Today’s guest is Tadele Feleke. He is a film scorer by profession. Every so often, he has been playing a major role in taking Ethiopian film industry to the pinnacle of success. He has scored more than forty documentaries for Walta Information Center aired on television. Hence, he managed to attract the attention of quite a lot of viewers across the country. Furthermore, he has scored the intro music of Ethiopian Plasma Television Program in addition to composing a number of social issues revolving around the River Nile, Flag Day, World AIDS Day and other related issues.
In the same way, Tadele has composed more than 80 songs with societal messages. Above and beyond, he has scored quite a lot of Ethiopian films focusing on a number of issues such as Maya, Yetekelekle, Ewneta, Yarda Lij I and II, Adinas, Bechis Tedibeq, Sene Sellasa, Yenegen Aleweledem, Ayraq, Sermizewa, Baleqelem Hilmoch, Hiyab, Hiwote, Hello Ethiopia, Esktmech Libed, Arba Amist Qen, Engineerohu, Afronism, Bidrat, Yigbagne, Meklit, Lemdres, Cheekcology, Yemchershaw Mefthe, Kebron, Fitsamew, Enena Anchi, Braed Fim and what not. On the whole, he has scored more than 70 Ethiopian films.
The Ethiopian Herald had a short stay with Tadele Feleke with the intention of familiarizing his personal and professional life with our readers. He has touched upon a number mesmerizing issues revolving around the nuts and bolts of Ethiopian Film Industry. Excerpts:
How was film scoring get off the ground here in Ethiopia?
Before I answer your question, let me say a few things how I got myself involved in film scoring. As most people are well aware, we did not have opportunities to watch movies at home owing to financial constraints. This being the case, I was in the habit of watching films at various places paying fifty cents every time. At that point, film scores used in different films were coming in and out of my mind. They were changing their shapes and forms in different scenarios accompanied by a range of heart touching music. The film scores were unswervingly attracting my attention. In due course, I realized the that professional film scorers are the secret behind quite a number of films. More to the point, I understood the fact that films are empty devoid of background music.
Flipping back to the gist, whenever I saw various Television dramas, most of them were copied from foreign music. After that, I started asking myself why our films make use of Ethiopian music as a background. In actual fact, it was simply a wish. As luck would have it, I had taught myself how to play various musical instruments while working at Pro-Pride. Therefore, I was getting myself involved in various experiments pertaining to background music for Ethiopian films.
In this fashion, I set in motion making background music for a certain drama bringing into play Ethiopian traditional instruments and thus I understood to what extent one can arouse the feelings of audiences making use of the art in the field. I would say the year 2008 was the time that Ethiopian films had reemerged. At that juncture, the music scores of our films were directly copied from foreign music.
What is the significance of background music in films?
Once, a research was conducted in America pertaining to the significance of background music in films. The finding of the research concluded that,in grabbing attention, what is heard surpasses what is seen in films. In due course, the finding disclosed that the role background music plays is immense in arousing the attention of attendees. At first, in the experiment, people were made to watch a horror film composed of background music. As a result, all audiences got scared almost immediately. Similarly, when audiences were made to watch the same movie devoid of background music in the same film, they did not get scared. They were not terrified. Furthermore, when they were made to watch the film and the music separately, the audiences did not act in response. In the long run, they proved that 50% of background music takes the lion’s share in any film.
Most film scores of our country are copied from other sources. When I got myself in the profession ten years ago, I was constantly troubling people to give me the chance. At the outset, I jumpstarted working as a film scorer by means of traditional instruments such as Kirar, Flute and what not. For instance, if somebody cries his/her eyes out in a certain church while praying to God, I must make use of traditional instruments which go with the scene of the film than copying background music from somewhere else.
Would you please put in plain words the difference between a film score and sound track?
To begin with, music in film sets up background, generates ambiance, adds force to narrative enlargements, interprets meaning to a character's actions, helps decipher feelings apart from creating sentiment. Above and beyond, music can fashion a persuasive environment for one’s setting and strike a sensitive cord. To flip back to your question, soundtrack is all about the whole thing one hears in a certain movie. It could be sound effect, dialogue, audio portion of a film, the total music in a film, among others. It as well deals with intentional sound which accompanies moving images and premeditated resonances which go together with moving descriptions in films. On the contrary, a film score is an innovative music which is created to accompany films apart from augmenting stories in dissimilar scenes.
