camel Eritrean website featuring resources relevant to Tigre history and culture



Tigre musicians 1920s

About Tigre music 

In Eritrea, music is an integral part of daily life. Songs accompany the rites of passage, work and entertainment. They were also important in the life of the traditional Tigre courts, and are still used for political comment, especially in Barka. Musical notation is rare in Eritrea; skills and knowledge are passed from master to pupil in oral tradition. The most celebrated Eritrean instruments are membrane drums. The famous kebero In Tigre and Tigrinya.


Tigre music is primarily percussive. Drums, rattles and gongs predominate, and even important melodic instruments such as Ender and Masenqo strings are played with percussive techniques. Tigre melodies are based on short units, on which performers improvise.
An unusual aspect of Tigre rhythm is what has been called the metronome sense, the ability of many musicians to perform for long periods without deviating from the exact tempo. Group performances are most typical, and the call-and-response style with a solo leader and responsorial group is used throughout Eritrea. Most Tigre music is based on forms of diatonic scales, closely related to
 European scales; so the Western listener may find it more familiar, more accessible than the music of Asia.

Traditional Tigre Music encompasses a wide range of musical forms which have developed out of the cultural diversity of the Tigre. Most of the traditional music forms are romantic in nature.

Traditional Tigre music is a
 reflection of the Tigre cultural diversity. There is a very rich legacy of cultural music in Tigreland which has been developed over several eras and spans centuries. Most often, the traditional music genre primarily includes romantic music, Hembob, Asomia, Mergidi, SeseEt and patriotic songs among others. Since music can now be easily recorded, there has been seen a revival of the traditional style and its popularity remains intact. All Tigre tribes in Eritrea have contributed to a great variety and consequently we find a number of different types of traditional music which have developed over the centuries.


Eritrea has rich and mosaic culture reflected by its folk music. Each region knows its original music. Yet the base remained the same. Not only the rhythm and the melodies do not differ much, but the instruments and the lyrics are in the same line. The kirar (Masenko) and the drums are used in most of the regions.The Eritrean music is based on the so called pentatonic scale.

A scale with 5 notes to the octave.( like the black notes in the piano). It is similar to the Scotish, Chinese and Porto Ricaen music. Its influence reached neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia, . Contemporary Eritrean music might be a potpourri of diverse traditions, but it has emerged as a unique blend, with a character all of its own .It was the music of weddings, family gatherings and wild impromptu parties. Musical instruments in Eritrea varies from chordophone instrument such as Krar (masenko) which is the most common instruments used throughout Eritrea. Rhythmic instruments such as drums are also common in the Eritrea. Eritreans play also other instruments such as lute or Oud, as well as western instruments especially in modern Eritrean pop-music, such as saxophone, electric guitar, bass, violins, (new) are often used. Normally Eritrean artists release cassettes and CDs. The are sold in Eritrea as well as in the Gulf area, Sudan, Europe Australia and America. Music performance in Eritrea are mainly at wedding celebration, which are in the open air with the bands at a small stage.