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Alamin Abduletif: A Lover, A Poet, A Patriot

If Modern Eritrea is a story with a soundtrack, then surely Alamin Abduletif can compete for top billing of the artists who can take credit for its music. And among artists who sang in Tigrayt, none can come close to the title of the Great Popularizer because his art was accessible even to those who didn’t speak the language.

In the mid-1990s, published a series of interviews with Eritrean artists of the 1960s and 1970s, including Alamin Abduletif.  In the interview, Alamin Abduletif casually narrates a remarkable story, without bragging or taking credit: just very matter-of-factly and it goes something like this.  When he and fellow musicians went to Eastern Sudan in the late 1950s or early 1960s, his music had a massive reception because people were hungry for music sung in their own language: Tigrayt.  Why?  Because, at the time, even in the Eritrean lowlands, at weddings and festive occasions, Sudanese artists were brought to sing in Arabic.

Well, sure, there was the legendary Idris Wad Amir, one of the inspirational sources of Alamin, but Wad Amir’s poetry was not exactly pop music.   Alamin, an unabashed pop-artist, knew what the people wanted and he gave it to them.

Alamin’s breakthrough as an artist coincided with the arousal of Eritrean consciousness and he was at the forefront composing and singing songs and performing them to Eritreans who were just awakening to themselves.   Along with the other members of MaHber Theatre Asmara (Ma.t.a, or the Asmara Theatre Group) such as Teberh Tesfahunen and Ateweberhan Seghid, etc, Alamin would tour Ethiopia, performing three acts per day–per day!–to enthusiastic Eritreans.   Well, he did, until the Ethiopians wised up to The Awakening and stopped the tour because, among other things, Alamin Abduletif was wearing traditional Tigre clothes–semadit–which the Ethiopians considered a provocation.  Imagine: wearing a traditional attire was considered stealth recruitment for the ELF.

Which, actually, it ended up being.  In the same interview, Alamin Abduletif mentions that the large contingent of Eritreans who moved from Ethiopia to the Eritrean field was shortly following the Ma.t.a. tour.  But, I am getting ahead of myself: this is looking like a shabait tribute to a nationalist, instead of to the artist.

I. Alamin Mini-Bio

Alamin Abduletif (sometimes spelled Abdeletif) was born and raised in Asmara in the Aba Shawel neighborhood.  He was smitten by music early in his childhood where he was part of a neighborhood “band”–Rab’at in Tigrayt–who performed at engagement and wedding parties.  His strongest influences were Ateweberhan Segid and Idris “Wad Amir”, which explains his ease with, and fluency in, singing in both Trigrinya and Tigrayt.

The title he was known for–Memher/Teacher–was not just a sign of respect but the fact that he was, indeed, a teacher at “Jaliya”, an Arabic-language community school in Asmara.

By the time he joined Ma.T.A. in 1962, he was already an accomplished songwriter and performer.  Between 1962 and the mid-1970s, he penned a string of huge hits (more on that later) and, in 1974–when Haile Selasse I was overthrown by a military junta, the Derg, he–along with many of his Ma.T.A. contemporaries, joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF.)

After that, it was a life of exile–in his case Saudi Arabia–where he, in 1987, composed perhaps his best-known song, a tribute to his mother (more on that later.)  After Eritrea’s independence, he immediately returned to Eritrea and resumed his passion as a performing artist and songwriter, often traveling to Diaspora communities to perform his hits.

On Monday, August 7,  he passed away in Asmara, in his beloved Abashawel and was buried the next day at the Patriots Cemetery in Asmara.  He was 78 years old.

II. Alamin-The Songs

When Dehai interviewed him in the mid 1990s, he said he had composed about 250 songs, some of which had never been performed.  And, he said, he continued to write songs.  Here, in no particular order–except first and last– are the songs of my childhood.

1. Fatma Zahra (Tigrayt music): In the imaginary interview Eritreans have with their artists, this one has to top the list, “who is Fatma Zahra? Is it the name of a girl you were in love with or is it a pseudonym for Eritrea?”  This is because Fatma Zahra shows up in a couple of his songs, and on different versions of the song.  In the interview with Dehai, Alamin Abduletif says it was about a girl, and that ordinarily, artists are activists and the audience follows the lead but in the case of Eritrea of the 1960s, the audience was ahead of the artists.  We were always saying “this song is about politics!”

