It was during our recent interview with Ras Banamungu regarding his latest music and dance video ‘My Sunshine’, that it was realized wholly just what a strong ambassador for Rwanda and Rwandan culture he has become. Within the diaspora of Rwandan natives, he has become a blazing beacon for the country he loves. A greater insight, we decided, was needed. On our once again contacting him, he was more than willing to discuss his love for music and his home country in more depth and what follows is a fine insight into the man, his views and his future plans.
The Express News : So is ‘My Sunshine’ your first video to include Rwandan dancing?
Ras Banamungu: Yes, but many of my songs feature traditional Rwandan rhythms. ‘Evi Tingz Agwaan’, for example, features a traditional Rwandan tribal beat, reggae rhythm and Western rock guitar lead. My friend and fellow musician Steven Dean, my songwriting partner and the other half of AIM (Abadahigwa International Movement), sings and plays bass and lead on many of the songs we have written together. He is also a teacher of the word of God (ACIM) and together our mission is to spread the message of love and joy as far as we can. Together with this, Rwandan music and culture can offer much to the benefit of the world and Rwandan diaspora is ensuring it is taking place.
The Express News : What is AIM exactly?
Ras Banamungu: Steven came to Rwanda in 2013 as part of an international team to treat traumatised genocide survivors; a project I was also a part of. We started writing songs together and we decided to call our partnership ‘Abadahigwa International’, later adding ‘Movement’; ‘Abadahigwa’ meaning ‘undefeatable’. However, we later adopted the acronym ‘AIM’ for convenience. We are the core members, but anybody can contribute to a song if they have a notion to and a viable idea.
The Express News : Regarding diaspora, you yourself are emerging as a great ambassador for Rwanda and her home-grown talent, what has inspired you to take this route?
Ras Banamungu: Since I left Rwanda for Australia back in October 2013, I have kept in contact with my friends and family practically every day and have never forgotten my home or how much I love it. The opportunity came up for me to go and since then I have not wasted a minute in carving a name for myself in the world’s music industry, and also within the world of mental health. I split my time between my music and caring for patients in their homes. Also conducting regular sessions of Laughter Percussion, a therapy I devised myself using rudiments of drumming, song and spirituality.
At the same time I want to tell the world of Rwanda. Of how beautiful she is; of how friendly she is; and how far she has come since the genocide almost 26 years ago now. Although I’ve been absent for 6 years, I have kept abreast of happenings and events at home and Kigali is rapidly looking more and more prosperous every year. In just a quarter of a century, President Paul Kagame has totally turned the country around. In fact I would like to ask, if I may, how our diaspora and cultural ministers are viewing my success, both in Rwanda and Australia; where the Australian government is giving full backing to Laughter Percussion, a therapeutic treatment of my own device which has captured the imagination of their mental health institution in a big way! I quite receiving a hand from a great business advisor Sharni Foulkes member of the local chamber of commerce in Kalgoorlie Boarlder who has rubber-stamped my unique therapy for treating mental and physical heath issues, ‘Laughter Percussion’ which has now been introduced into the mental health facilities in the town where I am employed as a musical therapist, among other duties. The therapy is later to be utilised nationally. I see this not only as a triumph for myself, but also for the whole of Rwanda. The place of my birth is looking good, and as a proud Rwandan, I want to tell the world about it, and via my music and the added talent of the Det-n-ators International, I will. I would like to hear the thoughts of the ministers and anybody else allied to diaspora, as it can only serve to improve my efforts.
The Express News : Is this the message of love you speak of?
Ras Banamungu: A message of love for Rwanda and the whole world. My album, ‘I am MessenJah’ reflects this. Steven is a teacher of A Course in Miracles, which teaches of the Holy Oneness and accompanies well my own Rastafarian belief in the One Love of Jah. After the total horror of the genocide, what other message could I possibly want to deliver? And what better way than through song and dance.
The Express News : Have you any plans to return to Rwanda soon?
Ras Banamungu: I don’t have any immediate plans as I am planning a tour of Australia and that will taking up my time for the foreseeable future. I am looking forward to returning one day though. Kigali is changing so much, I don’t know if I will recognise it. I see it has been voted the cleanest city in Africa, and that is a lot of cities to beat. The policy of everybody helping to clean the city once a month has certainly paid off. I am so pleased to see such progress after just 26 years. So good to see her back on her feet.
The Express News : Do you intend to include Rwandan culture in any future videos?
Ras Banamungu: Most certainly, and there will never be anything about the genocide or anything to do with it. Right now, Rwanda is well and getting better all the time. I shall do everything in my power to assist it to remain so. It’s time all the bad stuff is put way, way behind us.
The Express News : Do you have any messages for our readers with regard to your success?
Ras Banamungu: Yes. If you have a dream, never stop trying to achieve it. Keep dreaming until it manifests before your eyes. Nobody fails until they stop trying.
The Express News