At the forefront is Jemberu Demeke, a name that echoes local music evolution's rhythmic and lyrical potency. Yididya Wondwossen, fondly known by this artistic pseudonym, bridges the rich musical legacy of his homeland with the modern dynamism of contemporary genres. Jemberu shares with a light-hearted tone that had the world been devoid of music, his alternate path might have delved into the realms of software engineering. A pathway that intriguingly led him to his musical journey, transforming a covert hobby into a rewarding career.

In the intimate corners of his home, amidst the silent approval of his father, Jemberu navigated through the alleys of sound and melody, discovering his lyrical prowess through a digital audio application. His candid account paints a vibrant picture, reminiscent of a musician who embarked on a journey from the confines of his room, with the world as his destination. "Grateful While Alive", as he envisions being etched on his tombstone, Jemberu embodies gratitude not just towards life, but to a career that harmoniously marries tradition and modernity.

A nod to his firm footing in the contemporary soundscape, Jemberu revealed his admiration for artists like the late Eyob Mekonnen, and Rophnan, whose music has constantly accompanied his journey. His dreams of working with the late Elias Melka portray his relentless pursuit of learning and growth, a hallmark of an artist evolving, and constantly striving.

Just as music notes transcend boundaries, the essence of creativity finds itself being echoed in another vibrant persona, Yikunoamlak Meles, a.k.a "Uno". A stage name that encapsulates simplicity and accessibility, "Uno" reflects the vibrant energy of youth that is unafraid to carve its niche in the ever-evolving music terrain. From the classrooms of St. Joseph School to the YouTube charts, Uno's journey has been nothing short of a celebration of passion, perseverance, and the sheer joy of music.

The young artist's enthusiasm is palpable as he describes the creation of his debut music video, "Teff Teff (Hustle Grind)", a journey brimming with an undying spirit of hustle and grind. His musical playlist, a harmonious medley of traditional rhythms and modern beats, reflects his versatile taste, drawing inspiration from the legendary Elias Melka and the vintage collection of Ethiopiques tracks. In a world that often fears to tread uncharted paths, Uno's pride in his relentless pursuit of trying, of venturing into the unknown, stands as a testament to steering Ethiopia's musical narrative into a future brimming with promise and potential.

Venturing further into the hearts of the musical maestros, there is Maranatha Tegegne, who paints a canvas where music and visual arts coalesce to create narratives that resonate with a generation. Maranatha's journey, encapsulating trials and triumphs, epitomizes the resilient spirit of the Ethiopian youth.

Maranatha's creative vision, reflected through the lens of a filmmaker, nurtures the vibrant ethos of the Ethiopian music industry. His artistry, mirroring a canvas where colours morph into music and narratives transcend visuals, resonates deeply with an audience yearning for narratives that echo their voices, their stories.

As the co-founder of Shifta Foods, Maranatha does not limit his creativity to visuals and sounds but extends it to the culinary arts, fostering a space where the love for food meets the passion for creativity. It is this versatile outlook towards life that resonated in his future aspirations for Meedo, a venture that aspires to catapult Ethiopian music onto the global stage, competing with names revered in the international music arena.

In a conversation that feels like a leisurely stroll through the lanes of Addis Abeba, Maranatha, Uno, and Jemberu weave narratives that are as vibrant and diverse as the land they belong to. Their fears and aspirations, seamlessly intertwined, portray the heartbeat of a country on the cusp of a cultural renaissance-hopefully. In the swirling vortex of sounds, visuals, and narratives, these artists stand as beacons of light, guiding the domestic music scene towards a future that mirrors the rich musical heritage, a future that promises a symphony of voices that resonate with authenticity, passion, and the unyielding spirit of the youth.

Uno: The Relentless Trailblazer

Last week was a double whammy of good fortune for Yikunoamlak Meles, a.k.a. "Uno", who released his debut music video Teff Teff (Hustle Grind), on his birthday. It has gotten over 30,000 views on YouTube in a couple of days. An alumnus of St. Joseph School, music has always been in Uno's life, with his siblings exposing him to 90s hip-hop music. Had time been on his side, the 27-year-old producer, rapper and songwriter would have liked to team up with Alemayehu Eshete.

Q: Do you speak Spanish?

[Lol] Not at all; I know some numbers.

Q: Why did you choose Uno as your stage name?

It is a nickname coined from Yik 'uno' amlak. I guess it is a more accessible version that easily rolls off the tongue.

Q: How was the process of making your debut video?

This was the most fun project I have done so far. There was this big and positive energy, from concept development to audio recording to the video shoot. I enjoyed it to the fullest. I am still in the bubble.

Q: What are you proud of besides your career?

Trying. I do not limit myself to trying anything; I am proud of that.

Q: Do you have any fear?

House rent.

Q: If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life, which two items would you take?

I would rather not go. [But there is no rental fee there.] Music is a must. I would take a computer and TV for entertainment.

Q: Who is that artist that will remain in your playlist?

I would answer from a producer's perspective - the works of Elias Melka and the Ethiopiques tracks.

Q: Can you check your pocket and tell us what would be found?

ID card, ATM and house keys.

Q: What does your music journey look like?

Music has always been in my life. I come from a big family. As the last born in a family of nine, I got away with naughty behaviour and the freedom to take on music as a career, while my brothers had to drop it at some point. But after high school, I had to figure out which direction I wanted to go for some time, all the while working in between marketing.

Q: What did you do?

I had to market the idea of taxi top advertising.

Q: Did you convince any taxi driver?

Yes. It was challenging because the idea was new then. I think I signed up 600 of them to the company.

Q: What kept you from being fully committed to music? 

I had to fend off the societal pressure. My family wanted me to be well off, and I had to prove I was serious about it.