Children of Keren and Asmara!
if you have seen her at Mai Zara,
Give my regards to Fatma Zahra!

This, explained Alamin Abduletif, has a striking resemblance to a song by Bereket Mengesteab–Meley–proving that there was a mind-meld among Eritrean artists of the era:

Passerby, if you come across her,
Give my regards to her.

2. Selam (Tigrayt music) – “Peace/Greetings! A beautiful song where Alamin just lists towns and compliments its residents and you can imagine why homesick Eritreans exiled in Sudan, Ethiopia or anywhere else would go crazy.  Hrgigo, Edaga, Emeremy, GhindaE, Keren, Sahel, Mai Adkemo all get their tribute.

3. Selam Blesi – Tigrayt music – “Return my greetings”  Fatma Zahra makes an appearance again here in Selam blesi.  There was every possible reason for us to assume this song is not about a girl named Fatma Zahra (although it was) but a code word for the Eritrean flag which had just been banned and was raised by the ELF and its fedayeen operations:

…they said she showed up at night in Asmara
I, myself, saw her traces.

4. Seb – Tigrina music –  “Mankind.” The longer name is “man(kind) doesn’t live just for his belly (self-satisfaction)” and there was absolutely no way that it wasn’t a chastisement of not just selfish people but the compact Emperor Haile Selasse and his pomp and circumstance as his country literally starved to death:

When you were born,
You (too) gave (your mother) birth pangs,
When you die,
You (too) will only need a meter-long shawl
Don’t claim the world all for yourself.

5. Krbay t’tlewale – Tigrayt music – she sways like a branch.  This is a tribute to a girl whose moves Alamin finds very graceful and compares it to a tree in the wind. You haven’t lived until you listen to the Ma.T.A. announcer (link provided) tell his Tigrinya-speaking audience what the song is about and he translates “t’tlewale” as lwywywy.

6. teHalfeni-tu Gebie – Tigrayt music – Will This Pass? This must have been written at one of Alamin’s lowest points or, he is such a great performer, he created a character who narrates, with a heart-wrenching music, something that many Eritreans are going through: waiting patiently for change and change never coming:

t’Halfeni dib ebl we dib etemne (As I await and hope for it to pass)
Haleef abiet adunya wa abiet sene (this world refuses to pass and mend)

The character in Alamin’s song talks about his raggedy clothes, worn out shoes and his dry bread (the have-nots), and contrasts it with the life of the idle rich (the haves) but what’s amazing is that his idea of relief from wont is not better clothes and better food but to sit with his peers (weqebet snat etgese) and “to speak when I can and to listen when I can’t.”

7. Amset Hliet – Tgrayt Music – She Is Expecting:   What I love about this song is not the song but the story behind it: the song-writer (not Alamin) was singing about his expectant wife and the child she is carrying is a friend of mine, himself an accomplished musician.  (None of your business.)

8. Anta guhuy lbey – Tigrinya Music -: My Broken Heart.  In this song, Alamin chastises his heart for being so naive it raised his expectations.  It is the mind telling the heart that it is disappointed and amazed that the the heart has affected it:

na’Ay mlkamka.

8.  Abbai Aba Shawl: Tigrinya Music: A tribute to his birthplace in the slums of Asmara, Aba Shawl, which was being threatened by Asmara Municipality (for the umpteenth time) to be demolished for proper city planning.   Growing up, I never understood why anyone would bemoan the destruction of a slum, but home is home.

Abbai Aba Shawl – Grand Abashawl
lomi kdefela – let me sing a song for it
Cherisha bKula – while it is whole
keyferest kela  – before it is demolished

9. ‘gl’t’thade tu ‘t MaEshura – Tigrayt Music -: She will be wed on MaEshura. I may be mistaken but I don’t think it is an original song but a remake of a traditional song about the absurdity of arranged marriages. In “niesenety diyu“, Tekle Tesfazghi talks about a girl he is in love with whose parents rejected him after conducting a credit check (He was broke.) Here, Alamin sings about a girl who is going to get married on a certain date/season (“maEshura”) but she (the bride) hasn’t heard of the wedding yet.

