How To Know Music In Eritrea | 10 Eritrean Music Artists

How much do you know about Eritrea and Eritrean music? 

Eritrea is a relatively small country in East Africa with a rich cultural background. 

Nature-wise, the country has everything; mountains, deserts, forests, and the sea. You can also visit the Dahlak Archipelago, one of the most beautiful sights along Eritrea’s coastline on the Red Sea.

Eritrea also has a rich cultural offering. 

In this post, I will invite you on a virtual “cultural trip” to discover the music in Eritrea.

You’ll get more insights into Eritrea, the language, dance, history, and the music industry. 

The most exciting part is the top 10 Eritrean musicians.

If you’re a fan of international music and want to broaden your musical horizons, you will want to take advantage of this list of the top 10 Eritrean music performers. 

Join me in an exploration of the music and culture of Eritrea!

Music in Eritrea. Eritrean Music

The Hidden Gem of East Africa: Eritrea

Eritrea is a small East African country in the Horn of Africa. It borders Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. Eritrea has a long and rich history, with influences from many cultures.

The country has beautiful landscapes and natural wonders. Eritrea has diverse landscapes, including mountains, deserts, and forests. The country’s highland region is home to the Eritrean Highlands, known for its spectacular views and a popular destination for hikers and trekkers. 

Eritrea is a beautiful vacation spot for those wanting to see the outdoors, learn about Eritrean culture and cuisine, or unwind. It also has a long coastline along the Red Sea, home to the stunning natural attraction, the Dahlak Archipelago. As a result, Eritrea offers visitors a unique travel experience.

Eritrea’s History

The country was under Italian colonial rule from the late 1800s until the end of World War II, when the British took over. In 1952, Eritrea federated with Ethiopia, and in 1962, Ethiopia annexed Eritrea, which led to a struggle for independence from 1961 to 1991. However, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) gained independence in 1991, and Eritrea officially became independent in 1993.

Since independence, Eritrea has faced several challenges, including economic instability, political repression, and a strained relationship with its neighbor. Despite these challenges, Eritrea has made progress in recent years. 

The country has seen economic growth, and there have been improvements in education and healthcare. Eritrea has also made strides in promoting gender equality and protecting the rights of women and children. The country has a rich cultural heritage, and its music and dance scene are a source of great pride for its people.

Eritrea’s rich cultural heritage, diverse landscape, and vibrant Eritrea music and dance scene make it a unique and fascinating destination for travelers and music lovers.

Tigrinya - The official language of Eritrea

Tigrinya is one of the nine recognized languages of Eritrea and the most common language in Eritrea and Ethiopia. It’s a Semitic language closely related to other languages such as Amharic and Arabic.

Several types of artistic expression in Eritrean culture present the Tigrinya language. Songs written and performed by prominent Eritrean musicians like Abraham Afewerki and Yemane Baria in the Tigrinya language have helped to spread awareness of and appreciation for the language.

Music in Eritrea. Eritrean Music

The Vibrant and Diverse Music in Eritrea

Eritrean music combines traditional and modern influences and reflects the country’s diverse culture and history. It is a vibrant, exciting, and unique music scene worth exploring.

What is the popular music in Eritrea?

Traditional Eritrean folk music is one of Eritrea’s most popular types of music. It’s part of various celebrations such as weddings, funerals, and other cultural events. This music uses traditional instruments such as the krar (a six-stringed lyre), the masenqo (a one-stringed fiddle), and the kebero (a drum). It is often accompanied by call-and-response singing, a form of vocal improvisation in which one singer sings a line, and the others respond with their own. 

Later, Modern pop music in Eritrea picked up many trends from Western music and especially R&B. This type of music often features modern instruments such as electric guitars, synthesizers, and drum machines. The genre has gained popularity among the younger generation and contributed to Eritrean music’s growth.

What scale is Eritrean music?

Eritrean pop music, which is heavily influenced by Western pop and R&B music, uses a pentatonic scale. Many Eritrean artists have blended traditional and modern sounds to create a unique sound, traditional and contemporary.

In addition to the pentatonic scale, Eritrean music uses call-and-response singing. This style is common in many East African cultures and a fundamental aspect of traditional African music.

Using the pentatonic scale in Eritrean music and incorporating call-and-response singing contributes to Eritrean music’s unique sound and character.

