Eritrea has its own rhythms, but that’s fairly apparent. (Well, to be fair, it probably shares some of this with Ethiopia and neighboring countries as well. That’s just how music is. Good music is hard to keep in one place.) Dance often utilizes these rhythms, most notably seen in two of the most prominent dance styles. One dance called the quda starts as a circle dance where the dancers shuffle their feet to the beat, moving their shoulders as well. The dancers will migrate to form groups of three and dance to each other before expanding back out to the group circle. By the end of the song, the tempo starts to accelerate, and the dancers try to keep up with the frenetic dance moves, which require a lot of strength and agility. Another common dance style involves two lines of dancers facing each other (usually men on one side and women on the other), and they dance towards each other. Like an Eritrean country line dance. (Or not.) Different ethnic groups have their own variations and styles of dances based on the function and purpose of these dances.
Instruments that are used in Eritrean music commonly include the kraar (five- or six-stringed lyre, tuned to the pentatonic scale), the kebero (a double-headed hand drum, available in large and small sizes), lyres, and the wata (a rough version of an early violin). Modern Eritrean music uses a variety of horns, woodwinds, and electronic instruments.
I also came across the very beautiful Elsa Kidane, and I was happy that I was able to find some of her music on Spotify. There weren’t too many female musicians mentioned in lists of Eritrean musicians. I listened to the album Tezezta Fiqri. At first listen, it seems to be in the same style and utilizes the same instrumentation as Bereket Mengesteab. However, while listening to the title track and other tracks, she makes use of the pentatonic scale, giving it more of an “Asian” sound. It makes me wonder if the kraar is used because of that. I liked it though.
Up next: the food!