Wednesday, July 24, 2024
ArtFeel the pulse of Addis Ababa’s streets

Feel the pulse of Addis Ababa’s streets

As the sun dips below the horizon, Meskel Square awakens, bathed in vibrant lights and the infectious rhythms of live music. Every Saturday, this iconic spot transforms into an oasis, where the city’s heartbeat syncs with the beats of drums and the strum of guitars.

In the bustling heart of the city, Meskel Square stands as a beacon of musical celebration. Here, both visitors and locals are swept up in the euphoria of live performances, creating a Saturday ritual that is as much about connection as it is about entertainment. These events fill the air with a variety of rich sounds and sights, drawing in crowds eager to immerse themselves in the local music and dance scene.

The urban landscape comes alive with each note, as the rhythmic melodies reverberate through the streets, turning Addis into a living, breathing symphony. Attendees frequently share how these musical gatherings infuse city life with a new energy, transforming ordinary spaces into communal havens filled with joy and camaraderie. It’s a celebration that transcends mere entertainment, fostering a deep sense of community and belonging.

Since its renovation, Meskel Square has become a focal point for diverse services and recreational activities. Capitalizing on this vibrant venue, Selamta Entertainment secured the coveted rights to host weekly concerts, outshining numerous competitors.

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Selamta Entertainment’s rise to prominence began modestly, with bi-weekly performances at Abrehot Library. Over the past two years, they have ambitiously expanded their vision, culminating in the “Come and Jam” series at Meskel Square. It offers a dynamic platform for emerging musicians to shine, drawing crowds that now number in the thousands. Social media has played a pivotal role in this meteoric rise, with platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook amplifying their reach.

Eyuel Getaneh, the visionary Band Manager and Event Organizer of Selamta, shared his journey.  “Nabeyu Shimeles and I came up with the idea at Yared Music School.” Eyuel reminisced.

He says Selamta was initially a band before it became an entertainment company. “After several attempts, we decided to expand, successfully obtaining a license,” he said, adding, the aim was to show that people and music transcend the confines of clubs and bars, and enjoy the performances without any barriers.

The impact of this vision and inclusive spirit has resonated with the city’s aspiring musicians, who find their first opportunities on this public stage. Mekdes Kasa, a bright talent from Yared Music School, echoed this sentiment. She recounted her debut performance with enthusiasm.

“It was my first time performing musical works for an audience,” Mekdes said, her eyes shining with excitement. “The experience was exhilarating and nerve-wracking, but the support from the producers and instrumentalists was incredibly encouraging. I felt a surge of confidence that I hadn’t felt before. This platform is an invaluable opportunity for budding artists like me to gain exposure and grow.”

Mekdes’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of these street concerts. They not only entertain but also serve as a launchpad for young musicians. “I invite aspiring musicians to come and showcase their talents. The community here is very supportive,” she added.

Under the canopy of Addis Ababa’s starry nights, the voices and rhythms of Selamta Entertainment reverberate through Meskel Square, transforming it into a nexus of creativity and culture. This is not merely a concert series; it’s a revolution in how the city experiences art.

Edlawit Lulu, a singer whose journey with Selamta began six months ago, illustrates the transformative power of these open-air performances. “I first came for a session after hearing about it. Before I sang, they were looking for a female singer and offered me a job after hearing my voice,” she recounted. The opportunities she has gained are multifaceted, providing her with invaluable experience and networking prospects.

“Selamta is redefining how people enjoy music. Here at Meskel Square, it’s an open-air venue that is beautifully affordable, featuring great music with a band. It’s not just for musicians; it’s an art stage showcasing poetry, theater, and comedy,” she explained.

This eclectic mix attracts a wide audience, making every Saturday a celebration of artistic expression.

Nathaniel Desalgn’s experience is equally telling. His initial jam session led to a positive audience reception and further job opportunities. “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was pleased with the positive reception from the audience,” he said, emphasizing the platform’s role in opening doors for local talent.

Jam sessions are an essential part of a musician’s growth and development. They provide a unique opportunity to collaborate and experiment with new ideas, and explore different musical styles.

For Abraham Fekadu, a drummer who transitioned from club gigs to Selamta, the experience has been transformative. “I used to work in clubs, but the Selamta band is a whole different experience. We work as a band, and the place is great. I have gotten a job opportunity as a result,” he shared. Abraham highlights the creative freedom and support Selamta provides, which has allowed him to explore his talents more deeply.

Regular attendee Yonas Getnet captures the essence of these concerts from the audience’s perspective. “Every Saturday I hear the music from my office. Sometimes I join them and it’s so beautiful—the open air, the band, the music,” he shared. Yonas’s favorite old melodies and the communal atmosphere keep him coming back, underscoring the event’s broad appeal.

The success of Selamta Entertainment is mirrored in other Ethiopian events like the Addis Jazz Festival, which draws global audiences and transforms the city into a cultural hotspot. Similar to the Meskel Square gatherings, the festival emphasizes community and cultural pride through music.

Rediet Fekadu, inspired by social media clips, attended Selamta’s event and found it perfectly aligned with her musical tastes and lifestyle. “I feel so comfortable that it’s at the center of the city. It’s easier to go home; the closing time is good, and the people who go there are for real music enthusiasts, which creates a good vibe,” she noted, highlighting the event’s safety, accessibility, and vibrant atmosphere.

Looking beyond Ethiopia, similar experiences resonate worldwide. The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, and Notting Hill Carnival all showcase how music in public spaces can unite diverse audiences and celebrate cultural heritage.

These concerts are more than just events; they are a celebration of community, culture, and the unifying power of music, reminding citizens that amidst the hustle and bustle of city life, there is always time to stop, listen, and connect.

Since Selamta’s performances began ten months ago, over 200 individuals have participated in the jam session with the band, revealing a wealth of untapped talent. As Eyuel and his co-founders look to the future, they envision expanding their concept within Addis Ababa and beyond, organizing more concerts, events, and festivals. Their mission is clear: to transform urban spaces into vibrant centers of artistic expression, one beat at a time.

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