Alpha: Music king without crown
Alpha Rwirangira, the 2011 PAM Awards winner of Rwanda Best Male Artist, refused to attend the award ceremony in Kampala last month alleging poor organization. In a recent interview with Anne Kirya, Alpha who also won the same award last year, says he is yet to receive the prize money that come with the 2010 crown and accuses the organizers of disrespecting Rwandan artists.
How was the award ceremony?
Honestly I don’t know because I did not go. I am sorry to say this, but the PAM Award has very poor organizers. They wanted me to pay for my transport, accommodation and even entrance into the hall where the awards were going to be held. So I decided not to go. I was not even told that I had been nominated. I found out from the internet. I won but I have not received the award either. In 2010 I was nominated and won but that time they transported me. When you win the award, there is US$1,000 prize money attached. It is now 2011 and I have never received the money promised in 2010. Other artists like Miss Jojo who also won last year haven’t received the money. I do not think that they treat Ugandan artists like this—to ask them to pay for entrance into the hall? I think they do this to artists outside Uganda because they know they won’t complain.
This is not your first time to win an award.
No. It’s not.
Did I think I would win? Well I won last year so I thought it would be good for someone else to win. It was good for other artists to be nominated because they are working hard. I feel though that I deserved it. I worked hard and I did good work.
When you won Tusker, one of the prizes was a one-year contract with Galore Records. What happened with that?
I dumped them. From a business perspective it was the best decision to make. I decided to go another direction with my music because the terms of the contract were not good. First, [they wanted me to] to be based in South Africa and it is very difficult to [make breakthrough] in the market if you do not speak the language. Also, most of my fans are in East Africa.
I think I am the only winner in Tusker Project Fame still coming out with music and moving on with the music.
How have you managed to stay on the music scene?
I have concentrated on the music. Artists used to release one song and then wait for months before a next but now we release one song after another. There is also the internet, facebook, twitter it helps people know your music. Also, artists shouldn’t take their work for granted—you must keep at it and always do better. For instance I released a video for the song ‘No Money No Love.’ It was very good but the next video has to be better. The other thing is that I love music; musicians shouldn’t do it just as a hobby.
Is music a lucrative business? Can one actually make money?
Yes, you can make. Music is paying for my house and my life. The problem is that artists are not taking it as a business. Music in Rwanda is taken for granted by the artists and the audience. Some artists are content to have their name known and win some competitions but we need to set standards. People offer very little money for a performance and [musicians accept it]. It is also important to cross borders. I was lucky I had Tusker Project Fame and I’m always thankful to God for that. But I have used that opportunity to work hard. People want to see what you do after the competition. That is what they look out for.
Is there a producer you are interested in working with—the one you feel would be good for your music?
I have worked with a number of producers like Renex, RK, Ali Kiba and a young producer from Rwanda called David Pro. What I do is I adapt myself to the producer. The producer is a very important part of the music and once one has heard your music, they will know your style. I don’t want to work with anyone producer in particular because it’s good to change them. The music may sound the same if you use the same producer always.
Do you write your own music?
I have been writing my own music but I would like to try songs written by other people.
Has the music industry in Rwanda advanced since you started singing?
In fact it has become worse! There are some problems in the media, in particular radio. Some presenters, a small group are spoiling the industry. They can build you up and destroy you at the same time. One day they are playing your music, the next day spreading rumors about you. And a lot of people listen to the radio. They feel that artists are there because of them [presenters.] In Uganda, artists are respected for their work and some stations play your music because it’s good. I did not send my video to NTV Uganda but they are playing it. We need to fight these people together by talking about it in the media. Or there should be people in the stations like the producers or program directors who select music to be played, as is the case in Uganda, not the presenters.
Some artists have used their music as a force for political and social change. What are your thoughts on that?
I am an artist. An artist and a business man, politics is not my thing. When it comes to society, my music can be a mirror for society. Some things that are done in society are brought out in my songs.