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Eritrean music dominates in Ethiopia

Northern Ethiopians prefer Eritrean music and entertainment over their own

Mohammed Selaman, a reporter for the African-based Mail and Guardian, wrote an article about Eritrean music, film, and culture dominating Ethiopia's cinema houses, restaurants, recreation centers, bars, and airwaves.

The report describes Eritrean music and entertainment being preferred by Ethiopians over their own, particularly in northern Ethiopia, where Eritrean music has completely become the undisputed preference of the people.

"Traditional restaurants blare Eritrean music, notice boards and cinema houses announce the schedule for Eritrean movies and glossy posters of Eritrean music stars decorate coffee houses.", Selaman wrote.

Selaman goes on to describe the Ethiopian city of Mek'elle as becoming "engulfed in Eritrean music", where the three government owned FM stations play Eritrean music non-stop, albeit much to the regime's disapproval.

A popular local disk jockey named Amanuel disclosed around 90% of the songs being requested and played are of Eritrean music. "Even at their weddings the grooms urged me to play Eritrean," Amanuel revealed.

Amanuel also owns a DVD store where he sells a diverse selection of foreign films. Despite the diverse selection he offers, Mek'elle citizens still prefer Eritrean films. As a result, his shop advertises throughout the city with notices of the next Eritrean film being released.

The article went on to highlight Ethiopian youths regularly flock to recreation centers every weekend to watch Eritrean dramas and shows on big screens, with no competition from Ethiopian TV to match.


The reporter insensitively describes Tigray people's language as being a "twisted" version of the type of Tigrinya that's spoken in Eritrea. He failed to recognize this "twisted" Tigray language is actually a different dialect of Tigrinya that linguists classify as the "Tigray dialect". Linguists also categorize the Tigrinya spoken in Eritrea as being the "Asmara dialect". The Asmara dialect and the Tigray dialect of Tigrinya have phonological, morphological, syntaxical, and lexical differences that lead to many linguistic estrangement when communication is attempted between the two different dialects.

During the conclusion of his report, Mr. Selaman states these people (refering to northern Ethiopians and Eritreans) were at one point in history "one". This opinion is obviously wrong on many levels. For starters, it assumes Eritreans are an ethnic group, when that's not the case. In fact, there are as many as 14 ethnic groups in Eritrea (Tigre, Tigrinya, Saho, Afar, Kunama, Nara, Elit, Dahlik, Balaw, Hidareb, Blin, Rashaida, Adeni, and Tokharir). It also assumes Tigrayans are homogeneous people, which isn't true at all. For example, Tigrayans such as the Raya and Azebo are recent assimilated Oromos, while many parts of Tigray are Agaw-speakers who assimilated to speaking the Tigray dialect of Tigrinya. Furthermore, many parts of Tigray, such as the Welkiat region (western Tigray) generally don't regard themselves as being of the Tigray identity and many speak Arabic and Amharic as a first language, rather than the Tigray dialect.

Lastly, ethnic identity is a recent European construct that first started appearing around the late 19th century AD. It was not till 1945 that the word "ethnicity" specifically started representing "a member of a particular ethnic group"[1], before this period, groups of people were regarded by their villages, their regions or by their family names. Moreover, the most important factor of determining ethnicity isn't speaking a similar language or sharing a common lineage (real or imagined), it's the psychological aspect of it, as professor Joshua A. Fishman states:

The psychological dimension of ethnicity is perhaps the most important because, regardless of variations in the biological, cultural, and social domains, if a person self-identifies as a member of a particular ethnic group, then he or she is willing to be perceived and treated as a member of that group. Thus, self-ascribed and other-ascribed ethnic labels are the overt manifestations of individuals' identification with a particular ethnicity.[2]

To read more on this topic, visit here.

Intellectual capital

Since independence, a mini-renaissance like growth in intellectual capital has been taken place within Eritrea. Eritrean music, plays, books, film, and drama have, in many ways, come to dominate the Horn of Africa region. As developed nations move away from a commodity based economy to an economy sustained on intellectual property, Eritrea is in great position to capitalize on this trend if copyright laws were signed and enforced by sub-Saharan African nations. Unfortunately, the laws in place are rarely enforced, which enable Eritrean music, films, and literature to be pirated by neighboring countries without paying any royalties to the original artist.

                                                   Photos of Eritrean singers
                                                      [click on image to see larger quality]
Superstar singers and childhood friends Elsa Kidane and Helen Meles
Tesfalem Arefaine (Qorchach) with a fan
Said Berhanu on tour in Europe
Legend of legends, Yemane Gebremichael aka Yemane Barya (RIP)

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Eritrean music dominates in Ethiopia Reviewed by Admin on 5:27 AM Rating: 5


  1. It's true! Not only Northern Ethiopians, but all Ethiopians. In addis Ababa, the clubs blast Eritrean music and watch Eritrean TV. No one likes Ethiopian TV because it sucks and the Ethiopian regime is hated, so we find other TV channels that bring real news about Ethiopia.

  2. Dont blame them...what can i say u doesnt like Eritrean music!!!!

  3. Now we need to work on Eritrean Afar to dominated the music in Djibuti and Somalia and Ethiopia. 2nd We need to work hard also on Tigre and hidarb thats is to play big role in Sudan. 3rd one is to combine them and make new genre like the Asmara all stars have done. Thank you !!

