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The Weeknd Discusses His Ethiopian Heritage

Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, discusses his Ethiopian heritage and the impact it's had on his sound in a new interview with Pitchfork.


Photo by @kalen_hollomon via Facebook.

Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, has taken over the airwaves with his experimental R&B sound. His latest album Beauty Behind the Madness, is sitting comfortably at the top of the Billboard 200, and his swift transformation from cult superstar to international pop star has been a common area of discussion in the music sphere. Much less talked about, though, is the singer's Ethiopian heritage, which he credits for having a profound impact on his craft.

In a recent interview with Pitchfork, the musician discusses how his Ethiopian upbringing shaped him artistically. "My mother, my grandmother, my uncles would play Ethiopian artists like Aster Aweke and Mulatu Astatke all the time in the house. They would drink coffee, eat popcorn, and listen to the music. It’s such beautiful music, but I didn’t realize how beautiful it was until I left that head space.That’s why I feel like my singing is not conventional" said the musician. "The feeling in my music and in my voice is very Ethiopian and very African and much more powerful than anything, technically. There are songs like “Gone” where I don’t even know what I’m saying—I let my voice do all the talking. I’ll probably do an album like that one day where it’s not lyrics at all, just melodies and great production. Maybe the next one, I don’t know. That’s the Ethiopian side of me." He also spoke about his affinity for Amharic poetry,  "Ethiopian poetry is a different language. I can speak and understand [Amharic], but I can’t understand their poetry. When my mother would translate—it’s the most beautiful thing ever."

The singer went on to express his appreciation for his mother country and his desire to visit, "I’ve never been back home to Ethiopia, but when I do go I’m going to make it very special." Read the full interview here and listen to his Amharic-inspired single "Gone" below. Also worth checking out is Okayafrica contributor Hannah Giorgis' previous Pitchfork piece The Weeknd's East African Roots.

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Michaela Coel Joins the 'Black Panther' Sequel Cast

The upcoming film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is shaping up.

The sequel to the Oscar-winning Black Panther is only due to debut in July of 2022, but the production is well on its way.

The latest news out of the camp is that Michaela Coel, of I May Destroy You and Chewing Gum fame, has officially joined the cast of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Her character details are still under wraps but according to Variety, Coel has already joined director Ryan Coogler at Atlanta's Pinewood Studios, where production started in late June.

Coel joins original cast members Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong'o, Florence Kasumba, and Angela Bassett all reprising their roles. Following the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman, Marvel reportedly chose not to recast the role of T'Challa.

Read: How Michaela Coel's 'I May Destroy You' Makes Space For Black Creators

"It's clearly very emotional without Chad," Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige mentions. "But everyone is also very excited to bring the world of Wakanda back to the public and back to the fans. We're going to do it in a way that would make Chad proud."

Michaela Coel's highly-lauded 2020 series I May Destroy You — which she wrote, directed, produced and stared in — received four Emmy nominations.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is scheduled for wide release on July 8, 2022.

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