It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Eritrea Week here at Benn loxo.
Following a comment by listener and stellar DJ, Boima, I decided to give Eritrea a go. We’ve heard lots from Ethiopia in the past but never ventured north.
I’m an Eritrea beginner so as usual if you have any contributions or something to say about my picks please leave a comment. On that note, have any of you ever been to Asmara? It looks like an interesting place to visit. All that modernist architecture plus a rich culture that gets little exposure next to its well-known neighbour.
Apologies in advance for all the “unknown” track titles and the shoddy recording quality of the some of the music I’ll post this week. I wanted to find contemporary Eritrean music that is actually popular with Eritreans so I used message boards, video sties, online radio and other sources instead of the lacklustre selection of Eritrean music that I’ve been able to find in Paris or for sale in Europe online.
We’ll start off the week with Yemane “Ghebremichael” Baria (sometimes spelled “Barya” in English). From what I can tell he’s easily the most popular contemporary musician in Eritrea, even though he died over ten years ago. You can find Eritreans singing his praise all over the net.
Baria was heavily involved in Eritrean politics, particularly the fight for independence from Ethiopia . He was also a strong advocate for establishing Eritrean identity – for example he promoted and sung in the Tigrinya language, the “Eritrean language”, despite the predominance of Amharic in Eritrean daily life. More on Tigrinya (sometimes spelled Tigrigna) later this week…
I’m no Eritrea expert and don’t speak a lick of Tigrinya so what grabbed me most about this guy wasn’t his politics. It’s his soul. I love classic Ethiopian and Tigrinya music from the 1960s and 70s. Think Broken Flowers, Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayhu Eschete… that whole crowd are some of my favourite African musicians from this side of the 20th century. Yemane Baria has a similar thing going on.. funky Eritrea. Who knew.
Check-out this video of a live Yemane Barya concert and you’ll see/hear right away what I mean:
Here’s another more recent video to get a feel for his newer style:
Lstly, here’s a nice track that I picked up in some Ertirean corner of the web:eritrea, tigrinya