Ikibandi is a behind the scenes story and journey that leads to the character of Muchoma. Through every song and skit, the listener is introduced to the quintessential components of Muchoma’s life; the Birth, the Upbringing and the Surrounding Elements.

Ikibandi is made up of 5 tracks and 6 narrated skits. The narrator’s omniscient POV helps the listener understand each song within its context. This story-telling element ties the project together into one cohesive unit.

Owing to an intricate production and interesting character, “Muchoma” is one of the most streamed tracks from Ijoro, Yannick MYK’s past project with Sogokuru and R.Phantom. Throughout the song, Muchoma affirms his greatness and the importance of his input within the creative process that has led to many songs. The listener is left wondering what led to the making of this person and that which led to their influence. Ikibandi unveils the turning gears of this music movement.

The story of Muchoma’s making is told in the year 1869. Contrary to history marking the beginning of Colonial Rwanda in 1885, throughout ‘Ikibandi’ the listener is aware of the presence of priests within the territory. The priests are said to collaborate with the King on the first track “Ikibandi cyavutse” where Muchoma meets the King for the first time on 6th of September. The introduction of religion slowly infiltrates the ways of the people and this is manifested through the rectifications that other characters such as Muchoma’s mother and Rukara make when they speak.

“Yesu we! Nako Ryangombe we…!”

Friends and family alike, religion falls under The Surrounding Elements as a crucial part that contributes to who Muchoma is. Ryangombe, also known as Imana y’i Rwanda, was worshipped before colonizers brought missionaries and Christianity to Rwanda. Muchoma battles this infiltration and remains true to his roots by surrounding himself with friends that practice voodoo, make traditional medicine and appreciate ancestral living. His rebellious spirit also goes to fight against the King and the priests because he believes they are responsible for the absence of his father from his life.

The use of traditional instruments and Kinyarwanda is one of a kind and avant-garde because they are at the essence and core of who Muchoma truly is; a fusion of contemporary and ancestral culture.

On ‘Nta Mishinyiko’, Yannick delivers his usual calm but sharp bars with hints of mafia influence which adds a darker and more affecting air to the lyrics. This track criticizes the often misleading nature of the church’s teachings by tying the church to its colonial past. It plays with a rebellious and conscious tone but is delivered almost always in a relaxed voice. This has the effect of making the listening experience much smoother given the nature of the content.

“Propaganda mu nyigisho za Bibiliya, Conquer and divide inyuzwa mu kiriziya.”

The urban slang in ‘Ikibandi’ plays an important role in contextualizing this project’s content. Much as the purpose of the project is to educate, criticize, and uplift, the cartoonish and almost satirical way in which it is produced serves to ease and communicate more effectively with the audience. It is a clever instrument that’s present on most of Yannick’s projects. It should not be misconstrued as the corruption of language by an older audience but rather as a necessary medium for reaching out to a much culturally wanting youth.

Production-wise, ‘Ikibandi’ is yet again such an enjoyable release. It is a fast-paced trap record which balances out the slow skits in the album. It makes for a smooth and non-exhaustive listen. It complements the action-oriented stories animated by Yannick MYK’s lyrics. Also noteworthy is the fact that the whole album is in Kinyarwanda. Even Sogokuru’s verse in Contact plays with an apologetically Kinyarwanda flair. It is refreshing, steady, and a sign of the potential for making music in the Kinyarwanda language.

It isn’t all perfect however. Although, the themes explored are clearly communicated, there is an anti-climactic nature to how the album plays as a whole. A few listens to the projects leaves an inconclusive air lingering. Much as the character ‘Muchoma’ represents a misled but courageous character, it begs many questions when in the end he is in battle with a Rwandan king and what that communicates conceptually. The project would have benefited from a less cryptic approach and a slightly more conventional story structure. The end however—which I beg that you experience by listening to the album—is also interesting enough to forgive this narrative and leaves the listener at once amazed and in painful suspense. ‘Ikibandi’ is brilliant!

Kassy Irebe is a young writer, changing mindsets a piece at a time. Indulging in multiple styles of writing, her short stories, poetry, and prose touch on introspective reality and growth in all of its fashions.