Remembering Abraham Afewerki – Mr Music Ambassador

Born in Asmara in 1970, Abraham Afewerki left Eritrea in 1979 and, like many Eritreans at the time, went to the Sudan, where he was active in the Children’s Cultural Group. While still there, in his early teens, he was an avid fam-fam (harmonica) player and wrote his first songs. He was a member of qeyaHti Embaba, (Red Flowers), a cultural troupe, at the age of twelve.  He later spent time in Italy but lived and worked in Washington DC.

Abrahami, whose life was cut short at the age of 40, deserves to be remembered for his live performances that used to mesmerize Eritreans all over the world.  He had become the most internationally known artist Eritrea had ever produced.  His music was appealing to both young and old, ex-fighters and civilians, as well as Eritreans and non-Eriteans alike. His CDs were widely circulated in community stores and major music outlets.  

Abraham’s voice, lyrics, compositions and most of all his dance routines were unique and very much appreciated by his fans.  Those who saw him perform live still continue to hail him as the musical barrier-buster because he creatively incorporated Ethiopian and Sudanese styles into his music. One can confidently say that Abraham, through his spirited songs, revolutionized the Eritrean music scene, especially the traditional guayla, because he successfully changed many of the old routines, including the basic traditional arrangements. Besides, his love songs were not conservative at all as Eritrean tradition dictates, but real and sensual.  

When lovers listen to his “Shikor-shikorina” (sweet and sweetie), for instance, they definitely fall in deeper love because of his revivalist and leading-edge styles that readily descend down to their inner souls.  His ‘fiqrey’ (my love) is a tearjerker. Abraham, one can say, modernized Eritrean music by such songs as ‘abey ala’ (where is she?) that are so ‘eritrean’ and ‘uneritrean’ at the same time.

Abraham wrote his own songs for he was an accomplished musician. He played kirar, the guitar, percussions, and keyboards. 

By 1990 he became the most admired Eritrean musician of his generation.  His fans remember him for 1991 CD 'WegaHta' (Dawn) which coincided with the country's liberation. He then released ‘Tesfa'ya sinqey’ (hope is my nourishment) in 1994. Who would forget Meley (gorgeous) that was released in 1997 and misTir fiQri (the secret of love) (1998)?  Semay (the sky), which was released in 2006, is the most famous CD of all time.  Abreham is remembered not only for his creative work but also for his humble, honest and sociable personality.

Abreham Afewerki drowned off the Red Sea coast, Dahlak Islands, near Massawa, on 7 Oct 2006.  May his soul rest in peace.