The Kigali, Rwanda-based folk act The Good Ones, which features core trio and founders co-lead singer Janvier Hauvgimana, co-lead singer and primary songwriter Adrien Kazigira and Javan Mahoro can trace their origins back to the roughy 1978. The members of the band, who were children were taught music and how to play by Hauvgimana’s older brother. Tragically, Hauvgimana’s older brother, who was also blind, later died in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The members of The Good Ones formed the band as part of the healing process after the genocide and interestingly enough, the band’s original trio featured individual members of each of Rwanda’s three tribes — Tutsi, Hutu and Abatwa — symbolically and metaphorically reuniting a country that had been split apart at its seams. But on a personal level, for each of the band’s founding members, the band was an active attempt to seek out “the good ones” after witnessing and enduring unthinkable horrors.
Most of the members of the band are small plot, subsistence farmers — with two of the band’s members living on family plots that have been passed down through several generations. Because most Rwandans are very poor, instruments are very rare. Like countless musicians. who are poor and barely getting by, they find ways to be creative. Sometimes they may find and use a broken guitar. But in most cases, they’ll make their own instruments, sometimes incorporating their farm tools.
Now, as you may recall, the Rwandan folk act’s forthcoming album Rwanda, You Should Be Loved is slated for a November 9, 2019 release through Anti- Records, and the album’s material can be traced from a batch of over 40 songs that the band’s Adrien Kazigira had originally written. Most of the material thematically centered around meditations on his 13-year-old daughter Marie Clare and the life-threatening tumor that has afflicted her left eye. Interestingly, the album was recorded live and without overdubs on Kazigira’s farm — and the sessions were imbued with loss’ their longtime collaborator and producer Ian Brennan‘s mother died and a former bandmember and founding member had both died during the sessions.
While the album was recorded during a period of profound loss for the band and their producer, the album focuses on a variety of things in the bandmembers’ lives and experiences. Rwanda, You Are Loved’s first single “The Farmer” celebrates the critical role farmers play in society and to a national — but it’s also an aching lament, acknowledging the bitter irony that farmers often can’t feed their own families and are struggling to barely get by. Built around a sparse arrangement of strummed guitar, harmonized vocals, the song is a timeless one that has seemingly been sung by generations upon generations across the world — and in a variety of languages. The album’s second and latest single “Where Did You Go Wrong, My Love” is a heartbreaking song that’s one part aching lament, one part desperate plea, one part bittersweet reminiscence over the loss of innocence of a young one, as the song is about a father’s desperate attempt to rescue his daughter from going down a bad path in her life. And as a result, the song is imbued with the powerless fear that countless parents have felt about their children. Much like it’s predecessor, the song is centered around a gorgeous yet sparse arrangement: al looping and shimmering 12 bar blues-like guitar, galloping percussion and the interwoven harmonies between the band’s primary songwriter Kazigira and co-lead vocalist Havugiamana.
Sonically, the material may draw comparisons to bluegrass, country, Americana and acoustic, Mississippi Delta Blues but while coming from an older, primordial source. Countless artists consciously aim to create something timeless, the members of The Good Ones somehow manage to seemingly do so in an effortless, breezy fashion while talking about the plight of their fellow farmers, countrymen and working men. (The song features a guest appearance from Wilco’s Nels Cline.)