Cecile Biography


Cécile Kayirebwa was born in Kigali, Rwanda. Her father comes from a long line of artists, dancers, poets, storytellers, singers. It was during the advance of Christianity in the early 20th century that her father attended a catholic seminary and it was here that he proved to be an excellent voice and an impassioned singer. Her mother was raised in a family where every youngster learned how to animate family reunion and social gathering with traditional songs and dance. Cécile Kayirebwa is the second of 12 children, song and dance continued to play an important role in her family and every evening her and her siblings would sing and dances before going to sleep. In Notre Dame de Citeaux Primary School in Kigali She was part of numerous traditional Rwandan choirs and ballets.


Cécile Kayirebwa went to the social school of Karubanda in Butare where she spent 6 years at boarding school. It is here that she created her first group "le Cercle de Danse et de Chant Rwandais". It is from this experience that she felt the need to invent, adapt and compose the melodies and lyrics of songs, their choreography and traditional costumes to ensure her groups success at animating school festivities. That is when her compositions were first broadcasted on National Rwandan radio. After completing her studies, she was responsible for looking after social workers homes at Musha in Buganza, which was also an area well know for its cultural richness. Through working at Musha, Cécile Kayirebwa had the opportunity to be in an area where people of all generations meet to sing, dance and recite poems the whole nights through.


Cécile Kayirebwa married and had two children. She worked in the medical centre of Rwamagana for the fight against malnutrition. This small city included groups of young nurses, teachers, professors and medical assistants some coming from different part of the country because many were not near they family they would gather together regularly. Cécile’s house was always full with people singing and dancing in the evenings and at weekends. Unfortunately the small paradise burst in 1973. Following death threats Cécile Kayirebwa had to flee the country with her husband and her 2 children. Even outside her country she was still able to learn more about her traditional culture, the 3 months that she spent in Burundi taught her more things of the richness of her culture thanks to the impressive singer Florida Uwera and her Iminyana ballet.


Almost a year after her arrival in Belgium in 1975, gave Cécile Kayirebwa enough time to meet other Rwandese, take part in a few evening and parties, to feel a part of the Rwandan community; Cécile Kayirebwa creates Inyange a group made up of a male and female ballet and a choir whose prime objective was to maintain the culture and to teach it to the children. Her first album "Rwandan Songs" was released in 1981 on audio cassette. She diffused this album as best she could through the Rwandan Diasporas around the world. Her success and all the mail that she receives encouraged her to continue in protecting Rwandan culture.


In 1982, 3 months at the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, made it possible for Cécile Kayirebwa to consult files and listen to old music from Rwanda recorded by ethnologists since 1940. Her second album came out in 1983. During this period, she evolved with Bula Sangoma (beat the drum) a group who work collectively on traditional music in focusing on the rhythms, instruments and languages of the group‘s members various region of origins; in tshiluba for Congo, in kikongo for Congo Brazza, in mandinge for Senegal, in kinyarwanda for Rwanda. The drum "djembe" or "ngoma", and other percussions were their music’s base but they also included "ikembe" "umuduri" and "umwirongi. Bula Sangoma’s members counted also a Belgian and a Moroccan who were singing the chorus of each language. A third album came out in 1986. Cécile Kayirebwa was accompanied by Chris Joris to compose for the short film "UMULISA" by Marc Levi. In 1987, invited by a local group Ingeli, she performed at 15 concerts through Rwanda and Uganda. In 1989, she sings in "Requiem voor een ambtenaar van of XXIste eeuw" play of Rudy de Sutter which tour throughout Belgium.


