From big concerts to big award shows, from celebrity trials to celebrity weddings, album launches, music videos with million views in days, as well as local celebrities going international sprinkled in between; 2023 was the biggest year for the Rwandan entertainment industry. Yet.
2023 saw some of the famous names in the world grace red carpets throughout the country, and every other day, there was either a concert, a festival or a movie taking place.
Here is a recap of every major entertainment event that put Rwanda’s showbiz on the map in 2023.
Kendrick Lamar Headlined the Move Afrika Concert
On December 6, 2023, Kendrick Lamar gave a one-of-a-kind performance during the Move Afrika: A Global Citizen Experience concert.
The Grammy Award, Pulitzer Prize winning artist gave an electrifying set with his hit songs like Swimming Pools, DNA, We gona Be Alright, Damn, Loyalty, Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, Love and many more.
The Move Afrika stage was also graced by Rwandan star Bruce Melody, Tanzanian songbird, Zuchu as well as a performance by award winning Rwandan choreographer Sherri Silver along side children from her Sherri Silver Foundation. President Paul Kagame and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also made an appearance.
Tyla Debuted Her Now Iconic ‘Water Dance Challenge’ At The Giants Of Africa Festival
From August 13 through 19th, Kigali was the home of the Giants of Africa Festival (GOA). The festival was a week-long celebration of basketball, education, culture, and entertainment, and it united more than 250 youth from 16 diverse African nations. The festival featured performances by artists such as Davido, Tiwa Savage, Bruce Melodie, and Diamond Platnumz. But the most notable performance was by Tyla who performed her hit song “Water” and along the way created the “Water Dance Challenge.” The song and its viral dance challenge went on to make Tyla one of the biggest musical acts of 2023, internationally.
Trace Hosted Its First Ever Trace Awards in Kigali
From 20th to 22nd October, Trace celebrated its 20th anniversary in Kigali with a three-day festival that culminated in an evening of glitz and glamor as the first ever Trace Awards were held at the BK Arena. Celebrities from across Africa were present at the event. These included Nigerian superstars such as Davido, Yemi Alade, Kizz Daniel, Asake and Dbanj serving as one part of the hosting duo. Other celebrities present at the awards included ; South African artists Nomcebo and Musa Keys, Tanzanians Zuchu and Diamond Platnumz; as well as local stars such as Bruce Melody and Bwiza, who also performed.
The evening ended with Davido taking home the best male artist and best collaboration nods. Yemi Alade’s Baddie was crowned best video of the year, while Diamond was voted the best artist in East Africa. Bruce Melody beat out fellow artists Chris Eazy, Bwiza, Ariel Ways and Kenny Sol to take home the best Rwandan artis trophy.
Is Bruce Melody The Best Artist Rwanda Has Ever Produced?
2023 has been a huge year for Bruce Melody. From winning a Trace Award to performing alongside the biggest names in the music industry and the biggest stages in Africa, to being to talk of the town almost each week; Bruce Melody seemed unstoppable.
He started off 2023 by headlining the “East African Party”; an annual concert that is held on the 1st January to ring in the new year. He shared the stage with other local big names such as King James, Riderman, Alyn Sano and Platini P.
In March this year, he boarded a plane to Nairobi, Kenya where he was rumored to be working on collaboration with Bien Aime (member of Sauti Sol) and Bahati. The trip resulted in “Diana”, a hit song that currently has more than 4 million views on YouTube.
In May, he won two trophies at the annual The Choice Awards ceremony; these included best male artist and best video for “Funga Macho”.
Speaking of Funga Macho, though the song first came out in late 2022, international superstar Shaggy showed interest in remixing it, and by October 2023, “When She’s Around (Funga Macho)”, a song by Bruce Melody and Shaggy was available on all music streaming platforms. The official video for When She’s Around currently has close to 4 million YouTube views in the span of 2 months. After the release of the song, Bruce Melody joined Shaggy in the USA for the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour.
