To be honest we’ve never really been that happy with the term “World Music” as it implies that everything that isn’t “World Music” comes from somewhere else – Another Planet, presumably. Which is a preambly kinda way of saying that the insanely earwormey guitar based The Good Ones hail out of Rwanda. They are currently in the process of breaking America – apparently the first Rwandan band ever to tour there – and on this track are joined by Nels Cline of Wilco.
It’s no surprise that the band’s back story is a bit more vivid than the usual artists that show-up in this feature. Not for The Good Ones a tale of heartbreak and retiring to cabins in the woods. Not quite. Beginning in 1978 when they were still children, the group’s core members were first taught music by co-lead singer Janvier Havugimana’s older brother, who was blind and later perished in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. They formed the band as a healing process after the genocide and the original trio’s membership reunited Rwanda’s three tribes, with one member each from the Tutsi, Hutu, and Abatwa tribes. It was an active attempt to seek out “the good ones,” after having endured and witnessed unthinkable horrors.
The Good Ones’ new album, ‘Rwanda, You Should Be Loved‘, is a selection of songs whittled down from the forty or so that bandleader Adrien Kazigira had composed. His recent inspiration has been meditations on his now thirteen-year-old daughter, Marie-Claire, and the life-threatening tumor that has afflicted her left eye. Although ‘Where did you go wrong, my Love‘ is about a father’s attempt to rescue his daughter from going down a bad path in life. The recording of the album was done live without overdubs on Adrien’s farm and was imbued with the passing of producer Ian Brennan’s mother during the days that they were there together as well as a former founding band member recently having succumbed to his own demons.
The band’s sound is crafted in a large part out of necessity – since they live without electricity and have had little access to devices to reproduce musical recordings, The Good Ones’ vocalization is based on the singing traditions and dialect of their local agricultural district. They utilize one-of-a-kind instruments as well, often incorporating their own farming tools as percussion. As primary songwriter Kazigira interweaves intricate harmonies with Havugimana in a style frequently referred to as “worker songs from the streets.” With their rural and remote hilltop origins, the harmonic similarities to American Bluegrass vocals is often eerie. Third member, Javan Mahoro, lends additional background vocals and percussion on select songs.
Photo Credit: Marilena Umuhoza Delli