10. Nai Akal Vitamin/Tefetawit Qosli: –Tigrinya Music :Vitamin for the body, beloved leaf.  If you are from my generation, you know only two things about this song: (a) the tefetawit qosli (beloved leaf) refers to the Eritrean flag (green olive branch on a bed of blue) and (b) this was an Osman Abdurehim song that was “stolen” by Alamin.   The first one is true, the second one is absolutely not. How do we know?

The songwriter, Neguse Haile “Mensa’ay” was recently interviewed by Lye.TV’s Weini Suleiman and he says that, yes, tefetawit qosli (to get past the Ethiopian censors) was about the Eritrean flag and no, the song was not written to be performed by Osman but by Alamin.  The deal Mensa’ay had was for every one song written by the artist, one song had to written by him (“because the songs written by them didn’t appeal to me”, said the Mesa’ay) and then both are submitted to the censor. When the song that was written for Osman by Mensa’ay did not pass the censors but Osman’s did (Osman’s original was the amazing sgr bietna which would eventually be, um, borrowed by Sami Berhane), Alamin voluntarily allowed Osman to sing the song composed for him by Mensa’ay.  Are we all clear now?

11. Yihamekini/Eekitiki Yhaze – Tigrayt music – I don’t blame you/nor wish you ill-will. This is similar in tone to teHalfeni-tu gebie in its melancholy.  It’s not your fault; I just am not lucky.  It reminds me of someone I knew a long time ago, who used to sing it (nonstop), when she was doing household chores.  It makes me even sadder to know that that person doesn’t listen to the song, or any music for that matter, now, because it is Haram (forbidden! Sin!)

12. Yimma – Tigrayit Music – Mother!  This song, which Alamin Abduletif composed in 1987 in Saudi Arabia, is a tribute to his mother.  From its very distinguished opening riff (guitar), to the call-and-response horns, to the absolute call-for-the dance-floor, the song is an absolute joy ride.  The lyrics are very simple and when you are paying tribute to your mom what more do you need.

These are just a sample from the hundreds of songs he composed.  I haven’t even listed all I know including “ana lbye bgoha”, “selam kbleki selam mlesley”, etc.  The man was quite prolific and I doubt anyone has his entire catalog. If you do, and you are posting it in youtube, it would be a great service to his legacy if you tag it properly for ease of searching.

III. Alamin & You

Everyone has a favorite Alamin story. This is because he was a very accessible man, a man of the people, a smile always fixed on his face. I will tell you mine and we will use this occasion for all of us to share ours.

1. It is the late 1980s and he is at a concert in Los Angeles. And what Alamin and people of his generation excelled at was telling politically incorrect jokes, long before we all became snowflakes offended by everything. He told these politically incorrect (and therefore very funny) jokes between sets and some of the people I came with were offended (of course.)

After the show, I met him and told him about my father–then he did what men of that generation did that those of us in the Diaspora (West) are very uncomfortable with: he held my hand and wouldn’t let go.

2. It is 1991, and the Eritrean football federation was hosted by the San Francisco Bay Area and it happened to be two months after Eritrean independence. There is a post-game dance and we are at an airport hotel and…”Ymma!” is on. The room and the dance floor has a maximum capacity sign–but two months after Eritrea’s independence? Forget the warning signs and so we all promptly ignore the sign, there is a mad rush to occupy every square inch of the dance floor and yell “Ymma!”….and the hard-wood dance-floor caved in.

3. During the Mekete years…he was wearing a camouflage uniform. Skip.

4. About seven years ago, for reasons known only to its organizers, Eritrea held a beauty pageant and, again, for reasons only obvious to the organizers, the event was not called “Ms Eritrea” but “Ms Independence.” This is where the host told us, without any irony, that a model was now going to do “akayda dmu” (catwalk.) Somewhere in the middle of the audience, you can see two men with white Afros: one is my dad and the other is Alamin Abduletif.  Very good friends forever.

