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Everyone onÂ Islington Faces BlogÂ has a story. Â Where did you get your lucky break? Hanisha Solomon is big in Ethiopia â€“ her Ethio-jazz, reggae and soul songs are always on the radio taking a social change message into homes and shops with a rhythm that makes you want to dance. But she got her break thanks to a music producer based in Highbury. Here Hanisha Solomon talks about the power of song.Â Â InterviewÂ byÂ Nicola Baird
When Hanisha Solomon stands up and sings the audience dances. Maybe you saw her band, Zelesegna, at the Gillespie Festival in 2010 or 2011? Sheâ€™s also performed at The African Alive Festival in Frankfurt, Germany (2014), jammed with the legendary reggae singer Dennis Bovell at the London African music festival at the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston and joined in Botswanaâ€™s Independence Day celebrations in London at the London calcium CC2. Her first single Amma was a big hit in Ethiopia and with the many Ethiopians living around the world. Now she has a debut album calledÂ HanishaÂ from which two songs, Ayyoo (Mother) and Africa Unite, are being especially well-played on Ethiopian radio stations.
There are more than 80 languages in Ethiopia and Hanisha sings in the two major languages. Afanoromo orÂ Oromiffa (used by the largest ethnic group) and in Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia).
â€śThere are plenty of talented people singing in English,â€ť jokes Hanisha, â€śso I didnâ€™t see room for me there.â€ť She then looks serious sipping at her lemon and ginger tea, â€śI want to bring my own tradition and song to other peopleâ€ť.
Hanisha’sÂ songs are about social issues ranging from womenâ€™s rights to democracy, freedom and justice. She is passionate about giving people songs to encourage people to live in peace and harmony, like Africa Unite.
Links to all the songs are at the bottom of this page.
Places Hanisha Solomon likes in Islington
- I likeÂ Arsenal football stadium, the restaurants around Angel an above all I like City & Islington CollegeÂ â€“ itâ€™s where I learnt English and received a diploma in IT.
- We launchedÂ HanishaÂ the CD at the Barnsbury Community Centre on Caldeonian Road. Itâ€™s convenient for transport and fits 250-300 people.
- I love Gillespie Festival â€“ when I started singing on stage I felt Iâ€™d wasted all those years before. Itâ€™s the most amazing feeling holding a microphone. Iâ€™d like to thank the people who turned up to support us and welcomed us by dancing along.
War, peace and videos
â€śWhy do people kill each other?â€ť she asks. â€śYou donâ€™t have to be educated to think what will you leave behind for people â€“ or for your children and their children â€“ will it be peace or war?â€ť
But thereâ€™s a happy quotient to her tunes too, Amma, is about â€ślifeâ€™s ups and downs and the struggle a poor family feels when you want to be somebody. The song touches you, it helps you feel one day I will overcome these difficulties and achieve my ambitions,â€ť explains Hanisha who was back in Ethiopia in 2009 filming a video for this track.
The video is a fascinating glimpse into the relentless hard work women put up with caring for animals, lighting fires to cook over, washing clothes and scrubbing floors but it makes you want to dance too.
The songÂ also tells a story about what she has been through in life – how hard and difficult life can be at times but with hard work and positive ambition she is hoping to have a bright future one day.
Loving our mums
Ayyoo is a similarly catchy song in praise of mothers â€“ normally the unsung heroines. Listen to it here http://youtu.be/arvPmBdDSMA
â€śIâ€™m played a lot on TV and radio in Ethiopia, and also by the voice of America (VOA), German international radio (SW), SBS Australian Radio and others. ”
Even if you donâ€™t know any Ethiopian languages her songs have a powerful effect. And thatâ€™s Hanishaâ€™s power. Sheâ€™s tiny in real life â€“ but has a massive voice and stage presence.
â€śI love to sing and to see people dance,â€ť says Hanisha who grew up in a rural part of western Ethiopia. Hanisha came to the UK at a young age and when she arrived as a teenager she didnâ€™t yet know the English for â€śyes or noâ€ť.
She doesnâ€™t talk much about her school experience, but has nothing but praise for City & Islington College in Finsbury Park, where she learnt English and took a diploma in information technology. She also started to sing again in a church choir. But her lucky break was at a film audition when Highbury-based Ethiopian music producer Delnissaw Getaneh heard her singing and signed her up.
Now the band, which includes a keyboard, saxophone, drum bass guitar, guitar and the traditional Ethiopian instruments the krar and masengo players*) hope to do a tour of Africa.Â They may also be playing in Washington, USA in September 2014.
Hanisha â€“ her name in Arabic means beautiful night – is a lovely woman with a radiant smile and an incredible voice. Hereâ€™s hoping her songs with a social message are able to catch more than the Ethiopian audience. Sheâ€™s Islingtonâ€™s world music star â€“ and just needs one more piece of luck to launch herself on the UK festival scene to see her fan base grow. You can start the process by liking her Facebook page, or having a listen to the YouTube links below.
- You Tube of Amma, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wdV6vv4xE4
- Hear Ayyoo at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arvPmBdDSMA
- Buy the Hanisha album atÂ http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/hanisha2
- Live performance in Germany, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wdV6vv4xE4
- Follow Hanisha on Facebook here.
- Traditional Ethiopian instruments used by Hanisha Solomonâ€™s band are the krar which is a kind of lyre and the masengo a one-string fiddle.
Over to you
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