He had dreamed so much of this moment: to gather his two families, the Belgian and the Rwandan. But two years later, the maestro of electro still has not recovered from this trip. He was selling millions of records and performing 200 concerts for his Racine Carrée World Tour.
Especially in the country where the genocide of the Tutsi had engulfed some of his family. Suddenly, the drama: after taking a medicine against malaria, Stromae is suffering from serious mental disorders.
Since, he recovers with difficulty. In Rwanda, we discovered a part of his family history. Tragic.
Paul, better known as Stromae, has the almond eyes of Pierre, his father. The same charming and deep look, and also the same voice, of a hoarse metal. Pierre could change all of a sudden, like that, to sing or imitate anyone, an acquaintance, a civil servant, a bus driver, in front of his hilarious and amazed friends. At dinner parties, sometimes, he disappeared from the table and was found in the living room, disguised as a woman. Then “Pierrot” improvised a show full of derision, juggling with words of a deep lightness. He was a 1.85 meter athlete, an excellent basketball player, a young member of Espoir, and the Rwandan national team.
Stromae mostly remembers his father as an architectural student in the briefcase full of pencils. Pierre Rutare returned to Kigali in 1991 when Paul was 6 years old. He set up his architectural firm, BD2G, with five partners, including André, former ambassador of Rwanda in Italy, and Charles, honorary consul of Luxembourg. In 1988, he created and financed his own basketball team, Inkuba (lightning) in order to win the 1994 championship, won in extremis by the coach and friend of his former team, whom he tried, in vain, to sting players.
Pierre lives at this time with a certain Alphonsine, with whom he has three children. As the civil war spreads, he will have them all evacuated from Kigali with the help of Charles, the honorary consul. Pierre still believes in a peaceful and political settlement of the Tutsi-Hutu conflict. This is what he says to his friend Alexis, a refugee in Burundi, whom he sometimes visits. Pierre and all his friends studied at Collège Saint-André, founded by Belgian fathers from Namur. Together, they go in the booms.
Pierrot, in impeccable costume and bow tie, is undoubtedly the most beautiful of them. Charmeur, the word is weak. It is a flirty that has a lot of success. Everyone knows it from a dynasty, the Abatsobe, descendant of the first Rwandan king, Gihanga (1081-1114). The Abatsobe chairs the enthronement session of the king, revealing his name to the people. At the court, they lead the celebration of the feast of first fruits, which implores that the harvest is rich.
At that time, the territory of the dynasty is located on Kinyambi Hill. His coat of arms is a drum, Rwamo, a name that means “resounding”. Some will see there the origin of the gift of his descendants for the music and the spectacle.
Gabriel, Peter’s father and Paul’s grandfather, moved to Nzove, near Kigali, in the 1950s. He was a man of rare intelligence, a figure, a leader of men, under head of the region. It is nicknamed “Locomotive”. He built the first roads of Rwanda and raised in this campaign a herd of inyambo, 4000 heads, superb cattle, racy.
He has a brother, Dusabe. Another extraordinary character, that one, Pierrot’s uncle, handsome, too, born without legs. A businessman, he drove a fully equipped, fully automatic R5 and loved to party. When he wanted to dance, he was sitting on the edge of a table and he was moving all the way up his body. He married and had five children.
OVERTHROW IN THE HORROR
These memories are part of former Rwanda, before the genocide. Because in April 1994 everything changes. In the entourage of Pierre, there are of course the survivors. Alexis, future historian, human rights lawyer, Gilbert, a member of Unicef, who lives in Canada, and another Pierre, named Malendo, the coach of Espoir basketball team. Malendo fled Kigali on April 8, 1994, on foot, with his wife and five children, aged 1 to 10 years. A march of eleven days, hiding, to reach Butare. A gunman was about to fire on him in a street when an old man recognized him and persuaded the killer to lower his rifle and told him that he was about to shoot down their “national coach”.
Back in Kigali, Pierre Malendo looked for Pierrot everywhere. No result. Stromae’s father was arrested in his home and then taken away by the presidential guard. We never knew where. He was 35 years old. Gabriel, his father, was executed in Kigali a few days later, almost at the same time as his brother Dusabe, killed with a machete. His wife and three of their children survived. But they kept genocide heavy traces, bodies mutilated by the killers.
At the death of his father, Paul is 9 years old. From Brussels, he hears all these conversations on the phone, and the crying of adults, that he does not understand. His mother hides the truth from him, no doubt to protect him. He will not learn of Pierre’s death until three years later. Three years during which his death is a mystery.
One day, no longer tolerating doubt, he burst the abscess:
“So, mamma, is he dead? – Yes, “admits his mother.
Two decades later, in charge of this story, Stromae began the African tour which, in 2015, after Dakar, Abidjan, Yaounde, Kinshasa and Johannesburg, should end in Kigali.
“This expectation scares me,” he said a year ago to Jeune Afrique. How will I live this shock, which will also be a confrontation with a part of myself? “
May 2015. Guest of the Ivorian show C’midi, Stromae evokes Rwanda. His Kigali concert is scheduled in a month, June 20. Suddenly, he lets go of sobs, apologizes with elegance, recovers and, again, cries. Obviously, he is exhausted. Two hundred concerts in two years. And he does not support Lariam, an antimalarial drug still allowed in France.
