Exile Guayla: Episode 04 – Networks

As if it would have been planned we released our fourth and so far, last episode of Exile Guayla on the Eritrean Independence Day (May 24th). And while a lot of Eritreans were celebrating around the world we made a move as well and extended our project beyond the Swiss borders. Accordingly in this episode we are focusing on networks and Eritrean graphic design. We visited the famous Eritrean exile singer Andit Okbay in London, had a transatlantic Skype call with Luwam Thomas in Toronto, and spoke to the Eritrean graphic designer Alexander Dawit in Geneva.

Trip to London

We met Andit Okbay at a concert in March when we were filming with Eri Power for our first episode. He was the headliner of the show in Solothurn and the crowd went crazy every time he was on stage. Between his sets we had the chance to speak with him. He is a very charismatic singer who is touring through Europe a lot. When we were searching people, who are well connected to the European diaspora he was our first choice. But, to be honest, we thought, that we had no chance in getting him on board because he is living in London and is busy all the time. With nothing to lose we wrote him and then everything went quite fast. Three days later we were on an airplane to London to meet him.

Our 23h stay in London was packed. We met Andit at his house in Edmonton and spoke with him about music and networks for more than two hours. After the interview, we were joined by one of his friends who was the founder of Ella Records (A big Eritrean music production company) We have tried to contact him several times over the last weeks and have never heard from him and there he was in the same room. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to be in front of the camera because he fears that a lot of people would write him and would want him to produce their music. Not even all his employees have seen him. In the evening, we went for dinner with them and were joined by another emerging Eritrean artist called Issey Afewerki who just released his first song. Back in our hostel we realised that we just sat together with one of the three most influential people in the Eritrean music scene.

The Collaboration Project

At the beginning of the project we were contacted by an Eritrean woman called Luwam from Canada. She wrote us to offer us her help. We were super excited about her message because she was the only person we knew who could translate at this point. Over the time we realised, that she did a so called Eritrean Mass Online Music Collaboration Project back in 2013 and is now working on a new project called Eritrean Music Notation Project. She also has a YouTube channel where she is making Eritrean culture accessible to others. Because of all that she was the perfect match for our episode about networking. She talked about how Eritreans stay in contact with each other and in which way the music is going to develop. In her music collaboration project, she brought a lot of young Eritreans from all around the world together to sing a song from famous Eritrean artist Abraham Afewerki. Luwam describes the project like this:

The Eritrean Mass Online Music Collaboration Project of 2013 was a 5-month project to unite young Eritrean artists (musicians, vocalists, dancers, painters, photographers, artists) to perform an Eritrean song as they expose their talents to the world. And all completely over the Internet! All these volunteer participants on this video have not met each other in person, which is what makes this project so remarkable. It shows that even just through a simple Internet connection, we as Eritreans united together, no matter where we are living can work towards a common goal and do great things.

You find a long interview and background facts about the project oh this blog.

In the World of Eritrean Graphic Design

You get a perfect overview about how well connected the Eritrean diaspora is when you look at party posters. They get shared multiple times over Facebook and it doesn’t matter if a concert is in Zurich or a small town in Sweden. People promote their favourite singers wherever they play. An interesting side note is, that graphic designer always write their phone number on the poster. Because of this, it was super easy for us to get in contact with one of them. We also noticed, that there are just two graphic designers who create almost all the posters. Luckily one of them, Alexander Dawit, lives in Switzerland. Alexander walked us through an Eritrean poster and showed us the most important things. He also explained us why there is such a difference between modern and traditional posters. Traditional posters need to be accurate and follow certain rules. You need to know the singer’s tribe, songs etc. whereas modern posters just have to be in the most stylish way. An extended look behind Eritrean graphic design will be online soon on the Exile Guayla YouTube channel.

Farewell (for Now)

Sadly but true, this is our last episode for the moment. We will release another update and some goodies before we take a break. If you have any suggestions about topics we could cover in the future or any comments about the current episodes, please contact us through one of our many channels: FacebookYouTubeInstagram – Snapchat: exileguayla – Whatsapp.

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