Edinburgh charity worker’s song No 1 in Rwanda

Iain Stewart wrote a song which resonates with Rwandans. Picture: Alan Rennie
Iain Stewart wrote a song which resonates with Rwandans. Picture: Alan Rennie
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A SONG by an Edinburgh charity worker has stormed to number one in the charts – in Rwanda.

Iain Stewart, secretary of Edinburgh Interfaith, teamed up with one of Africa’s leading singer-songwriters, Jean-Paul Samputu, to record Rwandan Dream in a friend’s flat in Portobello.

Now the song – which talks about people living together in peace and harmony – is top of the pops as Rwanda remembers the genocide which devastated the country 20 years ago.

Mr Stewart, 39, met Jean-Paul when he came to speak at a Holocaust memorial event in Edinburgh’s Broughton High School. He said: “I had only just started at Edinburgh Interfaith, which organises the Holocaust memorial event each year. We found out Jean-Paul was coming to speak elsewhere in the UK and we managed to hijack him. His story was just incredible.”

In 1991, Jean-Paul was rounded up with others from the ethnic group Tutsi and held in jail for six months as part of the anti-Tutsi campaign. His family were later killed – by one of his childhood friends. It was part of the genocide which saw nearly a million people killed in 100 days in 1994.

Mr Stewart, a former RE teacher, said: “Jean-Paul had a difficult time coming to terms with it. He was drinking and got into trouble, but eventually he came to forgive the guy and the two of them now go round giving talks together. He channelled it all into music.”

When Jean-Paul was in Edinburgh, Mr Stewart showed him a peace song he had written two years earlier. “I was reluctant to show it to him but he was very moved by it. He said ‘You must come to Rwanda and record this’.”

The song, Window of Peace, was recorded with a choir from a school for children whose families were killed in the genocide. And Iain and Jean-Paul performed it as the closing song at a Nelson Mandela tribute concert in the Houses of Parliament in February.

Mr Stewart said: “After we’d done Window for Peace Jean-Paul said we should do an album, so he came to Edinburgh, and I wrote some more songs. We recorded Rwandan Dream in a flat in Portobello. We’ve just three more songs to polish. The album is due out in June.”

Of his chart-topping success, he said: “It feels great, but also a bit surreal.”

Jean-Paul was arriving in Edinburgh today to rehearse with Mr Stewart before they perform at the Fair Trade Fiesta tomorrow and in St Mark’s Unitarian Church on Sunday morning at 11am.

Rwandan Dream can be downloaded from iTunes.