your life loaded with information from everywhere and everyone 24/7? Everyone was switched on this year. So much that some of us got a glimpse into the director’s cut of The World As It Is before being slapped by an orange man with tiny hands. At some point I felt like I was part of the newsroom. Well, that’s probably because I was. It’s no secret that I did bombard you regularly with posts throughout the year. If you’re reading this, you survived. 

I began 2016 posting a video on my Facebook page hinting about my music projects and what it would take to achieve them. It probably sounded like those New Year’s resolutions but I knew exactly what I was talking about. I just wanted you to be part of it. 

https://facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1656633567926492&id=1475922169330967

Personally, I have never doubted my abilities to do the things that I set my mind to. I just have to want it real bad, and I consider it done. Some people call it genius but that’s another way of simplifying things and finding excuses for not doing. Say whatever but it’s whatever it takes that makes all the difference. We get trapped in existing formats about pursuing our dreams and forget the essence. Our experiences vary depending on our situations, time and space. They cannot become models but they can inspire others. How do I make it simple?Think of a hungry African kid in the village spending hours in some banana plantation trying to create toys from banana leaves with his own hands, without any tutorial and still managing to create their own happiness in the middle of chaos and misery. I was that kid. I am still that kid at 35 years old. Yes, the decor is different but the passion to create never went to sleep. I woke up this year to remind us all that “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of” and that “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting” as Paulo Coelho put it so well The Alchemist. This year was a very refreshing and interesting journey and I am very glad that I did not walk alone. Many of you followed me closely even from a distance, with love, some friends, artists, journalists held my hand while many watched the journey unfold and there was an insignificant number of people waiting for me to fall. But I have never held my head higher than I do now. I am very proud to write “artist” in the profession box. We did it, fam! 

We pulled it off with no sponsor and we did it with class, didn’t we? We even did more than we planned. From the simple #Expericment series, we produced the #Expericment EP and now working on the #Expericmentary (the expericment documentary) plus lots of features on local and international publications. All this in less than 12 months. So here is a toast to you and I, fam. To the doers that we are. It’s your moral and emotional support, your physical and virtual involvement, your appreciation, your encouraging messages, your vibes that kept me going.

From the bottom of my heart, I wanna take this time to appreciate everyone who made 2016 the dopest year of my life. You will find your name in the credits of the #Expericmentary scheduled to screen towards the 15th of January 2017.

To greatness in 2017.

1Key, 1Love 

VISA chez les belges

​Les blagues sur les belges, vous aimez? Et les blagues par les belges alors? Je ne sais pas si vous allez trouver ça drôle, moi ça me dépasse un peu.

Voilà j’ai fait ma demande de visa pour l’Allemagne le 10 Nov pour une conférence à laquelle j’étais invité à Berlin. A chaque fois que j’entrais mon numéro de dossier sur le site de suivie, il n’était pas reconnu. Alors je me suis rendu à l’ambassade dans la semaine du 17 vu qu’ils disaient que je devrais avoir une réponse dans les 5 ou 10 jours. Après trois jours successifs de “revenez demain” sans suite, ça bouillonnait déjà dans le ventre mais je me suis inspiré de la patience de ceux qui avaient raté une grosse partie de leur formation intellectuelle parce que les services de l’ambassade de Belgique à Kogali c’est comme utiliser l’internet 2G pour transférer une pièce de 100MB. Mais bon, patience! Pas mon fort mais qu’est-ce que je peux faire à cette situation? Puis soudain du feedback. Il manquait un dossier et deux qui n’avaient rien à voir avec mon voyage. J’ai dû écrire une lettre pour m’expliquer. Oui pour m’expliquer. C’était le 23 Novembre. Mon voyage était prévu pour le 29 novembre. La conférence était le 2 décembre. Mon séjour et le reste étaient sponsorisés par le ministère du développement et de la coopération de la fédération allemande. Pas mal, non? Hélas cela ne m’a pas empêché de faire des visites à l’ambassade pour recevoir la même réponse “traitement en cours.” La veille du jour prévu de mon vol, après la même réponse :

– « Mais, madame je voyage demain. »

– « Repassez demain, monsieur Eric. Désolé. »

Deux jours plus tard, c’était perdu. Il n’y avait plus rien à faire. J’ai décidé d’oublier. 

