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The music of the State of Eritrea is a diverse mix of traditional and popular styles originating from ancient to modern times. The nine major ethnic groups of Eritrea—Afar, Bilen, Hedareb, Kunama, Nara, Rashaida, Saho, Tigre and Tigrinya—celebrate autonomous music-making expressed through a rich heritage of vocalists, instrumentalists and activities within the country and throughout the international diaspora. The country’s music is informed by a range of ethnolinguistic group dynamics in the region, by its shared pre-colonial history with and revolutionized independence from Ethiopia, and by its exposure to globalized American music in the mid-twentieth century.
Notable Eritrean musicians were Edris wad Amir, Ibrahim wad goret, Edris M.Ali, Zainab Bashir,Fatima Ibrahim, Engineer Asgedom Woldemichael, Wad Asheikh, Yemane Baria, Osman Abderrehim, Alamin Abdeletif and Atowe Birhan Segid. Yemane Baria wrote one political song, and he was in jail.Also of note is Bereket Mengistab, who has had a lengthy career, and 1960s musicians Haile Ghebru and Tewolde Redda.
Wad Asheikh, Saeed salih, Fatima Ibrahim, Teklé Tesfa-Ezighe Tekle Kifle Mariam (Wedi Tukul), Tesfai Mehari (Fihira), Osman Abderrehim, Abrar Osman, Abraham Afwerki, Yemane Ghebremichael, Alamin Abdeletif, Atewebrhan Segid, and Tsehaytu Berakiwere modern popular stars.
Folk musicians used traditional instruments include the stringed kraar, kebero, lyre. Tesfuy Mehari Fihira and Wedi Sheik were notable folk musicians.
Modern Eritrean popular music can be traced back to the late 1960s , when the MaHber Theatre Asmara began to produce stars like Osman Abderrehim, Alamin Abdeletif, Yemane Ghebremichael (commonly known as Yemane Baria), Jabber, Ateweberhan Seghid, Yonus Ibrahim, Tsehaytu Beraki, Tewolde Redda, Teberh Tesfahiwet and Tukabo Weldemariam.
Since then, some musicians, like kraar-player Dawit Shilan, Yohannes Tikabo (also known as Wedi Tukabo), Dehab Faytinga (commonly known as Faytinga),the Asmara All Stars and Temesgen Gebreselassie (also known as Taniqo) have helped to incorporate the core indigenous Eritrean musical elements in popular music.
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Traditional Eritrean Tigrinya dancing involves two main styles of dance. In the first which is called 'quda', the dancers form a circle and slowly circumambulator or move around in an endless circular motion to the rhythm of the music. Then, they cease the circular musical flow/motion and dance in pairs or 3's facing each other for a short while before resuming the circular motion in a file again. During this time, they shuffle their feet to the beat of the music and bob their shoulders in a rhythmic fashion. Female dancers usually move their shoulders more than the male dancers. The dancers round off their dancing by facing each other in twos and threes and moving their shoulders faster. This can also involve jumping and bending one's knees, as well as going down to the floor to sit in a squatting position while bobbing those shoulders and moving the head sideways to the strong drum beats.
In the second style of dance, two groups (often a group of men and a group of women) line up and face each other. The dance features a skipping step to the music. Periodically, the two groups will change places, dancing across the floor and passing each other in the process.
Traditional dances practiced by Eritrea's other Afro-Asiatic communities include those by the Saho, which involve jumping on each leg in rhythm with the beat. The related Afar, Tigre, Bilen and Hidareb have similar moves. Additionally, the Rashaida also have their own unique dances.
Dancing by the Nilo-Saharan Kunama involves raising bead-strung legs in sync with the rhythm of the music. The related Nara have similar traditions.
The music scene in the Eritrean capital of Asmara has traditionally been known for setting the standard of Tigrinya music for listeners in Eritrea and Ethiopia. The relatively recent 'piano bar' phenomenon has been largely exclusive to Asmara because almost all contemporary musicians and singers live in the capital city.
The piano bar culture became popular around 2004, when leading singers such as Dawit Shilanplayed at the Ha.Ko.Se.E cafe. At the time - live music in bars being a new experience in the city - the cafe was overcrowded over weekends and many customers had to be turned away.
One of the intrinsic characteristics of the piano bars is that the artists remix a range of classic hits, instead of sticking to performing only their own songs. For example, Dawit Shilan playing Atewebrhan Segid’s 1970s jazz not only brought these classic song back to life, but showed his mastery of performance skills, particularly on the krar.
Piano bars have thus provided a platform for jazz and blues artists - and to a lesser extent the local dance music known as Guayla. They have become sites for musicians to show their artistry, as they are not bound by the typical demands for upbeat music for dancing.
After the success of gigs at the Ha.Ko.Se.E piano bar, other hotels and cafes were quick to catch on the business. Hotels such as Sunshine, Savana, Bologna cub and Ayele family have been hosting contemporary favourites such as Yohannes Tikabo,Tesfay Mengesha and Kahsai Haile regularly.
In 2013, the Berhe Aiba Hotel started a new type of live performance by giving prominence to musicians rather than singers. Jazz classics were played, with singers such as Yohannes Tikabo only featuring on certain songs. Some of the best talents in Eritrean music - like Shonqie, Fanjai, Chobie and Gidewon - were brought together as a band to provide a unique experience. The place became a hangout for many musicians, who would get often on stage and jam.
The success of piano bars in Asmara could also be connected with the Gaeda genre, which is played in Swa houses in Aba Shawel, a district of Asmara that has traditionally been home to many notable artists across generations. Gaeda is a communal music experience where a singer plays songs accompanied by friends beating drums, clapping and singing along. Many of these songs are exclusively played in Gaeda settings and are never recorded or released on albums. Songs are often modified by whoever sings them, adding thought-provoking social and political messages.
