Awalom Gebremariam Desdes on Limited Edition LP
Rare Recording from Asylum Seeker Who Escaped Brutal Regime in Eritrea, East Africa To Work in America!
At the age of 28, Awalom Gebremariam arrived in the United States, following a years-long journey from Eritrea, East Africa. He'd made it to a refugee camp in Ethiopia several years ago and eventually attained asylum status for passage to America. But before he left his hometown, Eritrea's capital Asmara, he made his first and only recording so far, Desdes.
Awalom completed Desdes in 2007, not long before he departed Eritrea. Because Awalom left after the recording he never received any money for cassette and CD sales. But he also didn't get to find out how much of an impact the songs have had locally. His songs appear to focus on love, but Awalom isn't speaking about romantic love per se. Love of country and pride in the struggle for independence are what helps makes songs like these popular among listeners locally and in the large worldwide Eritrean diaspora.
In 2012, during a trip to Switzerland to help promote a film about biking in Eritrea, ATFA was given a copy of Desdes by fixed-gear bicycle athlete Patrick Seabase, the documentary's protagonist. Seabase gave a copy to ATFA founder Brian Shimkovitz as a gift and it later appeared on the ATFA blog. A few years later Shimkovitz was contracted by some agencies in North Carolina, where Awalom had settled. Through a translator every one decided to work together on a reissue of his recording.
It took many months to source a clean master but now the album is ready and Awalom's goals are clear. He spent years waiting for the chance to escape economic and political turmoil at home. Now 29 and living in North Carolina, Awalom works in a restaurant and plans to bring his music to Eritrean communities across North America as well as newer listeners with whom his powerful sounds and remarkable journey will deeply resonate.