In 1997, three years after the Genocide against the Tutsi, many Rwandans were looking for emotional healing; some were stranded not knowing what to do next, while others were looking for ways to earn a living in a bruised economy.
Somewhere in Kimisagara, a group of youth noticed a need: the society was very broken and something had to be done to foster healing.
They decided to contribute in rather a spectacular way- sounding an alarm – shouting out with youthful vigor by doing music that praises God and tells people that there is hope despite what had happened to them.
These are the humble beginnings of Alarm Ministries, one of the largest Gospel Music groups in Rwanda.
23 years down the road, they have about 400 songs to their name, have sung to audiences in Kenya, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and have scooped both local and regional music awards.
“People were blaming us for leaving Restoration church. We were looked at as rebellious children. We went off the stage, and Apostle Gitwaza got us a bus to take us back to Kimisagara. We went crying.”
This was not the end of the pain. The following week, they went to Gikondo to sing but were barred from singing.
“They told us: “We will not allow you here. You are scandalous,” he recalls.
The ordeal continued for some time. Mazeze says that sometimes they would even meet people in the streets who told them about how wrong their decision was.
Such a challenge was coupled with a lack of experience to run the group. They were young people, who did not know so much about leadership,
“We knew we had work to do but we did not have the expertise. We were young. Some had just finished high school.”
The situation would later start getting better.
Gradually, the church and society started to embrace them again, partly due to the way they behaved in different events where they got a chance to sing.
“When we used to go to minister in a place, we behaved well and the people started noticing that we had respect for God,” he says.
Around 2006, they returned to Restoration Church and talked with the church hierarchy, and agreed on working together.
In 2009, they registered as a non-government organization and expanded their work to even working with big organizations to deliver assistance to people in need.
The singing ministry rose. Their 2015 album “Hari Impamvu” was one of their big hits and had a large audience. They launched it both in Rwanda and in Kenya. They went on to become a famous choir in the country,
“To date, we have a big challenge of receiving many invitations that are difficult to handle. In one week we can have ten invitations,” Mazeze says.
The group has recorded about 11 albums and has over 400 songs, some of which are not included in the albums.
Mazeze delights in the fact that they have impacted Gospel music in the country, and have been mentors to upcoming gospel music groups,
“We have had a great impact on the gospel scene in Rwanda. Other groups that have come after we learn from us about music, how to organize concerts, and other things. I can say we are mentors,” he says.
Alarm Ministries have won two Groove awards for the best choir in the country, one Salax award, one Jamafest (for East Africa), and last year their song TurakomeyeNtidutsindwa was awarded the best song in the country.
Mazeze says that their songs are used in churches in Rwanda, Burundi and also in other countries where there are churches that use Kinyarwanda or Kiswahili, for example, America, Canada, Australia, and Tanzania.
The group now has plans to build headquarters worth 4 Billion Rwandan Francs. They hope to do this in 5 years. They also want to build a music school, something that they have started working on.
“We started constructing a school in Karongi, and is now at beam level. We want to roof it. We want to include in it a department of music, among other disciplines,” he says.
And, they want to leave a legacy, so, they are planning to start Alarm Junior, a team of young singers that will take over from them – since they are growing older.