Esubalew Yitayew (Yeshi), few of an exception among Ethiopians in taking up his mother's name to honour her, is one of the famous performers currently topping the lists of many Ethiopian music lovers. Winning the hearts of the audience with a single song dubbed 'Mare Mare' [literally translated as Honey], released two years ago, the 25-year old singer and songwriter recently released an album 'Tiritaye' [my heartbeat], selling 30,000 copies. He began singing when he was a little boy, a grade five student. Esubalew, who has over four million views for his first video on YouTube, sat down with FASIKA TADESSE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER, for an impromptu talk.
Fortune: Which TV shows do you like the most?
I don’t regularly watch television programmes, or have a favourite channel.
But, whenever I watch TV, my top priority would be a news channel. It is because I always want to keep up with current affairs; so, I watch news from any media outlet.
Q: Hadn’t you been a singer, what would your profession be?
I don’t really know.
I have grown up dreaming to become a musician and never thought of any other career.
Since childhood, I have been profoundly attached to music.
Q: At what age do you want to die?
I watch TV, my top priority would be a news channel. It is because I always want to keep up with current affairs; so, I watch news from any media outlet.
It is a very difficult question.
Everyone desires to live as long as they can, and I am one of them.
But, if asked when l wish to die, I would say after accomplishing all my dreams. Still, I cannot mention an age.
Q: If you are told that you will not wake up tomorrow morning, what would the most important thing you would want to achieve before the next morning be?
One day is a very short time to fulfil my dreams; so, I will tell my family or relatives to do so on my behalf.
My vision is to write an autobiography, and it is impossible to accomplish this overnight. I will pass the task of completing my biography to my relatives.
Q: If Tiritaye was not the title of your album, what could it have been? Why?
I would have named it Endeweyn [literally translated to like wine]. When I listen to all of the tracks, I feel like they were just released even if I listen to the songs again or on any other day.
I don't know why, but many people seem concerned about my age.
It is just like wine that tastes fresh every time and tastes better as it ages.
Q: Which social media do you use the most?
I use Facebook frequently to promote my Album and my self. Apart from it, I casually use Instagram.
But, I am mostly active on Facebook.
Q: What kind of messages or comments do you frequently receive from your social media followers?
My age seems to interest many as most of the questions I receive are about it. People don’t believe me when I tell them that I am in my early 20s.
I don’t know why, but many people seem concerned about my age.
Q: Who is on your playlist at this moment?
Ejigayehu Shibabaw (GiGi).
Even on my way to this interview, I was listening to her music in my car. Apart from her talent, I appreciate the lyrics and melody of her songs.
Q: Do you have a time preference to write lyrics and compose melodies?
I work on music anytime, anywhere.
But there has to be something that motivates me to work. I always listen to and follow my heart. If my heart instructs me to compose a melody, I will work on it whenever and wherever I am.
If I feel like writing a song right now, I might just start working on that.
But once I start working, I don’t like to be disturbed or distracted.
For instance, if I am working on a particular composition in a quiet environment, I have to stay in that mood until I am done with it. I don’t want to be interrupted.
Q: If you are offered to receive a gift of your preference, what would you choose?
Gifts should be a surprise. And for me, any present given with love is a perfect gift.
But if I can choose the gift, I would love a painting as I am an admirer of art.
Q: If you are asked to rate your performances, which one will be on your top list?
From all of my shows, the one close to my heart was when I performed in front of an audience for the first time in fifth grade.
The song was Dawit Melese’s Lalekedash Kale alegne.
[He paused for a while and started singing.]
That day’s performance helped me discover my talent and ability to sing and motivated me to realise my dream.
It marked the beginning of my journey into the music industry.
Q: What is your dream place to visit?
I want to visit and explore historical sites in the country such as Lalibela and Axum, as I have never been to such places.
But my dream destinations would be Jerusalem and Greece.
I want to visit Jerusalem as it is considered a holy place in Christianity, while Greece is an ancient country that is a pioneer in art, paintings and sculptures.
From my history classes, this image of the country has been engraved on my mind, and I always dream of visiting it.
Yet, my priority is exploring the historical sites in my own country.
Q: You go on stage to perform, but incidentally, the microphone stops working, what would you do?
I would call the sound engineer and ask him to fix the system. And if it cannot be fixed, I will try to sing without a microphone. If that wouldn’t work too, I will apologise to my audience and leave the stage.
I have never thought of this and did not even expect to be asked such a question.
Q: What was the highest amount you paid for a meal? And what was that meal?
I cannot recall the highest bill for a meal, but I can say that it has never exceeded the cash in my pocket.
And I believe it is a miracle that I haven’t encountered such a situation as it could happen to anyone.
Q: If you get a chance to meet St.Yared what would you ask him?
It is a tough question.
[He pauses for a while to think…]
If I ever get to meet him, I would love to ask him what legacy I could leave for my generation just like he did for the Ethiopian music history and industry.
Q: What final preparations do you make before appearing on stage?
Before going on stage, I thank God and pray.
It can be very short, but I always thank Him for letting me be there at that specific time and day. I also pray for my success.