Rwanda: Yvan Buravan – Rwanda’s Music Gem Gone Too Soon

August 17 is a day many Rwandans will never forget–the day gifted singer Yvan Buravan breathed his last in Medanta Hospital, New Delhi, India, where he was undergoing treatment.

At the tender age of 27, Yvan Dushime Burabyo, succumbed to pancreatic cancer after weeks of battling the sickness. Nothing in recent years has collectively hurt Rwandans than the passing of the ‘Twaje’ singer.

Buravan’s passing followed days of speculation on his life, including a premature announcement of his death a day before he travelled to India, on August 4, with the support of the Government of Rwanda.

Many took to social media to rebuke those who wished death upon him and the outpouring started then, with many wishing him a quick recovery.

When his family announced that he was going to be transferred to India, the entire country literally waited with bated breath, to hear some good news, perhaps that he was recovering and on course to get the best medical care.

One could sense fear of the unknown in the air. His family and friends closely protected him, there were no photos or videos of him bedridden, and in this day and age when videos and pictures are easily leaked.

They ensured that even in his passing, nothing painful or undignified went out. It is an image he wanted to keep even in his last days–an image of good vibes that he always exuded and sang about. You could never see a video or picture of him without a smile.

As one social media user put it, there has never been someone loved in life and in death in equal measure. There is no scandal, nothing controversial or even someone with something they accuse him of. Others admitted that there is no single song of his they hated.

How could someone be so good? Is it because people say only good things when someone is gone? It is something only his father Michel Burabyo could explain.

Thousands flocked the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village (Camp Kigali) on August 23 to pay tribute to the singer, and the elder Burabyo gave a clear picture of what his lastborn son was–a young man who pursued excellence and did so quietly.

Family, friends and fans turned up to pay tribute to the singer.

“He would do his things quietly and he would excel at everything he did. If you were lucky, he would give you a small snippet of what he is up to, but otherwise you would have to wait for the results,” Burabyo said.

When he speaks, you see a parent who understood his son very well, trusted him and supported him every step of the way. In fact, you could easily tell that he is a father at peace–that his son lived his short life with purpose and death is something he had no control over.

When you lose a child, you are devastated, and rightly so, but it is different when you lose someone but you are convinced that they led a fulfilled life, regardless of their age at their passing.

Such was the case with Buravan. Everybody who spoke about him, whether at Camp Kigali or at Remera Anglican Church, said good things about him and as the Minister of Youth and Culture, Rosemary Mbabazi, put it, it is the life he chose to lead on purpose and that many can learn from him.

“He led a life that had purpose and set out to achieve a certain goal and he did it in his short time. He did so with zeal and determination and was always patriotic in his work,” Minister Mbabazi said, urging young people to emulate him.

A special child

As a child, Buravan had always exuded talent when it came to singing and playing football and in school, he excelled in whatever subject he took on. Often, parents will not support their children who want to put academics aside and venture into music but that was not the case for him.

In his father’s own words, Buravan had always shown something special in him, and his grandfather saw that early on. While his passing left a big gap in his family and the country at large, those who were close to him find consolation in the fact that he did well everything he had to do.

Speaking on Wednesday, August 24, at the requiem mass to send off the singer, Pr. Antoine Rutayisire, a man of God known to not mince his words, said plainly that Buravan did things differently and maintained high levels of integrity.

Though he was a secular artiste, Pr. Rutayisire said he often listened to his songs and searched them on YouTube and unlike most modern artistes who sexualise lyrics and images, Buravan maintained high levels of decency and civility and that did not stop him from becoming a star.

Rutayisire said that when you do something good, people will automatically like what you do, regardless of whether you share beliefs or not, and such was the case with Buravan.

“I can openly admit that I used to listen to his songs. I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you if this young man did things that would have tainted his legacy,” Rutayisire said, emphasising the singer’s values and character, which made him the popular figure he is, even in death.

The outpour that followed his passing gripped the country. For some, it only sunk in later that he is indeed gone as they would not believe it, simply because even those who visited him admitted that he was exuberant and hopeful that he would make it.

“He never wanted anyone to feel sorry or pain that he was in pain. He kept hope alive and wanted everyone to remain hopeful, even up until the time he breathed his last,” his elder brother who escorted him to India, told mourners.

A talent gone too soon

There is no doubt that Buravan was a talented artiste. As singer Intore Massamba said, he was intelligent and easily adjusted when he was switching from doing outright urban pop and afro-beat to ‘Gakondo’, the traditional Rwandan style, which he had boldly transitioned to by the time of his death.

“He was smart and learned quickly,” said Massamba who mentored him in his journey to ‘Gakondo’. The veteran singer said that much as all lives matter, God could have taken someone else in the place of Buravan.

“Sometimes you feel angry with God and even doubt him. There are many people struggling with conditions and pain he could have taken and spared the young life of Buravan,” Massamba unapologetically said.

According to his father, Dushime, his other little-known name, wanted to carry traditional Rwandan music to the world, by giving it a modern touch and he was doing just that.

In a tribute read out by his uncle Ruzindana, the awards and hits he had to his name only confirmed that he was on course to do that, only for cancer to cut short his dreams.

A medical report seen by The New Times indicates that the singer first developed severe stomach pains and vomiting on July 2 and checked into King Faisal Hospital on July 20 as the condition intensified.

After several scans and tests, it was discovered that he had a ‘hypo-attenuating mass at the tail of the pancreas’ which had signs of ascites and malignant cells suggestive of carcinoma (cancer). The condition had affected his ability to eat, which led to him wearing out quickly.

Upon being transferred to India, doctors tried to save his life but it was too late. His management announced his passing in the wee hours of Wednesday, August 17, to the shock of many.

Who was Yvan Buravan?

Born 27 years ago on April 27, 1995 in Gikondo, Kicukiro District, to Michael Burabyo and Elizabeth Uwikunda, Buravan was the last born of six siblings.

He went to Ecole Le Petit Prince for his primary education and College Amis des Enfants as well as La Colombiere for his secondary education before joining University of Rwanda – College of Business and Economics, to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Business Information and Technology.

He started his music career in 2009 under the stage name Yvan Buravan but it was not until 2015 when he had a major breakout as an R&B and afro-beat singer and songwriter who went on to release songs such as ‘Urwo Ngukunda’, featuring Uncle Austin, ‘Malaika’, ‘Just a dance’ and many others.

He was the first Rwandan musician to have won the Prix Découvertes RFI musical award in 2018, which propelled him to the bigger stage and put him among the most promising artistes in the region.

Buravan released his debut album, ‘The love Lab’, in 2018 after winning the Prix Découvertes RFI and as part of his winning package, he toured 12 African countries.

He is known for songs like ‘Low Key’, ‘With You’, ‘Heaven’, ‘Bindimo’, ‘Si Belle’, ‘Just a Dance’, ‘Gusaakaara’, among others, which made him a household name over the past decade. He was awarded the Prix Découvertes RFI 2022 posthumously following his passing.

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