Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Eritrean artist whose life was shaped by a fateful night at Geza Berhanu in the late 1940s

A great Eritrean artist whose life was shaped by a fateful night at Geza Berhanu in the late 1940s
It was during the rainy season around 1949, where it rained very heavily in Asmara, as if the the sky was wide open. A number of houses collapsed, among them was one in Geza Berhanu. A mother by the name Gimja (Kibra) and two of her children died in that accident. A boy of about 5 years old survived that incident, intact. The reason he survived was that his father who was going to the early morning prayers (Salat Al Subuh) to a mosque nearby, checked on his children who were sleeping with their mother and found the leg of one of them was hanging from the bed. He took his son and placed him on his bed on another room where he used to sleep. That boy was none but the one who was to be a great artist, Younis Ibrahim.

His uncle’s family took care of him afterwards. His father, Ibrahim Hassen Aman's family was one of the richest in Asmara. Both his father and his uncle died shortly after that incident and Younis ended up at Godaif Orphanage and later joined the Dekemare Mission School. There he met another orphan, the famous artist Negash Tekie. He learned to play the trumpet and started singing songs of other singers of the time such as Wed Sheriff, Shifa Saeed and Ibrahim Mahmoud.

He was later recruited by the police and ended up in the Police Orchestra. Girmai Wedi Filipo, recruited him to mobilize the people when Tedla Ogbit was planning a coup d’etat in 1963. Younis wrote and sang many songs. Most of his songs were revolutionary and full of meaning, perhaps a reflection of his sad life. Some verses of his early songs reads like this:

በየን ክምዝኸደት ጠፊኣትኒ
ሕራይ ኢላ ጠሊማትኒ

Another one:

ዓለም መዳለዊት
ሎሚ ምሳይ
ጽባሕ ተቀያሪት

He sang with the Police Orchestra, Venus Band and Mahber Teater Merhaba, among others

One of his top songs which is full of meaning and very relevant is Defar Tibitegna (About the vices of arrogance)

ደፋር ትዕቢተኛ

ንብጻዩ ዘየኽብር
ቅሩብ ትሕትና ዘይገብር
ትዕቢተኛ እዩ ካብ ፍጥረት ሕሱር

ምኻና ረሲዑ ዓለም ናይ ክራይ
ብኽዳን ገንዘብ ዝልዉጥ ጠባይ
ናይ ኣእምሮ ሽጉር ተዓሻዋይ

ብምኽሪ ዘይዕገት ልጋም ናይ መልሓሱ
መግቢ ናይ ዕሽነት ዝበልዕ ሓቢሱ
ካብ ንግሆ ንምሸት ዝልዉጥ መንፈሱ

ቀደም ተባሂሉ ምሳልየ ኣቦታት
ትዕቢት ትቅድማ ንውድቀት ንሕስረት
ተናዒቁ ይንብር ሪሒቁ ካብ ክብረት

ብመንደቅ ናይ ቃላት መሕብኢ ዝሰርሕ
ደፋር ትዕቢተኛ እዩ ንሰማይ ዝኩሕኩሕ
መሓዛ እንስሳ ከምከልቢ ዝነብሕ

ብዘይ በደል ጌጋ ንዓርኩ ዝጸልእ
ንይ ሕልና ድኹም ብስራሕ ዝቀንእ
ዕንቅፋት ናይ ናብራ ካብ ጥሜት ዝኸፍእ

ንትዕቢተኛታት ቦታ የለን
_______ ______ _____

Others include:
አስመራ ከተማ ፤ ስራሕ ፤  

In a Tigrinya article in the Sports Section of Hibret newspaper in 1968, the writer describes him as the most outstanding artists of his time. He further noted the Younis was concerned about the regional differences and the deteriorating situation of sports in the country.

