Rwanda has risen tremendously from the ashes of its dark past and is now a country of equal opportunities for all. Fully cognizant of this fact, JeanPaul Nduwimana, famously known as NOOJPA, saw an opening and grabbed it. At only 35 years of age, he is now the proprietor of the country’s leading recording studio and a radio station; and is still gunning for more. So, how did such a young person climb to such great heights?
Right behind Nyamirambo stadium in Nyakabanda Sector in the beautiful city of Kigali, stands a beautiful gated compound with a bungalow. You will be forgiven for assuming that this is someone’s home. Inside, the ambiance is simply spectacular. Beautiful pictures of African heroes and music legends in black and white adorn the walls. This is the infamous Country Records recording studio, with an encrypted, tall, standing logo on the wall affirming this.
After the pleasantries, Nduwimana Jean-Paul – the founder and owner – gives us a tour of the studio. We can’t help but wonder how long it took to put up such a beautiful structure full of high-end computers and recording equipment by such a young person. There is a conspicuous portrait of gorillas, Rwanda’s main tourist attraction, hanging on the wall with bold writings ‘Heretocreate’. The inside wall is stunningly furnished with blue and white soundproof material. Jean-Paul, known by his stage name NOOPJA, is a thirty-five-year-old talented and retired Rwandan artist. He chose to focus on promoting talent through his recording studio and a radio station.
Starting from Scratch
JeanPaul cleared his secondary education with an already established fan base. He discovered his singing talent at a tender age and never looked back, participating in all the music festivals while at school. ‘After secondary school, I had already composed my own songs. In 2005, I had the golden opportunity of performing during a genocide commemoration event. It was in my hometown of Rusizi, located in the Western Province of Rwanda, and everyone was moved by it. The government officials present noticed my talent and supported me in producing my first album,’ he recalls. This was his first bold step towards success as two of his songs went viral, garnering him more fame and financial support. Thanks to this he was able to start a local charitable organization, his way of giving back to the community. After the genocide orphaned many children, most Rwandese took it upon themselves to contribute to the healing journey and towards the rebirth of a new Rwanda. He informs us that has been his biggest drive.
Just like many others, he believes that greener pastures can only be found in the cities which force growth, though they can be murky at times. ‘I traveled to Kigali to look for a studio where I could record my first album. I had no idea how long it would take but I did not expect it to take too long, at least not more than a month. To my surprise, I ended up waiting for a whole year for my album to be ready. This was disappointing and I felt there was a lot of what I would term as ‘unprofessionalism’ in the whole process. I felt challenged and a desire to own a studio that would serve artists better started mounting in me,’ he narrates.
‘The desire turned into a dream, growing with each passing day. In the year 2017, with no budget or financial support whatsoever, I began saving. The first thing I bought was this table you see right here,’ he points out.
Despite his determination to set up a recording studio, the journey proved to be more difficult since he lacked financial support. ‘Everything began at my house since I could not afford to rent space. I bought one thing at a time; from speakers, to sound cards and eventually computers which were the most expensive. I really wanted to realize my dream so I chose to take it one step at a time, regardless of how long it would take.’
‘I brought together a group of fellow talented youngsters, shared my idea with them and we agreed to work together to actualize our dream. I constantly reminded them that it was up to us to make it a reality. We managed to hire a space, though we struggled during our first year trying to raise the rent.’ He believes that consistency in practicing something, without necessarily any formal schooling on it, may make you an expert. He had an ear for music and could always tell the right pitches and soundtracks. He discovered that he had great ideas on how to create beats and sounds. Together with his team, they came up with a 6-month-plan to train on good music production, one artist at a time. Before they knew it, they were attracting more and more artists. ‘The artist that brought Country Records to the limelight was Bruce Melody. After working with him, many doors opened.’
Currently, Country Records has some of the big-name producers like Element Eleeeh who at only twenty-one years of age, is already a renowned producer. He has worked with Nigerian international megastar Wizkid, among many others.
In 2020, Country Records was doing exemplary well and JeanPaul dreamt of further growth. ‘I realized that 80% of the music being played on most radio stations in Kigali, were Country Records production. I desired to have my community back in Rusizi experience this. In my village, we mostly listened to international radio stations so I thought of opening a radio station which would impact a multitude of people,’ he tells us.
Owning a radio station had been his initial dream. In fact, had he gotten the necessary finance, he would have opened one first, then the recording studio would have followed. Finally, he could realize his life-long dream since his fast-rising recording studio was doing exceptionally well. ‘I began my research in 2019 by applying for the required documents and licenses from the government, reassuring myself that no matter the duration, I would eventually have a radio station. My prayers were answered pretty fast because after the great breakthrough with my recording studio in 2020, I had a fully equipped and registered Country FM Radio Station up and running in the same year,’ he states proudly.
With youth unemployment being a major concern across Africa, JeanPaul has bridged a huge gap by creating employment for young people. ‘In my recording studio, I have five permanent employees on a monthly salary, while the rest work on a contract basis. I also have fifteen employees back in Rusizi working at the radio station.’
His plan is to make Country FM a national radio station that will employ more journalists. With each district having a correspondent in every sector, the number of employees will increase to around 60. The goal is to ensure the listeners receive top unbiased news from all corners of Rwanda and be informed on all current affairs.
Out of curiosity, we inquire just how young people can experience such tremendous growth and achieve so much in Rwanda. ‘I must admit, it is peculiar seeing a young person having big projects not only in Rwanda but across Africa. However, I feel that after the genocide we learned quite a lot from the older generation which was corrupt and prejudiced. We are currently in a country where equal opportunity is available for all so if you work hard you will make it.’
He argues that we are in an era where technology has played a key role in expanding opportunities for young people, which they should take advantage of. He feels that communication and access to information has been made easier thanks to smartphones, and as we all know; information is power. Through hard work and savings, he continues to build and expand his empire. He urges young people to exploit new opportunities by using what they have, without necessarily having to rely on anyone or anything.
For sure it so touchable,where he coming to his vision
But what am gaining here means no matter what thing will move up on.
Truely thank u for supporting young generation,and raising those foundation then hope we gonna lean more from u big up bro
Well done my brother. I am proud of your determination and hope that the future reserve you more good things.
Big up 💪💪💪💪
Me I have talent of singing
I need someone who help me to promote my talent