Q: What was the last gift you had for someone?

A bottle of wine for a birthday.

Q: Would you choose to be invisible or fly?

Q: What book did you enjoy reading?

The Alchemist.

Q: What would be written on your tombstone?

"He Lived a Good Life."

Q: A particular thing you like about yourself?

My resilience and strength.

Q: What is the best day at work?

Every day at work is great. But when something I have mapped out matches with the final output, it is thrilling.

Q: What is your favourite food?

Q: If you had a chance to collaborate with an artist, alive or late, who would it be?

Alemayehu Eshete.

Q: Any thoughts on what kind of music you would do together?

 Jemberu: A Modern Virtuoso

Yididya Wondwossen, a.k.a. Jemberu Demeke, came to the spotlight with lyrical abilities that tickle the brains, dropping a self-titled album over a year ago. Although he had a covert musical journey that began as a hobby at Ethio Parents School, he signed with Meedo Records as a producer, musician and songwriter, transforming it into a full-blown career.

Q: Say music does not exist, what would you do?

I want the readers to know that I am answering this question by force [lol]. It is probably something along the Software Engineering line; that is how I got introduced to music.

Q: Can you take us through that journey?

No one incident led me to pursue music as a career. It started as a simple hobby and evolved to production when I was introduced to a digital audio application. But everything was covert. My father was lenient on the religious side; I had to use earphones whenever I wanted to get some work done.

Q: Has he changed his mind?

He is content knowing what I do on those computers could be rewarding. I participated in a show hosted at Alliance Ethio-Française three years ago and earned 5,000 Br. I got back home with a few groceries to show off. But it was a turning point for my father, I guess.

Q: Do you have any fear?

I am not sure if it could be represented rightly. But losing the essence of myself.

Q: Who is that artist that will remain in your playlist?

It changes every time, but I have been listening to Eyob Mekonnen and Rophnan for the last few years.

Q: What would be written on your tombstone?

"Grateful While Alive."

Q: Is there a justification for using a stage name?

It defines my identity as an artist. Our roles in life are different; this is an extension of my career path. I would be confused if my father called me Jemberu.

Q: Favorite book?

I am not sure if it is a politically correct title. "Everything is F*ked."

Q: Have you ever worked for someone?

I was an outdoor salesperson when Catch Taxi was signing up drivers.

Q: How much were you paid?

It was a commission-based arrangement. I made 40,000 Br in two months.

Q: If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life, which two items would you take?

Does the island have a network? If it does, I would probably use my computer.

Q: What is the last gift you had for someone?

A necklace for a friend who went abroad.

Q: Would you choose to be invisible or fly?

Hands down, fly.

Q: If you had a chance to collaborate with an artist, alive or late, who would it be?

Elias Melka, to be in the presence of greatness and learn through experience.

Q: May you go through your pocket right now? What would be found?

ID card, mask and money.

Q: What are you proud of besides your career?

I am proud of my journey.

Q: What is your favourite food?

Do'ro Wot.

Q: Is it because of the upcoming holiday, or would you choose it as your last meal?

Hell no. I would sample a buffet for that.

 Maranatha: The Artistic Confluence

Trying to start his own business that went defunct was a reality check for Maranatha Tegegne. He turned to what he loved instead - filmmaking. He got the basics from a 10-month course and polished his talent for five years at Zeleman Production before flying solo. Besides filmmaking, Maranatha has cofounded Shifta Foods with his wife, where avid carnivores and vegetarians can be creative amidst a diverse menu.

Q: Are there benchmarks set to sign with your record label?

There are no written rules. We are open-minded if the sound provokes us and the vision aligns with ours.

Q: Do you have a routine when coming up with visuals?

It is a process. I do not have a specific routine but a collection of ideas. I process them while listening to the audio, having conversations with the artist, and drawing from my own experience. It hits at some point.

Q: Were the specific hard currency notes used on the visuals of "Teff Teff" selected purposely?

I need to leave that in the hands of the audience. I do not want to cloud their imagination with mine.

Q: What would be written on your tombstone?

Words would be too long. It would be an artwork . . . maybe a graffiti with all the different colours painted all over it.

Q: You are wearing a yellow hoodie. How would you describe the colour to someone who is colourblind?

Through light. I would compare its brightness with the sun.

Q: Who would be that artist that will remain in your playlist?

I would say Gigi and Tilahun Gesesse.

Q: If you had a chance to collaborate with an artist, alive or late, who would it be?

Madlib. He used Ayalew Mesfin’s song in his documentary. Fingers crossed, it will happen.

Q: Do you have any fear?

Q: What would you have as your last meal?

Probably a roasted chicken; with carrots and potatoes on the side... You do not ask a restaurant owner this question. [Lol]

Q: What would be found if you go through your pocket right now?

ID Card, 10 Br, phone, charger cable and power bank.

Q: If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life, which two items would you take?

This is not easy. I would take a helicopter and money.

Q: What was the last gift you had for someone?

Teff Teff's music video to the world.

Q: Would you choose to be invisible or fly?

Q: What is the difference between working for someone and being self-employed?

There is a sense of security that comes with working for someone. It makes planning more easy with a paycheck at the end of the month. The rewards of self-employment are effort-based. You get what you put.

Q: What is your proudest achievement outside of your career?

My daughter. Her name is Geez - she is about two and a half years old.

Q: What does the future hold for Meedo?

The recent development would be a concert lined up for October. In the long run, we aspire to put Ethiopian music on the map and see our artists compete internationally with some of the renowned names.

Q: What movie scared you as a child?

The Exorcist - the first time I got scared watching a horror movie.

Q: How about the one you enjoyed recently?

"Everything, Everywhere, All at Once."

PUBLISHED ON Sep 09,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1219]

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