The 2010 RFI Prix Découvertes has just been awarded to Maurice Kirya (Uganda). After deliberation from a jury presided by the Franco-Congolese rapper, Passi, the Ugandan artist emerged as the leader, in front of the Kenyan Winyo and Lexxus Legal from the Congo. The winner will play a concert organised by RFI due to take place in N'Djamena (Chad) on 6 November. Here follows a portrait of the young musician.
He may be young, but Maurice Kirya is no novice to music. Multiple collaborations with a range of musicians have gained him not just experience, but a very open mind, leading to the 2009 release of his first album, Misubbaawa.
Maurice was born in 1984 into a musical family. His mother initiated him from a tender age by singing to him and making him chant gospel. After starting with the guitar, he started to get interested in the piano.
He cut his teeth with the groups Thug Squad and Bataka Underground, which was presided by one of his brothers, Krazy Native. He then moved on to work with the artists Benon and another of his brothers, Vamposs. In a quest to find his own style, Maurice Kirya decided to go it solo and set off on his own to follow a more personal path.
Inspired by American artists like India Arie, Common, John Legend, the Haitian Wyclef Jean and Africans Didier Awadi and Youssou N'Dour, and even by his well-known compatriot Philly Lutaaya, the young Maurice Kirya started his search with afro-soul, hip-hop, RnB and Ugandan rhythms. Ultimately, he settled on a fusion of all of these styles, which he himself named “mwoyo”.
The author-composer-performer has worked with a range of musicians from Africa and elsewhere, like Moussa Diallo (Mali), 2 Face Idibia (Nigeria), Yvonne Chaka Chaka (South Africa), Indigenous (Belgium) Susanna Owiyo (Kenya) and rapper AY (Tanzania). Binadamu, the track he concocted with AY was nominated at the 2005 Koras Awards
The Ugandan musician has also been notching up prizes, winning the 2007 award for best RnB artist at the Pearl of African Music Awards in his home country.
Among his many activities, since 2008 Maurice Kirya has been involved in a monthly show called The Maurice Kirya Experience, which presents other Ugandan music acts along with his own. The shows take place at the Club Rouge in Kampala. He also supports different organisations focusing on health issues, especially AIDS. His involvement in Ugandan life shows just how interested he is in promoting his own country and culture.
2009 was the year of his first album, Misubbaawa. Comprising around ten songs, it was recorded in Uganda but mixed in Dallas in the States by Phil York. Kyria’s velvety tones lend to all the songs that he composes and writes (in both English and Lubanga, one of Uganda’s languages), a distinctive, lived-in atmosphere and a create sound box housing all of his different influences.
In March 2010, he participated in the Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas – another opening towards an international career in the making.
Translation : Anne-Marie Harper