Nagukunda means ‘i love you’ in Kinyarwanda.
I recorded this song in Kigali in 2008, when i was visiting my mother who was living and working there, training journalists at a newly set-up radio station.
I spent my days soaking in the impossibly lush landscape, crest upon crest of soft green hills that melted into the sky, and turned smoky-blue at dusk. I spent a lot of time at the radio station: on my first day there, i found an old and slightly out-of-tune piano gathering dust in a corner.
‘Me gusta tocar guitarra, mi gusta cantar al sol…‘ a young man was sitting in the garden outside the recording studio, strumming the ‘Cancion del Mariachi’ made famous by Antonio Banderas.
‘Ay mi morena, de mi corazon…’, i joined in, and by the end of the song, we were friends.
His name was John Bizimana Ntwali. ‘Just call me Bizi’ he said.
‘Hey, do you want to hear a love song in Spanish i just wrote?’, i asked him.
So i took him to the aged piano, sat down and played him the simple tune, and sang the broken-hearted lyrics i had recently penned down at the end of a 6-month stay in Bogota for a man who did not love me back.
Bizi played along, added some words in Kinyrwanda, and our song Nagukunda was born.
We played it again and again, for ourselves mainly, but we also performed it at various small music venues in Kigali.
I have a sentimental fondness for Nagukunda : it was the first song i recorded. 2008. How time passes.
In those days i still dreamed of becoming a recording-artist! Even when i quickly realised that performing in front of anyone but myself robbed me of my appetite, and that i required about 10 toilet visits before stepping on a stage, however minuscule the audience:)
Time passes, dream changes.
But this little love-song is still here, unpolished and shy around the edges, and today i share it.
Happy Valentine’s Day…:)