Makeda Mahadeo: The Jamaican - Rwandan DJ Connecting Two Worlds with Music
Makeda Mahadeo/Photo Instagram
From the time she was a little girl, Makeda Mahadeo always had a passion for music. This passion took her 7,000 miles from Jamaica to be one of the first female deejays in Rwanda.
Born in the United States to a Rwandan father and Jamaican mother, Makeda Mahadeo has made it a point to encapsulate her Jamaican and Rwandan roots into everything she does - from hosting, content creation, storytelling to producing and deejaying.
From a young age, Makeda was connected to her Jamaican roots, as she was raised in Jamaica with her mother. However, as if it was by fate, the curious young girl who had a passion for culture and music, stumbled across the one thing that would propel her into the career she is in today.
While studying literature at the University of the West Indies in Kingston Jamaica, Makeda was introduced to the rich and diverse culture of Africa. Although she had never thought of visiting Rwanda, the works of these African writers inspired Makeda Mahadeo to visit her ancestral home. Soon enough, she fell in love with Rwanda and it became her new home and the breeding ground to kick start an illustrious career as a top media personality.
The Jamaican Girl Living in Rwanda
When Makeda decided that Rwanda was where she wanted to be, she did not look back. She took up residence in Kigali - the center of Rwanda. Adjusting to a foreign country was a bit of a challenge for Makeda Mahadeo in the earlier stages of her move. However, that didn’t stop her from embracing her new hometown. Like the truly creative person that she is, Makeda was able to bridge the gap between two cultures by creating YouTube videos to share her experiences in Rwanda.
At first, these videos were just to ensure that her mother knew that she was okay and to keep her updated on her life in Rwanda. As time went on Makeda got more and more views and subscribers. Through her YouTube channel, Makeda shows individuals from across the diaspora what they can do in Rwanda. She takes them on her personal journey of learning how to speak Swahili and Kinyarwanda, as well as how she has connected with her Rwandan roots. Makeda has since amassed a fervent fan base of almost 13,000 YouTube subscribers.
Makeda speaking with Rwandan make up artist and photographer, Ivan Mugemany about their epic photo shoot collaboration on her YouTube channel.
Becoming the First Female DJ in Rwanda
As Makeda assimilated to life in Rwanda, she started hitting the social scene – going out to parties and clubs. After a while, she began to miss the Reggae and dancehall music that she grew up listening to, so Makeda started playing Reggae and dancehall music at house parties. Little did she know, adding her Jamaican flair to top East African music drew the attention of many in Rwanda. With this attention, Makeda began to take her craft as a DJ more seriously and landed her first gig at DMH club (now closed) in Nyamirambo, which brought her considerable praise from the music industry in Rwanda.
Makeda began making waves across East Africa as she carried her vibrant energy and Jamaican accent and music with her everywhere. But navigating this male-dominated field was not easy. However, her persistence and resilience knew no bounds. Makeda overcame every obstacle presented, to make her father and her country proud.
You’re probably thinking where her father fits into this equation. Although Makeda did not know much about her father’s culture as a young girl, he was her greatest inspiration. This led her to follow in his footsteps. That’s right, the media maven who has been dominating Rwanda’s music scene for years is the daughter of Rwanda’s famous Rastafarian DJ, the late Aloys Karamuheto (alias Bongoman).
Makeda Mahadeo’s popularity as a DJ opened the door to other opportunities. She went on to produce and host the popular radio show, The SWITCH for five years on Contact FM and co-anchored and co-produced the breakfast TV program “Rise and Shine Rwanda.” Makeda was also a celebrity judge on East Africa’s Got Talent, and an anchor at CNBC Africa.
The First Step to Success is Knowing Who You Are
Makeda wears many hats: event mc, tv producer, content creator, DJ, daughter, and wife. And for a long time, she would curate her perceived identity for anyone she met so that she could relate to them and fully embody that side of herself. The breakdown came when Makeda realized that in these situations she would “play up” one side of her life and completely downplay, or quite frankly, sacrifice the other side of her life, just to be the individual she thought others wanted to see.
Her reason for doing this was because she did not believe she could be all of the things she wanted to be all at once. During her 2020 TED Talk, Mahadeo explained, “As a multicultural person who moved around a lot, I coped by trying my best to fit into the location or position that I was in at the moment…I was never the person who embraced her differences – that was not me.” However, she soon realized that this mindset stunted her growth both personally and professionally.
Simple questions like, “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” even started to make her feel attacked and uncomfortable. But after a while, Makeda started questioning why she felt so attacked and why explaining who she was so hard. However, the “ah-ha” moment came when Makeda finally admitted to herself that she didn’t know who she was, and at that moment, she decided that enough was enough.
“We’re all layered people, we all have different sides, interests, quirks, and aspirations, so we will often question our role in society. This is something that many of us will find hard to avoid and because of its nature, it can become a hindrance to our growth and success more than it needs to be,” said Mahadeo.
While on her journey to self-discovery, the one thing Makeda did know was that she wanted to contribute to a more diverse and positive narrative in Africa and the Caribbean. It was at this point, she began to stand in who she was instead of trying to fit into the multiple personas she had created. She was simply Makeda Mahadeo – the woman who stopped playing a version of herself and started embracing being herself.
So, has Makeda Mahadeo unlocked what life has in store for her? The 34-year-old is living and thriving in Kigali, with her husband Sacha Haguma. The Jamaican-Rwandan DJ and content creator also has her sights set on expanding her craft throughout the continent and hopefully breaking ground in the Caribbean as well.