Eritrea at the Afrima Awards

“To be represented in three categories of one of the biggest competitions on the African continent is a massive win for the country’s art industry.” Yonas Mihretab (aka Minus), Comedian and Director

As his name keeps shining across the entertainment industry of the coun¬try, Yonas Mihretab (aka Minus) strives more to make his name shine across Africa with his famous Hamidda music video, which has won the Afrima Awards (Africa’s Grammy Award) Competitions in the Best Art¬ist, Duo or Group in African Traditional category. Artists from Nigeria, Cameron, South Africa, Ethiopia, Angola, Kenya and Uganda were among the shortlisted nominees in this category. Eritrea was represented in three categories at the competition through Minus, for Best Duo or Group Traditional African Artist, Merry Zerabruk, for Best African Female Artist in East Africa, and Raimon Tesfai, an Eritrean who lives in the Netherlands, for Best African Act in Diaspora.

We got hold of Yonas Mihretab during his busy schedule and had a brief interview?

• Congratulations! This is big, how does it feel?

It’s an amazing feeling. Afrima is one of the biggest competitions on the continent. It is truly an honor to be a winner of this award. For Eritrea to be nominated in three categories at its very first nomination at the competition means a great accomplishment for the art industry in general, a great leap for all Eritrean artists in particular, and a much bigger homework for all of us to do much better.

Personally, this breakthrough has made me see things through a different angle to where I can be as an artist. We can make Eritrea be globally known in art by participating in international competitions. There are also other great artists like Efrem Kahsay (aka Wedi Kuada) competing and winning in international competitions.

• Would you please tell us about your video clip?

Almost two years ago, we came up with an idea for a song in Tigrigna and Arabic while I was working with Natnael Solomon on WediShuq (a comedy). For some reason the idea wasn’t put to action until recently. When we were done with the music arrangements and made the music video, we were ready to submit it to various competitions to be recognized by our neighboring countries and fortunately it was already nominated at Afrima.

What makes it exceptional is the angle of the idea. The good acting and the comedy can be considered its plus side. Hamida is a common girl’s name in the Rashaida ethnic group, which is why we chose it to be the title of the song. We put in a lot of effort to make the setting match the Rashaida habitat and culture. We focused on the Rashiada culture more to give the video life. The music production was done by Naod Fitwi and the nine ethnic group music production.

• How do you feel about working with young artists like the music production group?

I wouldn’t call myself an experienced artist. I know for a fact the power an experienced and a young talented artist have; they are totally different. Generally speaking, in art I feel people who are beginning to do something in their career have just enough enthusiasm and energy to produce a good work of art. I believe in all the artists who are starting to be great at what they do. Also, I have worked with the music group for quite some time now, and I am impressed with their accomplishment. They all have big dreams, and I am proud of them all.

• Did you face any challenges in making the music video?

There were challenges, no doubt. Hamida took on a big budget to make. But in making it we weren’t really looking for big financial benefits or anything else, we just wanted to be known for making a good video clip. So the making of the video took all the energy, skills and knowledge of all the more than 50 individuals who participated. Until recently the video stands at 1.8 million views on youtube.

• Anything else you’d like to say at last?

The three of us who have represented Eritrea in the Afrima Award Competition are not there because we are better than other artists. There have been great artists in the past and there are great artists today and there will be other great artists in the future. I believe we were lucky to get the opportunity this time. The question is “How do we get to the top together as artists, guiding and helping one another?” We all need to consult one another and work together to get better and enter even bigger event.

I would like to thank everyone who has taken part in the making of the music video. Besides, I would also like to thank all the fans who have given their votes for Hamidda to win because voters had a 50% say in determining the winner.

• Congratulations to all of you again

Thank you.

Source: Ministry of Information Eritrea

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