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Eritrean Songstress and Soul Siren: Fijori
Amidst the jet-setting and preparations for her debut release, "Emotional Value," we caught up to the Eritrea-born songstress, Fijori, in Munich to discuss her work with the multi-talented Thomas Berghaus. Just in case you haven’t heard, “Emotional Value,” which is being released on Soulplex Recordings on October 2nd, is a veritable mélange of American soul and reggae, Hip Hop, African root music, and European melancholy pop.
Fijori first started making waves with her smash hit, “Single Warrior," the first single from "Emotional Value." Get a preview below:
While the work of too many indie musicians gets lost in the e-vortex known as the Internet, "Emotional Value" stands head and shoulders above the rest. One of the key ingredients to this soulful stew is the musical backing of Thomas Berghaus, who is not only an accomplished musician but also chief editor of the soul magazine ‘uptown strut’, publisher of music books in his own publishing house ‘Büro.9’, and his monthly radio show on ‘soulsender.de’, where he acts as both moderator and DJ.
We are hopelessly addicted and we have decided to form our own Fijori fan club. (We gotta’ support our sister!) Below is an interview with one of Africa’s greatest gifts to the European music scene – Fijori. Enjoy!
AT: Your CD, "Emotional Value," is coming out in early October. Congrats on your debut release. Are we going to be able to see you perform live?
Fijori: Thanks so much! There are no promotion gigs planned for the album release right now. As all musicians on the album are also involved in other projects its hard to bring them together for a promo-tour. But we will keep this in mind and maybe we will be performing together soon. I am trying to put a band together right now.
AT: I think a lot of people are looking forward to seeing you do your thing live, so definitely keep us up-to-date on what’s going on. In the interim, what can we expect from Fijori in the near and distant future?
Fijori: Well, as soon as I have found a suitable band I hope I will be having a lot of gigs. The next step for me would be to record a 'Fijori' album, on which my style comes out even clearer.
AT: Speaking of style, I noticed that some of your musical influences include Stevie Wonder, Manalemosh Dibo, Sofia Shibabaw, Souad Massi, Sam Cook... Is there anyone who has impacted you as an artist the most? How would you describe your style?
Fijori: My style simply is a mixture of African, soul and reggae. I think Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson have influenced me the most as I learned singing when I tried to copy their songs. No one sings with more passion than Stevie and there's so much originality in the early Michael Jackson songs that you rarely find now. But of course there was a broad range of artists that touched my heart and also had a great impact on my music, from R&B, Oriental to Amharic singers.
AT: How long have you been singing? When did you realize you wanted to sing? What sparked your passion for music?
Fijori: I had always been surrounded by music. When I was little it was mostly African, Arabic as well as Indian music. Almost my whole family was playing an instrument or singing in cultural groups, even my parents. My mum also used to tell us African fairytales with a lot of singing in it. I think all this, together with the soul and reggae music my older brothers and sisters used to listen to formed my taste of music and my singing style. As a teenager, when I heard my older sister and her friend practicing a Whitney Houston song for a performance I was so impressed that I wanted to do exactly the same. From that moment on I started practicing songs of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston. I never really thought about singing for performances as I had been the shyest girl in the world. But when I was 18 I almost accidentally found myself in an R&B group. Later I had an R&B solo project; then came my first contact with a reggae band and several small projects. The last six years I had mostly been performing with my world music group 'African Gospel'.
AT: Can you tell us a little about your background? We know you were born in Eritrea. When did you come to Germany, and what was it that brought your family to Germany in particular?
Fijori: I came to Germany with my family in 1980. It was the time when many Eritreans fled the civil war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. My parents told us we would be returning a few years later, but the war lasted longer than many had expected.
AT: How did you and Tom first start working together? Can you tell us about some of the other artists on "Emotional Value"?
Fijori: The way I started working with Thomas Berghaus was really funny. We got to know each other via the Internet. He liked my song 'Single Warrior' and asked me if he could make another version. And the first time I saw him in reality was in December 2008, shortly before he released the 7 inch 'Single Warrior'. After this collaboration worked out so well, we moved over to recording new songs for the Shareholder Tom album 'Emotional Value', which will be released in October 2nd.
There are three other singers on the album. Travis Blaque is an old-school rapper from London and the only one I haven't met yet. Jbid Sütcü is a soul singer who had mainly been singing Geman soul. Alison Degbe is a jazz singer from Cologne. She is only one of us who sings for a living.
AT: How has living in Germany shaped your view of the world, life, etc.? Your music seems to carry deep messages that emanate from some very profound experiences. I especially like "South to West." That song has the type of honesty of India Arie...combined with the social commentary of early Stevie Wonder.....while paying homage to Bob Marley.
Fijori: Living in Germany has given me the opportunity to see things from different angles. I got in contact with many people with different cultural backgrounds: Eritrean people, Germans and other. I know how it feels to belong to a minority group, to be given the feeling that you're not worth as much as the natives: a foreigner amongst Germans, a black among whites. Leaving your home and growing up in another country makes you face many problems you wouldn't have had normally. And here is the challenge to learn and grow. You have to give in to another way of being and slowly melt into the society you live in. I think after that kind of experience you develop more understanding and compassion for others, you don't tend to judge about other people so easily.
Due to the various cultures I got to know I am able to compare different attitudes towards things and choose more consciously which point of view fits my nature and which traditions I want to integrate into my life.
AT: What inspired your music for this latest project? Was it a collaborative effort between you and Tom? Since some of the songs sound like they may be in Tigrinia, I'm assuming these songs were your own creations.
Fijori: The only collaborative effort between me and Thomas was to integrate one or two songs in Tigrigna; other than that Thomas didn't have any expectations on my songs. It was like he had enough trust in me and the other singers that we would turn his music into great complete songs. And I think he was very pleased in the end.
It was fun working with him because he never tried to tell me what to do. He just offered me some instrumentals, I picked the ones I liked and wrote my songs. It was interesting for me to bring my vibe together with Thomas’ music and for Thomas it was a surprise what the result would be. He was very excited when I finally came to his studio and he got to listen to my songs and record them at last.
I think Thomas was inspired by the idea to release a versatile album that brings together different musical styles. As I had to adapt my songs to Thomas' instrumentals my inspiration for this project was of course his wonderful music.
AT: Ok, thanks so much for your time! We expect big things from you, and I think everyone will be looking for the “Emotional Value” release. Check out some of Fijori's tracks below and buy the CD here.
Visitor: Girma (21 Jan 2010 04:32 PM)
Single Warrior and Ab hueko ilo are my favorites!!!
ritagabir (02 Dec 2009 04:59 PM)
thank you everybody! i'm happy that you like it!
Visitor: Frank (05 Nov 2009 11:45 AM)
I just bought the CD. I love ur music Fijori!
admin (02 Nov 2009 02:39 PM)
Go buy Emotional Value...it's been released!
Visitor: Konjono (07 Oct 2009 09:31 AM)
Muzika konjo new! Like our own Abesha India Arie!
Visitor: Tigisit (06 Oct 2009 12:55 AM)
Love it!!!!! Fijori has a great sound!