Inside the Home of the Passionate Dancer Melaku Belay





Fortune: What is your most memorable holiday?

Each holiday has an unforgettable moment; it is iconic in its way. It’s not always about dining together but spending time with my relatives, whom I have not been able to see for a long time. The holidays I used to spend at my parents’ house were the most memorable.

I could still remember the joy I had when my sister’s husband and other family relatives brought in sheep and Kircha, while my mother made Tella. The whole town used to spend the holiday at our place. Everyone was so relaxed.

We had our little karaoke session. My childhood years were amazing. And even this has been a big push towards my career now. The karaoke we had on holidays has helped me discover my talent.

 

Q: And, the worst holiday?

I do not seem to remember the most unfortunate event in any holiday, but there are times when I felt lonely while being abroad for work. That might be the worst holiday of my life.

 

I had the best concert with Getachew Mekuria. Attended by 30,000 people, and held in Baltimore in 2015, it was the best and the most memorable concert I have ever been a part of.



 

Q: What is the best gift you have ever received?

The gift from the Ethiopian Youth Association from Addis Ababa University was unforgettable. They gave me a glass of wine with a bouquet of flowers. This was the most pleasant and unexpected gift.

Q: How do you spend your time on holiday?

I celebrate the holidays with my mother at her place. Even though I have two kids, I would feel empty if I spent the holidays without my mom and my siblings.

Q: What is your favourite TV show?

I wish if I could have watched television more often than I do now. Since I’m very busy, it’s hard to choose without watching. I can’t dare to choose among the contemporary TV shows, but years ago, I used to enjoy watching the TV show dubbed 120, now known as Ehud Meznagna.

Q: Where do you have your hair done?

I like Bahiru Kagne and Yirga Dubale. Even better is a mixture of modern and oldies music. When Ethiopian music is mixed with Jazz, it is astounding.



I don’t go to the barber shop that much, my daily routine includes washing my hair and just going to work.

Q: Where was the last place you got your haircut?

It was at Kazanchis. But, I don’t mind wherever it is as long as there is no queue of people waiting for the service.

 

Q: Describe yourself in one word?

Lover.

Q: When did you decide to become a dancer?

I think I was 10 years old when I realised my skill and decided to become a dancer. I remember people around me used to enjoy my performance and I was not shy to perform. They used to encourage me to dance by beating on drums and giving me beats. And I was not one to back out. I was full of confidence, which is how I ended up seriously pursuing a career in dance.

I officially became a dancer 19 years ago. Then I started performing at National Theatre, Hager Fikir and Ras Theatre as a freelancer. Then, I went into work at night clubs.

Q: What genre of music have you enjoyed the most?

I love music with a strong beat that can be enjoyed by all generations. I like Bahiru Kagne and Yirga Dubale. Even better is a mixture of modern and oldies music. When Ethiopian music is mixed with Jazz, it is astounding.

Q: What is the best fitting song for dancing?

I love Guragegna. It’s more challenging than the others. Ethio Colour, a cultural band, is my favourite in this regard. The songs of Nardos or Weda fit me well too.

Q: When was your best performance?

It’s hard to say because when I’m performing, I feel like I give it all most of the time. But If I have to choose, I had the best concert with Getachew Mekuria. Attended by 30,000 people, and held in Baltimore in 2015, it was the best and the most memorable concert I have ever been a part of.

Many Ethiopians were going crazy with the vibe. The music, the dance,  it just ended up being a great night.

Q: If you get a chance to invite a prominent person to dance with you, whom will you choose?

Had he been alive, I would have wanted to dance with Michael Jackson. But if I have to be realistic, I would go with Ayena, a traditional dancer who works with me. He came from Wollo, and dances with passion.

Q: Who is your favourite non-traditional dancer?

I admire Shiferaw. He has a contemporary dancing studio. He used to be a member of Aduna dance group.

Q: What kinds of items do you bring from the countries you travel to?

I mostly bring musical instruments such as a microphone, a jack for a Masinqo and other things that my colleagues might need.

Q: Can you tell me a joke that you find funny?

There was a rich woman who was accustomed to ordering people around. But she was never satisfied with their performance. One day, she called one of her housemaids and demanded that the water be brought to her when she gets thirsty.

I believe that a joke should not just be funny, but educational too. A joke should not only make you laugh, but it should also have a message behind it.

Q: Most people believe that you are familiar with Desta Gebre.

Yeah. There is this Ethiopian saying called Zare, which just lifts you up and gives you the energy to create something and forget where you are. I think that’s what Desta and I have in common.

When I am dancing, I am in my world. I do not know where I get the energy. Although she has a unique style, I think I possess the same thing. I have my style, and I’m living as myself.

Q: What would you do if you could go back to the 1980s when you first started out as a dancer?

If I could get back in time to the 1980’s, I would have brought more fashion and passion to the dancers and the singers. Back then, there was not much creativity in the media. It was too grounded. On the other hand, if I had the energy I had then, I would have created more authentic dancing today.

Overall, I would have shared my wisdom if I could go back in time.

Q: What was your dream job when you were a child?

My dream was to be an athlete and make my country proud.

Q: If you woke up one day without shoulders, what else would you do?

I will probably be shocked. But, since I have gone through a lot in my life, I am sure I would have tried to find a solution instead.

Q: I would have asked myself, I lost my arms, so what can I do with the rest of my body?

But I know that I would never stop dancing because it is engraved deep down in my heart. As long as I am alive and walking, I will keep dancing. I dance not with my hands but with my heart and soul.

Q: Can you salsa, tango or break dance?

I used to try to break dance, but whatever can go with our traditional dance, I will always try to integrate it.

Q: If you get a chance to expand Fendika, where will be your pick?

I first prefer around Saris, Addis Abeba, as it is in need of many Fendikas.  And if I have the money to open a Fendeke Studio abroad, I would love to open it in Paris, France. The people of Paris are culture vultures.

By SAMSON BERHANE
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER





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