2023 also saw Bruce Melody perform at the Basketball Africa League (BAL) finals, performing and winning at the Trace Awards, as well as a sold-out concert in Burundi.
Israel Mbonyi sold-out concert at BK Arena for the second time in a row.
Gospel singer Israel Mbonyi held his “Icyambu Live Concert II” on Christmas Day and it was a full house at the BK Arena. This was the second time Israel Mbonyi had filled the ten-thousand-seater venue. 2023 was also a great year for Mbonyi who released the smash hit “Nina Siri” in June, 2023. As of December, the song has already garnered 28 million views on YouTube; with the song being particularly popular in Swahili-speaking Kenya where it topped YouTube charts for the most viewed music video in October. Former Kenyan Vice-President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka also expressed admiration for Israel Mbonyi and this song.
Earlier this year, he toured Australia with five concerts in five mega cities, including Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide.
From celebrity trials to celebrity weddings.
Two of the most talked about showbiz stories were unfortunately not about the accomplishments of the people involved but instead their entanglements with rwandan justice.
Ishimwe Thierry, also known as Titi Brown, is a Rwandan dancer and choreographer who has been battling defilement charges for the last two years. Titi who was arrested in 2021 for defiling a 17-year old girl, spent the better part of 2023 in and out of court, where his trial was pushed back multiple times due to prosecution providing new pieces of evidence. Social media campaigns throughout the trial called for his release based on what some thought were efforts by powerful relatives of the victim who wanted to keep Titi Brown in prison. The court eventually handed its verdict on November 10th and Titi Brown was acquitted of all charges. On 12 December the prosecution announced that they were appealing the court’s decision.
Another high profile case that had people talking in 2023 was that of Ishimwe Dieudonne famously known as Prince Kid. The organizer of Miss Rwanda beauty pagent was arrested after it emerged that he was involved in sexual abuse against contestants through the 10 years under his management as CEO of Rwanda Inspiration Back Up which organized the competition.
He was charged with three counts including rape, harassment and soliciting or offering sexual favors.
After several battles with prosecution, Ishimwe was released on December 2nd, 2022 after Nyarugenge Intermediate Court cleared him of all charges, but the prosecution appealed the decision.
On October 14th, the High Court in Kigali found him guilty of soliciting sexual favors and rape and sentenced him to 5 years in jail. The verdict and sentencing were read in Kid’s absence and there is no news of him ever submitting himself to the authorities.
Prior to his sentencing, Prince Kid and then girlfriend now wife, Iradukunda Elsa had held a colorful, celebrity filled wedding ceremony that took place at the Intare Arena on September 2nd.
Another celebrity wedding that had people talking was that of singer The Ben and former Miss Rwanda contestant Pamella. Mugisha Ben and Pamella Uwicyeza’s star-studded wedding took place on December 23, 2023 at Eglise Vivante, Rebero for the religious ceremony and the reception was hosted at the Kigali Convention Center. The couple had been dating since 2019 and their much-publicized romance was the talk of the town each week.
6 socialites shook Rwanda’s social media.
To cap off this recap of the biggest entertainment stories of the year, let’s remember that renowned singer Butera Knowless born Jeanne d’Arc Ingabire Butera and producer Ishimwe Clement welcomed a baby girl in March 2023. The baby girl whose name has not been announced is sibling to Ishimwe Or Butera(2016) and Ishimwe Inzora Butera(2020).
And finally, six local socialites announced their plan to start an initiative that would inspire fellow women to take entrepreneurship path and defy the odds.
‘Kigali Boss Babes(KBB)’, a group of women that includes Rwanda’s Film actress and UN Peace ambassador Alliah Cool say that their group seeks to introduce girls to entrepreneurship skills to earn a living.
Other member of the group are: Christella, Yvette Camille, Queen Douce, and Gashema Sylvie
The group members hail from different businesses like models, movie actress, among others. They all share a reputation of being wealthier and living lavish lifestyle. On social media they are seen walking around expensive cities, driving classy cars.