Modern beats with a dash of tradition

Monday September 20 2021
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A4 and Sano Boi at a past performance in Kigali. PHOTO | ANDREW I. KAZIBWE


Later this month, when rappers Innocent Hitiyise Sano alias Sano Boi and Alban Ndahiro also known as A4 launch their music album, they will paying homage to a new breed of artists whose craft strikes a chord with the youthful audience.

The duo recently staged a special session to give the audience a taste of what is coming. The 12-song album Journey packs to a range of upbeat tunes and songs such as Elevate, Kanyabunyobwa, 24/7, Dukabe, Money dial, Nteza imbere, Isi, Never give up, Switch and Umurwa.

The album is a testimony of the effort of local audio producers Jompo Origami, Gden da Beats, and Illusionist.

Unlike their 2019 album, Thankful, which was largely urban bordering on the foreign, the new album borrows Ikinyarwanda rhythms and sounds right from vocal intonation to instruments like the Inanga, an ancient Rwandan guitar and the Umuduri, a one-string instrument.

Throw in modern instruments and beats and the audience is captured. The album’s Intro, like an airline announcer, welcomes listeners, asking them to buckle up for the Journey, a musical trip.

Elevate, which is the second song, is introduced by the Inanga strums, a gradual traditional rhythm entwined with rap. Kanyabunyobwa is a swanky, slow beat that fuses Ikinyarwanda and English lyrics of danceable tempo.


24/7 is another song with fine-tuned modern beats, which paves way for an easy funky vibe with rich lyrics borrowing inspiration from American figure Martin Luther King Jr.

Dukabe shares a similar touch while its lyrics are a call for well-being. In this case, the duo blows for its musical career.

Money Dub's incorporation of the Umuduri is catchy. Ntezimbere comes with a swing kind of a beat, calling upon the public to support their hustle while Ibyisi borrows a chorus from one of Rwanda’s late legendary vocalists Annociata Mutamuriza (Kamariza).

Never give up, an Afro-pop and hiphop composition, is about seizing for opportunities. “We wanted to take it further by not only telling our stories but also staying on the path of the society we live in,” remarks A4.

Switch and Umurwa have a lot in common such as style and pride in art. The Outro, just like the Intro, takes us back to the announcer, this time with the announcement that the listener has arrived at their destination.

Beyond the beats and rhythms, the songs call for work and support of the duo’s music.

Producer Illusionist has done a great job on this compilation by digging up traditional sounds and mixing them with the modern.

To Sano Boi, the gradual transformation of their music from fully urban to Afro-fusion makes it resonate with local and international audiences.

Sano Boi and A4, who joined forces in 2017, released their debut album in 2019, followed by performance tours to Hamburg, Hildesheim, Berlin, and Munich in Germany.

The duo has not made as much money from stage shows as on online platforms like Deezer, Spotify, and Apple Music.