Audio

The Weeknd Sampled Legendary Ethiopian Singer Aster Aweke on 'False Alarm'

Ethiopian music legend Aster Aweke is sampled on The Weeknd's second Starboy single, "False Alarm"

In September, Abel Tesfaye promised fans Ethiopian influences on his forthcoming Starboy album, coming out November 25 on Republic. Speaking with VMAN, The Weeknd revealed Amharic will “definitely be key” on the new record.


We now know that at least one of those influences can be heard on his second Starboy single. As The Wall Street Journal’s Alan Light points out, the legendary Ethiopian singer Aster Aweke is sampled for a brief moment towards the end of “False Alarm."

In an interview with Light, Tesfaye called Aweke “the Whitney Houston of Ethiopia.” He’s previously referred to her (in the interview with VMAN) as one of his “subconscious inspirations" alongside fellow Ethiopians he grew up listening to like Tilahun Gessesse and Mahmoud Ahmed.

The singer also touched on the plight of refugees around the world during his conversation with the WSJ. “What is happening is very real,” he said, “and we’re at a time when you can’t hide it. It’s being shown on cellphones, shown to people’s faces, and they still try to ignore it. I don’t think we should be waiting for a presidential election to change things—we need to change now. Mayors, governors, however we can figure it out, but it’s something that has to change really fast or it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.”

And although Tesfaye has publicly and financially supported Black Lives Matter in recent months, he reiterated that he’s not quite ready to address social issues head on in his music: “Of course you get angry about what’s happening, and maybe you hear that in a record like ‘False Alarm,’ where I’m screaming and it could be what I just heard on the news. But I don’t know how to make political music—not yet, anyway. People like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, that’s a talent, it’s an art that I wish I could do.”

Listen to Aweke sampled on “False Alarm” (beginning at the 3:18 mark) above. Here's hoping for a proper collaboration in the future.

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Photo by NurPhoto via Getty Images.

A Year After #EndSARS, Nigerian Youth Maintain That Nothing Has Changed

Despite the disbandment of the SARS units, young Nigerians are still being treated as criminals. We talk to several of them about their experiences since the #EndSARS protests.

On September 12th, Tobe, a 22-year-old student at the University of Nigeria's Enugu Campus was on his way to Shoprite to hang out with his friends when the tricycle he had boarded was stopped by policemen. At first, Tobe thought they were about to check the driver's documents, but he was wrong. "An officer told me to come down, he started searching me like I was a criminal and told me to pull down my trousers, I was so scared that my mind was racing in different ways, I wasn't wearing anything flashy nor did I have an iPhone or dreads — things they would use to describe me as a yahoo boy," he says.

They couldn't find anything on him and when he tried to defend himself, claiming he had rights, one of the police officers slapped him. "I fell to the ground sobbing but they dragged me by the waist and took me to their van where they collected everything including my phone and the 8,000 Naira I was with."

Luckily for Tobe, they let him go free after 2 hours. "They set me free because they caught another pack of boys who were in a Venza car, but they didn't give me my money completely, they gave me 2,000 Naira for my transport," he says.

It's no news that thousands of Nigerian youth have witnessed incidents like Tobe's — many more worse than his. It's this helpless and seemingly unsolvable situation which prompted the #EndSARS protests. Sparked after a viral video of a man who was shot just because he was driving an SUV and was mistaken as a yahoo boy, the #EndSARS protests saw millions of young Nigerians across several states of the country come out of their homes and march against a system has killed unfathomable numbers of people for invalid or plain stupid reasons. The protests started on October 6th, 2020 and came to a seize after a tragedy struck on October 20th of the same year.

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