Gabriel Teodros Shares His Ethiopian New Year Playlist

In honor of Enkutatash, Gabriel Teodros shares his Ethiopian New Year playlist.

I'm sitting in Oakland, CA in the middle of a park on the corner of MacArthur and Grand, next to a gojo/adgo we built in honor of Ethiopian and Eritrean New Years and to celebrate new works of Bay Area artists who are exploring the evolving nature of "home" as it is experienced by the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities here. As a member of the Ethiopian diaspora, both my music and musical tastes have been shaped by people who live in between worlds. This playlist is a reflection of what it means to me to honor one's roots while at the same time inventing the future. Melkam addis amet, ya'll!


Four Tops, "It's The Same Old Song"

As far as I know, Abdul "Duke" Fakir (a founding member of The Four Tops, and the only one of the original Four that is still alive) is one of the earliest members of the Ethiopian diaspora to personally have such a deep impact on Black music from within the United States, with The Four Tops being one of the groups that helped define Motown's sound. I chose this song because of the symbolism of the lyrics when applied to Duke's story, as well as the rest of us that came after him. For connection, and for the ways we sometimes have to carry on traditions that feed our spirits, even in languages that are not our own: "it's the same old song, but with a different meaning since you've been gone."


Burntface ft. Walta & Surafel, "Taxi Cab"

Believe it or not, when I started making music in the late '90's, I thought I was the only Ethiopian emcee I knew of until I got an e-mail from Burntface, sometime in 2005. It blew my mind to hear the music his crew had been making in Atlanta for just as long as I had been doing my thing in Seattle, and more than that, that they were incorporating samples of Ethiopian music into the beats (before that was a thing) and they had lyrics in Amharic and Tigrinya. "Taxi Cab" is an old school Burntface track that I've always loved because of the image it paints, conversations on a taxi ride that could happen on any day. Rest In Peace Surafel.


Flying Lotus ft. Gonjasufi, "Testament"

I actually heard of Sumach aka Gonjasufi through his work with Orko Eloheim back in 2001, but I didn't learn that he had an Ethiopian/Mexican background until years later. The "descendent of Bishop Enoch Mekonnen" line on that track with Orko should of given it away. You may say his music sounds like no one else, but it sounds to me like he's channeling some of his Ethiopian ancestors on tracks like these. Blessing them with these testaments.


Meklit, "We Are Alive"

Since it is New Years, here is something brand new from my brilliant and talented cousin Meklit! A creative, fun video released earlier this week for the title track of her latest album We Are Alive. We didn't grow up knowing we had a musical family, I actually didn't even know Meklit sang until around 2007. We were all encouraged to do different things with our lives, but somehow with 4 professional musicians in our generation, and even more younger cousins working on their craft, I now make jokes about music being the family business.


Munit + Jorg, "Noro Noro"

Munit Mesfin is just so easy to love. Munit + Jorg are based in Addis Ababa, and when this video dropped, I had never seen anything like it out of Ethiopia. "Noro Noro" is a song all about living your truth.


Selamnesh Zemene & Dina El Wedidi (The Nile Project), "Gueragui / Kelmet Watan"

The Nile Project is doing the good work of addressing the Nile Basin's cultural and environmental challenges by curating collaborations between musicians from all 11 countries the Nile River touches, amongst other things. Musicians learn each other's traditions and the work coming out has been so exciting. This particular song features Selamnesh Zemene who is one of the most powerful singers I heard the whole time we were in Ethiopia and Dina El Wedidi from Egypt. Beautiful work!


Krar Collective, "Zelesegna"

Krar Collective are based in London, UK and have been touring all over the world the last few years. With nothing more than vocals, a krar and kebero drums, these 3 have a huge sound and put on such an energetic show. Getting to rap with them last year in Seattle was like a little musical dream come true.


Wayna, "Long As You Know" (feat. Setgn Satenaw)

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I've been a fan of Wayna's work since first hearing it back when myspace was a thing, and her album The Expats was one of my favorites from anyone last year. I had this song on repeat often, the masinko and the lyrics on this one just get to me. Wayna is another artist you have to see live.


Ras Nebyu, "Washington Slizzards"

I spoke earlier about how coming up I didn't know a lot of other Ethiopian emcees, these days I learn about another one every week! My producer/homie AirMe put me on to Ras Neb out of Washington, DC (aka Ethiopia's 2nd capitol) earlier this summer. I really dug how much of growing up in DC got captured in this one song and how it feels like a throwback and the future at the same time.


Melaku Belay, "Ahun" (performing Merkato)

This last video isn't a song, but an experimental performance. Melaku Belay runs a popular Azmari bet in Addis Ababa called Fendika. The best live music that I saw in Ethiopia happened there. Some things I learned from Fendika, as well as watching greats like Mahmoud Ahmed and Aster Aweke in concert, is that Ethiopian music is to be experienced, that the best moments are simply unrecordable, and that the dance is as important as the music itself. Fendika also captured everything I love about Hip Hop without even trying. The energy, the improvisation, the excellence and the outcasts. This video is Melaku dancing to everyday sounds of people working at Merkato, Ethiopia's largest open-air market.


