The Good Ones: Kigali Y' Izahabu
The Good Ones is a trio of Rwandan genocide survivors who play joyous, acoustic love songs written in the ancient local, Kinyarwanda street dialect of their nation's capital, Kigali. Adrien Kazigira, Stany Hitimana and Jeanvier Havugimana recorded the songs collected on Kigali Y' Izahabu over the course of one summer evening on the back porch of a friend's home. The primary obstacle to recording the group was that the musicians showed up with only one guitar for two players, and that guitar was missing two strings. Hitimana “played bass” on the 4-string and a beat-up acoustic was located for the second guitarist, the sullen, primary songwriter Kazigira who interweaves intricate harmonies with co-singer Havugimana.. In a style often referred to as "worker songs from the streets," these simple, direct and plaintive love songs speak more to the healing power of peace than a thousand academic treatises or preachy goodwill ambassadors ever could.
Toiling at hard labor and subsisting on less than 50 cents a day in one of the ten poorest countries in the world, the hard-won spirit of these aging war-veterans shines through in The Good Ones' yearning voices. Kazigira, 47, wrote 8 of the 12 songs found on the album and both plays and sings. He cites Bob Marley and reggae as his major influences. Hitimana, 47, on lead guitar and "bass," sometimes teaches music in Kigali and finds inspiration in the music of Santana. And harmony singer Jeanvier, 38, who also plays guitar and sings lead on his own compositions, is most influenced by the Caribbean dance music called Zouk. The trio is punk embodied: barefoot, bandaged and jaundiced; armed with broken, mismatched-stringed, borrowed guitars; but singing angelically from amidst a landlocked country that the world abandoned. Kigali Y' Izahabu is essentially an intimate field recording that even captures the howling and barking of dogs in the background, and it was recorded by two-time Grammy-nominated producer Ian Brennan, who has worked with artists such as Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Flea, TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone, Richard Thompson and many others.