In 1990, Cécile Kayirebwa’s fourth album "UBUMANZI" is a great success and the song with the same name is selected among the 10 best songs by a RFI contest. During all these years Cécile Kayirebwa did not cease to take part in humanitarian events independently or with various groups like the ballet Amarebe n’ Imena, Isamaza and always Bula Sangoma. Having composed a kinyarwanda segment in the song "Bella Africa", she accompanied Will Tura’s tour through Belgium, which included approximately 30 concerts. She was part of the ABO troop in a play by Ludo Martens that toured in Belgium and Holland. Then Kankantrie a CD of African songs by Dutch-speaking schoolboys with whom Cécile Kayirebwa recorded in studio, she sung also for the CD "Amadou", Senegalese tale produced by the RTBF (Belgian Television). In 1994, she signs her first CD "Rwanda" with Globe Style (a English production) with this CD she participate in several festivals across Europe and Africa
1994- 1996

In 1994, she performs in Genesia Club with DJ Eric-Soul to test the interest of young people on the traditional music; the outcome was a great success. Cécile Kayirebwa’s poem "Ma pauvre patrie" was published in "Societa di pensieri" in Rome. In 1995, she is interviewed at home for "Images d’ailleurs" (worldview) a Belgian television show. Cécile Kayirebwa creates her ASBL (non-profit-making association) CEKA I RWANDA whose objectives is TO SAVE, PRESERVE and REVIVES the African tradition through music, dance and poetry. After that she took part in the Music Festival of R.A.S.A in Belgium and in the festival "Images of Africa" in Denmark.


Cécile Kayirebwa prepares and produces four shows where she introduces a new Rwandan group for each show. The shows are multicultural and included Fali Kouyate from Mali with his Cora, Chris Joris of Belgium with his likembe, berimbaou and multiple percussions, members of Bula Sangoma and many young talents. In 1998, she went to Gronigen, Holland with her singers to play her repertoire with a Dutch orchestra which loved her music. She later performed with her group in Sparrow Club in Brussels to entertain a special "Great Lakes region" event. Cécile Kayirebwa does also cultural exchange visits and meetings with the Rwandan Diaspora. That year, she went to London (UK), a trip that left a strong impression on her. August 1998, finds her in Kigali, Rwanda for the first FESTPAD (Pan African dance festival) follow-up by a two months tour through the country with Salis Populi, a group of university students. This is followed by a Deutsche Welle invitation to perform in Köln Germany as part of a show on Rwanda. Cécile Kayirebwa later performs at "Robben Island Event" in Cape Town, South Africa, an event in honor of Mr. Nelson Mandela and where President Mbeki was present. She is pleased to share the stage with Myriam Makeba, Manu Dibango and many fabulous Zulu groups. In 1999, shortly after the released her CD AMAHORO, she leaves for Kigali to entertain the New Year’s festivities in Cadillac new VIP club in Kigali. During her stay, she is interviewed by the public of "Face to face", a show animated by Nkusi Arnaud at the University of Butare. There she receives a price (for her fight to make the Rwandan culture known in the world) from the hands of the University Dean


Cécile Kayirebwa works a great deal on a project of collecting old music. This requires much works and travel but that did not prevent her from taking part in:
The "Memorial Day" in London retransmitted live on BBC Television
The campaign anti-AIDS organized by Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, the First Lady of Rwanda.
The Reading Festival WOMAD (England)
An evening organized by Trace in Geneva with Ihanika dance group.
A show with the ballet Isangano and Muyango Jean-Marie in Montreal and Ottawa.
Singing at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the commemoration of the Rwandan genocide.
The event "Ishema ry’abahanzi" (artist’s pride); a spectacle of dance, song, music and theatre which brought together all the Rwandan artists of Belgium and France
Cécile Kayirebwa later performed at the "Women in Parliament Forum" in Kigali where she shared the stage with the Urukerereza ballet and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. And a wonderful project "Perles d’Amour & Oblomow" conceived and worked out by Gerry De Mol and produced by Link Kultuurburo which brings together African female singers from Madagascar, Ethiopia, Haiti and Rwanda with a tour through Belgium and Holland which Cécile Kayirebwa speaks of as a rich intercultural experience that challenges a large public.
Lately, with the group Isangano of Canada for which she has been the godmother for 5 years, she inaugurated the cultural centre in Montreal. Cécile Kayirebwa is also the godmother of Mpore, an association of orphan children, survivors of the Rwandan genocide.
she took part in a fund raising organized for a mother who still seeks her children missing at the time of the Rwandan genocide and recently still another fund raising for a young Rwandan artist Minani who must undergo a transplantation of the liver in India.
Last concerts to date were in Boston "Rwanda Day" and another in New York organized by the founders of Rwanda Path to Peace.