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Interview with Chairperson of Eritrean Musician Association

Today, 2 December 2011 the celebrations to mark the Golden Jubilee of modern Eritrean music has officially commenced at Cinema Odion featuring musical performances depicting the three stages of musical development of Eritrean music namely: 1960 to 1975, 1975 to 1991 and 1991 to the present stage. We have conducted an interview with the Chairperson of Eritrean Musicians Association, Mr. Mohammed Osman, regarding the commemoration celebrations. Excerpt of the interview follows:


Regarding the objective of the observance?

The objective of the observance is to assess the development of music in Eritrea in its organized form from the days of the renowned musical organizations such as that of Asmara Music Association to the present day. The assessment will include the contribution music made in raising the political awareness of the public during hard times Eritrea and its people were forcesto go through under successive colonizers, the contribution of music during the armed struggle for independence in raising the moral of citizens and the combatants, and the role of music in Eritrea in motivating the public to engage in the different developmental activities taking place in the country. And above all the objective of the celebrations is to bequeath the colorful history of Eritrean music to the future generations.

When we say 50 years of modern music history, where do we begin?

Modern Eritrean music traces back in 1960 with the formation of MaHber Theatre Asmara (Asmara Music Association). Since then music in Eritrea has gone through high and difficult time to reach its present stage. After the Asmara Music Association different musical organization such as Rocket, ZeraiDeres, police and others were formed with different objective. But in common they significantly contributed to the development of Eritrean music. Hence when we say 50 years of Eritrean music history we start from the days such organized music associations were formed.

What role do you think music played in the Eritrean history?

Eritrean music from the early days was mainly associated with political struggle since the half a century history of Eritrea is a history of political and armed struggle to liberate the country from the yoke of colonialism. The struggle which began with peaceful means had in the end developed into an armed struggle when all the struggle through peaceful means failed to bear fruit. As we all know the struggle had to incorporate different activities including music. If we could go back to the early stages of the struggle music in our country was mainly concentrated on raising the awareness of the public. Conveying messages aimed at awakening the public to rise up for the struggle of independence and through time raising the moral of both the people and the combatants and the need for steadfastness until Eritrea if free and independent bearing all the hardship the we could face in the process. This history of Eritrean music which played a vital role in the Eritrean Struggle for Independence is not only recognized by Eritreans ourselves but also well documented by foreign authors and institutions: “used as part of the armory of resistance by the liberation forces”.

Music in Eritrea has also a good reputation in its role of entertainment. All the music from the nine ethnic groups have their unique aspects in describing events taking place and seasons in which variety of activities are conducted. Music during weddings and grief, music during harvest time and special occasions could be citied as to the entertaining and defining time and occasion special of interest to the society.

Any comment you want to convey?

Musicians have their own ways of thinking and culture. I want to use this opportunity to convey my message to our musicians to work hard, to develop their skills by reading and learning. Believing in mind that musicians in this country have a special place in the society they should work hard with discipline to satisfy the public and become exemplary. They should know that the public is expecting more from them. Above all they should develop group work for who runs alone is likely to produce less.

Thank you!

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