Wednesday, July 24, 2024
ArtK.A.S.S.M.A.S.S.E: redefining a genre

K.A.S.S.M.A.S.S.E: redefining a genre

Hip-hop/rap music has attained mainstream credibility amongst the youth. Rapping in African music and culture is a tradition that goes further than the genre’s popular life cycle, but it was carried to the new world in the 1400s. Ironically History has come full circle, and rap music and hip-hop culture are now being re-created by African youth all over the continent, who have taken rap’s current day manifestations and added a new African twist by intertwining their own cultural influences.



Present day Ethiopian hip-hop delves deep into various cultures with in the country, taking inspiration and influences that give the music a much more authentic feel to it. Amongst the leading artists paving the way in hip-hop is kassmasse, an artist who represents the Ethiopian culture with a more contemporary and avant-garde sense.

Kassmasse, who legally goes by the name Fikru Sema, is a young up and coming musician with a unique sound that is unmistakably Ethiopian. He manages to use the beauty of Amharic, the grammatical complexity, the subtlety rich tradition of allegory, and sophisticated wordplay, to his advantage by unapologetically using allegories to comment on the current state of the youth, the country and society as a whole, by combining elements of Hip-Hop and sampled tizita and ambassel sounds. Kassmasse’s music gives an honest look at the everyday beauty of being human while exploring life struggles and the uncertainty that lies within all of us. Aside from his unique and eclectic delivery, his music offers inspiration and lyrical substance. His artistry represents a lifestyle of a long-forgotten era that somehow feels nostalgic to this generation and the one before it creating a more connected society through his music.

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Kassmasse started his music career a lot recently than his well curated and seasoned music lets on. The artist recalls spending about 3 years after graduating from college of commerce to perfect his craft through partnering with lots of professionals. He has always envisioned what he wanted his sound to be and what he wanted to do with this particular art form. He stated: “I believed in the work, I knew it would eventually be fruitful. I was highly anticipating my debut and the reception from the public was beyond my anticipation. All the people that worked with me to create my EP made the journey worth a while by being overly cooperative. The success of the EP is because of these people and I am thankful to them.”

Praised by many as the new sound of hip-hop in Ethiopia, the artist’s ability to morph a well-known genre as hip-hop into something completely his own earns him a well-deserved praise by Amharic music lovers. The artist’s ability to use eloquent Amharic words without stuttering and binging English words in the middle has gotten him admiration and envy from the older generation who aren’t as heavily involved in the hip-hop music scene. Although his humble beginnings reside in using Graphiti art as a form of expression, the artist has gracefully transitioned into the music scene with his signature style and flow.

Kassmasse is not just a mainstream hip-hop artist; his style of music is unique to him and his team that it has its own genre that he likes to call ‘antsar’. “I would describe my style or genre of music as “Antsar” which roughly translates to perspective. What we were trying to do was create a new laboratory if you will for the new generation of sound, where we could sample with different genres of music. We wanted to come up with a category through which we can promote my first EP ‘Maleda’; we couldn’t refer to it as just hip-hop or any other genre for that matter, so suggested ‘antsar’ as an option. It was my perspective of the music so I suggested the name for the genre with in which people can group the EP in.”

“Personally, the combination of genres such as pop, Reggae, Hip Hop, RnB, Jazz and as such mixed with a bit of the old and new brings with it an untapped melody for any artist to dabble in. Antsar / Perspective/, for me, is quite literally viewing and listening to the music from the musician’s point of view.”

Kassmasse takes inspiration from music that came before him and presents it in his own way. He remarked: “my inspirations are clearly visible in my music; in the first few seconds of the first track released from my EP Maleda, one can clearly hear the conversations between Ethiopian elders who were involved in art. They discuss the fate of Ethiopia and we intentionally included the sample of that discussion, because we too wonder what these wise elders had planned for our nation. Most of the samples Yikunoamlak (uno) used were from the golden ages of Ethiopian music. We have definitely taken inspiration from that time in how we portray our ideas, to the flow of the music and more. So I’d say our biggest influences are the old and golden ages of Ethiopian music. We believe we have tapped into how music was composed by musicians who were trailblazers for us in the past and combined it with the current flow of music, adding my own perspective of how I view the world and the current situations around it”.

Kassmasse represents the country not only in his lyrical choices but also in his attire and image choices as well. Kassmasse has become a symbol for the youth in a way that he has showcased how traditional attire could be adopted in a more contemporary style to fit the mold of what is considered “cool” or “hip”. Speaking about his signature look and sound, the artist said “we do what we do to give the people something new and fresh; We asked ourselves how do we present our ideas in such a way that it invokes something in the people. Even my name Kassmasse means ‘if it is needed’. So we’re presenting our music, just in case our outlook and perspective on the music is needed”. On his latest music video, the artist delves deep into the history of the country using imageries that invoke a sense of patriotism in any Ethiopian that watches it. The video which was created by Maranata Tegegne, the director in his prior video as well, uses minimal space to convey a message that hits deep.

Kassmasse might be new to the industry but he has an entourage of professionals who know the industry inside and out. His team is composed of likeminded creative personalities he can bounce ideas off of. The first EP gave us songs like Maleda that gave our ears a new horizon into the sound we have come to associate with the artist. The artist claims there is a lot in store and that he and his team are working on something big. “Currently am working on an album, we’re still trying to decide on how to promote the album but I believe my album will be out real soon.” Whatever it maybe, the fans are eagerly waiting for the next step in the young talented artist’s journey to change the face of hip-hop in Ethiopia.

Contributed by Yosthena Aynalem

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