“I did a psychic decompensation super-super serious. “
Central nervous system damage, hallucinations, anxieties. Without the help of his younger brother, Luc Junior Tam, one night he would have failed “to make a nonsense,” he told Overseas Channel Ô. Six days before the scheduled date, his concert is canceled. Stromae must be evacuated, he is treated in France. The big return concert will take place four months later, October 16, 2015.
Friends of Stromae’s father who attend are going to cry a lot. Judo Kanobana, the fiery and very funny Rwandan producer, partner of Positive Production, is in charge of reorganizing everything. But it’s not the same music … Some suppliers, having discovered that Stromae was a star, drive up prices. The sponsors are waiting for him to land in Kigali. “They wanted to see him on stage. They said to me: “Maybe he will fall on a staircase,” says Judo, who proposes an original venue for the concert, the Independent University of Kigali.
Frequented by 15,000 students, it was built in 1996 at the top of the capital, close to the genocide memorial. “Partying the pain is changing the symbols, Judo thought. The rector was not very hot: all these miniskirts in his campus! But his son convinced him … “
Stromae arrives late in the night of October 15 to 16, in a private jet, with his mother, his half-brothers of another union, his musicians. Direction the hotel des Mille Collines. The next day he holds a press conference. The lobby is crowded. Cheers. Then he focuses on the final preparations for his show. Enhanced security has been put in place. “Madame Jeannette”, the First Lady, is present with ministers, ambassadors and even the superintendent of police, who is usually reluctant to give permission.
Twenty thousand people are present, the youngest in bow-tie and socks rising. We came from bordering countries, but also from Italy, the United States, Japan. There are almost all Rwandan musicians, but also Sauti Sol, the star group of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
Stromae sings in front of a people who is reconciled with his story. This is to say that the song Papaoutai is expected firmly. She speaks to so many other orphans! The first version written by Stromae about this absent father was harder, less “forgiven”. He cried a lot while writing it.
“It’s time and place,” he says on stage. I would like to make a big dedication to my dad. “Thanks dad, oh thank you, dad,” he repeats six times, without cracking. He warned at the morning press conference, “If I shed a little tear at one point, it will be the heart that spoke. But I’m really happy to be here, and it makes it strange to see people who look like me. Finally … which I look like, sorry! “
A private party will follow the concert, in the small discotheque of the hotel, until dawn. And on the 17th, still at the hotel, all the Rwandan singer’s parents gather around him. Probably they would have preferred to receive Paul according to tradition, under their roof, ideally at Nzove, the family cradle. But it was complicated to organize. And, above all, Stromae, who will take the plane the same evening, asked for the greatest discretion around this reunion.
Among them, there is Ibrahim, 28, who is struggling to contain his emotion. Finally, he sees it. In truth. This is the first time he has hugged his four-year-old half-brother his eldest, of whom so much has been said to him, this “Paupaul who makes music, like you”!
At the age of 5, Ibrahim was passionate about the traditional music of his country. He sings and dances, adorned with costumes and headdresses of the time, endless and beautiful blond hair. In 2013, he created a group, Inkera, named after these vigils where men, precisely, sang and danced while drinking banana beer. Inkera has eight musicians and three dancers. Ibrahim also writes songs, melodies and texts, more modern. To date, he has composed thirteen. In order to devote himself fully to these two professions, he has just left his job at Ecobank, the second largest bank in Rwanda, and thus forsake a salary, modest security. This is a risk he has decided to take, he is very happy.
Paul already came to Rwanda when he was six, but Ibrahim was too young, he did not remember. As a teenager, he often wanted to call Belgium and talk to him … By modesty, by discretion, he did not dare. So Ibrahim watched, admiring, the cult videos that Stromae broadcast on the internet, rap music from a simple synthesizer and a computer. And he reveled in his comments to burst out laughing. Finally he sees it in real life. “I’m a little jealous, Ibrahim! You look more like dad than me! Paul jokes as he stares at this little brother rescued at the age of four by a stranger who has carried him on his shoulders, before being murdered on a sidewalk in Kigali.
They do not really have time to recall their memories. Paul is barely two days old. Too short, too many people around them to share the pain, quietly, between brothers. And then, everyone wants to smile, and Paul is especially there to say thank you, as a forgiveness to this father who did not recognize him. Out of respect, no doubt, for the tragedy Ibrahim experienced, he does not mention the lack he has suffered since his native Belgium.
“Stromae needs to go beyond the threshold of biological mourning,” suggests Marie, a student. Then he will be able to visit the inevitable memorial of the genocide, where the young people go in mass during period of celebration. Everything is said of the tortures and rapes, everything is shown, open skulls and mass graves. The whole time is represented, the bastards and the heroes, like those schoolboys who refused to separate when the killers at the door asked the Tutsi to get away from the Hutus.
Today, addressing this issue is a crime. But many young people are trying to understand. “Eight hundred thousand murders in three months, there is no explanation, believes Judo like so many Rwandans. It’s beyond the imaginable. We have exhausted the repertory of wickedness. All hope especially that one day Stromae will return to Rwanda.
Ibrahim wrote a song called Who Can I Trust? where he explains that everyone has a pain, often even harder than his, that it is useless to talk about it, but also that it is useful for everything. Everything is said in six words, as in the Stromae repertoire. In Brussels, the star is recovering little by little. Stromae composes. Here as elsewhere, we wait for it.