Producing Eritrean music in the diaspora works in a quite unique way. Because of this, we are concentrating our third episode of Exile Guayla on the production and the vocals. The legendary singer Abrar Osman is joined by the female newcomer singer Senait Hadish and the traditional singer and studio owner Yohannes Gebre. The trio talks about the long way an Eritrean song has to make from scratch until it is released and the importance of poems in the lyrics.
How to Produce Eritrean Music
When we met Seare way back in March for our first interview, he mentioned sending vocal files via Whatsapp to Ethiopia for mixing and recording. Over the time we heard this quote from more and more singers and thought we should dig into it. A lot of Eritrean singers in Switzerland were mentioning a «studioman called John» as the guy in Switzerland who records all the vocals. Luckily for us, and thanks once again to the good Eritrean network, it was incredibly easy to get in touch with him and so we met up for an interview. Yohannes (John) lives in a small village in the outskirts of Bern where he set up a tiny studio to record vocals in his apartment. During the interview he showed us the whole and unique process of recording Eritrean music. He described why it’s necessary to send the files to Ethiopia, how they send it and how a Guayla song is put together.
With the rise of tablets and professional apps it is now possible to record vocals on a simple iPad. Senait Hadish got the idea from a friend after she was getting annoyed by always having to stop recording because it was so expensive. Senait explained how the vocal recording works in a smaller scenario and that almost everyone could do it. But she has to send the files to Ethiopia as well. She told us that it can take up to three months to get the files back. Senait is currently working on a few songs. At the end of our interview, she told us about the importance of lyrics in the Eritrean music.
Senait writes her songs with a friend. She normally brings up the ideas and he turns them into a poem or text. She finds inspiration in daily events. For example the refugee crisis or the situation in Eritrea. An important thing in Eritrean lyrics are metaphors. Because people cannot openly speak their mind, they transform their thoughts into a metaphor. This is the only way how you can send out a critical message, for example anti governmental thoughts. A poet told us, that these metaphors, which are included in the poem, are essential for the Eritrean music. He explained that poems are lyrics and that the lyrics and the music need to match. It’s something that is pretty unusual for todays music, he says. We will upload a video of him presenting a poem soon.
To get Swiss people more in touch with the Eritrean culture and language we asked a few Swiss people to read an Eritrean Joke in Tigrinya, the most spoken Eritrean language. We found the joke with the help of our online community. A young Eritrean messaged us on Instagram and sent us a lot of jokes. If you watch it, you get a really good feeling about how different the language is compared to our own.
Fascinated by all these wonderful lyrics we got the chance to have an interview with Abrar Osman. He was described as the Eritrean Dalai-lama by other people when we told them that we’re going to interview him. At the time we met him, he modestly introduced himself as «a singer from Eritrea». Through the interview he talked about many interesting things, but the statement which caught our attention instantly was that he wants to develop Eritrean music. Eritrean music has stayed the same for many years. Therefore we will keep following his journey to see what kind of impact his ideas will have in the future of Eritrean music.
To see our other episodes about Eritrean bands and the Eritrean style of dance make sure to check out our other articles or our social media pages. If you have any inputs, comments, contacts or questions don’t hesitate to contact us through one of our many channels: Facebook – YouTube – Instagram – Snapchat: exileguayla – Whatsapp.