What's Motivating Ethiopian Singers to Copy Eritrean Songs?
|Eritrean musicians Saed Berhanu and Robel Michael|
What's Motivating Ethiopian Singers to Copy Eritrean Songs?
Some say imitation is the ultimate form of flattery. While that's true to a certain degree, I think it depends on the context, too. For instance, Ethiopian pop singer Jacky Gosee recently released a single called 'Fiyameta', which samples Eritrean musician Fitsum Yohannes' 1991 hit song 'Netsanet' (Independence) without permission. This has rubbed many Eritreans the wrong way, not because they are against the idea of sampling or renditions of their songs, but because they feel many Ethiopians have been taking Eritrean intellectual property for purposes other than profit.
One of those purposes is aimed at influencing Eritrean peoples' sentiments towards their independence and Ethiopia. We see this all the time from Ethiopian musicians. For example, Teddy Afro, the Britney Spears of Ethiopia, regularly mentions Eritrea and Eritreans in his music and at his concerts. He sings about Eritrean and Ethiopian families being 'split' by Eritrea's independence ("Dahlak" song), how beautiful Eritrean women are ("Fiyorina" song) and sings about "unity" between both countries all behind a shield of love music to spread subtle messages against Eritrea's independence. Keep in mind, this is a man who sees Haile Selassie, a ruthless tyrant who is responsible for the deaths hundreds of thousands of Eritreans and Ethiopians, as a hero. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Teddy and other Ethiopian musicians like him, are using love songs and the media as a cover to spread their subtle anti-Eritrean independence gospel. It's a tactic Ethiopian politicians have perfected over the years.
Since the 1940s, the Ethiopian ruling class have been trying to persuade Eritreans through music and the media for their political objectives. Some Ethiopians even used to say on state TV that Amharic is a romantic language, while Tigrinya is not in order for Eritreans to surrender their mother tongue. The thinking was if Eritreans speak Amharic and adopt the Amhara culture, they would be less inclined to seek independence. Saying Amharic is a romantic language is a subtle trick to give the perception that Amharic is something special that needs to be learned. Of course, if you repeat a subjective opinion enough times, people will buy into it. Just ask the French about how they fooled the world into thinking their language is romantic.
Eritreans make it, Ethiopians take it?
Ethiopian piracy is not just limited to Eritrean music. Since the 1990s, many Ethiopians have been reproducing Eritrean books, films, comedies, arts, plays and clothing designs without the consent of the Eritrean property owners. Part of the reason is because the wayward regime in Addis Ababa is allergic to respecting international laws, and condones intellectual property theft of non-Ethiopians. But another less talked about phenomenon that is motivating many Ethiopians to bootleg and reproduce Eritrean content is simply because it's preferred over their own, especially in Tigray, where the current oligarchs of Ethiopia hail from.
In 2011, Mohammed Selaman, a reporter for the South Africa-based Mail and Guardian, wrote an article about Eritrean music, film, drama and TV are dominating cinema houses, restaurants, recreation centers, bars, and airwaves in Tigray.
"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 described the Ethiopian city of Mekele as being "engulfed in Eritrean music", where the three government owned FM stations play Eritrean music non-stop, albeit much to the regime's disapproval.
One popular local disk jockey named Amanuel even disclosed to Selaman that around 90% of the songs being requested and played at the clubs are of Eritrean. "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, Mekele citizens still preferred Eritrean films. As a result, his shop advertises throughout the city with notices of the next Eritrean film being released.
What Seleman's piece shows is there is a high demand for Eritrean music and films in Tigray and in the capital, Addis Ababa. You can imagine all those Eritrean DVDs and CDs being sold were pirated goods, which means all the profit that should be going to the Eritrean content creators is going to Ethiopians who pirated their work. This high demand for Eritrean music and film also fuels a demand for artists to be more Eritrean-like, which is why we're seeing more and more Ethiopians sampling/copying Eritrean songs and materials.
Modernizing Eritrean music
Although Eritrean songs are in high demand in many parts of Ethiopia, that does not mean Eritrean music is where it needs to be. Eritrean music needs to embrace modernity. Music isn't just music, it's a form of political and economic influence - a softpower. To their credit, Ethiopian musicians have done a better job at embracing modernity than Eritrean musicians have. Due to the significant economic benefits to be had, Eritrean music needs to modernize itself for a global audience. Artists such as Abraham Afewerki, EriAm Sisters, Fihira, Dehab Faytinga, and Selam Yemane have already given us samples of how it can sound like.
The following list showcases Eritrean songs that have been duplicated by Ethiopians in the last decade or so. There are dozens more but these are just a few that came to mind:
- The Ethiopian song "Fikri Ewur" is a copy of two different songs belonging to Osman Abdelrahim. A YouTube link of the second song was not found, but it does feature the exact beat and most of the lyrics present on the Ethiopian version.
- Although Asgedom Weldemichael created the song Saba Sabina, it was the late Tekle Tesfazghi's rendition of the song that Ethiopians have copied.
- Efrem Belay is not the original singer of the song "Tegayshe". His best friend from Barentu, Mengisteab Gebregergish, is. However, Efrem's version of the song is the version Ethiopian singers have copied.
What's Motivating Ethiopian Singers to Copy Eritrean Songs? Reviewed by Admin on 3:31 PM Rating: