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Fare thee well Jean-Christophe Matata

Amaso Akunda is the song most of us (at least those that were around at the advent of FM radio) remember him by.

Jean-Christophe Matata died on January 3 in South Africa, following an end-of-year concert. Online media reports say Matata looked exhausted after the concert on the New Year eve and was rushed to hospital where he died.

Matata was born at the dawn of Burundi’s independence, in 1960, to Matata Binoit and Marie Theresa Mukabaziga and was the first of five children. He grew up surrounded by the sounds and rhythms of Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital city.

However, before the music bug bit, Matata was passionate about soccer and played with Vital Football Club in Bujumbura. His first foray into music was at 18, a time his nascent vocal and song writing skills began getting noticed.

In 1979, he joined Mihingo des Grands Lacs, one of the legendary bands in Bujumbura. It is from then that he started exploiting his real talent and started staging concerts. He cut short his pursuit to become an accountant and sought greener musical pastures in Rwanda in 1986 starting off with the household Africa Nile Band.

He later left to pursue a solo career that yielded his debut album Amaso Akunda in 1987 whose title track introduced him to many a music fan. He then moved to Belgium before moving back to Rwanda. His other albums include Ihorere Ntusarare, Umpora Iki , Murantunga and N’i Nyagasambu Rirarema and Nyaranja.

His career spawned 200 singles belted out in multiple genres like reggae, zouk and Burundiian/ Rwandan ethno-music. He sang in Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, French and English and was a renowned songwriter, composer, producer and poet.

He often sang about political injustices, and was a renowned advocate for peace and security in the Great Lakes Region.

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