An introduction to Eritrean dances

One of the most popular Eritrean dance styles is the Eskista, characterized by shoulder movements and chest pops. It is a popular dance style in Ethiopia and Eritrea and is commonly performed at weddings, cultural events, and other celebrations.

In addition to the Eskista, other traditional Eritrean dances are performed in conventional folk music. For example, there is the “Kirar dance,” committed to the sound of the Krar – the six-stringed lyre. A slow, swaying motion characterizes the dance. Eritreans use it to express emotions such as love or sadness. 

Another popular Eritrean dance is the “Tigrigna dance,” performed to the sound of the Masenqo, a one-stringed fiddle. This dance style is characterized by a series of small, quick steps performed in a circular motion.

Traditional Eritrean dances are an essential part of the country’s cultural heritage. They are often performed alongside traditional Eritrean folk music.

Who are Eritrean music legends?

Some of the most notable Eritrean music legends include Tsehaytu Beraki, a renowned Eritrean musician with a career spanning over four decades. She was famous for her unique style that blended traditional instruments and rhythms with modern sounds. Her legacy inspires Eritrean musicians today, and fans continue to celebrate and enjoy her music worldwide.

Another iconic Eritrean musician is Abraham Afewerki. He’s a talented singer, songwriter, and musician known for his traditional sounds with a modern twist. Because of his uplifting music, he built a large and loyal fan base in Eritrea and beyond. And his music continues to inspire fellow Eritreans and audiences in other parts of the world.

Yemane Gebremichael, also known as Yemane Baria, is one of the most renowned Eritrean musicians ever. His music is often political, with songs addressing social justice, freedom, and human rights issues. He has been an outspoken advocate for Eritrean democracy. His music has been a rallying cry for the country’s liberation and rights. 

These are just a few names of the many legendary musicians who have significantly impacted the music in Eritrea. Let’s have a closer look at the top 10.

Music in Eritrea | Top 10 Eritrean Artists

Now that you have a brief introduction to music in Eritrea let’s explore the top 10 Eritrean music artists you must hear. These artists represent the best Eritrean culture and have left a big mark on the music scene.

1. Tsehaytu Baraki

The first artist on our list is Tsehaytu Baraki. Tsehaytu was a renowned Eritrean musician who had been active in the Eritrean music scene for many years and had released several albums. Her music in Eritrea is a reflection of her country’s culture and heritage, with a focus on traditional instruments and rhythms.

Tsehaytu’s music has been inspired by her love for her country and its culture. She has been instrumental in promoting Eritrean music. She has performed at many festivals and events in the country and on many international platforms.

Her performances are known for their energy and passionate delivery; her powerful voice captivates audiences and leaves a lasting impression. With her unique style and powerful performances, Tsehaytu Baraki will always be a favorite among Eritrean music fans. Her music continues to be celebrated and enjoyed by audiences worldwide.

Our dear readers, I must be honest; choosing the best among her work is very difficult. Still, her most popular songs include “Mejemerta Fikri,” “Aba Shawl,” and “Aminey.”

Tsehaytu passed away in Rotterdam, Netherlands, at the age of 78.

2. Abraham Afewerki

Abraham Afewerki was an Eritrean singer, songwriter, and musician known for his traditional sounds with a modern twist. Born in Asmara, Eritrea, his music has inspired fellow Eritreans and some parts of Eritrean neighboring regions. 

He has released several songs which feature original compositions sung in his native language of Tigrinya, with lyrics showcasing his mission for social justice, peace, and understanding. Although his messages are contemporary, his style shows influences from the classic Eritrean rhythms. His uplifting music earned him a large and loyal fan base in Eritrea and beyond with popular songs like “Fishikte Ameley (Semay)” and “Sdray.”

3. Yemane Barya

Yemane Gebremichael or better known as Yemane Barya is among one of the most renowned Eritrean singers, songwriters, and musicians.

Yemane’s music is often political, with songs addressing social justice, freedom, and human rights issues. He has been an outspoken advocate for Eritrean democracy. His music has been a rallying cry for the country’s liberation and rights. He has released several political songs; among those works, his masterpiece is “Natsnet” and “Asmera.”

