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Unraveling Amèn (The Nomad's Dream) with Berhana | Q&A & Album Breakdown

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

"I think this new album kind of has a foot in two different worlds. There is that element in my own culture but I think that there’s also that culture in the way of which I was brought up. Which is also what makes me, me."
Amen (The Nomad's Dream) album artwork

In the rich tapestry of modern music, originally from Atlanta, now residing in Los Angeles Berhana emerges as a distinct voice, weaving together the threads of his American and Ethiopian heritage and a global musical palette. His latest project, Amèn (The Nomad's Dream), which released on October 20th, is more than an album; it's a journey through his past, a reflection of his growth, and an exploration of identity.

Berhana's creative process is a testament to the organic evolution of his art. In the initial stages of crafting Amèn, he embraced freedom, allowing the music to flow unconsciously. The subsequent months saw deliberate sculpting, a dance between intuition and intention. This artistic alchemy manifests in an album that defies genre boundaries, a testament to the beauty of creative fluidity.

As an artist who has been making music for a considerable period, Berhana reflects on the evolution of his craft. It's not just a technical journey but a personal and internal exploration. From experimenting with styles to delving into the depths of self-discovery, each note and lyric encapsulate the multifaceted evolution that defines Berhana's musical identity.

Berhana in Ethopia

Well you’ve been making music for a while, has that evolution changed in your music-making from then to now?

I think there’s always been an evolution in trying new things and learning from the technical standpoint, but also from a personal internal standpoint, while learning about myself. All those things are such a big part of where I’m at now and I think even where I’m at now isn’t necessarily where I’m gonna be in 5 years. I think it’s evolving.

Can you walk me through your typical creative process when writing and producing music?

Within this album, in particular, I tried to really be free in the beginning stages and not try to be too controlling with whatever I was creating. I was pretty unconscious and just wanted to see what would happen when I went in there. After months went by, I was like oh, this works. So I started sculpting away, but the process isn’t always the same and that’s the beauty of it.

You are very vocal about your Ethiopian heritage, and on your recent single of the album, “Break Bread,” you can hear classic elements of African instrumentation with a modern and unique twist. How has your heritage shaped your music, and how present is this Afro-futurism sound on your new album?

I think this is present in the album for sure. But I think this new album kind of has a foot in two different worlds. There is that element in my own culture but I think that there’s also that culture in the way of which I was brought up. Which is also what makes me, me. I love having busy drums, I love beautiful bridges, I love harmonies… those are things that don’t necessarily have to do with my culture of being Ethiopian. It’s more so when I was a kid this is what I was really into so for me it was really important to combine those two roots...because that’s who I really am, it’s a mixture.

“The Nomad’s Dream" and "Break Bread" have been said by those who have already had the opportunity to listen to it pre-release that it has a playful and rap-led approach. How did you decide to experiment with this style, and what message or emotions do these tracks convey within the album?

I don't think it's more of a rap-lead album actually. I think with maybe the song “Gone,” it definitely does. But I think just in terms of the album as a whole, it's less experimentation with style than people may think. Like, I have made so many songs, but what you see on one album isn't reflective of all the songs that I've made. I think with this album, these songs just, for me, fit the most in terms of the story we were building; and the theme and what it was that I was trying to say.

So, “Someday” is one of the tracks on the album, and is described as a harsh examination of yourself. Would you be willing to share the inspiration behind this track, and how it fits into the whole narrative of the album?

Yeah. I think that song is representative of a really dark time of my life that also kind of served as a catalyst to want better for myself. Through that really dark time, I was able to find a light, you know, something that felt worth holding onto; That became brighter and brighter by pointing me in the right direction to go towards. And again, it was all about what was better for my life and I felt like I was being led there, and I think that song in the album is that turning point. Which is what it felt like for my life.

You've mentioned that "The Nomad’s Dream" is not just an album but a complete visual project premiering in various cities. How does the visual component enhance the storytelling of the album, and what inspired the choice of these specific cities for the premiere?

Yeah, there’s a short film! I think it adds another layer to the project by showcasing some things that might be missed by just listening to the songs. I think that when you watch the film, it’ll expand on these ideas a bit more. It felt like a really fun project to do. I wanted to make something that felt like a lot of the things we've talked about now, like my identity, or growing up in multiple worlds at once. We showed it in New York, which is where we shot the film.

Do you have a favorite song on the project? & Why?

I think the last one, “Going Home,” is my favorite. I think it's just where the whole album was building up to, really. I think the song is a song of acceptance for life in general, for the good and bad of it. It feels very much like me, and certain songs I would listen to while I was growing up.

Track-by-Track Breakdown of Amèn (The Nomad's Dream), Berhana

Berhana at same gate his uncle took a picture at 50 years before

The project starts with a 57-second teaser titled "Amén," setting the tone for the next 26 and a half minutes of Amén (The Nomads Dream). I'm drawn to albums that begin with a sample song like this—it sparks the album's energy and builds anticipation for what's to follow. In this instance, we hear a woman uttering Berhana's birth name, Amain, right from the start. It establishes a deep connection to him and his experiences, making it clear that the album revolves around his identity.

For him, the significance lies in the fusion of these dual roots, shaping his identity into a unique blend that defines who he truly is. The diverse sound between "Amén" and the more rap-lead "Gone (Abebe Bikila)" once again proves the range this album holds. The second track has a very nostalgic sound; it reminds me of where Berhana was with his musical sound when he released HAN. It is uplifting, fun, and cheery, even though the track surrounds missing a lover from far away and ultimately feels like 'falling apart.'

The album's sonic diversity, showcased in tracks like "Tanuki" and "Break Bread," adds layers to the emotional complexity of Berhana's storytelling. "Tanuki" begins with a robust bass reminiscent of house music and a captivating acoustic guitar. This track is a pivotal moment in the project, as Berhana realizes he desires more than the relationship he was previously uncertain about. The lyrics— particularly lines like “but you're not the one," that repeats on the hook—convey a sense of clarity.

"Break Bread" emerged as a pre-release single, and I instantly fell in love with it. The standout feature for me was the lyricism— Berhana skillfully conveys the depth of his investment in the relationship, emphasizing the asymmetry of emotional reciprocity. Through the term 'Break Bread,' he seeks reassurance in his sentiments toward his seemingly insincere lover. The song concludes with an almost otherworldly arrangement of melodies layered with elements like acoustic guitar, witty ad-libs, and a graceful fade. It's my favorite on the project, serving as the perfect teaser for the album as a whole.

The fifth track on the album, "Someday," is a brief yet impactful song that encapsulates a challenging period, as revealed by Berhana in our interview. The funky retro beat sets the stage for this personal reflection. As the album progresses, from the dreamlike ambiance of "The Nomad's Dream" to the bold dynamics of "Wow!" and the affectionate melody of "Honeycomb," it encapsulates a spectrum of emotions.

The concluding track, "Going Home," serves as a poignant reflection on hardships, concluding the album with a note of reassurance and positivity. Despite the current sorrows, he reassures himself with lyrics like, "I know right now we drenched in sorrow. But the sun still gon' come up tomorrow," concluding the album on a note brimming with immense potential and positive energy.

Berhana's Amén is a captivating musical journey that invites both new and longtime listeners to immerse themselves in its depth and richness; believing that his new album intricately navigates diverse realms, bridging elements of his own culture with the influences of his upbringing. In reflecting on his musical preferences, he emphasizes a love for busy drums, beautiful bridges, and harmonies—elements that transcend his Ethiopian heritage and trace back to his childhood interests which are showcased in this project.

FOLLOW Berhana and stream his latest project HERE

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