Back towards the beginning of the summer, I’d heard murmurings of an event at Top Tower hosted by the then mysterious K-TEAM. The event seemed to be a big success and I was curious about who this group was and what wonderful things they’d be doing to help Kigali’s nightlife. I tracked down Lydia Hsu, one of K-TEAM’s founders, to find out more.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Lydia Hsu, and I am an L.A-born, Ithaca-raised, Chicago-based 23-year old who first came to Rwanda in 2010 in pursuit of Eudaimonia – a Greek term that translates to “a meaningfully well-lived life.”
Initially, I was working in education and developing an English curriculum for the Rwanda Multi-Learning Centre, but I quickly found a million other things to do and started working with the Rwanda Cinema Centre, Solid’Africa, Ivuka Arts Studio. That summer, I fell in love with Rwanda – the vibrant colors, the music, but most of all, the energy and enthusiasm of the people, especially my students, for living and learning. After graduating from Northwestern University in June 2011, I moved here and spent 9 months teaching medical practitioners in Rwamagana through the Fulbright program. Now, I am a co-founder of K-TEAM, a contributing writer to the New Times and The Independent, and the pianist at Kigali Serena Hotel.
What is ‘K-TEAM’?
K-TEAM is an events promotions group in Kigali that strives to deliver high-quality, fun, and innovative experiences that support local businesses, charities, and venues. We also offer PR and marketing services.
Who started K-TEAM it and why?
K-TEAM is composed of 5 friends – myself, Allan Karakire, Makeda Mahadeo, Alice Mugiraneza, and Janet Muthoni. Four months ago, we were grabbing drinks at Downtown Bar and trying to figure out weekend plans when we reached a unanimous realization: Heck, why don’t we just start creating our own fun? And thus, K-TEAM was born.
Together, our combined experiences in events and PR, as well as our diverse backgrounds and extensive networks, give us all the right ingredients to bring Kigalians out to K-TEAM events. For instance, Makeda is our graphic designer and DJ-extraordinaire, providing the beats and aesthetic concepts while also marketing our events on her radio show. Meanwhile, Alice (K-TEAM’s fashionista) partners with Allan (a.k.a. “Dr. Love”) joining extensive networks among expats, disaporas, and locals for our events. Janet is our business-savvy financial consultant, and I coordinate and fill in the gaps with my experience as a former club promoter in Chicago.
We have a shared desire to deliver new and fun experiences in Kigali. We recognize that entertainment options (not just in nightlife) in Kigali are limited – especially when it comes to reaching certain groups: foreign investors, Rwandan celebrities and prominent social figures, expats and diasporas – for whom there are few events that offer a fresher, more exclusive, high-quality experience.
What can we expect from an event hosted by K-TEAM?
Great music. A fun and fashionable crowd. Innovative themes. We typically choose venues that aren’t widely frequented so we can go all out with the theme and decor. Our focus is always on quality so we work to ensure that our guests have a dynamic and unique experience.
What was the first event your hosted and how was it received?
Our first event was fairly spontaneous. We told our friends that we were throwing a House music party at Legacy (Milles Collines), and word quickly spread. It was a huge success and we ended up filling the lounge past capacity. The next week, we set up a web page for K-TEAM and created our first themed event “Lollipops & Kitenge.” People loved it! We saw the most wonderfully eclectic ensembles using kitenge, the local fabric.
What other events have you hosted since?
We held a glamorous soiree, “All of the Lights,” at the Crystal Lounge of Top Tower. Then, a summer pool party at Aloha Club Kigali, a red carpet event at the VIP Lounge of Cadillac, a white after-party at Aberdeen House, and recently, we launched the new Papyrus in Kimihurura. We’ve also partnered with other groups for events, such as Diner en Blanc, Solid’Africa’s “Solid’Art” philanthropy event, Earthdance at Lake Kivu Serena, and Star Status at K-Club.
Which are your favourite venues to host K-TEAM events at?
We’ve actually loved all of our venues, but we’re always trying to switch it up and bring guests to new locations in Kigali.
What do you think of the current state of Kigali’s nightlife?
There is definitely a lot of room for growth, but at the same time, I’ve seen so many improvements over the past two years – there are more venues, better DJs, better equipment, and overall, more options. I think that what’s lacking is the same problem you’ll find in many other sectors of Rwanda: innovation and creativity. Yes, there are more venues opening up, but they seldom differ in what they offer and usually a good night out depends on the group of friends you bring. If venues and event planners focused less heavily on the number of people they can bring in, and prioritized quality over quantity – for instance, thematizing events, decorating venues, enforcing dress codes, bringing in international DJs, promoting special cocktail menus, etc – I think nightlife in Kigali would have much more to offer.
When a K-TEAM event isn’t on, where are your favourite Kigali party spots?
We usually support our friends by attending their events or we hang out somewhere low-key, like Dream Inn or we occasionally revisit Legacy for old time’s sake.
Are there any K-TEAM events coming up that we can look forward to?
We have a couple projects that we’re working on, but you should definitely stay posted about Halloween! We typically begin our marketing campaigns a week in advance: https://www.facebook.com/TeamKigali.
What does the future hold for the K-TEAM?
Now that K-TEAM is established and recognized, we would like to take on more community-related projects, like the philanthropy event that we helped to organize for Solid’Africa in September. None of us could have predicted K-TEAM’s success four months ago, and we are all committed to giving back and supporting community initiatives.
All of us have full-time jobs outside of K-TEAM, so it’s hard to say where we’ll be next year or even in the next few months but we hope to continue improving the quality of nightlife in Kigali, and in Rwanda.