Hier, je rallume mon téléphone et remarque que j’ai eu un appel manqué de l’ambassade. Je suis blasé. On est le 10! J’ai raté ma chance de connecter avec des cervelles dynamiques venant de partout dans le monde et surtout la diaspora rwandaise mais je me console avec un petit « il y aura d’autres occasions. » Oui il y aura d’autres mais plus celle-là. En même temps je suis conscient que la demande peut être acceptée ou rejetée mais que la décision soit prise 3 jours après la date de l’objet de la demande, je trouve ça non seulement inacceptable mais dégradant! Et puis vous les belges avant de venir chez nous, vous ne demandez pas de VISA. Vous l’achetez à l’aéroport de Kigali si je ne me trompes pas. Et moi, vous me faites payer plus de cinquante mille francs pour un service dont vous n’avez aucune intention de m’accorder, c’est pas de l’arnaque? En plus je ne venais même pas chez vous! 

On m’avait avisé de la mauvaise réputation de l’ambassade à Kigali. Je viens d’avoir ma dose mais bon, on apprend de nos erreurs. Il y aura une prochaine fois. Mon nom est NGANGARE Eric. 

À très bientôt! 

EANT to treat Kigali to a four-night festival of contemporary dance

My first experience watching a contemporary dance performance was in Kigali. It was part of a play. As I converged all my attention towards the shirtless man trying to fly like a bird, land like a leaf and run like a gazelle in slow motion, I couldn’t help but wonder “Do those Tai Chi-like moves really mean anything or is Wesley Ruzibiza playing with us?” Over the years, my curiosity took over my skepticism. I attended more related shows and it’s only at the East African Nights of Tolerance (EANT) festival last year, that I found the courage to ask a choreographer, “How do you expect people who are not familiar with contemporary dance to interpret your piece?” The director simply replied, “It is in fact subject to interpretation.” Definitely not the answer I expected but it also hit me that I don’t always understand every move in our traditional dance yet I always have a great time watching. If you can relate to this then you may relate even more to the numerous dance performances organized by Amizero Kompagnie for the 5th edition of the East African Nights of Tolerance festival.

For 4 nights in a row starting this 24th November, Kigali will be treated to stories depicting the state of our shared humanity and beyond through unique contemporary dance signatures from Tanzania, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazaville, Cameroon, Benin, Ivory Cost, France, Belgium and Rwanda.

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From Thursday to Saturday, 7 pm, the shows will happen at Zenith Hotel, 12 KG 676 Street (Kimihurura opposite Papyrus) for a fee of 2,000 Rwf per night or 5,000 Rwf for the three-night package.

On Sunday, the show will be at Maison des Jeunes Kimisagara, still 7pm and 2,000 Rwf entrance fee and will bring young Rwandan contemporary dancers, newly trained by local and guest dancers throughout a week workshop, to perform, watch and exchange with the dance maestros.

I promise you, you will gain pounds of joy if you go.

Des Espoirs d’un Cynique – Review on Mellow views

Posted on November 21, 2016 by Mutsinzi for Mellowviews

Eric Mutsinzi’s passion and writing skill is not only rare to find these hills but I don’t know any other 19 year-old young with such abilities. When I invited him at the live stream launch of my last single of the year, I did not expect this. I can only be grateful and hope his quill grows wings. You rock, mazina 😉

We listen intently, as Eric’s recorded voice asks an important philosophical question in the form of a seemingly bleak stream of verses about human nature.”

