The bearer of a rich cultural legacy that reaches back centuries, Rwanda marries vivid folk traditions with up and coming contemporary artists. A few of our favorites are below. Who are yours?
Traditional music and dance are still alive and well in Rwanda, with dance groups found across the entire country. Perhaps the most famous is the Urukerereza National Ballet, founded by President Juvenal Habyarimana over 30 years ago. Much lauded, the troupe brings together artists from all over Rwanda to promote and preserve Rwandan culture through song and dance. Watch their performance in the 2006 Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiore in the video below.
A relative newcomer to the Rwandan music scene, King James nonetheless managed to take three major trophies in the 2011 Salax Awards (Rwanda’s annual music awards), winning Artist of the Year, Best Male Artist and Best R&B Artist. Like many popular musicians in Rwanda, King James balances his music career with his everyday life, where he’s a student at Mount Kenya University.
Perhaps one of the best-known Rwandan musicians internationally, Corneille was born in Germany to Rwandan parents but spent most of his childhood in Rwanda until his parents were killed in the 1994 genocide. He fled to Germany and was taken in by family friends, living there until 1997, when he moved to Canada and embarked on the musical career that would eventually see his albums charting in France, Belgium and Switzerland. Corneille records in both French and English. The track below finds him trying to reconcile the confusion of his identity with the world we all live in.