By Amanuel Biedemariam,
As I left the Eritrean DC Festival Grounds, I stopped in one of the tents to explore new products. Layne Tadesse stood inside the tent, and he asked me if I had his new CD? I said, no.,
I bought the CD and listened to it on the long drive back from the festival grounds in Maryland to my residence in Virginia.
I had no expectation or awareness of Layne’s music except what I saw on YouTube during the Sawa Festival a few years back. However, I was hungry to listen to some good music. Layne’s Awet N Hafsh CD is a brilliant surprise beyond what I expected.
Eritrean musicians have been churning great music, especially after independence. However, by default, Eritrean musicians are limited to their Eritrean followers because Eritrean music is yet to be discovered by the international community.
Moreover, Eritrea is facing tremendous hostility from the west with deliberate design to defame and isolate Eritrea by presenting a narrative that suppresses the vast cultural riches that Eritrea possesses. In elementary schools in Sweden, the teachers subject Eritrean children to anti-Eritrea rhetoric from an early age. They tell them horrific stories about Eritrea not suitable for children deliberately to separate Eritrea from future generations by planting doubt.
Eritreans face constant fabrications that they must rebuff to protect their country’s image and themselves. That means they have to fight back harder to present Eritrea in good light. In the process, it becomes harder to promote Eritrea’s rich cultures and arts.
In contrast to African and other international artists, Eritreans have not fared well for a number of factors. African Artists like Baba Maal, Yousun Dur, Ali Farka Toure, Miriam Makeba, Angelique Kidjo, etc., have had tremendous international success.
They managed to marry their traditional music with modern popular music. And by injecting English lyrics into their songs internationalized it. That helped them to reach more significant audiences globally.
There are many reasons why Eritrean musicians lagged in recognition, the key being the struggle for independence. The struggle forced Eritrean music to go underground and to the battlefields. In the process, it disadvantaged Eritrean music and artists. Musicians lost their bases, musical instruments, and the creative environment they needed to compete. Eritrea music remained within Eritrea and served as an inspirational tool that sustained Eritrea during the struggle.
In a way, our enemies achieved in suppressing our music. They aimed to destroy Eritrea’s customs, culture, traditions, and music because they wanted to kill Eritrean nationalism. However, Eritreans fought to regain their ways, and music was one way they fought to regain Eritrea’s place in music and arts.
That is what compelled me to write my view on Layne’s CD, Awet-N Hafash , which means “Victory for The Masses,” a philosophy Eritreans live by. It represents the spirit, and legacy of the struggle.
It is also an excellent opportunity to expose Layne Tadesse to the world.
Layne managed to fuse Tigigna Lyrics into Reggae in fascinating ways. Awet-N-Hafash is daring, sophisticated, easy to listen to, thoughtful, timely, and socially conscious. It tells the story of Layne and Eritrea passionately and confidently.
As a music lover and particularly reggae, I was not quite sure how Tigrignia-Reggae-fusion could sound. I was, however, taken aback and pleasantly surprised. Layne has a powerful voice and unique ways of expressing sultry-accent-laden Tigrigna. His songs are inspirational, romantic, loving, and uniquely represent Eritrean point of view—his way.
Awet N-Hafash is the story of Eritrea and the struggle of today’s generation. His music is spiritually-grounded; the songs inspire by praising God and interpreting his English lyrics into Tigrigna that comes through vividly. However, what makes his singing unique is that when he injects Tigrigna into his English songs, he makes it the main item, the highlight, and the core.
It is a work of beauty and captivating to hear him express love for the loved ones in his life in a loving yet unique way, his way, the Eritrean way. The CD is full of surprises, fun, entertaining, and full of energy.
The CD’s category is reggae. However, it is Jazzy, upbeat, and reminiscent of the old reggae that the likes of UB40 and Steel Pulse, etc.…It is well composed and technically sound reggae music. It is soulful, sophisticated, and significantly ahead of its time.
It is humbling to hear a professional artist grounded firmly to his roots yet use it to lever his artwork confidently. His energy is infectious and electrifying. Those who saw him on stage during the Festival in DC were entertained by one brilliant, energetic soul destined to do wonders for years to come.
Layne is on a roll and doing great things with his long-time band, “Layne & 7 Seal Dub” a solid group that is churning great music. As a result of their hard work, they have signed with a major label, Big Shot Music Group.
Layne Tadesse is for real, he is a genuine artist destined to do well, and his cause is to place his loved ones, his people, and, above all, his country on the map grounded on Awet-N-Hafash in the name of the Martyrs.