It was also a year when the ubiquitous and repetitive Nigerian Afro beats sound continued to exert influence on the Rwandan pop music scene.
The influence of bongo flava from neighbouring Tanzania also left an imprint on local music, with a handful of collaborations featuring Rwandan and Tanzanian artistes, most notably Harmonize from the Diamond Platnumz owned Wasafi Records. However, there were also hushed accusations of sampling Tanzanian music labeled against a few local artists.
Wowe Utuma Mpimba – Cecile Kayirebwa
In a trail blazing move, Rwandan music matriarch Cecile Kayirebwa released a poetry e-book titled Wowe Utuma Mpimba, that officially went online on October 1. The e-book is a collection of four short stories that are adaptations of the lyrics of some of her most popular songs from a catalogue that spans over four decades.
The e-book is Kayirebwa’s attempt to provide deeper insight into the messages carried in her songs.
Lose Control – Meddy ft The Ben
The year 2018 saw an unprecedented quest by some of the nation’s top musical names to break into the regional and international music markets. Leading this quest was the R&B combo of Meddy and The Ben, who not only did their fair share of touring, but also put out music that sought to capture a new audience.
Lose Control, their collabo that dropped midyear, was the best shot at the international music market. Locally, it was a staple, an anthem on local airwaves. Of course, no talk about a Meddy song is ever complete without mention of the accompanying video clip, and Lose Control manifests his usual high standards.
Garagaza – Buravan ft Michel Burabyo (his father)
2018 was a bumper year for Buravan, one in which he came full circle, musically.
Shortly after winning the Prix Decouvertes RFI music competition and bagging a cash prize of 10,000 euros (a first for Rwanda), he staged his maiden album launch, dubbed The Love Lab.
Garagaza, one of the singles off the album, was another of those anthems on local airwaves this year. Also a stickler for sleek videos, Buravan pulled a small surprise on his fans when he featured his father in a cameo role in the video, one of the most viewed of 2018’s releases.
Inch’Allah – Hope Irakoze ft Knowless Butera
This song bore all the markings of a comeback hit for both musicians, but especially for Knowless. It’s a classic guy/girl love song in which Irakoze wails Inch’Allah (Arabic for ‘God willing), to which Knowless reassuringly tells him; ‘you’re gonna be my one and only’.
The song could have done even better had the duo shot an accompanying video clip. They only gave us a lyric video.
Yuda, the subject of betrayal, is one that is always close to the hearts of many a music fan, almost just like love. Yuda is Kinyarwanda for ‘Judas’, the character in the Bible that is responsible for betraying Jesus. Knowless delves straight into the subject in the song’s opening lines; ‘keep on hating I don’t care, if you fight you’ll need a prayer, if you’re cool I may be fair’.
The song fairly reflects Knowless’s latest musical direction, incorporating a splattering of English and Swahili in her predominantly Kinyarwanda lyrics.
Ma Vie – Social Mula
Another of those songs that simply refused to go off the local music charts.
Perhaps it’s safe to say that if Social Mula continues like this into the new year, his voice will become etched in the minds of music lovers as one of the formidable male R&B crooners of the time.
Lyrically and vocally, there is a refreshing coming of age about the singer that can only be attributed to his steadfastness in the game.*
Rurabo – Kitoko
Known for giving his songs ample ‘breathing’ space before dropping the next tune, Kitoko Bibarwa returned with his profound vocals in this R&B fusion hit with peculiar North African riffs.
Fans’ comments extolling the song poured in from all corners of the world the moment the video clip went up on YouTube in September, marking out the singer as one of the country’s key R&B exports.
My Karabo – Kamichi
In this song, Kamichi rides a bouncy Nigerian style Afro beat track to return to the local music charts after a long hiatus of about five years. His confident, laid-back vocals make it seem like he was not in a hurry to prove any point.
The video clip bears some steamy shots, though not to the point of scandalous.
Adi Top – Meddy
A happy-go-lucky, love themed song, whose Caribbean inspired video features lots of swimsuit clad girls, and some dance choreography.
Just the kind of song Meddy’s legion of fans needed for the party-filled December festive season.
Blocka – Bruce Melodie.
Tuza – Allioni ft Bruce Melody.
Bape – DJ Marnaud ft Active.
Ina Million – Safi Madiba ft Harmonize.