With their co-written song ‘Evi Tingz Agwaan’ achieving over 5000 likes and over 126000 views on YouTube in only two months , Ras Banamungu and Steve Dean are feeling pretty jubilant these days. Their songwriting partnership AIM, an acronym of Abadahigwa International Movement, was formed seven years ago in Ras Banamungu ‘s native Rwanda, while they were both part of an international project to treat survivors of the 1994 genocide against tutsi.
With his prolific musical output, Ras Banamungu is fast becoming one of Rwanda’s greatest ambassadors. He and Steve have written several songs together since ‘Evi Tingz Agwaan’ was written one evening at the Mulindi Japan One Love center in Kigali, where the project was based, and all of them can be heard on his latest album ‘I am MessenJah’.
Although Ras Banamungu is currently in Australia and Steve Dean in the USA, The Express News was able to secure an interview with both Ras and Steve at the same time via international link-ups.
The Express News : So what inspired you both to write ‘Evi Tingz Agwaan’?
Steve Dean: Ras and I were alone one evening as the other project members had gone to a meeting, and being fellow musicians, we decided to share some musical ideas with the view to write a new song incorporating reggae, pop and rock. Evi Tingz Agwaan’ was the result.
Ras Banamungu: I already had the idea for a chorus and Steve worked out the tune on his guitar. Then we worked together on the verses and arrangement. Even then, I knew it would be a big hit. The next day we went into Ray Music studios in Kigali and recorded it. Producer Joy Pro lending a hand to make a great job.
Steve Dean: I played both rhythm and lead guitar on the track while Ras played bass and drums. The rock lead guitar works really well over the quasi-reggae rhythm and the end product was a whole new sound.
Ras Banamungu: I eventually decided to entitle the new sound, ‘Shakkalakka Du’ as even the name itself has a kind of joyful rhythm. I think it’s important to put across happiness and joy within our music. These days, people most want to hear cheerful tunes. It keeps their spirits up in a currently uncertain world.
The Express News : So how did ‘Evi Tingz Agwaan’ take so long to get from being written in Rwanda, to being published in Australia almost seven years later?
Ras Banamungu together with Steve Dean
Steve Dean: When I left Rwanda to return to Australia, Ras came back with me and we eventually formed a band called ‘Ras Banamungu and the Det-n-ators’ International with a fixed line-up of Gez Ball on guitar; Tony Ball, his brother, on drums; Glenn McInnes on rhythm; Tony’s wife Julie and Tandy Marriott on backing vocals and myself on bass, while Ras sang lead vocals. We did lots of good gigs before I left for the USA. The name ‘Det-n-ators’ comes from my London Cockney pronunciation of ‘Detonators’.
Ras Banamungu: I wrote and recorded quite a few songs before deciding to eventually release ‘Evi Tingz Agwaan’. Although much of the video was filmed by local film maker Michael McHale in the Perth area long before it all came about. I just felt that the time was right. The ‘Det-n-ators International’ is now more a musician’s club, rather than having any fixed membership. Anybody with a viable idea is welcome to record with us and some great talent has played and sung on many of the tracks.
The Express News : So what are future plans for the song?
Ras Banamungu: We are now on the books of a major promotions company in Las Vegas, the entertainment city of the world, and they are arranging on online performance which will be aired very soon. I’m very excited about it.
Steve Dean: Once the ongoing covid virus pandemic is finally over, the promoter’s plan is that Ras comes over to the States where they will arrange for the both of us to undertake a coast-to-coast promotional tour. I already have the backing musicians ready and waiting and raring to go.
The Express News : Are there any plans to return to Rwanda to play?
Ras Banamungu: Most certainly. In fact, I would very much like to do a tour of the whole of East Africa, and perhaps even the rest of the continent, or even the whole world. I like to think big, he added, with a chuckle.
Steve Dean: I loved Rwanda when I was there and I know Ras has a deep affection for his homeland. To play ‘Evi Tingz Agwaan’ live there would a dream come true and I see no reason why this should not happen. We’ll just have to see what the future holds.
Ras Banamungu: I’m certain it’ll be great. Evi ting will be definitely agwaan, I’m sure I can safely add.
By The Express News