Our beloved Addis Ababa has never been short of artists giving all they have adding more colors of their own to the mix. One of such recent beautiful layers in the music scene is Chelina. Freedom in the moment and cherishing experiences were recurring themes in our interview with Chelina. For her, as new experiences lead to new inspirations, being receptive of the world and “living right here and now” are key to getting it right in art. It is with such inspiration that she recently featured in an exclusive launch of her first album, which she says is her way of giving back to ‘her generation’. LinkUp Addis’s Leoul Brook had an interview with Chelina about her career and approach to art.
Who is Chelina? Tell us somethings about yourself.
I find it challenging to say a lot about myself, but I can definitely say Chelina is a black woman. Chelina is a music lover. My full name is Chelina Yeshiwondim, and I am a musician. I was born in the southern Ethiopian city of Hawassa. I moved to Addis while I was still a baby, and I lived most of my life here.
You have been in music for a while now and your popularity has been growing. What has changed in your music to set you apart as an artist?
It has always been me, there isn’t much difference. Of course, as new experiences, new emotions new styles of music add into my life the way I perform the art [of music] also changes and improves. My new songs sound like 2019 and they have the power to relate to the life we live now in 2019. But I am and will always remain me.
What’s your creative process as an artist?
Most of the times melodies, then the emotion, then the concepts and then words, then the lyrics come to me. Whenever there is a new idea or inspiration, I play it on my guitar and write my own songs. I go to the studio to share it with colleagues who would also share with me if there is any new idea. Then we work it out.
You just had an exclusive album release at Ambiance, a show of triumph. How do you describe the journey to that?
I started working on an album a while back. However, as it happens to many artists in Ethiopia, it was severely challenging to manage the whole process and, ultimately, to find sponsors. So, I wanted to take a while off, and I took the time to gather my energy and resources, and perform on various stages. Finally, I decided, I have to do it now. It still wasn’t an easy journey. It is hard to manage the very different personalities of people; there are other personal and social responsibilities to attend. The responsibility is even harder as a woman, as we also have to go through a psychological journey of winning over accepted stereotypes. The wonderful part about this time is that I produced the album myself in collaboration with my executive producer, who is also my manager. Which means I didn’t have to go out and look for a sponsor. As a result, I have more control over the content of my work, more freedom.
How successful was the album launch on December 21?
It was Iconic Events who organized the event. In fact, it was a little rushed and we only had one week to prepare. It was supposed to be an exclusive, small listening session with people who are in the art of music. It was also a celebration. I didn’t expect it to be great, but it was. There was a great turnout, and we had such a wonderful, intimate time. I can say that I had a great night, and I am really glad it happened. There were singers, painters, photographers, designers, actors and actresses, people from all walks of life, and I saw they were all enjoying the music, enjoying the art. I should say Iconic Events did a great job with the organizing.
Who is your target audience?
Well, my audience is very mixed. A lot of teenagers listen to and love my music, yet people in their 60s and 70s also listen to and love my songs. The reason, I think, is that I do not limit myself in the topics I sing. When I sing or when I write my lyrics, I don’t have an intention; I just want my music to be natural. My spirit is ready to experience what I feel. I do my best.
When do you know you have worked on a piece of art good enough to put it out there? What are your standards?
As an artist, you know when it is enough. As I work through a song, I can imagine how it will turn out and I can tell if it will work or if it won’t. When it’s good it is good. You just know.
Many artists in the industry complain about poor album sales and having to depend too much on concerts to earn an income. What is your thought about that?
Personally, I don’t want to expect anything from outside. I want to keep on giving as long as I live. I don’t know what’s going to happen with my album. I have spent a lot on my album, in the form of cash and energy. My biggest concern is how I can deliver this work, which I have worked on so hard, to my audience effectively because the real loss would be if I fail to do so. In my opinion, with a good deal of perseverance and creativity, everyone eventually earns what they deserve. So I am only concerned about giving what I can, take all it can give and get all the good experience out of it as I go.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I never want to lose my defined purpose. That is the reason I exist as a person. I want to keep loving myself and respecting myself and taking care of myself and having all those enough, so I can give them to others. I don’t want to think about it. I live and think about now. I always ask myself, “How can I be my best self right now? How can I get the best experience I can get right now?” Even God’s words are to do your best today and not to worry too much about what’s to come.
Any last remarks? Any one you would like to thank or honor?
As always, I want to thank God for all the beautiful things I have in my life. I would like to honor all people everywhere who are doing good things and who are fighting to make the world a better place. With my new album, I am giving back to this time, to this generation. My Generation. To Ethiopia. I hope that people get the positive side of the album and feel as relaxed and happy listening to it as I felt when making it.