5. There are many people who I blame myself for not appreciating them enough and celebrating their work until after they die.  Alamin is not the case: I celebrated his life and his music every chance I got. Sing his songs, post them in social media for no reason.  For those of you who are fans of Family Guy’s Stewie and his annoying “mom, mom, mommy, mother, mother, mother….”, I have a friend who does a drop-dead impression of him and my payback was to do Stewie doing Alamin doing Ymma.

And so, the best tribute one can give Alamin Abduletif is to say that he had a full and colorful life. Alamin was A Man In Full, as Tom Wolfe would put it.  Always elegant, always smiling, and he could hold a note forever.(Check out Selaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam.)  Just before he died, he had the satisfaction of knowing that his beloved Abashawl was, along with all the art deco buildings of Asmara, named a World Heritage site. Demolish That, Baby!  For a man who wrote so many great songs, he was not a rich man. Why? Well, Mr. Neguse Haile Mensa’ay explained it in his interview with Weini Suleiman: because we never ask who wrote a song. And the copyright laws in Eritrea, as in many parts of Africa, are pitiful.  Not everyone is into money, the only value of money is independence and perhaps he could have the independence to tell PFDJ to go to hell when they asked him to do international tours and collect money for them.  Money he never saw.

Few artists can touch the lives of generations of Eritreans, in two languages.  Few artists can say I helped resurrect my culture and heritage.  Alamin could.   Few people, never mind artists, can say I had a long, happy, eventful life that is the soundtrack of my people. Alamin can. Happy Trails Alamin Abduletif!

About Salyounis

Saleh Younis (SAAY) has been writing about Eritrea since 1994 when he published "Eritrean Exponent", a quarterly print journal. His writing has been published in several media outlets including Dehai, Eritrean Studies Review, Visafric, Asmarino and, of course, Awate where his column has appeared since the launch of the website in 2000. Focusing on political, economic, educational policies, he approaches his writing from the perspective of the individual citizens' civil liberties and how collectivist governments and overbearing organizations trample all over it in pursuit of their interests. SAAY is the president and CEO of a college with a focus in sound arts and video games and his writing often veers to music critique. He has an MBA from Golden Gate University and a BA from St Mary's College.

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  • Abrehet Yosief

    Thank you for a great article. The shock of reading “akayda dumu” has been compensated by the idea of Stwie saying “yimma yimma yimma”.

  • Kebessa

    More rests…
    Tegadelti Musa Rab’A and Tsigereda W/Giorgis. Rest In Peace our heroes!

  • Hameed Al-Arabi

    Salam Saay7,

    Really, this is a great tribute to the loved artist, Al-Ustaz Al-Amin Abdullatif. Eritrea has lost a creative, nationalist artist. We have also lost his great works within the past twenty-six years due to the repressive totalitarian regime who has suffocated the entire nation.


  • Berhe Y

    Dear Saay and all,

    This is a beautiful tribute Alamin and his life long work. I don’t have much to add except I had a pleasure meeting him in Asmara when I visited. I was walking with my young sister and he knew her and she introduced me to him, for brief few minutes. He dressed really well and he always, and he had the best looking glasses.


  • MS

    Dear All
    Ustaz Alamin speaking of the great Ato Atewe Berhan, a window into Alamin’s character. A gracious and humble man.

    • Haile S.

      Hi MS,
      Thanks for this great link. It is doubly interesting for me. First as you said the graciousness of Alamin; magnificient. Second his account on his prison encounter. The man he encountered was an acquientance of my father. I heard that kind of regret and confession from others of the gentleman’s generation. Unfortunately, such regret appears occuring now, in anothers form, on the generation that has witnessed the original regrets.

    • saay7


      Yes indeed! Two additions that supplant this video that I must have seen a dozen times because I greatly admire storytellers:

      1. graciousness: EriTV has a music interview show and they had him on and most of the time he spent it praising and giving credit to others. That was just him on every ocassion.

      2. Prison terms: in another interview he is asked about the times he spent in prison in the 1960s and he just waives it off as nothing more, as something that was par for the course.

      What a guy.


  • Haile S.

    Dear Saay7 and Awetistas,
    No words are enough to thank Artists like Alamin who give us the ultimate pleasure for our soul and plus. Here is my tribute to him through homage to all Artists.