4. Tewelde Redda

The fourth artist on our list, is Tewelde Redda. Tewelde is a true pioneer as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter. You could say he’s one of the most influential and beloved Eritrean musicians ever. 

Many consider Tewelde to be the first musician in Eritrea to use an electric guitar. His guitar work and the captivating rhythms and melodies he sings about are what has made him famous. His popular song is “Ab teqay qrebi.”

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5. Bereket Mengisteab

Bereket Mengisteab is a famous Eritrea music artist dubbed “the Godfather of Eritrean music.” Earlier in his life, Bereket joined the Eritrean Liberation Front to fight for his country’s independence. He is one of the most talented and beloved Eritrean musicians of all time, both in his musical talents and service to his country. 

His music combines traditional and modern influences and uses traditional instruments such as the krar, the masenqo, and the kebero. Bereket has powerful and passionate vocals and captivating rhythms and melodies. He has made over 200 songs, with “Balena” being his most famous work.

6. Yohannes Tikabo

The sixth artist on our list, is Yohannes Tikabo or better known as Wedi Tkabu is a well-known singer and songwriter. He is a talented and influential Eritrean musician who has significantly impacted the Eritrean music scene. 

His unique blend of traditional and contemporary music, emotive performances, powerful voice, and socially conscious lyrics, combined with his dedication to cultural issues, make him one of the most respected and beloved Eritrean artists. His famous song and a sweet one to listen to is “Gue Leminey.”

7. Helen Meles

Helen Meles is a talented Eritrean singer and actress who has made a name for herself in the Eritrean music and entertainment industry. Meles began her career in the Eritrean military as a singer, performing traditional Eritrean music and quickly gaining a reputation as a gifted vocalist with a powerful voice.

In addition to her singing career, Helen has made a name for herself as an actress. She has starred in several Eritrean films and television shows, showcasing her versatility as an artist. Her performances have been praised for their emotional depth and authenticity, making her one of the most beloved artists in Eritrea.

Helen’s music is a fusion of traditional Eritrean sounds with contemporary influences. Many compare her voice to that of an angel. She sings in Tigrigna and Tigre languages, Eritrea’s two most widely spoken languages. Her hit songs are “Tedenagire,” “Tsigabey,” and “Kemey dina.”

8. Tekle Tesfazghi

Tekle Tesfazghi is an Eritrean musician and singer known for his deep and soulful voice. His songs are often uplifting and full of emotion, and his lyrical style integrates traditional Eritrean musical culture. Kemdlaye, his most famous song, became so popular that many Ethiopian musicians used it in their songs. His music “Fikrey Telemeni” has become a genre classic.

A true innovator, he is also known for his compositions’ fusion of traditional and modern elements.

9. Sami Berhane

Sami Berhane is a renowned Eritrean singer known for his soulful and powerful voice. He began his music career at a young age. He quickly rose to fame with his unique blend of traditional Eritrean music with contemporary rhythms and beats.

Berhane’s music is deeply rooted in the culture and history of Eritrea, and his lyrics often reflect the struggles and triumphs of everyday life. His work consists of powerful ballads about love, family importance, and the human spirit’s resilience.

Sami is a talented and influential artist who has significantly impacted the music in Eritrea and has helped promote Eritrean culture and heritage in his region. His music is a must-listen for anyone interested in Eritrean music with sweet melodies. His most recommended and popular song is “Aytgdefni.”

10. Millen Hailu

Millen Hailu is a young Eritrean musician who has quickly established her place as one of the most talented emerging artists in East African music. Especially her recent collaborations with her neighboring Ethiopian artists have made her fame even more enormous. 

Her smooth yet powerful voice has made her an instant standout in the music in the Eritrea scene, thanks partly to her unique style of combining Eritrean melodies with eclectic rhythms and contemporary sounds. Her singing style is very lovable and passionate. 

Millen Hailu’s captivating music has earned her loads of accolades. Her famous song is “Bira Biro, ” a duet made by a fellow Ethiopian artist. It will surely be a significant element in promoting Eritrean music for many years.

Music in Eritrea | The Playlist

There you have it – our list of the top 10 Eritrean music artists you must hear! You won’t be disappointed! 

These artists represent the best of the Eritrean music scene, and they all are exciting experiences to listen to.

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