This Is What Rotimi's 'Walk With Me' EP Listening Party Looked Like

The Nigerian singer held an intimate listening party on the eve of the release of his new EP, 'Walk With Me,' at Brooklyn's Okay Space.

Walk With Me, Rotimi's new and highly anticipated EP, dropped Friday—giving us a seven-track peek into who the singer and actor truly is sonically.

The night before, the Nigerian-American crooner gathered over 100 tastemakers and day-one supporters to Brooklyn's Okay Space—the shared gallery space between Okayplayer and OkayAfrica—for an intimate listening party celebrating the release, as well as his music video for "Love Riddim" which also dropped this week.

The night was simply a vibe—folks enjoyed libations and bites from The Suya Guy, with sounds by DJ Tunez. Rotimi opened the gathering up with a thoughtful prayer, with the music video reveal to follow. The singer then walked the audience through each track from Walk With Me, opening up about the creative process of how each track came to life.

Following, Rotimi engaged in an even more in-depth Q+A session with OkayAfrica's arts and culture editor, Antoinette Isama, where he touched on his experience touring with Wizkid back in 2011, his thoughts on the continued rise in popularity afrobeats is having in mainstream music, his hopes for the future and more. Tunez then ran the EP back when the party ensued, as the project is full of tracks that are worthy of being on repeat.

Listen to Walk With Me below, and be sure to take a look at photos from the listening party by Nerdscarf Photography.

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CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 16: Director Ladj Ly and Almamy Kanoute attend the photocall for "Les Miserables" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

How To Survive Cannes Film Festival As a Black Filmmaker

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind.

Cannes Film Festival is one of the world's most prestigious gatherings bringing celebrities, filmmakers and actors claiming to celebrate the world's best film. Although the festival is way behind Sundance or the London Film Festival regarding diversity efforts, it remains the place to be if you're a filmmaker—especially a Black one.

I, myself, am a Black French filmmaker who was invited to Cannes as part of their scheme for young film lovers—3 Days in Cannes—open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 28. The scheme, which launched in 2018, requires young hopefuls to write a cover letter showing their passion for film. It ultimately gives young people the opportunity to discover the international selection of films showed at Cannes.

READ: Black Women Are the Future of French Cinema—When Will Cannes Catch Up?

Being in Cannes for the first time was a wonderful experience, but it can be tough to navigate as a Black filmmaker if you're not prepared for it. So, here are top tips.

1) Don't be a person of color—especially if you're Black (Just kidding. But still.)

Cannes is a beautiful, posh city in the south of France. It is part of the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur, an administrative region where the far right party Rassemblement National (formally known as the National Front) hits record-breaking highs. Despite the fact that the festival is incredibly international, at times it can feel pretty racist, like a sunny, idyllic version of 1960s Alabama, where a party of more than one Black person gets routinely rejected from some clubs/bars/restaurants. On top of that, the staff and some of the security working at the festival can be incredibly aggressive and rude to you and in French. If you don't understand it, it's even more confusing.

To avoid it, try to stick to the official Cannes parties, or hang out in international hotels like the Miramar or the Radisson Blu Hotel—which are used to an international crowd. You can also stick to parties at the various country pavilions near the Film Market.

2) Stick to the African Pavilion

At the festival, most countries have their own pavilion. But because the festival believes Africa is a country, all 54 countries are gathered in one pavilion. This pavilion also includes the Caribbean, since Jamaica, as life would have it, is also an African country. In the African Pavilion, there was even talk on how to submit films if you're a filmmaker of Indian descent (despite the fact that India had its own pavilion).

You're not African? That's okay, no one cares. Pan-Africanism is still alive, I guess? Thankfully, out of the many pavilions, I did find the African Pavilion was the best one the most welcoming and whose schedule was the most open and clear. Because Cannes is such an exclusive festival, most of the parties and talks won't be communicated outside of those who are supposed to attend.

The African Pavilion, however, requires you to sign up to their newsletter. You then access their app where you can see the schedule, the talks to attend and the party they planned. The only downside is that they were understaffed, so some talks and events were cancelled last minute and with limited communication.

If you're a Black French filmmaker, speaking English is a must to get the most out of the pavilion. If you're an English-speaking filmmaker, try to make friends or meet people who speak French, as some of the talks/discussions might not have professional interpreters.

Also, go to the events organized by diversity in Cannes. Now, if you're a Black filmmaker who would rather not stay in the community for fear of being pigeonholed? Unless you're part of a talent scheme run by the festival...good luck getting others to support you.

3) Be ready to WAIT to see films and to party

On average, I waited 1 hour 40 minutes for each film I wanted to see in the official selection program. And I purposely chose not to see the famous ones like the Pedro Almodóvar or Quintin Tarantino's films. I also waited almost two hours to see a film from the Un certain regard selection and didn't get in—despite my pass. Now, Un certain regard has the most highly sought after films, even more so than the Competition, because they tend to select the best among indie international films. To get in for sure, you need a "Un certain regard" pass, so they need to invite you themselves. Even if you have a ticket at the counter, you might not get in unless you wait two hours (standing) or choose to attend the early screening or the late ones (and still, you should be ready to wait 1 hour for these).

