When did you first entertain the idea of becoming a musician?
What motivated you?
I've been an entertainer as long as I can remember. I was
like 9 or 10 years old when my little brother Yosef and I used
to imitate Michael Jackson whenever we would have people over
at our house. I can remember getting jealous because, of course,
younger child would always get the most attention. Those early
moments in my life helped shape the dreams and aspirations I
What are the first steps you took to jumpstart your career?
I've been a writer ever since I could write. I started
seriously writing poetry at age 15. By the age of 19, I knew
that only I could make my dreams come true so I finally started
writing actual songs. I've been extremely focused ever
since, but non-stop writing was definitely the catalyst
Who are your role models? (both personal and ideal) In what
way have they pushed you to realize your potential as a musician?
My role models are Shashu Habtu and Solomon Tadesse. The influence
they've had on me is indescribable through words, not to
mention the fact that they gave me life. I admire them, not
only as my role models but as my heroes. In that transition
from adolescence to adulthood, it's hard for anyone to
realize that their parents are real people leading real
lives with real responsibilities that go further than just being
your parent. I can't begin to fathom how many hardships
needed to be overcome for two individuals to leave their families
behind at such an early age in search of better opportunities
for themselves as well
as their future children with no guarantees of survival or happiness.
With that being said, I can't help but strive to not only
make myself proud but to let my parents know that they did their
part, but now it's time for me to do my part and show them
just how much it
means to me to have parents like them. My parents never pushed
me to realize my potential
as a musician. They pushed me to realize my potential period.
To be capable of accomplishing anything my heart desires. They
only made sure that my education was my first priority, and
anything else that I wanted to do, within reason, would have
their 100% support.
You've already come out with a single. Are you working
on another album right now? If so when do you anticipate its
I'm currently in the studio working on three new songs
which I hope to have released by June 2003. I also have several
other songs written awaiting production.
You are interested in both music and acting. Have you had
any acting roles or is this something you will be pursuing later
down the road?
I actually lived in Los Angeles, CA for three months when I
was 16 years old to pursue an acting career. I went on several
auditions and although I didn't land anything solid, it
once-in-a-lifetime experience. I did have the lead role in an
educational video when I was 15 that was shown throughout schools
across America. I've also been a 'movie extra'
in a few films.
How have friends and family reacted to your decision to
become an artist? What are some lessons/ advice they have imparted
I've gotten nothing but support from my family and
true friends. A lot of people tell me not to change if I become
successful. I'm not the type of person to let any of the
good or the bad in my life alter who I am as an individual.
I'll mature, but never change.
You write and produce your own music on your own label?
What are some of the pros and pitfalls of self-managing each
step of the album creation? What are some of the biggest lessons
you have learned? What aspect was the hardest to deal with?
What was your best experience?
I write any and everything I record. I work with different producers
to come up with the beats for my songs. There are so many ups
and downs that go into music production as there is in anything
else. I've learned to accept the bad with the good. I believe
that everything happens for a reason, and I remember that every
time something doesn't go my way. I can be very impatient
at times and I think that that is the hardest aspect of making
music. Since I am not yet signed to a record label, I feel like
I'm always on someone else's schedule. Due to the
costs and expenses that go into music production, I can't
yet afford to have a studio and studio engineer on-call for
me any time I feel like recording a song. My best experience,
thus far, has definitely been the support I've received
from everyone who supports me. KUBE 93 FM and X104.5 FM in Seattle,
WA for playing my music. Tower Records in WA for selling my
music. And I definitely appreciate Tadias Magazine
along with all my Ethiopian people for showing me so much LOVE!
Where do you want to take yourself next? What goals have
you established for yourself? Do you have plans to go international?
With or without a record deal, I plan on touring in the very
near future, not only across America, but also worldwide to
places like England, Asia, South Africa and, of course, Ethiopia!
Have you met any established artist/producer in your genre
of music who was instrumental in guiding you in the right direction
as you were producing your
Ken Lewis was a huge part of the success of my first single
'Shake The Spot' which he mixed. He is one of the
best mixing engineers in the business with a client list that
includes such names like Mariah Carey, Shaggy, Jay-Z, Notorious
B.I.G., Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige and more.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I was born and raised in Seattle, WA. I graduated from Ingraham
High School, and I am currently pursuing a college degree. I
love basketball. Many people are surprised to find out that
I was in the NBA during the 1999-2001 seasons. But, as hard
as it is to believe, I
wasn't a player. I was actually a Ball Boy for the Seattle
Super Sonics. I was the person who made the Gatorade for both
teams and the person handing players towels on the court during
timeouts. Meeting and talking to players like Kobe Bryant, Shaquille
O'Neal and Michael Jordan definitely served as a motivational
tool for me. Being that close to the
success of these multi-millionaires helped me to realize that
we are all human and all capable of achieving our dreams.
Have you ever traveled to Ethiopia? If so what were your
impressions? If not, would you travel there and what would you
like to learn?
I've been to Ethiopia twice in my life, in 1992 and 1996.
Some of the images I came across, which will remain with me
forever, have been a driving force in everything I do, especially
my writing. I take nothing for granted. At the same time, Ethiopia
is simply one of the most
beautiful places on Earth period.
Do you have close ties with the Ethiopian-American community
in your area? If so, have you had to encounter cultural issues
regarding writing and producing your music?
There was a time when I was younger, when my family knew every
Ethiopian family in the Seattle area. Times have changed. The
increase in the Ethiopian population in America
has not only given me a larger audience, but larger community
support as well. I definitely have very strong ties with the
Ethiopian community in Seattle. They show me so much love and
support and I appreciate it all.
What advice would you like to give to other young aspiring
What I've learned about the music industry in the past
couple of years is that it doesn't care about anybody.
Any musician that has been waiting for their big break, is probably
still waiting. I don't know about anybody else, but I wait
for no one. I discovered myself a long time ago, and now I'm
supposed to wait for someone else to discover me? I'm sorry,
but that's just not me. I look at it like this: If you
want to succeed in the music business, you can't search
for a record label to sign you. You have to become a record
label. You have to make your own music, do your own shows, and
create your own fan-base. You have to make yourself such a commodity
that the only search that is taking place is the record labels
searching for you.
What advice would you give other young Ethiopian-Americans
in pursuing their own goals the way you have?
My advice for my Ethiopian brothers and sisters is, if you want
something, sit down and figure out the best way to achieve it,
and then act on it. Don't necessarily follow the travelled
road. Create your own pathway to success. Create your own reality
and then step into that reality. Collecting your reward is easy.
Working up to that point is the hard part. Work hard. Work smart.
Never give up. Talk to God.
What do you love to do in your spare time?
I like playing basketball and watching movies. I rarely go out
to parties or clubs. I'm cool just spending time with my
family and friends.
When do you work on your music? Are you working while you
pursue this goal or are you devoting all your time to developing
your musical career?
I work on my music non-stop. As a writer, I'm never off
the clock. It doesn't matter where I'm at, if a verse
comes to me, I'll stop anything I'm doing to write
it down and make sure I don't forget it. I'm so focused.
I also have a regular job. Making music independently is definitely
Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
I want people to know that I truly appreciate all the love and
support I'm receiving. I'm proud to be an Ethiopian
and I know that I can accomplish anything with my people behind
me. Check out my show while I'm on tour. Check out www.yonie.net
for updates on me. Also, be on the look out for a future Ethiopian
superstar by the name of Aida!