Filed under: Eritrea
For those of you who have been following the site with any sort of regularly, you know that one of the things that has really blown my mind, is the music of Eritrea. Of the four singles I have been able to find from there, three of them have left me utterly gobsmacked.
I am sure I have uttered at some point in these hundred eighty some odd posts, that the process of discovery is what I live for. And when you discover something entirely new – at least to your own ears – it makes it yours. Of course, this music was never supposed to be “yours” in the first place. This music was never intended for you or I to ever hear… That is, unless you are Eritrean. And even then, these records were hard to find.
Eritrea wasn’t even recognized as a country until 1993, two years after they gained their independence. Conquered by Italy in 1890, then invaded by the English in WWII, Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia in December 1950. In 1959, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I handed down an edict making the teaching of Amharic, the primary language of Ethiopia, in all Eritrean schools mandatory instead of the native Tigrinya. The Eritrean Struggle for Independence began two years later, following Haile Selassie I’s dissolution of the federation and shutting down of Eritrea’s parliament. And conditions only worsened under the Marxist military junta known as the Derg after they deposed the Emperor in 1974.
Music from Eritrea, as well as the northern territory of Ethiopia of the Tigray people, was heavily suppressed by the Derg. According to the liner notes of Buda Musique’s Ethiopiques, Vol. 5: Tigrigna, records “were sometimes buried in peoples’ yards to avoid detection” and that many of the musicians went on to fight in the war for Eritrean independence.
I have not been able find any information about Wendyifraw Weretta or the label Kothari. Tekle Adhanom, who was the arranger on this single, was a well known guitarist who also recorded with Alèmayèhu Eshèté and Beyene Fire.
Thanks to Adamantios Kafetzis.