? include("../Agriculture/headere.php") ?>

Music Education in Eritrea

By Senai W. Andemariam

Modern musical instruments training in Eritrea began as soon as Italians seized Massawa in 1885 and started to recruit natives (Askaris) for the burgeoning colonial army. Since then there have been concerted efforts to raise the quality of music education within Eritrea but the big break is yet to come. This text is an overview of the state of music education within Eritrea.
Between 1885 and 1890 (when Eritrea was declared an Italian colony) several Askaris were trained with bugles and trumpets and constituted specially dressed units that, led by conductors, displayed musical shows to the colonial officers and fellow Askaris.

Role of missionaries in music education

Missionaries to Eritrea played a crucial role in the development of music education in the country. In March 1866, three Swedish evangelical missionaries set their foot on Eritrea en route to the Oromo land in Ethiopia. However, a combination of many reasons caused them to stay in Eritrea where they lay ground for the Evangelical and Lutheran Churches in Eritrea, which merged in 2006 after their separation in 1911. As part of their evangelical works, the missionaries played musical instruments and taught their native colleagues. It is said that in 1910 Nils Karlsson (1851-1929), one of the pioneers of the Lutheran Church of Eritrea (LCE), requested the dispatch of a music teacher from Sweden.The education of music under the LCE continued erratically throughout the decades.
The Reverend Olle Hagner (previously Olof Andersson) (1895-1978) was one of the earliest pioneers of music education at the Evangelical Church of Eritrea (ECE). Among the early native graduates of the musical training at the ECE’s school at Beleza was Grazmatch Habteab Weldemariam who, showing an early gift of music excelled in piano, violin and guitar. It is said that Weldemariam’s father, sold an ox to buy him a violin and a guitar for his music classes.

Habteab would later become famous for organizing a concert in Asmara in the 1930s and later moved to Ethiopia to work with the Armenian music educator Nerses Nalbandian. After the missionaries were expelled in 1935 by the Italian colonial government, the early local trainees continued to teach violin, mandolin, piano, guitar, accordion and cello. Some of their early students included Shaleqa Ghrmay Hadgu who would later become one of the greatest contributors to the development of modern Ethiopian music.
The Catholic Church also played a significant role in the training of music. In 1943 Fr. Armido Gasparrini (1913-2004), a missionary in Eritrea, opened a music school in the Comboni church compound in Asmara. Initially 80 students were registered but only 40 completed the course. Early students at the school included Ato Fsehaye Aregay – indisputably the most notable native music teacher – and Ato Uqbaslassie Ghebreghiorgis.
When Prof. Didicho Trinci established the Cita Dina Band, comprising mainly students taught by Fr. Gasparinni, he involved aged Italian music teachers andnatives such as Fsehaye and Uqbaslassie in teaching the new marching band recruits. Later, the city’s municipality took over the task of running the band. Fsehaye, Uqbaslassie and the aged foreign teachers were hired and new instruments were bought for the band. With time the band disappeared but its students continued to influence music in Eritrea, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

Asmara Music school

Eritrea's oldest music school, Asmara Music School was founded in the late 1980s with it's initial students who were recruited at the Revolutionary School for children of fighters. The school is run under the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Education. To date the school has close to 30 teachers.
Asmara Music School offers a three-year certificate program and a four-year (now five-year) diploma program. Currently there is a discussion to lower the five year diploma classes to three years.

The Horn of Africa Research and Knowledge Exchange Platform
The Horn of Africa Research and Knowledge Exchange Platform
© 2010-2016 www.harep.org rkidane@talk21.com Contact:
Please click Here to send your feedback