Business is booming.

The Elites: Putting Eritrean Music on the International Map

There is no gift greater than the gift of family. Look no further than the Tekie family. When first seeing the family, people may actually confuse them for a sporting team or a huge group of friends. However, they are a family band, managed by their father. “The Elites Band” has quickly become famous for the original and cover songs they perform. They have a lead vocalist/song writer, backup vocalists, guitarist, bass-guitarist, pianist, music composers, drummer, photographers, and editors. Yes, they do it all.


  • What led you to form a band made up of family members, Mr. Tekie?
  • Mr. Tekie Hagos, manager of The Elites

It’s a long story. The Eritrean community in Saudi Arabia usually gets together for various events. It keeps the community strong. Eritreans tend to share a common interest. They want their kids to know and value Eritrean culture, languages, and history. I was a member of the EPLF [Eritrean People Liberation Front] during the revolution and I became a PFDJ [People’s Front for Democracy and Justice] member after independence. During those times, I was in charge of the musical troupes. When my eldest son, Raphael, was just 13, he sang the national anthem and played the piano during one of the events we hosted. I was astonished to see him up there. He inspired many kids during that moment.

After his performance, Raphael joined the Riyadh Cultural Troupe, which included ex-fighters. By the way, I would like to use this opportunity to extend my appreciation to them.

The Riyadh Cultural Troupe was formed in 1996, allowing Eritrean kids born in Saudi Arabia the opportunity to participate in musical and cultural activities. However, we faced some difficulties with members and we could no longer be a band.

Raphael inspired all his siblings in music. When I saw this, I asked myself, “How easy would it be to form my own family band?” I knew my kids would never let me down. I began with Moses, my fourth son, who was closer to Raphael and learned the strings. Along came Aáron, my fifth son, who was inspired by Moses. George, my eighth, followed his siblings to join the band. When I was one hundred percent certain that I could form a band, I encouraged Dunya, my third daughter, to be the lead vocalist. She played a big role in the band. She covered songs from almost all the ethnic groups. By 2008, “The Elites” band was born.

  • Why “The Elites”?

As the word expresses, it means the best. I know they can’t be perfect, they are humans. Nevertheless, they are doing the best they can in order to be good at what they do. In everything they do, they collaborate. We have even had the responsibility and honor of performing at all the national events organized by the Eritrean community in Saudi Arabia.

  • I understand that your dad inspired you to get into music…
  • Raphael, keyboardist & music composer

I used to listen to Yemane Gebremichael, when I was just 5 or 6 years old. I used to give my dad attitude if he stopped the music. That is when my dad knew I had a thing for music. Again, my dad used to play the piano and I remember sitting next to him, watching what he was doing and feeling the music. He encouraged me to learn the piano. By the time I was in school, I was taking piano courses. I am also a self-taught guitarist. Back in the day, I used to listen to Michel Jackson and other pop or hip-hop songs in English. But after I joined the band, my father told me it was time for me to learn Tigrigna songs, in order to better know my language and culture. So I went all the way back to my childhood and started listening to Yemane Ghebremichael’s songs.

  • Were you listening to those songs because they were on your dad’s playlist?

To be honest, it was a challenge for me to shift to Tigrigna music. I didn’t really understand it at first. However, my dad would always say that I should know my culture and identity. Also, the goal is to get Eritrean songs recognized internationally. That is the big picture my dad saw at the beginning.

  • The start of The Elites…
  • Raphael, keyboardist & music composer

Dunya started writing songs and she came up with the idea to develop and produce original songs. After we did our original songs, we wanted to focus on doing cover songs to get more recognized. So in 2011, we created our own YouTube channel, which helped us gain a following. All went well and now we have about 7000 YouTube subscribers.

  • The Elites are famous for covering classic Eritrean songs. Is it challenging for you, given that you were born and raised abroad?
  • Dunya, the lead vocalist

We did some original and cover songs in English before we worked on the Tigrigna cover songs. It was a risky thing for us. We didn’t know how our audience was going to respond. We were getting positive feedback and result before and we didn’t want to mess that up. We wanted to do a rendition of a classic Tigrigna song. A music production which is international, yet still has classic melodies and lyrics.

  • Moses, guitarist

We started with Afom Mear’yu a song by Tsegai Beraki. As we were working on it, I came up with the hook which was a good addition to the melody.

  • Aáron, bass-guitarist and editor

We started to get more recognized two years after we uploaded the video to YouTube. The first comments were not very positive. People thought we were trying to change the songs. After some time, however, people were more supportive and the number of subscribers quickly grew. That motivated us even more. Currently, we have about 7000 subscribers.

  • Are there legal issues surrounding the songs?
  • Halley, photographer and sound editor

As long as you identify that it is a cover and provide the original artist’s name, it’s legal. Also, I want to mention that we don’t get paid for the covers we do.

  • Playing all the instruments…
  • Raphael, keyboardist & music composer

After my piano courses, I taught myself how to play the guitar. I also taught my younger brother Moses the basics and he improved. Then when Aáron came along, I began teaching him how to play the piano, but he really didn’t connect with it. He shifted to guitar and he became a bass-guitarist. The same thing happened with George. I first taught him the guitar, but he shifted to the drums. However, George plays all the instruments.

  • Ten siblings in a band…how has that affected your lives?
  • Moses, guitarist

It has brought us together. One time, we finished an entire song in just five minutes. That is the benefit of being with family. I remember when I was in school I used to want to go to school early so that I could meet new friends, beyond my siblings. But my dad made sure of it never happening. He used to take me to school.

  • It is your first time in Asmara, how did you enjoy it?
  • Halley, photographer and sound editor

It is beautiful to be here. Being among people who speak the same language and who look like us is wonderful. It is great to be here.

  • Dunya, lead vocalist

We are shocked to know that we have fans here. People recognize us from our videos and come to greet us. It is an amazing feeling, really.

  • Any future plans?
  • Halley, photographer and sound editor

Our goal is to make a difference in the music industry of Eritrea. We want to get Eritrean songs recognized internationally. Also, before we travel the world, we want to do our first concert in our country. We are actually about to release our new original song, “Missing you”, with the local artist, Fitsum Beraki, in January.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More