Wednesday, 19 August 2020


Hi everyone.

So, the action is in the new piano - sort of.

We're really struggling to align it with the strings, especially at the very top treble. 

A lot of the centre pins are screaming their dissent after the treatment they've had over the past couple of years, and who can blame them. The problem is, we don't have any more at the moment.

For the time being though, it's about working out why the action isn't aligning properly and trying to fix that. Désiré and Paulin have been jiggling it about for a couple of weeks with no success. 

The bass plays more or less okay, but the top treble is a mess.

Until we can solve this issue, we can't tune her up and she won't play.

But, leave it with us. We're not fast, but we're persistent. We'll get there eventually.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Back in Action

Aaaaand... we're back.

The Covid-19 lockdown meant we've all been at home for about three months. Despite rising detection figures, lockdown restrictions are easing and Désire's workshop is back in business.

Above, you can see Paulin working to align our keyboard with the Lirika action. Once this is done, we'll hoist it into the new piano to try and align the hammers with the strings, then it's over to Marion for tuning. 

So, it shouldn't be too much longer until we can hear whether or not the piano plays. 

It's terrifying, but also really exciting. After such a long journey, we're all eager to know if it works.

More news as it happens.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Helping Genocide Survivors During Lockdown

We're making a little post on behalf of AVEGA-Agahozo, an organisation representing genocide widows in Rwanda. One of our project members works there and wanted to share this message:

Hello friends. Times are particularly difficult at the moment as we enter the memorial period for the 26th anniversary of the genocide. Due to COVID-19, memorial sites have been closed and communal events are on hold. This also means that our group counselling support sessions are unable to meet. AVEGA has many vulnerable members and we are trying to assist them in two key ways:

1) Delivering food and basic supplies to those who are particularly vulnerable, which include elderly and disabled widows with no surviving family and those who already have compromised immunity, such as those living with HIV/AIDS. It's particularly important that these groups do not leave their homes and risk infection.

2) Providing airtime packages to community counsellors in each district of the country so that they can regularly call up counselling clients to make sure they're okay during this time. We're also hoping to expand our national helpline, but it's important that those in counselling for trauma and depression are not alone at this time of year.

I know that there have already been a lot of appeals for help around the world, so I'm not going to push it. Everyone in the AVEGA office has already given what they can. If you would like to make a donation you can do so directly to our MTN mobile money (momo) account: Agahozo Avega 0788 520 122. You can also donate to that number using PayPal or a credit card through HeptaPay or WorldRemit or you can donate to Survivors Fund (SURF) in the UK who will pass on the funds.

All money will go either to airtime for counsellors or to food packages for vulnerable survivors.

Murakoze cyane/Thank you very much.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Kwibuka 26

Today marks the 26th anniversary since the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

The photograph above is taken from this article commemorating musicians who were killed

You can find out more about how COVID-19 is affecting memorial week in the Survivors Fund newsletter, here.

Saturday, 4 April 2020


Well hello.

A little update on lockdown in Kigali.

We're at the end of week two of lockdown and it's been extended until 19th April, though whether it's lifted all depends on how many cases there are. The number has been rising extremely slowly over the past couple of weeks. We're now at 89. The airport is closed and most of the foreigners who wanted to leave have left.

Marion and Dés are sitting it out with their cats and family, respectively. The government has been really quick to respond. Rwanda has been on high alert for Ebola for the past few years. Although there's never been a case here, the isolation wards and sanitation supplies were already in place. Food is being distributed to those most affected and communities are organising emergency supply boxes. So, things remain optimistic. 

Marion has been in quarantine with the action from Bugesera Lodge, so tinkering with that. Dés helped to replace a hammer butt and it's almost ready to reinstall, we just can't get it there, which is a shame as lockdown is the perfect time to learn to play.


Above is the Bugesera action on the left and our Lirika action lying down - see the blue flip-flop hammers? Desperate to give that a try. Our volunteer, Charlie, got it 90% of the way there and Paulin has put on the last few hammers.

