Tewolde Redda - Eritrea's Guitar Pioneer Singles 1970-73 LP
Eritrea was annexed as a state from Ethiopia in 1952 after ousting the Italians who colonized the country in 1890. Ethiopia, with the help of Great Britain and the UN, helped establish Eritrea as a sovereign country though they would not be completely independent from Ethiopia until 1993. Eritrea fostered a diverse cultural landscape as the Italian influence continued to make an impression along with the obvious Ethiopian perspective.
It was from this background that Tewolde Redda would emerge in the early to mid 60s in the city of Asmara, Eritrea. Redda learned to play the electric guitar while in his teens and would even win a local talent contest gaining him wide appeal for his stage performance in which he mimicked Elvis both in look and style. At the age of 20, Redda began to write and perform all of the music for stage productions at a local theater, MATA, leading to a new sound where Redda updated traditional Eritrean folk music with modern sounds and instruments. His claim-to-fame was that he invented the electric kirar, a traditional Eritrean 5-string lyre. He hand-wired a pickup thus making the instrument amplified and as a result, the kirar would now be heard amongst an entire electrified band.
Redda’s music is spiritual and entrancing. Along with his electric kirar and guitar, Redda works with rhythmic bass-lines, organs, live drums, percussion and even some brass. The music bridges the gap from traditional music to modern funk and rock sounds while Redda longs for everlasting love and freedom in his homeland. It’s sunny, entrancing and wistful at the same time.
Shortly after, Redda would go on to form his own label and record shop called Yared Music. He fell in love with spreading local and international music while releasing locally produced music.
By the late 70’s, Redda became more focused on politics and became a revolutionary, putting aside music before being exiled from his beloved Eritrea. To this day, he thinks of his home country while still composing melodies and reminiscing about his time as a musician.
This new compilation by Domino Sound is a revelation. It’s the first true compilation of his recordings and is crucial for lovers of African music and Ethiopian jazz and soul. Beautiful stuff. (Dom)
Check out a track here.