Mohammed Selaman of the South 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 Mekelle 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 to the Mail and Guardian.
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", 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.
To read more on this topic, visit here.
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)|