“The Green Manalishi”, The One Man Ethiopian Psych Folk Band

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There is music, and then there is a composition

There are songs and then there are tunes

There are librettos and then there are mere words

There is photography and then there is imagery

There are colors and then there are dyes

There is passion and then there is labor

There is life and then there is a chain of existence

And genuine artists help us discern which is which

This article is written out of a mere drive. I am no expert critique nor a reviewer, but I am a fellow young passionate being who loves to celebrate the uprising of young artists`. Here is the thing about young and gifted people, they are tenacious, and they are the unapologetic daydreamers and writers of their own world. Some do it through music and some through other means of art. Their adventurousness is contagious. It’s not everyday artists bless us with a genuine art. What is a genuine art? One may ask, and I think you’ll know when you see it. And as for a genuine music, I think we can only tell its sincerity by the composition of infinite moments we get to experience as we listen to a certain track. Here is another thing about young artists, they seem to live both ahead and in reverse of their times, the present being nothing but the future past where they milk their artistic elements from. This young age we live in could be a chaos or turning point depending on what choices we’ve had to make. And that’s where those young artists with their passionate willfulness come in, turning that chaos into something beautiful with words we can relate to, turning our bad decisions into experiences, our regrets into stepping stones. I would love nothing more than to tell the tales of those we count on to get past our melancholy. And so today, I would like to introduce you to a local band going global, “The Green Manalishi”.

It has once been said that creativity takes courage. Here in our country, following one’s passion is such a rebellious act while the majority practices a safe way of living making a hobby out of dreams and nothing more. So I say it is important to celebrate and recognize the first steps of those who strive to live out their dreams and at the same time deliver a profound piece of art presenting the selfless determination and sacrifices they had to put in all in the name of art. In appreciation of that, we present to you the interview we had with the Originator of the band “The Green Manalishi” and the only remaining member, Aman Kahsay.

The Green Manalishi is a psych folk band from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia originally formed as an imaginary band between Aman Kahsay and Blen Girmay.

“The genre Psych Psychedelic folk is a loosely defined form of psychedelia that originated in the 1960s. It retains the largely acoustic instrumentation of folk, but adds musical elements common to psychedelic music. Psychedelic folk generally favors acoustic instrumentation although it often incorporates other instrumentation. Chanting, early music and various non-Western folk music influences are often found in psych folk. Much like its rock counterpart, psychedelic folk is often known for a peculiar, trance-like, and atmospheric sound, often drawing on musical improvisation and Asian influences. Its lyrics are often concerned with such subjects as the natural world, love and beauty and try to evoke a state of mind associated with the effects of psychedelic drugs.”

The band was formed in June 2014 by Aman Kahsay and Blen Girmay, at that time, both members didn’t know how to play instruments but then Aman taught himself how to play the guitar by listening to Brian Jonestown massacre songs. To this date, he is the only permanent member of the band. The band came to reality when their first single ‘Keber’ was released last year 2017. Since then, they’ve recorded their first EP entitled “critically acclaimed” in collaboration with the Uruguayan band Las Cobras. Las Cobras played synth on one of the tracks, mixed and mastered the EP. The Green Manalishi’s primary influences are Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Market Karma, The Warlocks, Spacmen3, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Sixto Rodriguez. Their music can be defined as slow tempo melancholy with very short lyrics written in both native Amharic and English language, questioning the status quo of social values.

Enjoy our chat.

A.I-Tell us a bit about yourself in accordance with your musical background, when was that moment you decided you want to become a musician?

Aman –I don’t have any musical background but I listened to a lot of music growing up and it helped a lot. I remember it was when I was a 2nd-year student on campus, I had no interest whatsoever in becoming a lawyer and I went there every day and chilled, I needed the money that I receive from my parents and the government so dropping out wasn’t an option plus all my friends were there. I bought an iPod and a friend gave me top 500 rock songs. I then started listening to a lot of guitar and that’s when I started to hang out with a friend called Mahder who was a student at Yared Musical School at the time. I saw him playing the guitar a couple of times and I figured that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I went to St. Joseph for 13 years and I have friends I now know for over 20 years. They made my dream come true by financing the music studio I wanted so much. The other underground artists and I are able to record for free or very little money in our studio. It’s a non-profit musical movement.

A.I How did you come up with the band name?

Aman- I came up with it after I listened to this song “The Green Manalishi”. It is the last song my favorite guitarist Peter Green wrote for the band, Fleetwood Mac.

A.I. What genre do you listen to and can you describe your music writing process?

I listen to psychedelic rock, garage rock, space rock, dream pop and shoegaze, post-punk, folk, some blues and root reggae.

I don’t really have a certain pattern that I follow to produce my tracks. I sometimes write the lyrics first and then the music or vice versa. Same goes for the riffs and chords. What I enjoy the most in the whole process is the arrangement of the instruments in the songs.

 

A.I. What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

Aman- Some people thought that I was crazy for different reasons, they might still think that I am. It comes with some unintended attention and that is hard for anyone. Another thing was that I had no income for over 4 years so money was always an issue. Not that I haven’t tried working or anything but I was fired out of 3 jobs.

 

A.I. What are the problems you face writing this genre here in our society?

Aman- Most people don’t really know about the glorious days of 1960’s music. the society is not open to new music and they don’t seem to understand the difference between rock n’ roll and heavy metal and death metal or any kind of metal for that matter.

A.I. Who do you say is your target audience?

Aman- Anyone with a curious mind

A.I. What is your motto in life?

Aman-  Live free and die free

A.I. If you could describe your music in one word what would it be?

Aman- Melancholy

A.I. If your music was a color what color would it be?

Aman- Black

 

A.I. Can you walk us through your progress so far? Collaborations, performances?

Aman- I have recorded an EP called “critically acclaimed” along with a friend with a beautiful voice. She took the vocal duties well. I met a band called Las Cobras through Facebook and we became good friends. They helped me with the mixing and mastering and Sofi played synth on one of the tracks. They are a group of very talented people with big hearts. I urge everyone to check them out. Their music is so cool. I performed on Afro station once and played on two different events. One of the events was for the anniversary of a major corporate company. I wrote a song just for that occasion and performed it there. It was all about corporate greed and they stood there and watched me insult their way of life. That was really awesome!

 

A.I- Where do you plan to take your music in the next 5 years?

Aman- All over the world, I would love to see all the corners of the world and perform. I want to consistently release new records every year In 5 years I would like to own at least 30 different types of instruments.

A.I. Anything you want the world to know?

Aman- I want the world to know that The Green Manalishi is here with an important message, be it young or old, rich or poor, everybody needs to have big dreams and big hearts.

A.I. Thank you for sitting with us

A.I. Thank you for having me

“And I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean. I think it would be great to have written one of those songs. I bet if I wrote one of them, I would be very proud. I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope they feel it’s enough. I really do because they’ve made me happy. And I’m only one person.”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I had the opportunity to listen to three songs from the album and all I could say is it has an indie touch with refined and detailed notes with a lyric we can enjoy both on its own and through the rhythm of the tracks, it is soothing and almost hypnotizing. And like the quote above, it made me wonder how many people are going to love the songs. And how many people will get through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people would enjoy good times with the songs. How much those songs really mean, And I am only one person.

Have a great weekend and stay tuned to get details on the album release date and event.

 

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