Isacco: Rwandese Refugee Making Waves In Afrobeat Music Scene


Who is Isacco?

I am a Rwandese musician. I play many styles of music, mainly Afrobeat and Afro Dancehall. My goal is to showcase African music to the world.

In 2012 you started music within the group IC-KS, what pushed you to go solo?

Yes, we did a few musical projects with IC-KS. I learned a lot with the group. Over time, the group members became quite busy. At that time, I was also still studying and my colleagues in the group were already working. I was the only one who had time to devote to music. One day, the members called and told me that they would want to talk about the future of our group. During the meeting, they told me that since they no longer have enough time for music, it is better that I continue the musical career alone.

What did you study?

I studied Human Resource Management at Panthéon-Sorbonne University in France.

Your career took off in 2015, when you collaborated with Rwandese artist Audy Kelly, how did that happen?

After I left the group I vowed that I would not disappoint my friends who trust me. Audy Kelly has been a good friend of mine. He gave me a lot of advice. I asked him if we could collaborate on a single and he accepted. The single ended up jump-starting my career.

Which Kenyan musicians do you listen to?

Having lived in Kenya, I listen to almost all the artistes. I find that Kenyan artistes do great work. My playlist is full of tracks from Kenyan artists like Sauti Sol, Willy Paul, Nyashinski, Bahati, Nadia Mukami and Femi One. I like their work and determination. Every time Sauti Sol come to France, they fill well-known venues here, and when you see the audience, it’s not just Kenyans or the East African communities, white people and other African communities come to see them on stage too. If I have the opportunity to work with Sauti Sol, Nyashinski or Bahati on a project, it would be a dream come true. I am preparing my second album now. There will be some singles with Kenyan artistes.

You were recently awarded the Nshuti Awards for Best Male Diaspora Artist, what did that mean for you?

I told myself that all the energy spent over many years was not for nothing. That’s when I realised that anything is possible when you work hard and know what you want.

What challenges have you faced in your music career?

Making music especially here in the diaspora is not easy. Everything is very expensive. The amount of money you pay to make an audio track in a studio here is equivalent to completing an album in Africa. But thank God that technology saves us so now we can work with studios in Africa remotely. This helps reduce spending costs. But when you think you’ve escaped the problem, it catches up with you again when you’re getting ready to make the music video. The videos here are very expensive, you have to pay the director, the models, filming location, these are huge expenses. If you hire a model for 2 hours of filming, and you don’t shoot anything within the 2 hours, the model will leave and you will be forced to pay even if she didn’t do anything. When it comes to promotion in the diaspora there are not many African media that will play your music. Getting invited to perform especially when you are a beginner is hard but this is the real life of African artistes in the diaspora.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your career?

I wasn’t used to such a life and I don’t think anyone is used to that. I had to turn my energy to music. It helped me a lot not to have negative thoughts. I told myself, why not create a song that is danceable, that will make people move more so that people relax, stretch their legs, and have fun while listening to it. The result was my single Zungusha and a beautiful, colourful video which featured Brazilian dancers.

Are you signed to a label?

I launched my own label, Isacco Production, where I produced my first track Zungusha, an Afro-pop track recorded in 2021 featuring the Guinean Lil Saako. I also produced all the eight tracks on my first album On S’amuse.

Tell us more about your upcoming second album.

It is almost finished. The release is scheduled for the end of this year. There will be surprise collaborations for my fans. I have several concerts lined up as well. On April 6th, 2024, I will be performing at Masquerade Dance Evening in Pierrefitte, France. It is a charity evening organised by the Cameroonian communities and other communities in France. Proceeds from the event will go to Cameroonian children who are battling HIV/AIDS, those abandoned and orphans. Being a refugee I know the struggle and the feeling of being abandoned so if I can do something to help them it will be a great pleasure for me. Later I will also perform in Cameroon with other artistes including Mani Bella.

What do you want to leave as a legacy?

My dream is to be remembered as a music legend. I want my works to inspire the younger generation and make people happy. My work must motivate people to know that everything is possible in life and that nothing is lost when you think your back is against the wall.

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