Radiodiffusion Internasionaal Annexe

Tiberih Tesfahuney with Assress & his Group
July 17, 2010, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Eritrea

Hadara Zikehadet

Tiberih Tesfahuney (also seen Tebereh Tesfahunegn) was born in Asmara, Eritrea in 1947. At age 11 she saw Bezunesh Bekele and Tilahun Gessesse in concert, and decided to become a musician. In 1963, she joined the Association of the Asmara Theatre, which included in its membership Ato Atowebrhan Seghid and Tewelde Redda. Her brother – Eyasu Tesfahuney – is also a successful musician.

Tesfahuney scored her biggest hit in the mid-1960s with “Tegezana Abi Hedmo” – or “Our Lovely House” (is infested with bedbugs and fleas) – which was a criticism of Ethiopia‘s occupation and was subsequently banned. This lead to her fleeing to Sweden in 1970, but that lasted only for a few years.

In 1975, Tiberih Tesfahuney returned to Eritrea and joined the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. Two years later during a battle in Adi Hawesh, a piece of shrapnel from a RPG left her deaf in her left ear. The EPLF sent her to Sudan to recover from the injury. In 1985, the EPLF office in Sudan eventually decided to send her to Germany to get treatment for her hearing. She stayed there until 1994, when she returned to Eritrea once again. Upon her return, she opened a bar called Ab Hedmo – after her favorite song – in the town of Asseb.

Tiberih Tesfahuney published her autobiography – Two Lives: A True Story – in 1999. It was originally written in Tigrigna, the majority of it has been translated into English – which you can find HERE. Tesfahuney passed away on March 1st, 2007. She was buried at Martyr’s Cemetery in Asmara.

Assress Tessema was one of the founders of the Association of the Asmara Theatre. He and his group recorded two other singles for the Philips label – “Temeharu” / “Sewit Lemlem” (PH 7-139) with Tiberih Tesfahuney and “Harestay” / “Meaza” (PH 7-180) without.

Catalog number PH 7-140 on Philips Records Ethiopia, released 1972.

Wendyifraw Weretta
August 30, 2009, 4:06 am
Filed under: Eritrea

Fikri Hesum

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.

If you have any further information, please contact me or leave a comment.

Thanks to Adamantios Kafetzis.

Catalog number K1 on Kothari Records of Eritrea, released 1976. Manufactured in Greece by EMI.

Negash Tekie / Mulugeta Tlahun
November 1, 2008, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Eritrea

Negash Tekie Atibreie

Mulugeta Tlahun & Negash Tekie Yewyen Abebaie

There have been quite a few times in the past year, when I have considered throwing in the towel and calling Radiodiffusion Internasionaal quits. I’ll admit that there has a been a few records that I have posted that I haven’t been all that crazy about. And there’s been more than a handful of posts that have been cranked out in thirty minutes or less… The time and money… It gets to be a bit much. Then, a record like this falls into my hands.

After I managed to get my eyeballs back in their sockets and scraped my jaw off of the floor… I was reminded of why I do this. This is what it is all about. Right here. Two sides of pure joy.

Reality begins to set back in, and the questions start to come… Who were these people? Who concocted these otherworldly sounds from the intersection of The Modern and The Traditional? The mysteries that a record without a sleeve poses… I cannot deny that there is an almost fetish allure of non-Latin characters… What language is that? What does it say?

Of course, there is almost no information available. All I can tell you is that Negash Tekie performed in London in 2002 at a benefit for Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights. But for Mulugeta Tlahun… I got nothing. I do know that the type along the bottom of the label reads: “Ye Eritrea Te. Gi. (Teklay Gizat) Police Muziqa Kifil” which translates as “Province of Eritrea Police – Division of Music”.

As for the label, Emporio Musicale, I am assuming that the person responsible is “Cav. E. Cipriani” (since Eritrea was ruled by Italy from 1890 to 1940) and that he (or she) was based in the capitol city of Asmara. But that’s just a guess… The only other record I have seen on this label, was in rough shape.

If you have any information on either of these artists, or any of the other records that were released on this label, please contact me.

Thanks to Adamantios Kafetzis and Peter Piper for getting the Tigrinya translated for me.

Now back to chasing the vinyl dragon

Catalog number ER 5 / ER 6 on Emporio Musicale of Asmara, Eritrea. No other information available.

Ato Atowebrhan Seghid
June 24, 2008, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Eritrea

Bekutaki Wolel

Ato Atowebrhan Seghid (also known as Ato Abirha Segid, Atoberhan Segid, Ateweberhan Seghid) was from Eritrea

Eritrea, officially the State of Eritrea, is a country situated in northern East Africa. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The east and northeast of the country have an extensive coastline on the Red Sea, directly across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Modern Eritrean popular music can be traced back to the late 1960s, when the Mahber Theatre Asmara began to produce stars like Yemane Ghebremichael (also known as Yemane Baria), Osman Abdurehim, Tewolde Redda, Tiberih Tesfahuney, Tsehaytu Beraki and Yonus Ibrahim. Thier music was influenced by American psychedelic rock and Motown soul music. In the 1970s, Eritrean popular music grew more similar to Ethiopian music, in its Jazz-based style.

Since then, some musicians, like kraar-player Dawit Sium have helped to incorporate Eritrean roots elements in popular music with imported styles of music from Europe, North America, and elsewhere in Africa, as well as the Caribbean.

In 2003, the Government of Eritrea banned Amharic language music. Amharic (Ethiopian) music used to be imported much like west African or western music, but none was ever produced in Eritrea. Although some can understand Amharic, no one born and raised in Eritrea speaks Amharic as their mother toungue.

I was unable to find any information about Ato Atowebrhan Seghid, nor the label Dejene, with the exception that they released a single by Alèmayehu Eshété.

Catalog number DJ-0011 on Dejene. Pressed in Greece. No release date given.