- “We will walk gently to get there fast” Ra’e Band
Vision is what produces success, and what started this band is just that. Ra’E’ Band, Ra’eis Tigrinya for vision, took their name because all the members shared a common vision to create Eritrean music which one day would be recognized internationally. They started their journey with almost nothing, bring together all the instruments they had, paying out of their pockets to cover costs and sometimes training at the roadsides outside town.
Ra’E’ Band got through many challenges and managed to get fans that follow them places to see them perform. Just recently they had a concert at Cinema Roma which captivated the audience. Q&A talks to three members of the Band, Dejen Kidane, Aron Keleta and Biniam Mekonen
- Connecting through guitars is what started it all!
“We didn’t talk much, but we said everything with music”
Two musicians took along their guitars to Sawa, a place they were assigned to serve as teachers. They didn’t know about each other and never had a deep conversation. Soon enough The two teachers found themselves chatting and connecting through their guitars. Well, they kept meeting up and played their guitars and connected even more. Dejen and Aron played and trained together every day during their break times. They also started sharing their music with the public at many events in Sawa and their break times back in Asmara. They performed at college campuses. Well, after the year ended, it was time for Aron to choose to work in some other place since he completed his service teaching in Sawa. But the bond he made through music was so big he decided to go back to Sawa for a third year to be able to play the guitar with his friend. They continued performing and finally decided that it would be better for them to form a Band.
- Forming a band comes with challenges
“Same outlook is our strong suit”
Talents can be found, but creating Ra’E’ Band was a little much deeper. They knew that creating a band with people who share the same view would be the key to achieving their goal. So, they decided to call up interested musicians whom they had previously met. They started training before Dejen went back for another year of teaching in Sawa, a little hindrance for the band. Creating the band didn’t come so easily. Gathering the musicians, bringing them to the same level and organizing were more difficult than they had expected. Lack of a place where they could practice and rehearse together was one of the major obstacles the band had to go through at the beginning. There were even times when they used to go outside of town to rehearse. On top of that, the band didn’t have all the musical instruments they needed at the time; they all brought what they had at home. Ra’E’ Band had so much desire and dream but so little resources. With the many difficulties the band was facing, it surely was time to come up with some kind of idea and regroup.
The founding members didn’t have any type of sponsorship. Every member of the band was there not to make money or become famous, they all gathered with a common ground to work on the advancement of Eritrean music. This is why every member paid out of their pockets to cover whatever expenses they encountered. However, since every one of them shared the same desires and knew what they could do and where they could reach, every member paid willingly for the expenses that were supposed to be paid.
In 2015, Ra’E’ band found a place where they could practise at Admas Bar and Restaurant for a short period of time. However, at the beginning of 2016, Ra’E’ Band was given a stable training place at Expo, where they have been practicing and training ever since.
Ra’E’ Band members come from all walks of life. Most of the members are college graduates and have professions outside music. They spend a lot of time training and experimenting with various types of music. Even though sometimes it is hard to balance out daily profession with training hours, the members manage to play music at their lunch break and sometimes during the night hours. They all have grown together and have shared their knowledge with one another throughout the years.
- Time to introduce Ra’E’ to the Public
“Fan’s response was just chastening”
Ra’E’ Band performed at the National festivals but it was in 2016 that it started to shine and have fans. That same year, the Band got a good deal to perform at the bar and restaurant of the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers every Friday. With the money they got from there, they were able to buy the musical instruments they required. Also, the response the band got from the audience was more than they had expected. Since 2016, Ra’e Band has performed in many places and worked with many local and international musicians, including the US Army Jazz Group from Europe and jazz guitarist Phillip Van Endart from Germany, which was a great experience. Currently, the band is performing at Hotel Asmara Place every Friday.
- Sharing the legacy with the new generation
“Look back, listen and blend in. That way we come up with own virgin of music”
Ra’E’ Band believes that every musician should look back at his elder musicians. It’s nice to know the history and learn something from it. As musicians, the members grew up listening to the amazing Eritrean legendary songs, and looking back and figuring out a way to keep our legacy alive is what this Band works for. They experiment with various international types of music and work together to get good music without compromising its originality. The entire band members bring out their ideas to the table on how to modernize the songs; sometimes the flow of ideas can be overwhelming for all of them. But they manage to do well by collaborating. This is something they are contributing to keep the legacy of Eritrean music alive.
- Leap Year Concert, is only the beginning
“Every member was emotional behind stage”
Ra’E’ Band has been offered to do work but it wanted to take things slowly. Even though they have grown a lot in the past as a Band, they still thought they had a lot of things to get done before presenting a bigger work. This time, the band decided it was time to have a concert and promote themselves and give something to their fans. With the help of Cultural Affairs of PFDJ and Mrs. Zewdi Andom, Ra’E’ Band’s long dream concert happened on the leap year at Cinema Roma. Mrs. Zewdi pulled out a whole team of volunteers who helped out to invite guests and fans, and Ra’E’ band, after many years of taking it slow, lit the stage up in fire and left the audience with mixed emotions.
- Ra’E’ Band’s Gratitude
We would like to give our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped us in so many ways from the beginning. To every one of the band members who has joined Ra’E’ Band, who is still with us and those who aren’t, we would like to appreciate them all. Ra’E’ is here today with your support and contributions. Furthermore, Ra’E’ band would like to thank the Cultural Affairs of YPFDJ, the expo administration and Asmara Palace Hotel for all the help they extend throughout our journey.