Would you please brief readers about Ethiopian films?
I have the nerve to say, the current status of Ethiopian film is not promising. I would say, it is struggling to breathe every so often. To be honest, the Ethiopian film industry has not reached where it is today out of the blue. It has passed through many ups and downs. We have not given up hope yet. To be honest, in the mid of 1990s Ethiopian calendar, Ethiopian films were on all fours. All and sundry criticizes Ethiopian films from time to time. Some people say, “If we see the first part of any Ethiopian film, we can predict the end of the film with no trouble.” Let me tell you what I encountered once in this regard. One fine day, somebody went to a certain movie theater targeting at watching a film. As ill luck would have it, the whole film started and finished at a certain hospital. He was not happy in the film he was watching. As it happened, somebody gave him a call in a bid to figure out his whereabouts. “I am in a hospital,” he answered mockingly.
In fact, this kind of film can exist but one thing that we need to understand is, there are no film schools in Ethiopia which enable our actors and actresses to upgrade and broaden their knowledge. Concerning the film industry, there is no help we get from the concerned body. Even worse, we are not equipped with adequate filmmaking equipment. I am not saying that the whole lot concerning our film is just what the doctor ordered. There are gaps to be bridged in a little while. As to me, we have to tolerate until we achieve the desired goal. At this instant, things are getting out of our hands time and again. Some people are distancing themselves from our films as a result of Kana Television program at present.
What is your reflection on Kana Television program?
In the beginning, I am not a fan of Kana Television program. Kana is not reflecting the lives of the general public. It is not making original films. If they had made their own films, I would have forwarded my deepest respect and appreciation over and over again. But the reality on the ground is very different.
Sadly, they show day and night fully-fledged films on which a huge capital was invested, without applying their creativities. They do not do anything except interpreting various films by two or three people and air on television. They may draw to a close interpreting forty or fifty parts of a certain film within two or so days. Quite the opposite, when one makes original films, one spends a lot of time and money. I would say, Kana Television Program, is a catastrophe which is pouring cold water on Ethiopian films.
In the same way, people should give due weight and attention to their own films as the latter shape citizens without a doubt. Whatever the case may be, we will do the whole thing we could to take Ethiopian films' industry to a new chapter of accomplishment. I do believe if we come up with better works, Ethiopians do not rub their eyes to make our films their number one choice. As I have tried to mention so far, our films are on their embryonic stages.
How can we get to the bottom of the problem then?
The Ethiopian film industry needs the involvement of all stakeholders as far as I’m concerned. In our country, filmmaking equipment is taxable. Unless we take advantage of modern filmmaking equipment time and again, we cannot take our films to the helm of achivement. To the best of my knowledge, if our desired goal is to take the film industry a hit, filmmaking equipment should be tax free.
Likewise, film institutions which train about films should be established across the country. If you take Kenya and South Africa as an example, they have film schools which train students about the inside out of films. They as well produce cartoon films, features films, and what not. In this fashion, youngsters learn a lot about the nuts and bolts of films with no trouble. To the best of my knowledge, we need to have recording institutions given that Ethiopia is a big country with lot of history. As there are a lot of investors in Ethiopia, they should get themselves involved in the sector without much effort. I do believe that we can achieve the desired goal in this fashion.
Why do we see the same actors and actresses on films?
When we make films, the most important thing to be taken into account is money as it is a commercial business. When one invests one million Birr in a certain film, one expects another one million Birr as a profit. If actors appear twice or trice in a certain film, businessmen aiming at profit out of the task would like to give a chance for famous ones in the shortest time possible as their target is getting a better profit. That is why we see the same actors and actresses at various films every so often. There is something I encountered in this regard. The thing was, there was a famous Ethiopian actor who has partaken in several Ethiopian films. He is still a-number-one choice of everyone. Most people are on familiar terms with the actor.
On one occasion, somebody wanted to include the famous actor under discussion in a certain film with the intention of making a lot of profit. After that, the actor was made to partake in the film. His picture was posted. When audiences saw his picture on the poster, several people headed to a certain Movie Theatre. To the surprise of many, he appeared in the film for a moment or two. I have the guts to say, he did not almost partake in the film. When audiences watched the film, they could not find the actor in most parts of the film seeing that most films are made for commercial purposes.People got vexed.
BY ADDISALEM MULAT