This allows us to sit it on top of the new keyboard so that we can eventually test the new piano. The keyboard needs a few things doing, still. The key punchings need to go in and the capstans. Everything's a little thrown together at the moment, but you get the theory.

Old action on a new keyboard.

At the moment, we're not sure when we'll be able to start work again. We're hoping all of our followers are safe and well, and not talking to the furniture yet. We'll update as soon as we can.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Moving On Up

Well, Covid-19 has arrived in Rwanda. We've had nineteen cases so far. The airport is closed for 30 days and we're all on lockdown in our homes for two weeks as of Saturday.

A lot of expats, including Marion (who is British) and Dés (who is Congolese), have chosen to remain in Rwanda whilst we wait to see what happens to the world. The government has so far been very swift to act and implemented many helpful measures to prevent the virus spreading and the general mood is one of confidence and cooperation. 

Offered the choice of remaining or getting evacuated to Italy, our friend Giulia decided to remain here with her family - and a piano. Because, what else are you going to do whilst stuck at home for a few weeks? Perfect time to polish those keys.

We found this cute Young Chang being sold by a couple who were leaving. It's a difficult model to date, but we reckon possibly 70s. Dés helped her to move it a couple of days before the lockdown was announced, so it was lucky timing.

Heart in mouth as our piano moving team set to work.


One of the keys needed a little adjustment. A couple of bridle straps need replacing and the whole thing needs tuning, but that will have to wait until we're free to move about again. We're looking forward to seeing this piano again in the future.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Close to Testing

Exciting times here at Kigali Keys. 

Above are a couple of actions. The one behind belongs to Jocelyn's piano from Bugesera. This piano had a lot of problems when we first met it. There was some restringing to do, all the springs needed replacing and several of the bridle straps had been chewed off by mice. But we got through a lot of movies and nice meals in the process. The last part of the puzzle is replacing a hammer with a dodgy centre pin. It wobbles so much it doesn't strike the string full on. We tried re-felting it, but that didn't work, so we had to send to America for parts and those took months to arrive. Finally got them. Will also replace two hammer shanks. Seems someone else did a bit of repair on it some years back and, for want of a new shank, they simply shortened the old ones and reattached the hammer. You can see it best in this picture with the hammer nearest to you.

Once that's fixed, we'll be taking the action back to Bugesere Lodge, giving the piano a full tune, and hopefully celebrating its full restoration. It's been an absolute pleasure to work on and it will be really amazing to see all that hard work pay off. 

The second action belongs to Lirika. The blue hammers are recycled flip-flops. We're eternally grateful to our lovely volunteer Charlie, who painstakingly sat down and put the whole thing back together again. All except the last few hammers as we'd cunningly hidden the screws for those at the back of our store cupboard, so Paulin is going to have to fish through a jamjar of bits and bobs to finish the job. Dés also needs to file down the flip-flop hammers as they're a little bigger than the rest.

However, now that the Lirika action is back together, Dés and Paulin should be able to mount it on the new keys to see whether it aligns. If it does, we can eventually put it into the new piano to test the strings, the sound quality, and the flip-flops.

So, we're getting really, really close to making a sound.

It's extremely exciting and a little nerve racking. There's a good chance three years of work might come to nothing... but we'll keep holding our breath.

Meanwhile, we were visited by a lovely lady called Janet Dewan. She's a long-term supporter of the project and here in Rwanda training anaesthetists. Whilst she's here, she likes to practice the piano, but they're so difficult to find, so Marion let her borrow hers. She made a very generous donation to the project and we're really grateful.

We also had a visit from a lovely Belgian couple who walked half of Kigali to come and find us. Unfortunately we forgot to take a photo, but they had a good look round the workshop and explained that their son is also a piano technician. He has a company called Polychord. If you're reading this blog, we'll definitely drop you a line soon!

Finally, we were called by a very prestigious client. We headed over to tune this 40-50 year old Nieer piano. Originally from Shanghai, it now lives at the American Ambassador's residence. So, in the space of a couple of weeks we have tuned a concert grand for an international pianist, and a cosy upright for the family of an international Ambassador. Not bad going.