He was the first artist to call for women emancipation as we can see in this song (Sport) he wrote

ሐንጎልና ክሕደስ ኣካልና ክተርር
ብዊስኪ ብቢራ ልብና አይነሕርር
ጸወታ ኩዕሶ ንፍቶ ኩልና
ቅድድም ብስክሊት ጉስጢ ውን ሓዊስና
ስልጣኔ ሕዝቢ እዩ ኩርዓት ሀገር
ስፖርት ጥራይ ነወዳት አይኮነን
ደቂ ንስትዮ ውን ክስዕበኦ አለወን
He also sang many revolutionary songs:

Reflecting when Haile Sellasie crossed the Mereb River, he wrote:

ሩት ናይ ስግር ሩባ ንዓዲ ኣተወት ብኽንደይ ዓጀባ

On the war for liberation, he wrote and sang

እንዳቦይ ቤተሰብና
እንዳ ኣደይ ኩሎም
ንዓኺ ንምምጻእ ብዙሕ ተጋዲሎም

After the ELF sabotaged a train near Aderede he sang
ባቡር ፋጽያ ነቂላ
ነቁርደት ን ከረን ገጻ እንቆልቒላ

During a Thursday in a religious festival in 1972, the Fedayeen fired shots in the air and then he sang:

ሓሙስ ምሸት እዋን እቶ እቶ
ጸሓይ ዕራርቦ ደሃይ ምስ ሰደደት
እሕዋተይ ሰብ ሓቦ
ልቦም ተሃዊጹ ጸላእቲ ደቂቦ
ን ናይቲ ዝጽበዮ ሕርስኺ መግለጺ
ሓሙስ ምሸት መጸኒ ተፈታዊ ድምጺ

And after the 1967 massacres committed by Ethiopia he wrote:

ብዙሓት ፍጡራት ርእየ ክቅበሩ

 And on history he sang:

ኩሉ ዝሪአኪ እምባ ገደም
ንገርና እባ ኩሉ ዛንታና ናይ ቀደም
ኣዶሊስ ከላ መደበር ባቡራት
ክቡራት እንከለዉ ኣባቅል ሰጋራት
በዓል መን ነይረን የዕሩኽትና ሀገራት

He joined the field together with Osman Abdulrahim and other artists on the 28th of December 1974 where he served there. Later he lived in Sudan and Saudi Arabia and Holland where he died there on the 24th of April 2007. He remained committed to the ELF.

He participated in one of the Bologna Festivals in the 1980s and sang this song there:

አንበሳ አብ ሜዳ አሎ
ሐው አንበሳ ይኽተል አሎ
ደቂሱ ኢልኩም አይትላገጹ
ኩሩምቲ አንበሳ ዓጽሚ እዩ መወጹ

He introduced one of his songs after liberation by the following:

ብቀዳምነት ክቡራትን ክቡራንን አቡታት አዴታት መንእሰያት መዛኑ
ነቶም ዝረሳዕኩምኒ ክትዝክሩኒ ነቶም ዘይትፈልጡኒ ክትላለዩኒ
ዕድሜን ጥዕናን ዝሀበኒ ጌታ ምስጋናይ የቅርብ
ንድሕሪት ክምለስ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ብፍሽኽታ ስኑ ብጣቅዒት ኢዱ
ብጻዕዳ ልቡ ስለ ዝዕበየኒ እቲ ዘዕበየኒ ሃቡኒ ወነይ ክበኩም
ሕጂ እምበአር አብ ሕሉፍ ጊዜ ሰብ ምኻንካ እንታይ ምስክርካ ኢለ ነይረ
አብ ሰውራ ምስ አቶኹውን ኤረትራዊ ምኻንካ እንታይ ምስክርካ ኢለ ነይረ
አብ አስመራ ምስ ሓተትኩዎም ታሰራና ኢሎምኒ
አብ ሜዳ ምስ አቶኹ ድማ አይበርሃልናን ገና ኢሎምኒ
ሀገራዊ ኣንታ ሀገራዊ
ሀገራዊ እየ ትብል ብመልሓስ ብዘይ ግብሪ
ሀገራዊ እንተ ኮንካ
ግቡእካ ሕተት
ንሰላም ግን መሰረት ኢኻ እሞ ፍሬ አፍሪ

ሀገራዊ ኣንታ ሀገራዊ
ሀገራዊ እየ ትብል ብመልሓስ ብዘይ ግብሪ
ሀገራዊ እንተ ኮንካ ፋሕ ዝበለ ህዝቢ

አስሚርካ ፍሬ አፍሪ

May his soul rest in peace.

Lots of thanks to Jelal Yassin Aberra who initiated the idea of honoring the late Younis Ibrahim and took time and energy to collect all relevant information and this article wouldn't have been possible without his support.

Asmara Ketema: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AdgP0tGh1o

Temanina Dina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BcWrgmFO1M

Sirah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYCL_xVHfPY

Hagerawi: great reflection https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nvOYf1bqis