By Ange Theonastine Ashimwe
Music plays an indispensable role in everyday life here in East Africa, and the traditional performances with unique instruments highlighting the skill, culture and prowess of cultures in the region.
And I guess no one needs sacred halls packed with the dusty art of past ages! I mean what for? Such museums can seem outdated, archaric, unneeded.
But hey! They call museums the halls of going “Backwards into the Future”, and we might actually need it than we realize. Museums tell stories of man and how he has survived over the years, and I bet you are curious to know the stories of why and how our ancestors first began to do music.
With all those questions in mind, Google cannot answer that because our musical legends were never recognized by the wider world. Still, we know that they were extraordinary.
To that end, a new museum is in the works to showcase Rwandan music, and construction activities will start in February, 2020. Did our ancestors first start by beating things together to create rhythm? What types of instruments did they use? Has music always been important in Rwanda society, and if so, why? These are some of the things to be explored in the upcoming museum.
The museum will consist of a showroom reserved for chronological music instruments, costumes and styles that musicians used to wear, photographs and biographies of musicians, producers, journalists, historians and other people who played a big role in the development of Rwanda’s traditional music.
While discussing with Patrick Habarugira, the president of U&I Ark and the mastermind behind the whole idea, he mentioned that the music museum in Rwanda would not only create an opportunity to showcase the history of Rwanda to the world but also to contribute to Rwanda’s creative industry and tourism.
“Some folklore music has disappeared and some artistes have been forgotten because we have no safe space or database to store or archive their history. That is all we want to respond to through this initiative,” Habarugira mentions as he continues to show how elsewhere, musicians have their music history documented on Wikipedia and within other resources; but how East African music, especially Rwandan music, the documentation is nowhere to be found.
The museum will also serve as an appropriate exhibition and promotion hub for our music. Different musical instruments, traditional or modern, where a visitor can feel free to play whichever they are excited to listen will be included. There will also be music collection where visitors can watch music videos of the late 1960s-90s and listen to audio songs of artists of all generations.
We know that East African music is old and that it may have been with us from when humans first evolved. But why did it rise, who influenced it, how did it rise, and why it has persisted is not fully documented. Starting with this music museum to be built in Rwanda, it is a great initiative in the creative industry.