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A Letter to a Friend Part 1: Angel’s Family

Dear Zebra,

I know it’s been awhile since we last spoke. It’s been a while since we last wrote to each other, but I believe you are doing great. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. Mostly thinking about our childhood and all the memories we created together. Today, those are the best moments that are engraved in my brain. Memories I will share with my children and my grandchildren.

I can’t believe the things we did when we were teenagers. I don’t even know where to begin. Well let's see. The first thing you reminded me of is our music group "Angel’s Family." We didn’t even know English back then, yet we chose an English name for our group. Only God knew we would be living in English countries one day. Singing and rapping in High School was amazing. Do you remember our first high school music performance? It was hilarious bro!

Neither one of us had ever been on stage before. We ended up singing in front of more than 800 people that day. I remember being shy on that stage, not knowing what I was doing. I don’t even remember what was running in my mind at the time. But you? You really killed it! You looked like a professional rapper and looked like you knew what you were doing. Your confidence level was so high. In the end we did it and we became popular. Now that I think about it, I am not sure if we were popular because we did a great performance or because people were making fun of us. Either way, we did it.

Bro, do you remember those saggy pants we started wearing? I can’t believe we were also influenced by the American HipHop dress style. We both grew up in poor families otherwise we would have been wearing some expensive bling bling chains too! I can't forget how we wanted to look cool and look like American rappers. It’s just amazing how back then with little access to the Internet HipHop stars like 50cent, Eminem, Tupac, and P Diddy were very popular. Event though we could not fully understand their lyrics, we still loved their music. Maybe that was just the African brotherhood connection we had unknowingly.

Let’s back up for a moment. How did all this start ?

I remember you had a guitar. You liked singing Corneille’s songs (a French-Rwandan born artist popular in the 90’s). You also liked playing and singing random lines often creating your own. Then I remember one day you told me «how about we start our own music band and writing our own songs ? » At first I hesitated because I had no clue about playing guitar or singing. It wasn’t my thing. I will admit that I was horrible at singing and worst at playing guitar (even now), but you inspired me to at least give it a try. So I said yes, at least I can try to sing. Inside myself I knew I was horrible and never thought I would even hold a mic in a crowd. And that’s how our music adventure began.

I remember we started practicing outside your house. People would pass by staring at us like we had lost our minds. Neighbors were seeing us as lost boys saying we are trying to mess up our future by wasting time with music.

Growing up, parents can only support school related activities. Anything else apart from conventional education is a waste of time. And with that you see a lot of talents being wasted. Most schools do not offer extra programs to develop different talents and those kids who are not good at math or French or science are considered as stupid (which I do not believe). Education is more than math, literature, and science. Maybe if we were mentored at that age we would have become great music artists today. That applies to many kids growing up in a place like Congo.

We were inspired by our French teacher who was so good at teaching rhyme and composition. After class we would go home and create good French songs with great lyrical style. We would also write Swahili songs and create our melodies.

When the school was preparing to have the music competition commonly called "promo scholaire" we wanted to have a CD with our music ready. We wanted to look like professional musicians by having some songs recorded.

Bro, do you remember how we used school fees and went to a local recording studio with the help of a friend? I told my mother that school requested some money for a project, yet it was a lie. I needed money to contribute to the studio project so that we could record our songs.

We collected about $40 which was a lot of money back then for two poor young boys. Some parents would work the whole month only to get paid $40 or less. So, we knew it was a risk to collect money for an activity that parents would never, ever approve of. We were scared to hell. But we did it anyway!

We found ourselves in a home made studio thanks to a friend who knew a local producer. The guy only had an old computer, keyboard, small speakers and microphones. We spent the whole day recording, and that was it. No second takes or changes. Just like that we had our songs and were ready for the big school performance.

We recorded a few songs that day. One was: "Mugeni kweyo quarter" - meaning "a new guy in the neighborhood".

Which goes like :

Niko mugeni kweni kota

Ninaomba kwa ma konka

Wani ruhusu ni kote kwenyi kota

Ohh oohh oh oh oh kwama konka

Then we recorded "life ya noma" meaning "facing hardship".

Which goes like :

Life ya noma

Na ishi tu kwa nona

Nangaika, nateseka

Pia n’uzunika na kwaziza

Nashindwa n’iyo life ya shida maskin

Life ya noma mu mtaani

Watu wateseka

Wngine wafariri

Vijana kurepuka

Mabinti sirimuka

Mtaani ya teseka

Apo mimi na shindwa niyo life ya shida maskini

Life ya noma

Do you remember how we liked to write about love songs as well? Those letters we used to send to girls with cool rhymes, ooopps. This one song was my favorite.

Ton Amour "Your Love" in French.

It goes like :

Pardonne moi ma belle,

Dis moi si tu m’aime

Fais la joie dans mon cœur

Ton amour me fais comme un foux

Je cris comme la foudre

je te repère dans la foule

En regardant ta beauté

J’adore ta bonté

Car tu fais la bonté de mon cœur

Car ton cœur est si douce

Rempli de tendresse

Accompagner d’élégance

Tu ne me fais pas la défiance

Et tu évite la nuisance

Et tu me fais confiance

Accompagner dune grande tolérance

Car tu représente ma présence dans cœur

Unbelievable. Maybe I should sell these lyrics now.

Maybe now it’s time to re-create those songs and record them again. Of course not us, someone else who could sing better with good equipment.

Bro, we did it and I can't believe our parents never knew about all this, because if they knew we would have been in serious trouble. I think when my father and brothers will read this, they will question me. I hope I am not in trouble after all these years! I never told anyone about this until now. That’s what happened.

To be continued...

Part 2 coming up next.

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