  4. I forget also to mantion arabic. We need to improve it if we want to play bigger role in sudan and Arabic world. for expamle in Palestina, Eritv is one of the most favorite tv station in the country !! Eriboyy

  5. I can't believe with so much in common, meles chenawi is asking for sanctions to his masters on Eritrea, so that he can starve the Eritrean people just like what he is doing to the somali people. somebody tell meles at the end of the day the Eritrean and Tigrayan people are brother and destined to be neighbours for life. Meles stop the hate, to the people who did the most in your life.

  6. don't exaggerated the condition why the north ethiopian people are prefereing to listen eritrean music it is mainly because it is Tigrigna the language in which both tigrians and Eritreans are used to speak. In fact there is nothing that make the Tigray people not to listen the Eritrean music because they share the same tradition and language and over all they are brothers deriving from the same blood have the same way of living and customs. Therefore, the eritrean music is never been new or inexperienced by the Tigray people so don't exaggerate the condition.

  7. How about amharic music ?? Your shabia fighers used to listen to Efrem tamiru's tune during the whole 30 years of struggle. Nothing new here !!

  8. Music is a universal language, good music is accepted everywhere even in places where they do not understand the language. Eritreans who used to live in Ethiopia like Amhara culture, due to obvious cultural domination, and they attend concerts and buy CDs even long after the two nations split. By nature, Eritreans are open minded people, they enjoy life and what it has to offer. To the contrary, Ethiopians (Amhara and Oromo) do not attend Eritrean concerts and do not buy Eritrean CDs. They do not want to acknowledge Eritrea as a different political entity much less as a neighboring nation, and do not accept Eritrean culture as much as Eritreans do accept Ethiopian culture. It can be explained that Amhara culture was the dominant culture and Eritrean culture has only been practiced within Eritrea. Amhara, Oromo, and Amharanized-Tigreans like Sudanese better than Eritrean music. Somehow, they resent Eritrea for it is an independent nation that used to be under their control, and surprisingly Eritreans do not care about who likes them and who does not, they keep on enjoying life while appreciating the art of music.

  9. I'm not going to lie, Eritrean music is dominating Ethiopia. Everywhere in Addis, they are playing Helen Meles, Abraham Afwerki and other Eritrean singers. Even our singers are copying Eritrean music and playing them in Amharic. We need to stop letting politics blind us and be honest with ourselves. Eritrean TV is far, far, far better than any African TV channel in our region (have u seen ETV, it is AWFUL and painful to watch). Eritrean music is popular in Ethiopia because they have mastered a unique brand and aren't copying anyone - they have their own style and their stage presence and passion and lyrics are second to none. In Ethiopia, our singers are confused, they don't know what to copy - sometimes they copy Jamaicans, other times they copy Eritreans, other times they copy West Africans. They need to work on lyrical content and stop singing about love non-stop.

  10. eritrean music isthe best

  11. u r right about singing non-stop love songs. i personal like tigrina music even if i don't understand the language. a lot of bars and clubs play tigrina music in addis, but i was not aware of weather it is eritrians or not. anyway, music is a universal language, if it is good, evey body will appreciate it.
    this days in ethiopia, songs from the souther ethiopia(especially welayita) and tigrina are dominating.

    one love

  12. queens of tigrigna muic, followed by the ushers and warsais of modern tigrigna music and then there is the GODFATHER of both tradition and modern guaila muic. you gotta love it!

  13. Its not that its "dominating". Its people prefer to hear music of their tribal language. If music is good everyone is going to listen to it, but it goes both ways. One is not dominating over another. Eritrean music legends are always played, because once upon a time they were classified as Ethiopian singers. I know for a fact when Kobeley came out, it blew up in eritrea, and its an ethiopian song. I dont know who runs this blog but you might understand Eritrean culture, but you obviously dont know much about Ethiopian, Tigray culture. Many of the things you have posted are incorrect. I have love for everyone in my tibe, on both sides of the boarders, as well as my country Ethiopia. But this blog lacks the needed incite and information. Its more of a rumor site.

  14. This article is completely rubish and the writer has failed to see music in isolation to politics. The message sounds that Ethiopian singers are making eritrean flavourd songs for nothing more than political ends by ETH government. And he claimed that the growing demand (of Ethiopian's taste) to Eritrean music as nothing less than an act of theft by Ethiopian audience. But as for me, if your assertion has any true substances, then your alleged vast audiences in Ethiopia would become a prospective market opportunity for your country's music industry. Ofcourse, this may require great effort ranging from political commitment by leaders of both nations to the positive promotion of peace, love & brotherhood between the people & by the people. There is already a good start from the Ethiopians side something of praiseworthy as humorstic notions are being reflected in their modern songs.

    I wounder why the writer comes against the idea of natural brotherhood between the two East African nations when both neighbores have several common grounds worth of sharing & benefiting eachother.

  15. In part, We might share the fact that Eritrean love songs (except "the warmongers") are fairly liked & acceptable in many urban area of Ethiopian. I my self seldom listen to them when I feel like too including Sudanise & Malian songs.

    If this is the fact, Should we accept in a while your comments down below. Did they comes to arrive right here-just at the wall after 2 years? Or are u involved in rearanging the "time" itself? This is embarasing! ... copying what has been posted 2 years a go by some anonymos & making use of it to debunk one's argument at this session is an evident proof of ur straight-dishonesty to the very principles u have been pressing to be uphold by the people/country whom u alleged to have been involved in the acts of piracy. u were indeed supposed, by the same principle, to come up with one of ur own fresh comment in this moment to help u substantiate ur argument of music-piracy. How dare u come to condemn one for open piracy whilest the same act by you be exempt. isn't it double standard? you r indeed a self-defeated loser ER. Soory to say so.


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