For The Good Ones’ new album, RWANDA, you should be loved, bandleader Adrien Kazigira composed over forty songs. Most were meditations on his now thirteen-year-old daughter, Marie-Claire, and the life-threatening tumor that has afflicted her left-eye. The recording 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 Good Ones renown is evidenced by the stellar musicians who collaborated with them on the new album: Wilco’s Nels Cline, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, and Fugazi’s Joe Lally. In 2009, Grammy-winner Brennan (Tinariwen, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Zomba Prison Project) traveled to Rwanda in search of local music with his Italian-Rwandan wife, filmmaker and photographer, Marilena Delli. After two weeks of crisscrossing the country and listening to countless artists, they met The Good Ones.
From the moment he laid eyes on them, Brennan said he knew, “What these guys do is precious and rare. Don't fuck it up!”
Beginning in 1978 when they were still children, the group’s core members were taught music by Janvier’s older brother who was blind and later perished in the 1994 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.
Since they live without electricity and have had little access to devices to reproduce musical recordings, The Good Ones’ vocalizations are based on the singing traditions and dialect of their local immediate, agricultural district more than by outside and Western influences. Primary songwriter Adrien Kazigira interweaves intricate harmonies with co-singer, Janvier Havugimana, in a style frequently referred to as “worker songs from the streets.” With the musicians 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.
They utilize one-of-a-kind instruments in their music, often incorporating their own farming tools as percussion. Adrien continues to subsist as a farmer on the land that he and his children were born on, where he hid for months and survived the genocide, and the place where his wife died.
Their music and original songs have received great acclaim globally and the group has appeared on various BBC-radio programs, as well as on The Netherlands VPRO national-television breakfast show. In fact, they also have been publicly praised by the likes of legendary Led Zeppelin lead-singer, Robert Plant, and Grammy-winning, platinum-selling group, Mumford & Sons.
In 2010, The Good Ones released their debut album, Kigali Y Izahabu (“Kigali of Gold”), making them the first Rwandan artists to distribute internationally songs in the language of Kinyarwanda. In 2015, they released their follow-up album, Rwanda Is My Home. It was named one of the “Top 50 Albums of the Year” by the Sunday London Times.
2019 year marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide during which over just a three- month period more than 12.5% of the population was killed, resulting in over 1-million deaths by conservative estimates. Most victims were murdered by hand, and many were tortured (often, by slicing their Achilles Tendons with machetes so they would be unable to flee) and raped before being killed.