Gakondo means origins or tradition, and on this album, Popo has taken a journey to his Rwandan roots. Three ancient musical expressions intertwine to create the sound of the country of a thousand hills. Long ago, Intwatwa songs of the Batwa people mixed with powerful rhythmic Bahutu soundscapes and Batutsi pastoral melodies to form one dynamic musical tradition.
Popo spent many months researching the origins and the intersection of these sounds, working with traditional musicians and learning about the rich poetry of the Royal Court or “Ibwami” and instruments like the Inanga,with its shallow bowl carved out of wood and a single gut string woven back and forth across it, creating nine or more strings.
In exploring this musical heritage, Popo turned over all kinds of aesthetic stones and found gems that he suspected were there all along. This album is a true tribute to ancient songs and poems that tell the story of an entire civilization.
On the title track “Gakondo,” Popo weaves Rwandan poetry, sounds and sensibilities into a song about his lineage – from his father and mother all the way up to the first ancestors, and back down to his wife and children. This is an “amateka y’imiryango,” or family history, revealing Popo’s blood ties to the Abiru, the high priests of ancient Rwanda, andkeepers of the dynastic codes.
On “Kamananga,” “Impunga,” “Impangaza,” “Uw’ibuhoro” and “Nibarize,” Popo emulates Inanga melodies on his guitar. “Nibarize” is sung in the ancient, now defunct Rwandan whispering style. Popo asks the custodians of Rwandan history to reveal the secrets of their art to him. “Why does the sound of the powerful ‘Inanga’ still yield to the whisper of the artist?” he asks.
With “Urugendo,” “Ngire Nte,” “Rwatsinda” and “Rwampunga,” Popo revisits traditional songs of praise for the achievements of kings along with the timeless themes of love and loss.
This is Mighty Popo’s first acoustic album and also his first written solely in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda’sonly indigenous language.
The solo numbers were recorded live in the studio with one microphone picking up both the vocal and the guitar. The rest of the album was recorded live in the studio with minimal overdubs on percussion; the bells were recorded straight from the footsteps of the dancer.
Thank you To my family, without whom I wouldn’t be here today. Thanks to Mariya Yohani, Michel Ngabo, Kofi Ackah, Aron Niyitunga, Doug Cox, John Reischman, Vince Halfhide, Jean Paul Rudahusha, Degaule Mbyayingango, Nyabyenda Donat, Thierry Kijanya, Gumira Eugene, JMV Rurangwa, Derek Bird, David Trevers Smith, Harvey Glaat, Michel Legeaut, J.Umurungi, El hadji M’Baye, Clarence Smith, Neema Lukumbuzya, Rob Papas, Issaga Diallo, Dave Hubenig Dave Bignell, Albert Rudatsimburwa, Ben Welland, Madagascar Slim, Murefu Richard, Sophia Nzayisenga, Kigali up crew, Big it up family, Nyirabahinde Hasina, Rob Mackie and Kim Empy, Marc and Rina Racine Catriona Sturton, Rolf Klausener, The Canada council for the arts. Special thanks to Ross Murray for all the ongoing great advice.
Popo Murigande : guitar, lead vocal, percussion Kofi Ackah : cajon, Tama, Congas, shakers, Bordhan Aron Niyitunga :guitar on Gakondo, Impangaza, Urugendo, Rwampunga Doug Cox : slide guitar on Ngire Nte, Uw’ibuhoro, Impunga, Rwampunga John Reischman : mandolin on Ngire Nte, Uw’ibuhoro, Impunga, Rwampunga Vince Halhide : slide guitar on Kamananga Degaul Mbyayingango, T.Kijanya, JP Rufahusha : background vocals Nyabyenda Donat: Ingoma drum, bells, background vocals and Kinyanrwanda rap.
Songs 1 ;2 ;3 ;4 ;8 and 9 recorded and mixed at happy rock international studio Chelsea, Qc by Ross Murray Songs 5 ; 6 ;7 ; 10 recorded at stubio B Vancouver, BC by Derek Bird Mastered at Found sound production, Toronto, Ontario. by David Trevers Smith. Album cover design : Ben Welland/ Popo Murigande Album Painting : Gumira Eugene
Produced by Popo Murigande
In memory of Aimable Ruzindana, Rudahusha Augustin, Byemayire Innocent, Jean Haguma, Ntamaganya Medarld, JM Mugiso and Santos.
This recording was made possible through the assistance of the Canada council for the arts music funds.