After five months of a trial. A week ago, I had a chance to interview a Rwandan blind Musician known as Julien. And the interview is divided into five sections. Introduction, Music, Motivation, Braille Musical theory and Advices. I hope you enjoy the read.
Me: Would you introduce yourself?
Answer: I am by names Rubayiza Julien, a Father of three children, I was born in 1975 that means I am about to be 43. I am a person with blindness, but as in our country everyone has an opportunity to do what he’s able to; I am a musician artist. I play modern instruments (White’s instrument he mentions) almost all of them. Guitar, Piano, drums, flute plus I sing and write songs.
“I” on the left, Julien on the right.
“When I went to meet him I only knew he was a guitarist”
Me: thank you, would tell us about your music then? When did you start music?
Answer: Actually I started music when I was a kid just for fun but finally it became a profession which I live from by the time.
Me: But when you started music, were you already with blindness?
Answer: yes, Actually I became a blind when I was 6 years old caused by “measles”. Right after that, I had the chance to study in school of Gatagara. HVP GATAGARA (Home de la Vierge des Pauvres) “HVP GATAGARA” is the institution working in favour of Persons with Disability.
The organization was founded by Father Joseph Fraipont NDAGIJIMANA.who started operations in 1962 in Gatagara, the “hill of hope” and was the first and only one center for medical care, education and reintegration of Persons with Disability in Rwanda.
I was enrolled on the third promotion of people with disability of blindness.
So, they used to follow up kids for the recognition of talents. I used to create some toy music instruments to play with and that’s when they realized that I am more interested in music and they started to teach us.
Me: which instrument did you start on?
Answer: Well I started on Flute because I was little, I was not able to hold Guitar but my colleagues continued with Guitars as they were older than me. Fortunately as time went on, I started to play and became so good at it.
Me: What about those other musicians on your promotion?
Answer: Unfortunately, they almost passed away as time passes but there other few who went on with doing Kinematics. So I am the only musician alive on my promotion. But there are other musicians like four or three who came right after my promotion and others are those who went to school after Genocide but they had no chance to learn much as we did.
Me: Would you reveal the only secret that kept you motivated until you become a full time musician?
Answer: Actually, the first is that music was in me. I had that much love for it. I would grab few lessons and come up with wide ideas. The only challenges were that I never seen a guitar before I became a blind, so it just made me nervous a little bit but every music instrument I learned didn’t take me that long time.
Secondly, I “myself” believed that you can make a living from music. It might not let you get such fortune but yeah, it can help you making up a good family and raise your kids on your own. It was even hard to find where to work (a band) back with discrimination history here in Rwanda regardless to the skills you had but I had to move on.
Me: From there tell us, do you have a band?
Answer: Oh yes I have a band. Actually I am in three bands. The first is called the “Heroes” based in Kigali made up of people with blindness. The second is called “Impakanizi” based in Muhanga, so far I am the leader and the only blind person in the whole band. The third is a band that was found with a girl who was my student even if it doesn’t have that much activity but we work sometimes.
Me: You mentioned a student, so you are a music teacher too?
Answer: Yes, you are right I play in Marriage and other ceremonies but I am an instructor too. Because usually such ceremonies most of the time take place in weekend, so from Monday to Friday I be giving lessons.
Braille musical theory.
As I was curious of his musical theory, I went on with the “Do you know how to write and read braille?”
Answer: Definitely, that’s what we learned before anything else, I am good at it.
Me: So did you ever meet some braille music documents?
Answer: Yes, While we were In Gatagara we had a book of piano, solphege and musical theory. There was a teacher who had one for guitar, but it was his not of school so he went with it when he left. And unfortunately nowadays, there are no more such documents.
Me: What would be your advices to your fellow people with disabilities who still fear to expose themselves at the market/public or to the whole Rwandan community as a musician with such disability?
Answer: Well, actually I am a member of the national council of disabilities as it is divided into various committees around the country. So, I am in a committee of district council. I would like to start with my fellow people with blindness disability. Usually, society has a mindset that blind people are beggars in a way that it took another level to when you enter in a shop they would automatically tell you that they have nothing and they tell you that it’s not Friday (Julien told me that those who beg actually do that on Friday and that’s why the society consider it that way) like you’ve come to beg while you came to shop as others. So to end this, it must start with us blinds, stopping begging. Even when you are not a beggar and someone treats you in such a way you humbly and respectfully teach (to show them that you are even confident and may be educated as they are) him that not all blinds are beggars, slowly people will understand this.
We ended on his way to communicate with the audience while he’s on stage. This is how he describes it:
Before doing this type of music, I had the chance to work with various great musicians from around the world, attended many concerts and I lived in Cameroon in some training where I had the chance to work with many bands. And it’s in such experience that I learned much about communicating with audience! The first thing you have to be happy and share happines to the public through a smile and greetings, the second is to animate them and never forget to interact with audience asking what they liked etc.
Thank you for reading to the end of a page. Hopefully you are inspired.
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