Rwanda's Voice: An Ethnomusicological Biography of Jean-Paul Samputu

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Swanson, Brent
Witzleben, John L.
Rwandan international recording artist Jean-Paul Samputu is one of few musicians from Rwanda who have gained international acclaim. In this dissertation, I will delineate how his life and works serve as a reflection of and a mediator for Rwandan identity, as well as East/Central African popular music identity. Specifically, I will use elements of his biography to situate him in these contexts, and will analyze his works via timbral analysis, transcription, and studio production techniques to demonstrate how his music reflects the aforementioned identities. Mr. Samputu's life and music reflect the complicated narrative(s) of Rwandan identity. He was born in Rwanda, but fled to Uganda just before the 1994 genocide; speaks about forgiveness (a central focus of the RPF's--Rwandan Patriotic Front--Commission for Unity and Reconciliation) around the world; sings in Kinyarwanda, French, English, Luganda, Lingala, and Kiswahili; wrote pro-RPF songs in the early 1990s and still supports current government in various functions within the country and abroad; and performs and records all styles of Rwandan traditional and popular music, as well as many popular and traditional styles found in East/Central Africa. He is one of the key figures in the Rwandan music scene, as he performs regularly there and serves as a mentor for up-and-coming Rwandan popular and traditional musicians.