Musician, singer and song writer Abeba Haile’s concert to commemorate her musical journey’s silver jubilee. The concert has been receiving great attention from media outlets worldwide. At the beginning of March 2018, the event was adorned by a short documentary film about Abeba. At the occasion Abeba’s sixth album was also inaugurated. The artist glowed in the event more than ever in the presence of many people of all generations including senior and junior artists, poets, writers, art critiques, musicians, friends and a big number of fans. One of the most respected elite Eritrean writers, Solomon Dirar, applauded Abeba for her consistency over the years. While young entertainment reporters present at the event celebrated her endowment and keenness in conveying new energy and ideas through her music. The public has known Abeba Haile since she was a teenager, way before independence, when she was still an art student in Bet Tmirti Sawra, the school of revolution in the fields. Her rather petite figure and the guitar she carries in her back recurrently, is how she is lives in the , memories of many.
More than 25 years after the release of her first album in 1996, Abeba is still the character the world met in her early twenties. We give you today Abeba Haile and a talk about her unswerving artistry of many years.
- Thank you for your time. Can you please explain why you decided to organize such inclusive event including a concert, screening of a documentary and inauguration of your sixth album?
First and foremost art is something that runs through my veins. It is like the air I breathe and the water I drink. Even day to day happenings of my life, big or small, silly or not, I like to automatically link them with art. I follow, admire and respect many legendary musicians. I am a fervent enthusiast of all the early 1960’s modern Eritrean singers and bands. I have had the chance of working with many singers that I perceive as my teachers. I have worked with Yemane Barya, Abraham Afeworki and many more. Now that most of them are not alive, I keep thinking that only little has been preserved and upheld of our legends. Though I agree fact that their artistry has been preserved in the best way that time had allowed, I still ask myself what if they had freedom, technology and opportunities we now have. It really would have been something else. People would have had the chance to dive in their daily lives and see how profoundly they sacrificed their lives for art. For some reason things of the past are always more flavored and different from the present. We can’t ever get enough of our oldies. Though time has passed we still feel the soul of our legends in the music they left us in big discs.
Coming back to your question, the idea behind this event, which by the way was made possible thanks to the collaboration of many young artists, was out of guilty feeling I had for long. I don’t want to not pass anything or just few to our young generation.
- What is it exactly that is so important you want to pass down?
It is not just one thing or just my story. That would be selfish. I want to assure you that where ever you go, an artist is not made on his or her own. That is what I feel. Above all what I am most certain of is that in Eritrea things are always a notch more, for the only and heavenly reason that our history, art, development, anything, you name it, is not of individual account but of the people. And just like everyone and everything else, my music and I are of my people. There are so many people that held my hand in my journey as an artist from day one. This is why each Eritrean’s story is exceedingly valuable because it is also the story of hundreds and thousands of fellow Eritreans that voluntarily and subconsciously share your walk. I want to tell my story, yes, because it is the story of many more that I admire and I am grateful to.
- Many that know you well believe that you haven’t changed much even after more than 25 years of professionalism. They say the twenty year old character they met is still the same in you.
Wow. What a compliment. I want to thank my fans and everyone that supported me to store the boldness I have towards music. But they are right, I have had a daring readiness and willingness to do music since I was a child. I think I kept it for long. Now that I have done it all for quite some time and it did not fail me, I want to talk about it and tell young artists that it is okay to be unflinching at all times. Art is for those who give a hundred percent and more.
- Is that a partial reason why you like to work with young artists in the industry?
Correct. Not only partially but maybe even entirely. As almost a senior in the field, it gives me pleasure to get in touch with young spirits. By the way, let me mention how respectful I am to all
my seniors, honestly. They are the ones who shaped me to be the artist I am today.
- Can you mention an example in which you collaborated with young artists?
My recent concert, the last one, could be a vivid example. When I first got the idea I talked to three young professionals. Jossi, graphic designer of great professionalism, the young musicians of Eri Band, Ghirmay Mahari from Yizari Band and Mussie and his dance crew. At first I talked individually with each of them. They were very much ready and eager to just get the ‘go’ signal from me and do magic. When we all joined hands, they enriched my idea with more brilliant outlooks. They truly made the concert fabulous beyond my primary visions. I’d like to thank also my friend, Metsits, he hosted the concert and made sure everyone felt comfortable.
- It might be daring of me to ask but could you please summarize in few words your experience since the time you released your first album up to now?
My first album, ‘Irab’, which is the title of a song included in the album highlighting the agility, bravery and beauty of Eritrean young ladies, was released in 1996. I put out four more albums following that one. I made several songs not included in the albums like, for example, a song for the film ‘Port DeJima’, a French movie. After the 5th album, I released many singles. People started asking me how they can get hold of all of them. Therefore, I decided to includ them in my sixth album along with few new ones. The album was inaugurated at the concert of commemoration. I should add that one additional reason behind the planning of the last concert I had was people’s continuous requests for me to take the stage. People were like “you are lost, you are lost”. I was never lost. An artist doesn’t hide or anything; he or she seldom chooses to withdraw and find peace with themselves. But one way or another once you get to be an artist of the people it is hard to be otherwise. I don’t know how to express it beautifully but I was never lost. I just sat back and evaluated all of the years of my profession. I wanted to look back, reflect and meditate on it.
- How does it feel to be an artist of respect for many years and still earn the attention of people of all generations?
I am grateful. To know that 25 years after the release my first album, even the sixths one is eagerly awaited and appreciated makes me feel humble and indebted. Some of my companions are not even alive, whereas I am alive and getting all of the attention they’d deserve rightfully. In my sixth album I have dedicated a song to my companions. There I express the chain of life I learned to appreciate as an Eritrean. One sacrifices life for the sake of others, then on their turn, they sacrifice their lives for others. Where ever they are on earth or the sky I’ll never forget them.
- Thank you Abeba, wish you all the best.