Bob Marley once said the good thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain. May he rest in peace, Marley was so right! At times, music hits us before the first words are sung and before the hook even sets in. I had this exact experience a few days ago when Dawi from Mereja commented on an article I shared on that website that gave homage to musicians who cover famous songs. At the end of the article, I asked readers to submit YouTube videos of other lesser known singers who have done great covers outside of the three I spotlighted in the article. Dawi provided two links, which I initially thought were two different singers. I clicked on the first YouTube link.
Whoa! Instant! Wow! I knew it the within the first second that this song was one that I was going to listen to over and over again. Instantly, I found my new favorite song before I even knew who the singer was! Let me break news here, I am going to admit something to the readers here, I am a bit partial to Ethiopian music as Ethiopia is the land of my birth. But in all honesty, I did not even know at first that the singer was Ethiopian; I was so caught up in the instant rapture of the music that I did not even pay attention to the title of the video nor did I even look at the name of the singer. I found myself enveloped in beats and the rhythm as I awaited to see if the singer’s voice would match the amazement of the music’s inception.
When the singer started to sing, I was hooked and I knew at that exact moment that come Monday I was going to write a feature article about her. I had to tell the world about this enku (diamond) I had just uncovered thanks to the gem of information that Dawi passed on to me. This is the awesome connective aspect of music; the minute we hear a song we love, we want to promote it and share the allure of the music that hooked us with others. Music is the greatest drug of them all; except there is no overdoes from melodies–the more you drink from the cup of tunes the better you are for it. Moreover, there is a point of pride when we share music with others; we feel vested in the singers we love for we feel like we succeed too when our favorite musicians get the recognition they deserve.
So consider me doing my part as I pass on to you the music of AvevA the same way Dawi passed it on to me. It took me this long to name the singer in this article to convey the length of time it took for me to even recognize the name of my new favorite singer as I was listening to “I Wanna Go”. It literally took me until the third time I hit repeat on the song before I took a break from the rhythm to find out the name of the singer. Aveva! It was like a moment of eureka! I felt like I had just discovered the lost city of Atlantis! This is the wonderment of music and why we love musicians; we feel connected to singers when they sing our journeys into existence. On the fourth time around, I decided to be less about the melody and pay attention to the message.
It was then that I realized the true brilliance of AvevA, she was spinning my experiences into music. I know I’m not breaking news here when I say that I’ve had my share of struggles in my childhood. A first generation immigrant who grew up as an outsider, my childhood was a mix between burdens and blessings. The video was about the same duality that is the core of who I am as a person. AvevA’s song is about the past and the present as she speaks to the child in her and expresses anguish over past pains. She juxtaposes brilliantly the innocence of childhood that is transmuted when we gain the knowledge as adults and reassess our youth. In the video, there are kids playing innocently as they double-dutch and play a popular Ethiopian childhood game. Among the kids is AvevA as a child–the child is at once playing with others yet in her eyes you see melancholy.
The irony though is that it’s the child who is reaching out to AvevA–as if her childhood is tugging at her as she lays on the ground. This is the past that we all try to run from in a way as the past finds ways to occupy our minds. The video is at once stunning and somber; far be it from me to divine the mind of AvevA for I just found out about her a few days ago and I don’t know a thing about her outside of the first page of Google. But a mind that can come up with art like this and a music to match is one that has defiantly looked struggle in the face and refused to let moments be her trap. Instead, AvevA chose to sing and find beauty in the midst of the life’s challenges by letting her vocal chords be her canvass. What she blesses us with is art as she combines music with message in ways that seldom comes around.
I titled this article “Sheba to Aveva” because AvevA is Ethiopian who lives in Israel. A long, long time ago, another Ethiopian traveled to Israel to pay homage to a king. The Ethiopian I’m referring to is Queen Sheba who is really named Makeda and the king is the King Solomon. Though the history books have appropriated Sheba’s story and woven it with Hollywood lies, the truth of Queen Sheba lives on through those who know her story. Too often, women who have made amazing contributions to humanity get marginalized as the focus goes from their achievements to their looks.
Queen Sheba is characterized as the most beautiful of women who had a dalliance with King Solomon. But the arc of her life is more than her exterior for she was a magnificent queen whose wisdom matches that of Solomon. Queen Sheba (Makeda) and Solomon had a child together named Menelik I; it was from that lineage that all Ethiopian kings and queens trace their bloodlines to to King Solomon. This is why Ethiopia is called the tribe of Judah; the Axum empire was part and parcel of the 12 tribes of Israel–Ethiopia is the birthplace of Christianity and the a byproduct of the biblical Hebrews.
Parenthetically, the thing about art is that the meaning given by the artist is very much objective. But the true magnificence of art is when it becomes subjective as it is interpreted by the recipient. There was two layers of depth to the “I Wanna Go” music video for me. The first one is what came to mind initially; the tug and pull between an adult who is haunted by the past and a child within that tries to heal from the scars of something that was taken. So the music video was about the present hurt induced by a past injury. This is why the depth of “I Wanna Go” to me that is so profound and impact. The music matches the message as subtle hints and allusions are made about someone who hurt the lady who is lying on the floor wearing an Ethiopian dress–the inner child cries through the voice of the adult.
The theme of present versus past is significant in yet another way and is related to the story of Sheba and Solomon and how past theft continues to rob into the present. While looking up pictures of Sheba for this article, I kept running into one picture after another of an actress who represented an Ethiopian queen who looked like she was from Rome. Now I know I have said over and over again that race is inconsequential and that we should appreciate each other for our common humanity. But this does not given leeway to hijacking cultures and in the process spreading propaganda as art.
The folks in Hollywood need to stop misappropriating cultures and in the process acting every bit the second coming of the father of modern propaganda. The truth is that Sheba looked a lot more like AvevA than she ever looked like Gina Lollabrigida. But where producers and directors lie, there are truth seeking artists who are there to correct the record of malicious culture larcenists. Past pains can be rectified by present actions; we are not fated to let our past draw chalk outlines around us and capture us in the malice of past injustice. The enku does not have to be tata; the diamond does not have to be trouble.
It’s only fitting that AvevA lives in Israel now; the same way that Queen Sheba once traveled to Israel to give riches to King Solomon, AvevA is giving the riches of her voice and her talent to the land where Solomon walked on. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but talent as soaring and captivating as the diamond that is Aveva is one that beholds the world through her voice. Thus, the same way that Dawi passed on the music of AvevA to me, I am passing this music on to you and hope you do the same and pay music forward. The first YouTube clip is a Ghion Cast that encapsulates this article as I speak about the depth of this Aveva’s song from my experience followed by two full videos of AvevA’s songs which can be found on YouTube by searching “AvevA”. This goes out to all the ladies of the world, the queens of each household–you are more than your beauty on the outside, your strength is the source of humanity’s existence.
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ~ Bob Marley
If you liked this article and the music of AvevA, share it on social media using #Sheba2AvevA and make sure you like AvevA’s page on Facebook (LINK).
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.