How The Weeknd’s Ethiopian Roots Affects His Music

The Weeknd is a name that everyone knows, what not many know is that his birth name is actually Abel Tesfaye. Another fact about the Weeknd that not many might be cognisant with is that he actually comes from Ethiopia.

The Weeknd has found immense success in the music scene and has even gone into movies starring in ‘Uncut Gems’,. a new movie starring Adam Sandler.

In an old interview with Pitchfork, The Weeknd was effusive of his praise for his Ethiopian roots and he credits his homeland for his distinct sound.

“My mother, my grandmother, my uncles would play Ethiopian artists like Aster Aweke and Mulatu Astatke all the time in the house. They would drink coffee, eat popcorn, and listen to the music. It’s such beautiful music, but I didn’t realise how beautiful it was until I left that head space.That’s why I feel like my singing is not conventional” he said of his heritage.

He also added, “The feeling in my music and in my voice is very Ethiopian and very African and much more powerful than anything, technically. There are songs like “Gone” where I don’t even know what I’m saying—I let my voice do all the talking. I’ll probably do an album like that one day where it’s not lyrics at all, just melodies and great production. Maybe the next one, I don’t know. That’s the Ethiopian side of me.”

The Weeknd also has a lot of time for Amharic poetry to which he professes that he’s a fan, “Ethiopian poetry is a different language. I can speak and understand [Amharic], but I can’t understand their poetry. When my mother would translate—it’s the most beautiful thing ever.”

While he has never visited his homeland yet, he has shown support for it by making a large donation to the University of Toronto to help fund a new class on Ethiopic studies. The $50,000 he fronted is just another show of how committed he is to the cause. It will be interesting to see what he actually does when he visits the home of his ancestors.


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