    ንሙዚቀኛታት ንጠቢባን ንደረፍቲ
    መፍትሕ ፍሽኽታ ኣፍ ኮነ ፍሽኽታ ኣዒንቲ
    ዝዓበየት ዝንኣሰት ልቢ መርገብገብቲ
    ጭዋዳታት ኣካል መንቀሳቐስቲ
    ዝተሓብኣ ኣስናን መቃላዕቲ

    ዝተረረት ልቢ መፋኾስቲ
    ዝሓዘነት ልቢ መደዓዓስቲ
    ዝፍቀረት ልቢ መተባባዕቲ
    ቃላት መግለጺ ንዝሓጸሮ መዳፍርቲ
    ኣብ ልቢ ዝጓሃረ ሃልሃልታ ደበስቲ
    ጠበቓታት ፍቅሪ መሳጉምቲ

    ኣብ ንብዓት ብኽያት መዐንገልቲ
    ኣብ ሓዘን ተስቆርቁሮ መሰነይቲ
    ቁሪ ንዝተሰምዖ መማሞቕቲ
    ረድረድ ንዝሓዞ ብቓላት ሓቖፍቲ
    ሓጎስን ሰሓቕን ዘርጋሕቲ

    ፈሪህካ ዘይዝረብ ደርጓሕቲ
    ዝተሸፈነ ምስጢር መጋለጽቲ
    ዝትዓብጠ ስክፍታ መፋኾስቲ
    ዘይሰምዑ ዘይርእዩ መሲሎም ተዓዘብቲ
    ክመጽእ ዝኽእል ሓደጋ መጠንቐቕቲ ተነበይቲ

    ዓንዲ ሕቖ ሕብረተሰብ ከይተመርጹ ወከልቲ
    ዝተበታተነ ሕብረተሰብ መዛተይቲ
    ንዝጠፍአ ዝርሓቐ ተደሃይቲ
    ከም ጓሳ ፋሕ ዝበለ ጠርነፍቲ
    ብዘይ ብኣኹም ዓለም ምኾነት ዘይብላ መብራህቲ
    እንሆ’ኳ ኣላሚን ጠፊኡ ሓደ ካብቶም ድሙቓት ከዋኽብቲ።

  • Nitricc

    Hi SAAY Thanks for the article. He was a great man and I am not sad he has died because no one will live forever but i am grateful his meaningful life he has lived. let’s celebrate his life. my favorite song of Alamin.

    • saay7

      Nitrric, “I am not sad he has died” is an unnatural reaction. When someone dies we show empathy for the loved ones of the departed who love and miss the person who died. These are not toothless words, as you might put it, but part of what makes humans human. In the US people express their grief by celebrating someone’s life but that’s a conscious effort to deal with sadness.

      • Nitricc

        Greetings SAAY: I think you and others misunderstanding me whenever death is the subject. Off course it is not good when one passes away and leave loved once behind and off course when one passes away there is a mark they leave behind. For Some, they were just born and simply died and for others they are not only born but did so much for their society to their follow human being when they die, simply their life is celebrated not mourned. so my point was from that point of view. For me, the real death and the real tragedy is not the likes Alamin who died in dignity in their home in time and in their country but to those who flacking out of the country and die for nothing in their most productive years. Even the real death comes when young people with able body flacking to Ethiopia’s refugee comp. Do you know what they get in Ethiopian refugee comps? 10 kilo of wheat, 1 liter of oil, 1 kilo of protein powder, 0.4 kilo of salt and sugar each, I bar of soap and 60 Ethiopian Birr. When I see it from that view point, There is a death that makes me sad and there is a death that makes me appreciate, Commemorate, understand and celebrate their meaning lives. I see what you are saying though. Although for our “operating manual for human beings” ironically should have been death it self. Knowing we all going to die, we should pursuit for greatness and a meaningful life. Thanks SAAY.

        • saay7

          Hey Nitrric:

          Referencing the Eritrean youth who are escaping to Ethiopian refugee camps, what are you basing your information on? I noticed that those who support the Gov of Eritrea never do actual reports based on field reporting, whether the refugees are in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan or Yemen. It’s always based on 3rd and 4th hand information.