You need a pass AND a ticket to see the films from the official selection and walk the red carpet up to the Grand Théatre Debussy. For the ACID, Director's fortnight, Semaine de la critique, and the Official selection's films not shown on the red carpet, you just need a pass—and to be ready to queue for at least 45 minutes.

I wouldn't recommend getting the Cannes cinephile pass as it has a low priority. I saw people waiting 2 hours to see a film and not getting in, while people with professional Black passes arriving 10 minutes before the screening walking past them. Because the Cannes festival is for professionals, they have, unfortunately, priority over members of the public.

Now, with the parties at Cannes, word on the street is that they are not as legendary as they used to be. Even if you get invited to one, you still need to wait an hour. It's not because they are over capacity, but rather they feel the need to pretend that they are. Unless you're a VVIP. And if you're one, why are you reading my article?

Anyway, despite not being as glamorous as they used to be, they remain so exclusive that if your name is not on the list, you might need to sell your first born to attend.

Thankfully, you can avoid it by being smart. When I arrived in Cannes, I was dead set on going to parties to network. Since almost all of them are invite only, I went to the parties at the pavilions, like the UK one, the American one (which costs 20 euros because Americans are always about their money) and the African Pavilion—that were kind enough to facilitate networking by introducing me to fellow filmmakers. God knows how talking to strangers and building new relationships can be difficult, and they made it easier.

4) Make friends with distributors or people working for the Mayor's office

The whole point of the festival is to sell films. Tickets are sparse for most people, so some badge holders wear their Sunday Best and stand outside the grand theater, holding signs asking for tickets. It makes sense that distributors are incredibly powerful, since they have the power to buy and sell films internationally. They are given way too many tickets that should be given to people waiting for hours outside.

So, if you make friends with distributors, they will always have a handful of spare tickets, even for the big ones that everyone wants to see. They also have tickets for the big parties as well. Press badge holders also have priority since they are responsible for a film good or bad media coverage. So they have a handful of tickets too.

People working for the Mayor's office also have tickets because they work closely together since the festival brings so much revenue to the city. Make friends with them, as well as film students and you'll get tickets. Don't know where to find them? Social media is your friend.

There is also another way to get tickets to films: the staff. For example, I couldn't get tickets to see Mati Diop's Atlantiques. I walked to the ticket counter and saw a Black woman with a great hairstyle. My instinct KNEW I had to tag along. I asked her if she needed help. She was looking for the same tickets. We asked someone at the ticket office if they could help. They said they had nothing. But one of the staff members saw us and said she could try to help us. She came back with two tickets and that's how I got to see the film. I got lucky and was cunning. So be nice with the staff, they can help.

5) Be ready for anything

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind. Since you're spending so much time waiting and walking from venues to venues, you won't have time to eat unless you bring food you've made before hand. You're not allowed to eat inside the theaters and if you walk the red carpet, you food is thrown out beforehand. You can try buying food and drinks in the morning and finish it by the time you walk the red carpet. I'd advise buying it at a supermarket like the pricey Monoprix. Or the nearby McDonald's. It's cheap, warm, almost always open and a great way to socialize! Young filmmakers, as well as those from Britain and the States will come to McDonald's to eat since it's one of the places they know best. Why not strike up a convo there?

Also, don't forget your power bank. Your phone will get out of battery for sure, especially if you post content on social media.

Finally, despite its reputation, the festival is incredibly badly organized. You will be told that your badge is not allowed to watch films at other selections, or you would be given the wrong directions and will be lost in the croisette on your way to see an obscure film.

Chill, be ready to walk and use Google Maps. And enjoy!


Julie Adenuga: "There Are Young Artists In Nigeria Who Are Changing the World"

In an exclusive interview, the Beats 1 radio presenter opens up about her Nigerian heritage, documenting Homecoming in Lagos, and London being an important hub for afro-fusion sounds.

Julie Adenuga sits at the intersection of two continents.

As an affable tastemaker who transforms banal interviews into engaging conversations with some of the most famous artists in the world, Julie is leading the global dialogue on new music from her daily radio show, which broadcasts to over 100 countries.

The North London native of Nigerian descent hails from a musical family, her brothers are artists Skepta and JME, and has risen from the underground as a self-taught presenter on former pirate radio station Rinse FM to being one of three lead DJ's with her Beats 1 show on Apple Music.

A champion of homegrown talent in the UK and across the African diaspora, Julie is a purveyor of the afro-fusion genre, as is evident in her recent Homecoming documentary, which captured the fresh innovators from the Lagos music scene, and her DON't @ ME club nights, which has featured Ghetts, Lady Leshurr and The Compozers as residents.

Chosen as one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women celebrating extraordinary women from Africa and the diaspora, we speak with the presenter and broadcaster on owning her Nigerian identity, the responsibility of spreading afrobeats and why London is a key location for the genre.

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