Eritrean journalist Abubaker Sayek wrote a long piece on the times and arts of the legendary singer-song-writer, “Wed-Amir” for Hedgait blog in Arabic. Based on information from the article and other sources, Mohammed Hiyabu is introducing the singer to English readers.
Idris Amir aka “Wed-Amir”—was legendary, extraordinaire singer-song-writer who has immensely shaped the Tigrait language in Eritrea. Wed-Amir whose stature is a national legend has enriched the language with his artworks that are products of his life-journey characterized with longing, unfulfilled love, and travel. Many of the next generation of Tigrait singers one way or another use his expressions that have eventually been crystalized into public artworks.
Wed-Amir was born in the village called Eillet in 1920 in the Northern Red Sea Region of Eritrea where he first attended one of its Quranic schools. Then he moved to the neighboring Massawa, continued his studies in Italian school, but discontinued his two years later.
He briefly worked as a shepherd and then joined the Royal Italian Navy; and he was a member of the Italian force stationed in Anchorage Tklei on the northern coast of Eritrea.
After the defeat of the Axis Powers, Wed-Amir, demobilized from the army, started working in a carpentry. In 1943 he got married with a woman named Sadia Osman, who died four years later on child delivery.
In 1948, Wed-Amir met a girl from the northern coast named Amna and he fell in love with her at first sight. When he later asked her parent’s hand for marriage, they refused him which became the muse of his arts and source of his songs. Then Wed-Amir started expressing his frustration with her parents and his passionate love for her through songs. He started touring around the country in which he was received with cheerleaders who appreciated his arts. While touring from one village to the next, he continued to improve his works and composed more love-songs.
In 1950 he immigrated to the Sudan, where he met Omar Ganshara, a famous Eritrean poet. While staying with Ganshara both artists held several concerts among the Eritrean communities in Port Sudan.
Port Sudan was a productive town for the artist who composed many songs. At one time Wed-Amir was sick and later started to develop some feelings for a girl who was taking care of him. He similarly, composed different songs expressing his love for the caregiver.
The legendary artist Wed-Amir died in exile, in Kuwait in 1964. His legacy in Tigrait language is uncontested. He still continues to inspire many singers and local folks with his songs.
Here is one of his songs: ana sabr hlieku (I am still patient):
(ask sabr abieni)-Until patience gets tired of me
(we'anasabr hlieko)-- And I am patient
(esK leKalQ red'ani)-Till the creator saves me
(mn emeyt abere)- And if I die I will only rest
(weQebryie setreni)- And my grave will veil me
(wemn hale Hlaya)- And if I live, I will sing for her
(wera'yta kefieni)- And seeing her will be all I ask for
(ana sabr hlieKo)- I am still patient
(merir dbyie mnSebr)- But that is indeed bitter
(we'anasabr halieko)- And I am patient
(bAl mal ye'ane we tajr)- I am neither wealthy nor rich
(skab lali Hagla)- And my nights are devoid of sleep
(eglie wo'gla tenebr)- Not only for herself, but she also lives for me
(wa shamatna kefiena)- And our love is enough for us
(Haglan mnmeS' wodbr)- Even if there comes poverty and want
(ana sabr hlieko)- I am waiting in patience
(we sabr tHazo meranet)- And patience asks for guts
(we'anasabr hlieko)- And I am waiting in patience
(Hmum ana beAlniyet)- Sick and tired
(ambelki menbero)- life without you
(Andel geb'et womret)- Is indeed very bitter,
(womslki ember)- And to live with you
(yrekebko meranet)- I have no gut
(anasabr hlieko):: I am waiting in patience
(Translation: Omer Kekia)
*Mohammed Hiyabu is an Eritrean exiled journalists currently based in Cairo, Egypt. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.