Gentil Misigaro’s name means kindness in French, but kindness is only a small part of the message the local musician is trying to spread.
The 24-year-old singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and teacher was born in the wartorn country Congo .
Misigaro’s father taught him how to play guitar at the age of six, and the Fort Garry resident says he’s wanted to be a musician from an early age. Most of his musical talents are self-taught.
After five years of living as refugees in Uganda, Misigaro’s family moved to Winnipeg in 2010, and his career as a musician began to thrive.
On Sept. 29, Misigaro released his first solo EP, which he produced himself, with a packed concert at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain.
Misigaro describes the four-track EP, as a "new sound" — a mixture of African, reggae, classical and other musical styles.
"It’s a new flavour, influenced by different genres of music," he said.
More important than the sound, though, is the message Misigaro is trying to spread with his music.
"My music, I define it as music bringing hope, support, and love. All of my songs are based on that," Misigaro said.
"They say stay strong, I can make a change."
Misigaro said this message is so important to him because he’s seen the "other side of life".
"It’s not good. Being in wars and fleeing from one country to the other. (That’s why) I thought I’d be able to use my music as a tool of healing and bringing information," he said.
"Many people don’t support others because they don’t know. I thought I would use my music as a tool to raise awareness of how life is more than just living, it’s being there for others and supporting, and encouraging."
Misigaro doesn’t just share his message through performing his music, he lives it, too. He volunteers much of his time at Status4, a free music and activity program for kids in Elmwood, where he teaches guitar, drums, voice, piano and dance.
When Misigaro isn’t volunteering at Status4, he’s teaching music to high school students, as well as teaching private lessons at Mar-Schell’s Music on Henderson Highway.
"I get to do what I love every day. It’s never boring and never tiring. Sometimes I go for 16 hours a day, but I don’t feel like it’s working. I get to do what I love to do and it’s the best thing," he said.
Community advocate Janine LeGal met Misigaro when he arrived in Canada and took a creative writing course she was teaching for new Canadians.
"I immediately knew I was in the presence of someone very special — a star in the making," LeGal said.
LeGal has worked with Misigaro on several community events and has seen him perform many times.
"Every time, I have witnessed the effect of his music — lifting the spirit, energizing and inspiring to all who hear it. The words offer hope and… joy even in moments of darkness," she said.
"I’m struck by his level of professionalism, talent and kindness. (He) gives his time freely and contributes so much to youth in this city by mentoring them in music, building their confidence, and helping them dream of brighter futures."