“If We, all Artists, Work in Unity, our Country’s Melodies Would be Known Worldwide,” Salem

By Luwam Kahsay H.

Our guest today is Salem Goitom, an aspiring young artist craving for the highest achievement in all her work. Though young, she shoulders big responsibilities as a teacher, singer and mother, which all require working hard with dedication.

  • What got you into art?

I would say I got into art mainly due to my talent discovered at different occasions. I first discovered I had the talent when I was in 11th grade singing to boost the morale of my soccer team. I got invited by Hareg Cultural Group at Keih Bahri Secondary School where I sang “Ti gezana” by Teberih Tesfahuney (a legendary Eritrean singer) our country. Then I went to Sawa for my national service and won as the star at the National Youth Festival of the 26th round. Then I went to college.

  • How many artistic works have you produced?

I have so far released two songs, and one is on the way. But all in all I have produced ten, including soundtracks. But it was my singing of one of Tsehaytu Beraki’s songs that got me well recognized.

  • Tell us your school life.

I did my elementary schooling at Dahlak Elementary and then went to Natsenet Junior Secondary School. After attending Keyhbahri High School, I went to Sawa as a member of the 26th round. I joined the College of Arts and Social Sciences at Adikeyh and earned a diploma in Fine Art with a good grade.

  • Did your upbringing influence you to be involved in art?

Surprisingly, not at all. But my neighborhood, Kagnew, did influence me a lot because most of my neighbors were somehow involved in art. I believe it was my talent that got me into art in addition to my parents’ support. My parents are very well acquainted with art, particularly my dad. He has a good taste for poems and always gives me his opinion regarding my work. And so does my mom.

  • Were you able to maintain a balance between school work and art in college?

The moment I joined college I was accepted in a well talented family of youngsters who had a big interest in art and academic work. In those days most of the college activities involved art such as drama, poetry, songs and dances. I experienced art in my daily life. What helped me most with maintaining a balance between school and art was time management. Most students knew what to do and when to do it. For instance, activities related to art were usually held after dinner. College life was more like living in a helpful family in every aspect. That’s why it was not difficult for me.

  • After graduating from college, you were assigned to work as a teacher. Did this create any obstacle for you to start singing as a career?

At the beginning, as with most youngsters, it was hard because teaching is a demanding job and gives you the responsibility of looking after students and their needs. But with the help of experienced teachers at Awet Elementary and Junior Secondary School, I was able to manage my time.

  • How do you manage as a mom?

I have two kids — a five-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. To be honest it is very difficult. I had to go to school leaving my six-month daughter home. I then would use any time I could find at work to go back home to breastfeed her and go back to work again. I was always running. The good thing, though, is my parents have always been by my side. Their presence in my life was and is crucial.

  • The reaction of your students as an artist…

I can say I have two personalities, one as a teacher and another as an artist. Initially I began as a teacher but when I started appearing on the media, not only my students but also my supervisors were surprised. I handle myself very professionally at school, as a teacher. I do that because I have to. I want to be an example for my students. I want them to understand that no matter how valuable a career is it means nothing without education.

  • How do your students’ parents feel about you?

No one necessarily starts as a professional in his or her career. You get to that stage by learning from and correcting your mistakes. And a teacher learns all the time while teaching, personally and professionally.

Parents entrust us with their children and their feedback is very important for teachers. Parents of my children are very appreciative of what I do, and I believe that is because I try to do my job by treating my students like my siblings.

  • What do you do for your career development?

I love reading. I read different types of books, including those related to my profession. To take care of my voice I always do warm ups. I pay attention in choosing poems and rhythms by using helpful references as I desire to make our nine ethnic group melody known worldwide. I enroll in courses offered by associations such as the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students. Believing that I know nothing helps me to use every opportunity to learn.

  • Your message to beginners in art.

I suggest they use every opportunity they find to learn. They should yearn for education that could help them improve.

  • Your future plans …

From the many plans I have I would like to get a vocal scholarship and release four or five songs of my own instead of one in a year. I want to work for the melodies of all nine Eritrean ethnic groups to be known internationally. I am sure if we, all artists, work in unity, our country’s melodies would be known worldwide like others.

  • Thank you for your time.