In 1994, a year after Eritrea declared its independence and gained international recognition, a group of musicians were brought together under the direction of Kahsay Gebrehewet as part of Eritrea’s nation building efforts.The musicians, who had previously performed in various revolutionary music groups, were brought together as the national music and dance troupe, Sibrit, which means "heritage". Sibrit perform music and dance from all nine of Eritrea's main ethnic groups (Afar, Bilen, Hedareb, Saho, Kunama, Nara, Rashaida, Tigre and Tigrinya), they feature regularly on Eritrean radio and television shows and perform as representatives of Eritrean culture around the world. Their instrumentation includes the amplified krar, bass krar and percussion.
"Eritrea" is an ancient name, associated in the past with its Greek form Erythraia, Ἐρυθραία, and its derived Latin form Erythræa. This name relates to that of the Red Sea, then called the Erythræan Sea, from the Greek for "red", ἐρυθρός, erythros. The Italians created the colony of Eritrea in the 19th century around Asmara, and named it with its current name. After World War II Eritrea was annexed to Ethiopia. In 1991 the Eritrean People's Liberation Front defeated the Ethiopian government. Eritrea officially celebrated its 1st anniversary of independence on May 24, 1991.
Eritrea has an estimated population of 3,452,786 as of 2018. No reliable census data is available, the best available estimates being published by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The population has doubled over the past 30 years, with an accelerating growth rate estimated at close to 3.2% p.a. during 2005–2010. This rate of population growth is sustained despite a high emigration rate; the World Bank as of 2010 estimated that close to a million of Eritreans have emigrated.
Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia is a sovereign country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Guardafui Channel and Somali Sea to the east, and Kenya to the southwest. The country claims a border with Djibouti through the disputed territory of Somaliland. Somalia has the longest coastline on Africa's mainland, and its terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains, and highlands. Climatically, hot conditions prevail year-round, with periodic monsoon winds and irregular rainfall.
Asmara, or Asmera, is the capital and most populous city of Eritrea, in the country's Central Region. It sits at an elevation of 2,325 metres (7,628 ft), making it the sixth highest capital in the world by altitude. The city is located at the tip of an escarpment that is both the northwestern edge of the Eritrean Highlands and the Great Rift Valley in neighbouring Ethiopia. In 2017, the city was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved modernist architecture. Asmera was first settled in 800 BC with a population ranging from 100 to 1000. The city was then founded in the 12th century AD after four separate villages unified to live together peacefully after long periods of conflict.
The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in Africa. It lies along the southern side of the Red Sea and extends hundreds of kilometers into the Gulf of Aden, Somali Sea and Guardafui Channel. The area is the easternmost projection of the African continent. Referred to in ancient and medieval times as the land of the Barbara and Habesha, the Horn of Africa denotes the region containing the countries of Djibouti, Somaliland, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
A pentatonic scale is a musical scale with five notes per octave, in contrast to the heptatonic scale, which has seven notes per octave.
Habesha peoples is a common pan-ethnic and meta-ethnic term used to refer to both Ethiopians and Eritreans as a whole. Conservatively-speaking with a narrow archaic definition, the Ethiosemitic-speaking and Agwa-speaking Cushitic peoples inhabiting the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea were considered the core linguistically, culturally and ancestrally related ethnic groups that historically constituted the pan-ethnic group Habesha peoples, but in a broader contemporary sense includes all Ethiopian-Eritrean ethnic groups. Population groups that make up the Habesha peoples trace their culture and ancestry back to the Kingdom of Dʿmt, the Kingdom of Aksum, and the various constituent kingdoms and predecessor states of the Ethiopian Empire in the Horn of Africa. Edward Ullendorff has asserted that the Tigrayans and the Amhara comprise "Abyssinians proper" and a "Semitic outpost," while Donald N. Levine has argued that this view "neglects the crucial role of non-Semitic elements in Ethiopian culture."
Tigray is a historical region and province of Ethiopia. It encompasses most of the territories of Tigrinya-speakers in Ethiopia; Tigray is separated from the northern Tigrinya territories by the River Mereb, now serving as the state border to Eritrea.
The main languages spoken in Eritrea are Tigrinya, and Tigre, other languages include Kunama, Bilen, Nara, Saho, Afar, Beja. Linguistic demography is uncertain due to a lack of reliable official statistics. SIL Ethnologue estimates that as of 2010, there are 3,360,000 speakers of Tigrigna and 1,390,000 speakers of Tigre. The remaining residents primarily speak other languages from the Afroasiatic family, with a minority speaking Nilo-Saharan or Indo-European languages.
The Tigrayans or Tigrinyas are an ethnolinguistic group indigenous to Northeast Africa who primarily inhabit the highlands of Eritrea and the Tigray Region of Ethiopia. They speak the Tigrinya language, a direct descendant of the Ge’ez language that was spoken in late antiquity.
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Religion in Eritrea mainly consists of Abrahamic faiths. Since May 2002, the Eritrean government has officially recognized the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea, and Sunni Islam. All other faiths and denominations are in principle required to undergo a registration process; in practice they are not allowed to register. Among other things, the government's registration system requires religious groups to submit personal information on their membership to be allowed to worship.
Eritrea, officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa in East Africa, with its capital at Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The northeastern and eastern parts of Eritrea have an extensive coastline along the Red Sea. The nation has a total area of approximately 117,600 km2 (45,406 sq mi), and includes the Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands.
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