“The role of art and artists in nation building and culture still holds a central role. As Selalia pointed out during the struggle you are a fighter first and artist second. One minute you would be entertaining your comrades and the next you would be in a battle field.”
By Daniel Berhane
[Minor Editing by YoungPFDJ]
A while ago, I was in a patriotic social gathering in North London, where Eritrean patriots of different generations, were treated to a live performance by some of the well known artists, Hailab (Selalia), Ogbay Mesfun, and Tesfaldet Kidane.
This occasion was also a platform for the participants to interact with each other in a social and matters of our country. I happened to be in a very crowded table, where Eritrea’s past and present struggle was the main topic of the talks.
As the table consisted of patriots of different generations – those who served the nation in delivering and preserving our independence, it was like history speaking itself. If the number of years served by all the patriots around the table was to be added, it would run well into hundreds of years, not to mention sweated labor and the bullets and scares that still remain in their bodies.
Selalia joined us in the middle of discussion about the 6th invasion (shadishay werar), when the Derge, Ethiopian regime, declared it would destroy the EPLF “once and for all” in the early 1980s.
The question – that even those who made the history – seem to be struggling to answer was, how was it possible for a few thousands of Eritrean fighters to withstand the attack – that promised to be the end of the Eritrean struggle- standing against a huge modern army that was trained and well equipped by the super powerful countries?
Selalia’s little eyes lit up, talking with so much passion. While every one agreed the answer was the high moral, readiness to sacrifice one’s self for the nation, farsighted and principled leadership and Eritrea’s biggest asset until this day a self-belief that any thing is possible.
The question was rather easier for Selalia to answer, referring to the preparation that took place prior to the attack and in particular to his first song in 1981, which was one of the moral uplifting songs of the time “tedalo teshebasheb nixelaEi ablo ashem” loosely translated get ready to crash the enemy.
As Selalia sang the song, every one around the table listened with pleasure and surely for some it was a trip down memory lane to one of the most challenging yet miraculous times in our history.
Here the reason for referring to history was not for just the sake of remembering the history, but it was more importantly for its relevance to the present time. While as then the are self doubters who prefer the easy way out, with the self confidence and principled learned through the hard way, Eritrea is capable to overcome challenges and achieve miracles as reality attests.
The role of art and artists in nation building and culture still holds a central role. As Selalia pointed out during the struggle you are a fighter first and artist second. One minute you would be entertaining your comrades and the next you would be in a battle field. Personally I was happy to hear Selalia repeatedly talking about my most favorite Eritrean artist, Martyred, Tegadlay Ogbagabr.
Selalia, on his part, has just released an album with ten tracks as always motivating the moral of Eritreans, celebrating the hard won Eritrean identity and love songs. May he also continue long entertaining us with his engaging and full stage commanding skills!