President Kagame is God-sent - Natty Dread
Written by: George Kalisa
Friday, June 14th, 2019, 14:19
Legendary roots rock reggae singer, Natty Dread said President Paul Kagame is God-sent during a tête-à-tête interview with George Kalisa in Kigali a few days shy of celebrations marking the 25th liberation anniversary. It’s impossible to describe the evolution of Rwanda’s music industry without mentioning Natty who gained music skills as a singer in Bob Marley's group.
Natty says he credits President Kagame for his resilience and success in uniting Rwandans through palpable acts of a God-inspired leader like upholding forgiveness that promotes reconciliation alongside replacing hatred and divisionism based on ethnicity with love. Below are excerpts.
Q: Natty, our audience would find it quite interesting to know some facts about you. Can you please introduce yourself?
A: Yeah man, this is Natty Dread International and I’m now an international reggae artiste and as you see I have just come back from the US and back in Rwanda, and I’m already excited, very grateful to The Light Magazine that they’ve given me an opportunity and platform to talk to my friends – the ones that I have and the future ones and everyone else.
Q: Who is Natty Dread in a few sentences?
A: Natty Dread is a serious Roots Rock Reggae artiste.
Q: Is it made-in-Rwanda music?
A: The music is actually not made in Rwanda. I came to Rwanda when I was already a big artiste. Actually, I returned possibly to help in building the music industry. Yeah, I’m one of the people who resurrected the music – when I brought Bob Marley’s mother in 1996. Yeah, that was practically after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. We came together (Bob Marley’s mom) and we did some concerts.
That time, things were tough. But, later on, it was like we opened doors for other artistes. All others that came it’s because we also came.
Q: When did you start the singing career?
A: Alright. There’re two parts. The first part I was a small kid. You know it’s always like you are born with the talent. So, I remember the music I started singing, every time singing - imitating some artistes at the age of five.
But, my career started in1983 when I started to do some serious performances.
Q: You said you’re imitating some artistes. Exactly who’s your mentor in the reggae field?
A: Well, there’s no secret it’s Bob Marley himself. It’s Bob Marley when it comes to reggae just like Jesus is when it comes to religion. Jesus is my mentor.
Q: Oh…you’re also a religious man?
A: Yeah man, I’m a religious man I believe in Jesus Christ.
Q: Which songs made your music go viral and claim such a big name in Rwanda’s music industry and region at large, and at the international level?
A: For Rwanda and probably in the region it’s this song I used to call “Rwanda”. Actually, the real name is Hobe Rwanda - all Rwandans felt that it was the right song and at the right time. It’s like “welcome my people”, “hullo my people”, it’s a greeting song.
Then, our people used to sing this song during the liberation struggle – when they were liberating the country. So, the song has a meaning and it became viral. It was too big in Burundi mostly among Kinyarwanda speaking people.
I believe it was popular in parts of the East Africa because most of the people in the region are related to Rwandans. They all love it.
Q: How have used your career to partner with the RPF gov’t and H.E President Paul Kagame in the continuous task of liberating Rwanda from political, socio-economic predicaments, including poverty, divisionism, genocide ideology etc?
A: Yeah, the music in this song played an important part because in one way or another all Rwandans were RPF - all of us are. Like you said, in 1996 we did the first music festival after the genocide and together with Bob Marley’s mother had in mind the reconstruction this country. When we came together as rastas and produced one love as long as encouraging one love among the people.
We talked about unity of Africans, Rwandans and when it comes to our President Kagame – yeah I knew him a bit much earlier, he always inspired me. I was like always studying him, trying to know him.
The most important things I learned about Kagame is that he’s very resilient, very intelligent person and very well organized and I think you can see the results and what’s happening in Rwanda – the organization is incredible and the good thing he loves his people, he loves his country.
If he were like many of the African leaders who love self-indulgence and just put the money into their pockets Kigali or Rwanda wouldn’t look like this. The country wouldn’t have developed to this level.
I think he’s more than happy to see Rwanda evolving into a middle income country very soon. This is one of the ways he inspires me. I’m really grateful to have him.
Q: So, he’s one of your models?
Of course, he is, many times and gives some kind of respect because whenever I travel abroad and say I’m Rwandan, they say “Ooh Paul Kagame…do you know him (…). Mostly I know good things about him like what I see and probably he knows me because I’m an artiste, he has probably watched my performances and all that (…) but for sure he knows what’s happening in this country. But, we’re very proud of him as Rwandans, and RPF party.
Sometimes we used to joke – I used to call it ‘Rasta Patriotic Front’ (laughter). I know it means Rwanda Patriotic Front. So we’re still RPF but we give it maximum respect for the progress we see, the peace we enjoy and calmness in the country.
You know, when you see what is happening today you feel like genocide never happened in this country (…). One needs to visit genocide memorial sites, read books and/talk to genocide survivors for them to know there was a genocide against the Tutsi. But, the country has progressed so fast that you don’t realize genocide happened in this country. After this they’d to develop and change the image of Rwanda. I love it.
Q: What message do you have for Rwandans as they celebrate 25 years of liberation?
To me, I always say one simple thing to Rwandans, let’s practice one love. That is the message of Bob Marley too and by doing so we’re supporting the government that has been teaching us to practice one love, one heart – let’s get together and feel alright. So, I would say when we do that all things will go well in Rwanda – we should avert differences, but I would say if we want to build our country. We should work like a football team that wants to win.
Q: What memories do you have about Rwanda before it was liberated on July4, 1994?
A: I can tell you I was not able to come to this country. I used to come to Katuna, stand there, look at the mountains and say to myself: That’s Rwanda. Oh God! One day when I go to that country, my motherland (…). I want to be in the country where we speak the same language, all over, the kids are speaking the same language and everyone is speaking Kinyarwanda I will be very grateful. It was my prayer.
So, this came true and now I’m very happy my wishes came to pass. Before it was bad you could never cross into Rwanda you would be arrested. Then, imagine someone like me who was not born in Rwanda, I would be considered an enemy but I don’t know why?
The good thing is that we’re different today. The RPF government and our President welcome everyone. That’s great!
But, again one thing for which I credit President Kagame is the way he handled this situation, a lot of credit - a lot leaders would not have done that. It would have been like a tit for a tat, an eye for an eye, you killed you get killed and then Rwanda would never have developed because we always gonna have like refugees, innocent people who’ve never even participated. That was like he was God-sent in that sense. God gave him the wisdom he wanted to have to make the Rwandans….he tells them: “look people! There’s no other way – the only best way for us is to forgive, to continue and build our community as Rwandans”.
Today, I have a Rwandan ID which says Umunyarwanda (Rwandan)…no Tutsi, no Hutu, Twa or Rasta. It says Rwandan. That’s great, that’s a big part.
And then, when am in Rwanda I see everybody: Ugandans, Tanzanians, Kenyans - everyone is welcome. Our country is very welcome to everyone and many people from different countries feel it, some even don’t want to go back home when they visit. A lot of them want to stay, some go and come back and we always love everyone, we’ve no animosity towards people who love our country.
So, I think he [President Kagame] has built his platform where he would say come to Rwanda and feel alright. This is really a tremendous achievement for the leadership.