The project “Youths of Shasha” was born in 2010 by singer Renato Tomei (Ras Tewelde) as a response to a clear need he saw on the part of a group of talented young people living in Shashamane, Southern Ethiopia.
Transport yourself to a small but bustling crossroads town, where the main road from east to west meets that which travels from north to south. A place where ancient tribal cultures and religions collide with an emerging modernity, where diverse ethnicities live alongside each other struggling to maintain their individual traditions while embracing a wider sense of National identity. Welcome to Shashamane.
It could be many places in Africa facing the challenges of a changing world, but there is something that makes it unique, the presence of a large number of people from outside Ethiopia that have chosen this town as their home. For over thirty years Shashamene has been one of the most important destinations for Black people of the Diaspora, among most notably but not exclusively, the Rastafarian community, wishing to repatriate to Africa. This community adds yet another dimension to the town as it is comprised of people from all across the diaspora, some having been there for many years, with children born there, while others have arrived more recently. Indeed there are also a number of European Rastafarians there, motivated by their love for Ethiopia and the desire to contribute to the country’s development.
During his various travels there, Ras Tewelde encountered many young people, from both the Rastafarian community and beyond, who expressed to him their love for music and the desire to develop their skills. What began as simple encounters soon became something more serious as he quickly realized the immense wealth of talent that was there, but which had no serious outlet or means for progression. Each one of them had their own story to tell, bringing with them their experiences living in that environment. Their different backgrounds inform their musical tastes and skills, ultimately giving rise to a unique musical expression rooted in an explosion of diverse influences. The only thing needed was a place where their creativity and artistic skills could be combined, empowered and supported: the establishment of a permanent music centre in Shashamene.
This is the starting point of YOUTHS OF SHASHA…