Music in the Eritrean media

(First published in Music in Africa; May 13, 2016)

This text provides an overview of the Eritrean media, particularly as it relates to the local music industry.

Eritrean Voices show producers in studio. Photo: www.thecitizen.org.au
Eritrean Voices show producers in studio. Photo: www.thecitizen.org.au
 After Eritrea’s independence in 1991, music continued to be used for political reasons – but this time, by Eritrea’s government against its own people. Various bands worked directly under the party’s organs and the army, producing a disproportionate number of songs for the many national holidays that fill up the Eritrean calendar. Only songs produced in this fashion received substantial media airplay. This tradition has resulted in an “echo chamber” in which Eritrean artists produce music that they know the state-controlled media want – despite the songs’ obvious lack of quality, integrity or creativity. Singers are rewarded according to how well their songs are received in the state media and how much airtime they receive. This sort of “success” opens further opportunities for these artists to tour outside the country.

While the state media heavily promotes music that fulfills their own agenda, this does not necessarily improve the quality of productions. With the almost constant playing of patriotic songs on national radio and TV, it’s difficult to gauge how the music is really being received. The public’s continuous exposure to mediocre music results in a limited ability to discern what good-quality music actually is. There’s little or no objective standard for quality music in Eritrea – no knowledgeable music critics, very little musical scholarship and little access to decent, freely-made music from outside the country.Click here to read the whole article from Music in Africa.