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Jan 20/08

Eritrea Week: Yemane Baria

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 15:14

Yemane BariaIt’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:

Yemane Barya – Unknown

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13 Responses to “Eritrea Week: Yemane Baria”


  1. Thanks Matt! Right on!


  2. The “predominance of Amharic in Eritrean daily life” only became a tortuos reality by the burning of all Tigrigna and Arabic books by the occupying Ethiopian state.

    Ethiopia banned the public use of all Eritrean languages. Simply possessing Tigrigna music would land you in jail, or worse.

    There are no native speakers of Amharic in Eritrea, zero.

    Two picks from Youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTPQUOFtv_8
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1pc8E_V4o4


  3. Thanks for those YouTube links, Awet. That Wedi Tikabo video is interesting – I was actually going to post a link to it tomorrow.

    I should also say that while I don’t question that Eritrean culture was repressed by Ethiopia during the war, Eritrean authorities banned Amharic music in 2003. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2632399.stm) Censorship is never a good thing… on either side.


  4. While temporarily banning Amharic music in public places in the aftermath of the Badme war was a truly asinine move by the Eritrean authorities, no Eritrean was ever incarcated, tortured or disappeared if they violated the ban.

    During the occupation Ethiopia tried to ethiopianize Eritrea by declaring everything that was Eritrean a crime. Even the people itself.
    Yemane, amongst others, fought this.

    Ethiopians have soul. However, they gave Eritreans the blues. For three decades.

    http://www.justinhillauthor.com/Justin%20Hill%20-%20Ciao%20Asmara%20extract.htm


  5. Anyway, just want to say thanks for the Eritrea Week!

    One more video:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=926901630681135613&q=eritrea+site%3Avideo.google.com&total=261&start=30&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=2


  6. great post, thanks. this week just started to look a whole better!


  7. i am sorry no more asmera b/c it sacks, i dont want to see my mom dressing white begging in every corner. no more fun eritrean. who cares about yemane baria or wedy tekul all we re stupides ok.


  8. asmera is heaven and i love asmera, and thanks for yemane baryas music i love it keep posting it all a have to say is woooooooooooooow


  9. stop talking bad thing about ethiopia, u got ur “independence”, and we are seeing what the independence myth is bringing to Eritrean people. It was a war fought for an independence myth


  10. Ethiopia 4 ever!


  11. YEMANE BARIA IS THE STARS OF THE STAR IN MY LIFE


  12. Yemane baria is the best of all ethio-ertirea musucians


  13. yemane barya music i love it keep posting his song & his picture, if u got by any chance his picture pls i want buy it. tnx all of u


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