Music

Rwandan stars step into pop music scene

kriss

Rwandan singer and songwriter Kriss Espoir’s album cover. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • Kriss Espoir's “Gemini” comes highly recommended for music fans seeking to explore a very interesting, but largely low-key scene in neighbouring Rwanda.
  • To the ear listening to the new Rwandan pop music for the first time, the collaborations serve as an introduction to the new generation of musicians.
  • Those fans who have gotten used to his rough edge, street-wise style may be surprised at the evolution of Olamide into a smooth rhyming, pop artist on his new album “UY Scuti”.

Something exciting is happening on the African pop music scene with new offerings from Rwanda and Nigeria being this month’s stand-outs. It’s no surprise that something fresh is coming from Nigeria, arguably Africa’s biggest music production studio.

But the news from Rwanda, a country whose contemporary music has not penetrated the Afropop circles is a welcome twist. Rwanda is proving to be a burgeoning scene of young talented artists.

One of these young artists is Kriss Espoir whose new album “Gemini”, borrowed from his zodiac sign, was released on June 21 to coincide with his birthday.

The Kigali-based producer, songwriter, singer who is also a student of architecture started his career immediately after completing high school in 2017 and says the biggest influence on his career has been American R&B star, Chris Brown.

“Gemini” is his third album after the 2020 release of “My Mind Is Pregnant” and “Versions of You”, both available across all major music streaming platforms.

The album has been well put together with all 14 songs done in the R&B sound delivered in a mix of English and Kinyarwanda. Kriss Espoir has already built a reputation for producing smooth romantic urban music from his previous albums and this album is no exception.

The album is packed with collaborations with his compatriots including MaestroBoomin on the sultry tune “Baby” which is a slow rhythm with a rap verse and Yannick MYK and Sogokuru on the catchy track “Slow”.

ET is the featured artist on the song “Flair”, adding depth to the song with his bass.

One of the stand-out songs is “Heaven”, a duet with 22-year-old Nikita Heaven, coming soon after the two worked together on a song called “End of Time” earlier in the year.

The chemistry between the two vocalists is hard to miss, transporting the listener to their imagery heaven.

To the ear listening to the new Rwandan pop music for the first time, the collaborations serve as an introduction to the new generation of musicians who have emerged in the last decade and have just found the platform to raise the profile of the country’s contemporary music.

“Gemini” comes highly recommended for music fans seeking to explore a very interesting, but largely low-key scene in neighbouring Rwanda.

Crossing over to the other stand-out, there is nothing low-key about Nigerian star Olamide’s freshly available “UY Scuti”, named after one of the largest known stars in the constellation (the title was inspired by his son’s love of astrology).

The singer and rapper has become one of the most influential voices in Nigerian music in the last decade since he made his debut with the single “Eni Duro” as a 21-year-old in 2010. This is his 11th studio album and its sound transcends genres, crossing from roots reggae to Afrobeats, R&B to dancehall.

The self-proclaimed “voice of the street” delivers his easy-going rhymes in a trademark combination of Yoruba and English, showcased on the 10-track album, produced by his longtime collaborator Eskeez.

Those fans who have gotten used to his rough edge, street-wise style may be surprised at the evolution of Olamide into a smooth rhyming, pop artist on this new album. “I am a citizen of the world now, so my choice of sound is a combination of all the beautiful music I’ve heard,” he tells Apple Music.

The themes of the music swing from reflections on his ghetto upbringing on “Need for Speed” to sensual love songs like “Julie” and “PonPon” with the in-demand Nigerian female star Fave.

“So Much More” has a roots reggae vibe and is an encouragement to women to shoot for their dreams and aspirations, without being tied down to societal expectations.

The album features a host of collaborations with Nigerian talent including the hot new Afrobeats talent Jaywilliz who adds a whole new dimension to “Jailer” and long-time sidekick Phyno who appears on the infectious dancehall tinged “Somebody”

“UY Scuti” has been released just seven months after the successful album “Carpe Diem, on the Olamide’s YBNL label which has gone into partnership with the US music franchise Empire.