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Eritrean Revolutionary Songs-a Sense of Purpose and Inspiration

Songs mean a lot to people.

They make you laugh, cry, dance, excited and sometimes lead you to your destiny. Some songs remain in the memories forever and are remembered at all times. Revolutionary songs create a sense of purpose in fighting and inspire individuals and groups. They unite people of different views and interests. During the struggle of Eritreans against colonization many revolutionary songs were produced.

The people of Eritrea fought for about 50 years for justice and freedom. It started at the beginning of the 1940’s with small group of people fighting for basic rights and against political persecutions. From the 1940s to the 1960s, influential people tried peaceful ways to be heard to get freedom. However, it did not work. As the nonviolent revolutionary struggles failed, it was a must for the armed struggle to be waged. The people of Eritrea chose martyrdom and fought for thirty years for independence. The fruit of the many fallen heroes and those who survived the war is the air we are breathing now. In those long years of struggle for independence the many revolutionary songs produced played a great role in the overall success. They reflected ambition, heroic actions, nationalism and patriotism.

The revolutionary songs evolved with the struggle. For example, during the federation period the leaders were corrupt and selfish and disappointed the people. A certain Aboy Afreha was angry with the system and bravely wrote a poem that calls for a revolution.

Asfahayti kudala kefo

Tedela ouqbit kuoarke kuyegedfo

Tebaro sewra trehalfo

He was calling for the people to fight for freedom in any way possible. He was calling on the people to be like their parents who stood up for their rights and for their people. It was indeed a valiant action at such a difficult time.
Other songs like shgey habuni by Tewelde Reda,

Shgey habuni

shgey habni

shgey habuni


This is one of the allegory songs sung at those times which demonstrated the miserable and dreadful life of colonization. Freedom was likened to a torch light.

Many legendary political songs were sung by the people in different Eritrean languages praising freedom and advocating the revolution. They include wayza gomay by Engineer Asgedom, al abanem sin amo yeoasina by Abdela (yeoasina), xebhi xom and fatna zahra by Alamin Abdeletif and hagerey zbele tezekiru ynebr by the famous Yemane Ghebremichael (barya) and others as well. All these musical products reflect the Eritrean peoples’ thirst for liberation and justice.

Songs sung by the freedom fighters were very influential in making the armed struggle successful. They boosted the spirit and comforted the souls of many heroes in times of loss and sorrow. The songs did not just bring ease to the fighters but also crashed the hope of the enemy. They played a great role in the political agitation and propaganda.

One of the songs sung at those times and which I usually listen to is aba blhatu by wedi shawl:

Ab ztmena botan ewann

Kulu shambqo tebenjana; Nabom kem zqena

Titan negneg nab resom bafom dem belel belel kem zeblu

Fihnom may meliu aqlom aqli entatie kem tkewn

Qdmi hamushte amet xbuq gierna negirnayo nierna

Shue gn yizkereni kaka elom sihiqomna

Tekal snom asnanom asnan adey mezenge yigberen

Shet abillom aba gomida aba blhatu

Derho neqiye alighder ab zeysaatu

This song was sung for a particular battle won by the Eritrean liberation fighters in the 1980s. In general such songs destroyed the enemy’s morale and will to fight. Through the revolutionary songs, Eritreans were influenced and joined their fellow Eritreans in the liberation struggle. The songs helped build the people’s confidence that sooner or later they would get their independence and Eritrea would be a free nation.

Finally, after all the struggle and waiting, on May 24 1991, Eritrea won its independence. The national anthem of Eritrea is a great artistic work that reflects the past and the heavy sacrifice made for independence and is a reminder of the adage that ‘truth triumphs’; haben wuxuoat… teamrti xnoat…ameskira haqi kem tawet. The national anthem is also a culmination of the many revolutionary songs sung during the years fought for Independence.

Revolutionary songs made tremendous contribution in the years of struggle, and they reflected the desires and aspirations of the Eritrean people.


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