“The last verse is powerfully politically charged. It mocks the inhumane or perhaps very human hypocrisy of nations that have a history of suffering and yet have become the reason some parts of the world are currently in peril. It is a reminder of our forgetfulness. A reminder of the oblivion to past suffering, birthed by prosperity and satisfaction.” ~ Eric Mutsinzi

Read More…

Lyrics – English Translation

Title : Hopes(lessness) of a cynic
Artist : 1key
Single
2016

Verse 1:
My year of birth is the moment of truth
My pen morphs into a lighter, my ink into fuel
My words dance in flames but catch no fire
I speak loud what you wish you could shout
You who retweets me when I share rubbish on my timeline
You understand that every time I rhyme, I free my mind
From this collective fear that has become a lifestyle
I’m cleaning out my closet at a high speed
As if I had a date with my skeleton before I turn 46
Premonition of my funeral or simply paranoia?
The gift and the curse of the artist is his third eye
I sink into cynicism while my poetry shines

Hook:
Give me a pen and a page, a mic and a stage
So I can share all this rage
Just give me four minutes and a small crowd
So I can tell you all about
“Des espoirs d’un cynique”
Hope(lessness) of a cynic

Verse 2:
Apparently I’m looking for the sympathy of Whites
“Eric, pity doesn’t sell” a friend said online
When I blew the whistle about the hypocrisy
Of my brothers who think that changing a country’s narrative is a literary work
Ask those who live in the shadow of the rich, “Where do the latter shit?”
I mean those who make cheese from cooking stats
If their achievements are so flawless, why do they lie?
Huge gap between Public Relations and relationship with the public
The minister of labor raises her middle finger
To an unemployed youth roaming with job application letters
Flagrant inequality between the people and the land lords
The minority drinks champagne under a bling bling dome
The majority shrinks in silence, hunger is at their door
Nzaramba
I hide behind screens to write these lines
I’m a just coward and I’m so tired
My words and my actions collide

Hook:
Give me a pen and a page, a mic and a stage
So I can share all this rage
Just give me four minutes and a small crowd
So I can tell you all about
“Des espoirs d’un cynique”
Hope(lessness) of a cynic

Verse 3
I am tired of the colonizer’s speech preaching democracy
Ask the natives what they think of Christopher Columbus or his peers’ aristocracy
Ask the Nama and Herero why their genocide isn’t so popular
Or ask the perpetrators
Ask the sons of Gaza what they think of the Star of David?
Ask the daughters of Haiti what they think of the Red Cross’ opportunists
I’m simply tired of our collective hypocrisy
I’ll heal from my cynicism when I find remedies to Africa
Meanwhile I remain a pain in the ass of those suffering from selective amnesia
Coz if I had to talk restitution, Belgium would sink into an infinite deficit
And if I talked about justice, France would be forever guilty
For its involvement in conflicts from the delta to the sources of the Nile
And so would be the United States for crimes against humanity and terrorism worldwide
From east to its west coasts through its cities, my continent is falling apart while
The west and China argue on who takes how much oild and gold
This poem is not an SOS, it’s a bug in this Babylon
I rise from the mass before I get crushed by the weight of life
I raise my voice beyond the hills with my rhymes
But who will… Verse 3
I am tired of the colonizer’s speech preaching democracy
Ask the natives what they think of Christopher Columbus or his peers’ aristocracy
Ask the Nama and Herero why their genocide isn’t so popular
Or ask the perpetrators
Ask the sons of Gaza what they think of the Star of David?
Ask the daughters of Haiti what they think of the Red Cross’ opportunists
I’m simply tired of our collective hypocrisy
I’ll heal from my cynicism when I find remedies to Africa
Meanwhile I remain a pain in the ass of those suffering from selective amnesia
Coz if I had to talk restitution, Belgium would sink into an infinite deficit
And if I talked about justice, France would be forever guilty
For its involvement in conflicts from the delta to the sources of the Nile
And so would be the United States for crimes against humanity and terrorism worldwide
From east to its west coasts through its cities, my continent is falling apart while
The west and China argue on who takes how much oild and gold
This poem is not an SOS, it’s a bug in this Babylon
I rise from the mass before I get crushed by the weight of life
I raise my voice beyond the hills with my rhymes
But who will…

Hook:
Give me a pen and a page, a mic and a stage
So I can share all this rage
Who will give me just four minutes and a small crowd
So I can tell you all about
“Des espoirs d’un cynique”
Hope(lessness) of a cynic

#1key