I am honored that the Rwandan diaspora of the greater New York City area asked me to perform at the 16th annual commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsis. I was one of several performers and speakers, including the keynote speaker Edouard Kayihura, a survivor of the Hotel Des Mille Collines rescue operation, made famous in the movie Hotel Rwanda.
The scene was the United Nations Church Center. I improvised and played some Bach and Albert Ayler pieces on alto sax as people filled the chapel. Later I performed Murambi Doina on clarinet, which is a part of my Rwandan Suite. The Murambi Doina is a slow, pensive klezmer piece. I was inspired to write it after visiting the Murambi Technical School which is a genocide memorial in Rwanda, containing rooms full of mummified bodies and piles of the victims’ clothes. Some powerful footage of me playing clarinet at the Murambi Technical school will be seen in the film Rwanda 15, which is likely to premier soon.
While it was an honor to perform at this event, my emotions were very mixed. For me it was both a sign of acceptance of me and my mission in the Rwandan community, as well as a day of mourning. One must feel glad to be accepted, and yet devastated by the events that were being memorialized. I was quite overwhelmed.
Taylor Krauss, another American, was taken by surprise when he was presented with a bouquet of flowers for the fine work he has done with Voices of Rwanda, the film archive currently documenting testimonies of survivors. A teary-eyed Krauss expressed a similar sentiment of feeling honored and devastated simultaneously.
Please take a look at this article, written by Claire Umubyeyi, which gives a blow-by-blow account of the proceedings that evening at the United Nations Church Center: http://allafrica.com/stories/201004160551.html