One on One with France-based Rwandese artist Murwanashyaka Nzabonimana aka Isacco

Rwandese artist Murwanashyaka Nzabonimana, popularly known as Isacco. [Jael Musumba]

Murwanashyaka Nzabonimana popularly known as Isacco is a Rwandese artist who is based in France, he talked to Jael Musumba  on his recent winning of the Nshuti Awards for Best Male Diaspora Artist, his next up coming album and why he decided to  be part of The Masked Ball charity event meant to happen in France.

 Who is Isacco?

I am a Rwandese musician. I play many styles of music, mainly Afrobeat and Afro Dancehall. My goal is to showcase African music to the world.

In 2012 you started music within the group IC-KS,  What pushed you to go solo?

We did a few musical projects together. I learned a lot with the group. Over time, the group members become very busy. At that time, I was still studying and my colleagues in the group were already working.

I was the only one who had some time to devote to music. One day, the members called and told me that they would want to talk about the future of our group. During the meeting, they told me that since they no longer have enough time for music, it is better that I continue the musical career alone.

What were you pursuing by then?

I studing Human Resource Management at Panthéon-Sorbonne university in France.

Which Kenyan artist do you listen to?

Having lived in Kenya I listen to almost all the artistes, I find that Kenyan artistes do great work. Every time Sauti Sol comes to France, they fill well-known venues here, and when you see the audience! It's not just Kenyans or the East Africa communities, white people and other African communities come to see them on stage.

My playlist is full of tracks from Kenyan artists like Sauti Sol, Willy Paul, Nyashinski, Bahati, Nadia Mukami and Femi One. I like their work and determination.

Your career took off in 2015, when you collaborated with Rwandese artist Audy Kelly, how did you happen?

After I left the group I vowed that I would not disappoint my friends who trust me. Audy Kelly has been a good friend of mine. He gave me a lot of advice. And I asked him if we could collaborate on a single and he accepted. The single ended up jumpstarting my career.

 You were recently awarded the Nshuti Awards for Best Male Diaspora Artist. What was going through your head at the moment?

 I told myself that all the energy spent over many years was not for nothing. That’s when I realised that anything is possible when you work hard and know what you want.

We went through a period of Covid-19 pandemic, how did it impact your career?

 I wasn't used to such a life and I don't think anyone is used to that. I had to turn my energy to music. It helped me a lot not to have negative thoughts. I told myself, why not create a song that is danceable, that will make people move more so that people relax, stretch their legs, and have fun while listening to it. Zungusha was the single with a beautiful and colourful video featuring Brazilian dancers.

 Do you have your own label or are you produced by another production house?

 I launched my own label, Isacco Production. Where I produced my first track Zunguza, an afropop track recorded in 2021 featuring the Guinean Lil Saako. I also produced all the eight tracks on my first album On S’amuse.

Tell us more about your upcoming second album?

It is almost finished, the release is scheduled for the end of this year. There will be surprise collaborations for my fans. I have several concerts lined up on April 6, 2024, I will be performing at Masquerade Dance Evening. I will also be on stage in Cameroon with other artistes like Cameroonian star Mani Bella.

Which Kenyan musician are you considering a collaboration with?

If I have the opportunity to work with Sauti Sol, Nyashinski or Bahati on a project, it would be a dream come true. I am preparing my second album. There will be some singles with Kenyan artistes.

 What challenges have you faced doing music?

Making music especially here in the diaspora is not easy. Everything is very expensive. Just making an audio track in a studio here, the money you pay is equivalent to completing an album in Africa. But thank God that technology saves us, now we can work with studios in Africa remotely.

This helps reduce spending costs. But when you think you've escaped the problem, it catches up with you again when you're getting ready to make the music video. The videos here are very expensive, you have to pay the director, the models, filming location, these are huge expenses.

If you hire a model for 2 hours of filming, and you don't shoot anything within the 2 hours, the model will leave and you will be forced to pay even if she didn't do anything. When it comes to  promotion in the diaspora there are not many African media that will play your music.

Getting invited to perform especially when you are a beginner is hard but this is the real life of African artistes in the diaspora.

What do you want to leave as a legacy?

My dream is to be remembered as a music legend. I want my works to inspire the younger generation and make people happy. My work must motivate people to know that everything is possible in life and that nothing is lost when you think your back is against the wall.

 Tell us about your next show?

The Masked Ball evening, which will take place on April 6, 2024 in France in the town of Pierrefitte, it is a charity evening organised by the Cameroonian communities and other communities in France.

Proceeds from the event will go to Cameroonian children who are battling HIV/Aids, those abandoned and orphans. Being a refugee I know the struggle and the feeling of being abandoned. So if I can do something to help them it will be a great pleasure for me. That is why I agreed to perform at the Masked Ball evening.