Qal is the Beginning of All Things!

By Milka Teklom

In Eritrea, mase and melkes, poetry recited at important events such as weddings and funerals, were very common in the past but aren’t practiced as often today. Urbanization and the pop culture might have influenced the Eritrean youth to neglect the two art forms. Singers who tried in the past to fuse elements of these art forms into their music didn’t have much following. However, some courageous rappers are now doing it successfully and entertaining us with modern music that we can call our own. Saddor, our guest today, is one of them.

  • Thank you for your time. Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to get into making music?

My name is Saddor Gezaie. I was born and raised in Asmara where I am still living in. I studied computer engineering at the Institute of Technology in Mainefhi for a while until I decided to focus on my music. It was my childhood fantasy to work with computers and technology. Deep down, though, I figured music was my thing. So, I finally convinced myself to do it full time. While we are there I’d like to thank my cousin who influenced me to listen to music from a young age. The songs I were listening to were in English and I didn’t know what the lyrics meant. But the feeling those songs left in me is unforgettable. As time went by, I started understanding and reciting the lyrics and even did a bit of public performance here and there.

  • When did you do your first performance? How did it feel?

I did my first performance when I was in Limeat high school. There was an event and I performed at Junior Club with my friends, Biniam and Foziya. Honestly, at the time I didn’t know whether our performance was good or mediocre. But when I think about it now we were just beginners and didn’t master the art; so the audience’s response was understandable. After that experience we had a couple of performances at school and then I headed to Sawa for the national service. Sawa provided good ground for performances. After Sawa I joined college and focused on my education, but there were some opportunities to perform, especially at the intra-college and intercollege contests. The crowd there was very motivating. That experience influenced me to divert my attention to music. Then I started performing at clubs and the feedback was even more motivating, assuring me that I could do it. Then I released an album.

  • What is your album called and what’s its content?

My album is called Qal, it’s an extended play (EP). The reason I called it Qal, which means ‘word’ in Tigrinya, is to emphasize the power of words. When we speak we use words to express our thoughts and influence people. I wrote all the lyrics and melody in that EP. For me, the making of the album was energy consuming; it took more than a year and is my first experience. Another reason it was energy consuming is that at that time I was in the phase of learning to integrate elements of our culture into the modern melodies I was creating. This phase started when I created a track called Tehambele, which I produced within 38hrs. It’s about the traditional Tigrinya song/ dance. While producing that track I realized how rich our culture is. I’ve been listening to different genres of music since childhood but in the past I was focusing more on foreign songs.

After producing Tehambele, I promised to dig deep and to read more about our traditional music and songs in order to incorporate them into my music. I was particularly fascinated by the ability of Massenetat and Alakesti (traditional poets) in history. I would like to spread their poetry through my music targeting the youth who believe that rapping must be done only in English.

As I promised, I’ve strived to include traditional musical instruments like Wata in my music. In the track called Bera, there is a singer called Ahmed Mohammed aka Hamuji featuring in Saho. I produced it with Amen production with my guys namely Fithawi G/ hiwet and Meley Abrham.

  • How would you rate Eritrean rap music?

Honestly speaking, I am not in a position to rate anybody since everyone is doing their thing. But I would like to stress on the richness of our culture. Like the Tigrinya melkes and masse, there are traditional poems and music with their distinct characteristics in every ethnic group in our country that can be fused into rap music. Therefore, we should work hard to study them and incorporate them into our productions so that the young generation can taste them and be proud of who they are.

  • What’s your future plan?

My future plan is to make greater albums enriched with our culture by collaborating with different ethnic group singers and rappers. I also want to learn my own language further. I’ve realized what I know now is just not enough.

  • Thank you for your time and we wish you good luck!