A rising female artist with exciting new tunes

The Ethiopian singer Yemariam “Yema” Chernet has a gentle voice with a steely core, crafting an intimately forceful style and a lush feel that’s revealed on her debut album “Yedega Sew”. Based in Addis Ababa, Yema adeptly bridges the traditional fluttering vocal passions of Ethiopian songs—abundant in themes of longing and frustrated love—bringing them into a contemporary realm, with a spirit akin to what Ejigayehu Shibabaw accomplished some years ago. The album, skillfully produced by Eyuel Mengistu, the head of Yared School of Music, and with the help from the likes of lyricist Yilma Gebreab, drummer Teferi Assefa, Kora player Jose Braima Galissa, accordionist Kalle Moberg, guitarist Bas Gaakeer, reflects delicate fusions. The work is rooted in the Ethiopian musical tradition, yet defies the confines of a single culture. Most of the songs have at their center a running narrative between mesenko, (one-string fiddle) and dita (a five-string lyre), washint (a simple fife with four holes), phila flutes of the Derashe people and kora (a many-stringed harp-lute), the Portuguese guitar. The album captures songs as they meditate, like “Ye dega sew,” (a temperate man) or spontaneously combust, like “Raya,” a running dialogue on longing and yearning of the soul “When are you coming?,” and “The postman” about a tangible sense of anticipation emanating from a letter, poised to be delivered courtesy of the dependable postman.

Yema was born and raised in Addis Ababa. Being the daughter of a music manager who once directed the operations of Zema Lastas Band, she was immersed in the world of music from an early age. Growing up, she had the opportunity to observe the rehearsals of prominent musicians like Elias Melka and Dagmawi Ali. During her high school years, Yema began exploring her vocal talents by listening to and singing in English. She took a significant step into the realm of performance by joining a band at the Office Bar in Sheraton Addis. After just three months of performing at the Office Bar, she crossed paths with Eyuel, who led the Ethio Quartet band performing at Ramada Hotel in Addis Ababa. Their musical collaboration started then, experimenting with various musical styles. In May 2020, they worked together on a record that became one of the tracks in a collective musical project titled “Qene new Hager,”. Another recent endeavor is the soundtrack “Aye,” featured in the film “Doka,” which premiered in June 2023.

Yema’s voice and style bear an undeniable resemblance to Gigi, with numerous instances that could be perceived as imitative of the renowned artist’s sound. In an interview with VOA, Yema attempted to downplay the comparison, stating that it is both an honor and a burden to be likened to Gigi. This is not to contest the fact that we have a young talent with a profound musical intuition. However, she still has a journey ahead to develop her distinctive sound and style to speed straight to the top of her game.


Yema’s website can be found here.

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