To many Rwandans, the saxophone is an instrument they associate with local and foreign
legendary artistes. But, recently a few bands have been playing it.
Stella Tushabe is an emerging act, whose passion is gradually winning her fans.
It is 4:45pm, on a Friday, when I arrive at the venue for the interview. I meet the young, joyful lady, who leads me to her practice room.
I am introduced to her band members Delphine, a vocalist and Evy Ngabo, a pianist who doubles as a vocalist.
Tushabe seems in control of the band, as she is critical when it comes to the music notes being in harmony with her saxophone as the weekly practice session begins. On Sunday evenings, she performs at Kigali’s Hotel Villa Portofino.
Tushabe’s journey as a saxophonist started in 2015 and she was inspired by Maurette Brown Clark’s The One He Kept For Me.
“It was the first song I performed,” she said.
Tushabe first discovered the saxophone in 2012 after hearing it being played at a church retreat in Butare.
“I was captivated by the sound,” she said.
In 2015, she met Herbert Rock — a leading saxophonist who at that time was performing with the Neptunez Band. Her uncle is the one who bought her a saxophone. She is grateful to Herbert Rock for giving her lessons.
Tushabe is steadily growing into a great saxophonist and has even performed in several gigs. However, she says some dishonest event organisers refuse to pay her after her performance.
She works full-time as a marketer at Urwego Bank and says it is difficult managing her job with playing and performing the saxophone.
Tushabe used to perform at the Christian Life Assembly Church, before taking a break from public appearances in 2016. Since resuming in 2017, she has performed at several private
events such as weddings.
Last year, she performed at the Kigali Jazz Junction, where she shared a stage with Isaiah Katumwa, a prominent Ugandan Saxophonist.
“It was a dream come true,” she said. Together with her band, they perform song covers
by local artistes like King James, Massamba Intore, Princess Pricillah and global artistes like Aretha Franklin, Lionel Richie, Lion King, Ed Sheeran and Kenny G.