Soul:ID, bringing soul music to Rwanda
A collection of four people hailing from four nations with one sound perfumed by the taste of concrete and the smell of trees. This is how the members of Soul:ID choose to describe themselves. Yet there is so much more to this group.
The Belgium-based group, which is here in Rwanda to perform for the very first time, intends to preach the message of peace, unity and tolerance to Rwandans.
“We feel our music will reach out to all Rwandans because they relate to the topics that we sing about,” says vocalist Tchaï. By using English in their songs, Soul:ID’s desire is to pass on a global message.
Yet Soul:ID is more than just a band, or even a brand which has been made evident through their ever increasing fan base and positive praise received from peers and the media alike. Their unique story has given shape to a concept, and sound, dubbed Afropean Soul by Zap Mama herself, which reflects their own virtues and beliefs.
Soul:ID begs to tell a different story about the immigrant experience; the story of today’s African and Afro-Europeans overcoming ethnic, social and economical barriers while promoting positive messages and images of what functioning multiculturalism can achieve.
The group is a product of this African-European renaissance, and recognizes the importance of celebrating it. Soul:ID’s story begins in Africa where three-quarters of the band originate (Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda). Their journeys, as well as fate, brought them together in Brussels, where after years of working as studio musicians and backing vocalists, they decided it was their time to be in the spotlight.
The group consists of producer Urban Deep, the hip-hop drumming naughty boy and the nucleus of Soul: ID; Tchaï, the beautiful soul-loving songstress with a golden voice; V, the stylish, soul-sensitive singer/producer and creative mad scientist; and Dad’D, the old-school crooner/producer who brings a peaceful balance to the group.
They traveled different paths – from encountering the dark side of immigration, the constant day-to-day struggle to survive and racism – but they all share a common love for all things soul, proving stronger than any of the hardships they endured. These and other stories are ones told on Soul: ID debut release Sex, Love & Philosophy.
Doing their own thing
For the members of the group, music was always a passion. “As a young girl, I loved to sing and I did this everywhere, from school plays to my bathroom at home,” Tchaï says laughing.
She went on to work in a studio at the age of 16, but then decided she needed to go to school to study music as a profession.
Dad’D started singing at the age of 8, and later went to Belgium to work with his brother in a studio where he produced for different artists.
“I first sang traditional music with artists like Sentore in Burundi,” V explains. He also went to study reggae but later majored in soul.
It was Tchaï and Urban Deep who got the ball rolling. Feeling strongly the time had come to stop working on other people’s projects, they hit the studio and started doing their own thing. Calling on friends Dad’D and V for creative input, the foursome quickly realized they were creating musical gold.
Those long, inexhaustible days and nights in the studio sparked much artistic synergy and hot debates, which were captured on the record and provided the title for the album.
In the time they have been together as a group, Soul:ID has worked with many notable international acts, such touring with world-rhythm pioneer Zap Mama throughout Europe, headlined the legendary Jazz Café in London, and individually working with artists like Wyclef Jean, Craig David, Robert Palmer and Youssou N’Dour.
However it hasn’t all been easy for this group especially in their music career. “When we started playing in Brussels, people said we were crazy and that we wouldn’t make it because people back home are not into soul music; our song Believe talks about this,” Tchaï says.
And of course there was the financial issue which was a challenge for the group. But for Soul:ID, this was an encouragement to go on and spread soul music to every single continent.