          If you have gone and interviewed them, or if you listen to people you rely who interviewed them, then you would have an appreciation for how desperate things must be in Eritrea for people to make the choice to go a refugee camps. Usually refugee camps happen in conflict areas. Eritrea is the only country in the world which is not at war *AND* producing refugees and asylum seekers. That is one predatory state. And the only thing a prey can do when a predator is on the hunt is run.

          You might even ask “why is it that whereas the Eritrean migrants are predominantly male and young, why is in the case of Afar Eritreans it is entire families migrating?”


  • Kebessa

    Selam All,
    Memhir Alamin was one of a kind. I remember his and Bereket’s CDs were the first ones I purchased. I distinctly remember that because it was my first time to play CDs in a car. Hmmm… yeah, I was excited. The now defunct Teshamo had great collections of Alamin too. Rest in peace legend!

  • Yohannes Zerai

    Selam Awatistas,

    Memher Alamin Abduletif was undoubtedly Modern Eritrea’s most most talented, most popular and most accomplished artist. His beautiful music, elegant attire, gregarious personality and omnipresent smile have etched an indelible memory in the minds of the generations that his distinguished life spanned.

  • Medhanie Asmelash

    Great minds transcend time and space to proclaim whats is inside, express the feelings of themselves and their people. Staz Alamin is a witness of this vital wisdom now and for all generations to come. Eternal and peaceful rest Staz!

  • ghezaehagos

    Selam Sal,

    Thanks for penning the tribute in paean of one of Eritrea’s greats, Mem. Alamin Abduletif. R.I.P.

    A suave and consummate Asmarino from the Bohemian side, Aba Shawel, Memhir Alamin had indeed a rich and colorful life. Each passing serves as a reminder that we didn’t get the chance to appreciate and more importantly honor these cultural icons, like him, Vittorio, Tiquabo etc…They may be dying in their time; but for us, in the game of waiting, time wins.

    “Few artists can touch the lives of generations of Eritreans, in two languages…”
    May he rest in Peace!
    Ghezae Hagos.

  • Selamat Saay7,

    I know that hand grab by the wrist that would never let you go. The same concert in the eighties, I saw the pride and joy in Memher Alamin Abdelitif when passing the baton to a barley Twenty Year Old young vocalist. It was like he was seeing himself in a multi dimensional mirror. The NYC, NJ, Conn … Philly Boston — < scratch — agreed in unison, the voice and msli was young AA. The fellow probably became a Medical Dr….. Any recollection?

    I will qualify that as my favorite story…Plus. Thank you.


  • Fanti Ghana

    Hello and Thank You Saay,

    I know several people who believe that “Abbai Aba Shawl” was referring to the uprooting of factories from Eritrea. The timing sounds close, but I never bothered to check the exact time the song came out in relation to both demolitions.

    Although I feel a profound sense of loss with his passing, Abbai Aba Shawl and several of his songs are some of my immortals in my collection which I will always cherish.

    My condolences to his family and to those who love him!

  • Hayat Adem

    Hi Saay,
    Thanks for the happy tone tribute. How much more can one person contribute to any culture and society in a single life?! It is so sad an artist who had done so much had to die poor, but there is so much he left us with to celebrate his life.

  • blink

    Hi all
    We lost great man , I think time doesn’t exist for the work done by such great man ,his work transcends from generation to generation.

  • Peace!

    Hi All,

    Alamin will be remembered as one of the greatest all time legend, and his contribution to the music world will live forever. What makes Alamin and other Eritrean Artists unique is that they manage to contribute despite personal and national hardships. Enormous respect!


  • Semere Tesfai

    Selam Saay

    Minor correction:

    ” in 1974–when Haile Selasse I was overthrown by a military junta, the Derg, he (Alamin) –along with many of his Ma.T.A. contemporaries, joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF.)”

    Alamin never joined ELF, he was always with ELF-PLFEPLF (ShaEbya)

    Semere Tesfai

    • Abraham H.

