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Faytinga: Freedom fighter woman turned musician

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Sfinks Festival-Boechout-Belgium-2002

By Joel Savage

Music could be inspirational, touching and healing for the mind to relax, even when the words of the songs are not understood. In the midst of spectators, moving around on the field of sfinks festival, a cool melodious tune came out of one of the constructed tents. I got closer and found a musician with a difference. She is a woman and more to it, she was a former freedom fighter, in her country’s liberation struggle.

I took a couple of photographs and waited almost an hour for the group to finish playing and conduct this special interview with their leader. In a very soft posture and humility Faytinga declared to me “On May 24th 1993, Eritrea declared its independence as Africa’s fifty-second nation state and ended its suffering, death, under their rival neighbours, Ethiopia. In the words of the president of my country, Issais Afeworki, speaking on the independence day, he said “Let us rejoice that our dream and aspirations of attaining national sovereignty and dignity have been realized.

“The dream of having our own country took us thirty years of armed struggle against formidable military and diplomatic might of the Ethiopians, supported by super powers at different historical period of which I was one of the fighters along the line. I fought so strong that I never knew I would be alive today, to form a band to do what I want to do in my life, for a very long time” Said Faytinga.

TV: What motivated you to join the fight?

Faytinga: There is no easy road to success. Before we attained independence, many fighters have fought and died. In my time, I felt life is meaningless, so Eritrea comes first and it’s worth sacrifying your life for. I left my family and joined the armed struggle to fight for our independence. It was very hard experience. I think God pushed me into it to survive and sing today of our bitter experience.

TV: So you were handling weapons like rifle, grenade or machine guns?

Faytinga: Of course, every freedom fighter knows that. Eritrea dreams of attaining independence came very close on three occasions. But our hopes were dashed. The first hope was when the Italians ended their colonial rule in 1941? but they were replaced by the British until 1952. Then after the overthrow of the regime of Emperor Haile Sellasie by the Marxist regime, we thought that the new Ethiopian revolution might give Eritrea people recognition. Unfortunately, they chastised us with “scorpions instead of whips” So the people took the law into their own hands to fight. And we did it. I was a very young child, I grew up to join the armed struggle as a teenager until our independence in 1993.

TV: What message does your music convey to your listeners even though they don’t understand your language?

Faytinga: I sing about peace, love, and togetherness, since war, conflict and other disturbances did not bring any positive change to Africa, but it only creates refugee crisis, pains, agony, discomfort and economic hardship. I bring a music of hope to the people.

TV: You sing traditional sweet music but I could see that your group play western instruments. How did you come about this?

Faytinga: When I was forming my group a couple of years ago, the members I assembled were all used to playing western instruments, which is good for my style of music. So I’m happy about that.

TV: Apart from Belgium, have played in other countries?

Faytinga: Yes, we have played in many European countries and these have given us much experience.

TV: Faytinga, thank you very much for talking to “The Voice Magazine” We wish you the best in your musical career and future endeavours.

Faytinga: Thank you too for this interview.

About Joel Savage