“We have the responsibility of promoting our success stories”
Last Friday, 31st of July, I was invited to participate in the launching of a video clip produced by a group of artists. The video clip was about the heroic feat of our cyclist at the Tour de France. What comes to my mind then was that “why are our artists very swift to respond to events taking place in our country. I forwarded that question to some members of the group and their response follows.
Tell me about the video clip you produced.
Michael Hadish (Imbuy)– The video clip is a product of group of artists. I am the lyric writer, the melody is by Okbakedir Negash (Iba), singers are Temesgen Yared, Saba Andemariam and Kaleab Tewoldemedhin and the producer is Tesfit Abraha. The album is “Tium Were” that means “Good News”. When we first heard that our cyclists are qualified to participate at the Tour de France we were very excited and eager the day to come and see the performance of our guys in the race. I discussed the issue with Okbakedir Negash that we should do something about it. But later, in a few days after the start of the race, we observed Daniel Teklehaimanot standing on the podium to put on the King of the Mountains jersey. That was the moment in which he surprised the whole world. I remember the commentator saying “His country men are watching this. Tomorrow Daniel will be in the front page of major media outlets”. And from that day onwards we decided to produce the song “Tium Were”.
Whenever major events unfold our artists are fast to respond through their artistic works. And that is something we don’t witness in other countries. Why is that?
Okbakedir– Look to our music history; all social events are accompanied with songs. Whenever community members come together for some kind of campaign, be it to harvest or build a house, song has been taken as a motivating factor. Most of the music in Eritrea narrate stories of heroes as well as religious and cultural holidays. Later during the period of colonialism, songs have been central factors in raising the awareness of the society. Music played a great role in infusing a strong sense of nationalism amongst citizens.
From the early days of colonialism, and especially that of Ethiopia, music has been playing significant role in stimulating the Eritrean people to rise up against colonialism and free the country and its people. The songs that have been playing by the renowned singers like Ato Atewebrhan Segid, Teberih Tesfahunei and the later singers like Mereket Mengistaeb, Yemane Baria, had an important place motivating the Eritrean youth to flock to the field to join the armed struggle for independence. And During the armed struggle the role of music was not only to entertain the freedom fighters but also boost their morals. Hence, music in Eritrea is an integral part of the lives of the people.
Michael– Art is part of the creative medium based on reality that is used for image building, national identity and people’s way of life. Eritrean singers have played their due part in this sense. We remember the recent war of aggression of the TPLF on Eritrea. Every musician and singer in this country rose up and so many songs have been produced aimed at boosting the moral of the army and the people in general to defend the sovereignty of the country.
Between 1991 and 1998 many people were saying that the Eritrean singers in particular and artists in general were not working enough to develop music in the country. But the moment the war of aggression began all the artists came forward and contributed their part. Therefore, to me, music in Eritrea is mainly aimed to construct messages that convey heroism, steadfastness, love of country, and always ready to defend the homeland from any eventualities.
Is that because of that, that many songs have been produced in connection with the miracle our cyclist did at the Tour de France?
Okbakedir– Yes, in fact about 10 songs were produced and five of them were sent to the media for dissemination. All the songs were mainly focused on the victory our cyclists demonstrated in the race. Eritreans love to put their country beyond everything. If you remember we did the same with the victory of Zerisenai Taddese at the Athens Olympics. The reason is simple, that is because it is our responsibility to promote our success stories not only with regards the sports but also our success stories in nation building.
Many songs have been produced regarding the Warsai Yikealo development campaign; the roads linking every part of the country; the dams being built to conserve every drop of water. You can count all the songs that have been produced about Eritrea and its success stories. As we are newly emerging country in the world after long years of successive colonialism we produced songs to promote our identity as a nation and people.
What feedback did you receive about your new song “Tium Were”?
We have received so many messages of acclamation from many Eritreans living inside the country and abroad. The performance we witnessed by our cyclists in the tour has inspired every Eritrean and that the songs produced do not match with their performance. Through them Eritrea has been constantly in the major media outlets for about three weeks. What we did was just a spoon of water from the ocean.
Let me come to Tesfit Abraha. You are the producer and I heard that you didn’t ask for any payment. Why is that?
The success story of our cyclists belongs to all of us Eritreans and for that matter to every African. They took us by surprise and there was no time for financial negotiation. Okbakedir and Michael asked me if I could produce the song they have produced in connection with the event. I didn’t hesitate to say OK. It is very expensive to produce such a clip. But in response to my happiness and excitement I agreed to help them.
Any final thought!
Tesfit– It has been only a week since the song “Tium Were” was released by the media. Since then around two hundred thousand people have visited one website that has posted the clip without our consent. We the group that produced the clip have got nothing with regards to financial gains. People who work have the right to get something from what they produce. Others have no right to exploit the work of others without contributing anything to it.
Okbakedir and Michael- We agree to what Tesfit said. We did not do the work for financial gains. We did produced it to demonstrate our appreciation and delight to what Daniel Teklehaimanot and Merhawi Kudus did. But when we hear people who did not contribute anything try to exploit we feel offended. That will not help the development of art in our country. Artists have the right to benefit from their products.