      Hi Semere T, here is what shabait wrote about this issue: “Artist Aalamin became a member of Haraka and later joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in 1974”, so may be you need to correct your friends in Forto as well? 🙂 Or is there something I missed about these ELF, PLF, EPLF jungle of acronyms?

      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Selam Abraham,

        Before the split of Issayas group and Sabe at the end of 1976, their name was hizbawi hailetat or in ELF-PF. Then in early 1977, the Issayas group convene an organizational congress and began to be called EPLF. Sabe got the custodian of ELF-PF or Hizbawi Hailetat. Just to make the historical record in perspective.


      • Ismail AA

        Dear Abraham,
        That could be indeed be the case. The PLF had used ELF-PLF for long time. But, as far as I can remember Semere Tesfai is correct because I did not see him among the musicians who joined the ELF in 1975 and were sent to the training and orientation camp in Rebda. When met him in our office later in the year in Beirut, he was not member of the ELF.

  • Some communist guy

    Hello everyone,

    Thanks for this wonderful piece. Memhr Alamin’s death was a big shocker for many of us outside Eritrea.
    His songs will remain in the hearts and minds of all Eritreans for a long time I hope. I was never lucky enough
    to see him perform; but I can assure all weddings I’ve attended in the past fifteen years had an “Alamin moment”
    especially for Yimma and Abay Abashawl.
    I hope a tribute concert will be organized in his memory, he deserves it. I have to admit I’ve been listening again
    to his songs since I’ve heard about his passing and I must say yumma, fikri beyney and ana libye begoha remain
    my favourites.

    Allah yarahmu, Mengsti Semai yiwareso,
    condolences to his family

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Selam Saay,

    This is a wonderful tribute to a great artist staz Alamin. Like what you have said everyone has his/her favorite from his song. Mine will be “Seb Nikebdu aykonen zinebir”. For me this song is like religious hymns that comes to my mind everytime now and then, that kept Staz Alamin in the folders of my memory. What a great man, he left a mark in everyone’s mind. Rest In Peace staz and condolence to his family.

    Amanuel Hidrat

    • saay7


      Thanks buddy. I agree on the philosophical and humanitarian nature of the song and I am partial to it too. Not just the morality but it’s lyricism and imagery–barren deserts that can’t grow not even thorns, rich men with fat necks, hordes of money and gold, sickly men–is powerful.

      There is something about 70s artists who can sing about eternal truths without being preachy. Alamin’s and haile Gebrus (in his song nsemamaE) appealed to our better angels. Meanwhile, Tekle Tesfazghi (in his song zeram temagwati ayrtaE bahali ) and the King of Stage, Yenus Ibrahim (in his song defar tiEbitegna unload on a particular type of person, a character so horrific that we will have to call them prophets: the songs describe Isaias Afwerki perfectly.


      • Thomas

        Hi Saay7,

        They were all amazing. Greatest vibrant old songs which will remain in our minds for good. Very meaningful with outstanding lyric, refreshing melody and breath taking accompanying harmonic notes. Impressive creativity!! I cannot find enough words to describe!!

      • Bayan Nagash

        Dear Sal,

        The mood since the passing of – now – the late Alamin Abduletif, who entertained generations of Eritreans at which he was just natural and the best at, has been for me to binge on old Tigrinya songs. And you’ve given me another impetus to revisit many of his songs. And now, you’ve taken me to another master lyricist, Yenus Ibrahim along with Tekle Tesfazghi, both of whom seemed to share their deeply felt philosophy of life, which are difficult to bring in a song form.

        If the AT policy still holds, weekends used to be time to go a little light on discussions in which forum participants can post links. If I am inadvertently violating it, please do not hesitate to make today’s note vanish into the cyber dust bin. Here are the two that you mentioned, which are really worth wallowing in this weekend and a third as a caveat:

        Y. Ibrahim:
        T. Tesfazghi:
        Semhar Yohannes seems to be grabbing the torch from the previous generation entertainers:

  • MS

    Ahlan Saleh and fans of Ustaz Alamin
    Thanks for the article, a fitting tribute to this great man. God bless his soul. Thanks also for clarifying the decades-old confusion surrounding the song, “Naay Akal Vitamin” . Now, all is clear.