The production of music videos in Eritrea is on the rise. Beyond their music and lyrics singers use music videos as an additional medium of expression, and directors, dancers and engineers involved in the endeavor make sure that they give people what they like to see. Today, the production of music videos requires big budget, advanced technology and imagination. Daniel Teame, a music video director, is tirelessly contributing to the growth and prosperity of music video making in Eritrea. He has so far directed 300 videos. Daniel shares his journey with Q&A.
- Thank you for your time, Daniel. Producing 300 music videos is big; when did you start making videos?
I joined the College of Fine Arts in 2008-2009. It is safe to say that I started laying the ground for what I have specialized in since then. I kept pushing even after graduation until 2012 when I was assigned to do my national service as a teacher in Tseazega Junior School. Furthermore, in 2013, I took on a role as one of the characters in a famous sitcom entitled ‘Masker tat’. I mention these because my education, my service and my experience as an actor in a sitcom encouraged me to be the storyteller I am today. I love telling stories through music videos, and that is why I am persistent in my productions and that is the reason I will keep on learning and growing in the future.
- You’ve worked with famous singers in the country, all of the big names that people love so much. How do you manage to attract singers to you?
They probably hear about me before coming to me. I do my best when making a video clip. I give it time and think of better ways to represent the song through film. The power of a song and its theme are vital. Then we have the singer’s wish to analyze and, later, we, the directors, come forward with a final vision of what the work can be like after much consideration of the song. I do take my time before I start working. I do research and take opinions of fellow crew members before I present the options of what we can do.
- What is so special about you that singers like? What makes you different?
I love symbolism. I hate banality. As a director, when I make video clips, I like giving just enough for the viewers to initiate their own imagination triggered by the symbols they see in the clips. And I am sure that, for the audience, it is more interesting and amusing to lose themselves in the wanders of what they perceive rather than having their mind led from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in order to get to point ‘C’. I can say that this is what makes my works stand out.
- There’s a clear difference between how music videos were made ten years ago and how they are being made now. Can you tell us about the transition?
First and foremost, Eritrea is producing a lot of good music videos, and that just makes me proud. It is not my field of specialization, but it is clear that art, especially theatre and film, is not like what it used to be. Things started changing only recently, leaving us in a race that we really need to catch on fast. The same was true for video clips. Music videos were always made but there was a pattern, a style, which was the same to all music videos being made.
Most of the music videos were predictable and so people didn’t care much. Only few, of good quality, have lived through the transitional period. Luckily, now, things are different. Out of all fields of art, more than films and theater, in Eritrea, video clip is rising incredibly. I joined the industry at a transitional point. When I first started making videos the standards were in an era of transition and now they have completely evolved to a pint that we can say there is no pattern of similarity amongst music videos anymore. Talents are being exhibited; the imagination and creativity of directors, choreographers and all professionals involved are clearly stirring the whole motion of music video-making. Music videos made in Eritrea have a lot of viewership and they are just so good that most of the artists and producers consider music videos a necessary finishing touch in the production of music.
- What was the main agent of change?
Now we have a standard in the industry. People know what kind of video clip to expect, and there are professionals that can guarantee the making of good music videos. Above all, there is a huge competition amongst producers and directors of video clips. Presently, there are few video makers that have controlled the market. From my point of view this needed to happen for a standard to be introduced and also to encourage competition. This took away the opportunity of making video clips from many just because they own a camera or because they think they are good. A work of art needs to speak for itself and that happens only when you have artists who can guarantee the production of quality work that took a lot of time and imagination in the making. Now, if one video maker wants to make it, he or she needs to come up with a brand new product and hold himself or herself and fellow video makers up to a high standard.
- The production of music videos requires a lot of money and professionalism. What is the business of music videos like in Eritrea?
It’s tough. We have serious issues of budgeting. Normally, we, as video makers, should not be just thinking of YouTube when making a video. But that’s what we’re doing because that is the only source of income we have right now. We need a real flow of distribution online as it is the trend nowadays, where videos can be streamed and generate income for bigger budgets and enhanced professionalism.
- So, if the business is so tough, why do you keep on making videos?
It is my passion. I believe the hardships will one day pay off.