[INTERVIEW]The Eritrean Sweet Heart, Star Millen Hailu

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by Asmait Futsumbrhan

It has been an amazing week for Asmara as it has been visited by two famous artists from the entertainment world, Tiffanny Haddish and Joss Stone. Today, I give you one of the most talented and respected musicians of our country, Millen Hailu. Besides her looks, she is also famous for her video clips most of which have been directed and choreographed by herself. After watching her perform on stage and on videos, I sure was a surprised to find out that the stage diva really is a shy sweet girl.

In her journey as a musician, Millen Hailu, besides her creative skills of making great video clips, has managed to come up with beautiful songs that take over her fans’ hearts.

Q&A introduces this bright singer, choreographer, director and actress. Millen still aims to get even bigger and shines across the entertainment industry of Eritrea.

-Hello and welcome to our page Millen, would you please tell us about yourself?
I think I got my dancing hobby from my aunties. I used to see them all dance around the house and I definitely can say that I have been heavily influenced by their enthusiasm. We all used to dance in front of a mirror in our house. With that it wasn’t a surprise that I’ve developed a hobby of dancing with my friends at our break times. That is when our teacher, Efrem Fiqadu, saw my interest in music and dance. Then I joined the Aser musical group where I have participated as a dancer and performed in different plays at various events. Also, during an event we went to perform for the Sawa festival, I sang a song for my crew during the break, and that is when they knew that I could sing. After we came back from the trip I was given a Tigrigna and Hidareb song after I joined Wari musical group. After that, in 2006, I had the opportunity to sing a love song brhan ayneye with one of the greatest artists of our country, Ghirmai Andom. That was when I was still in Wari musical group. I also came up with another solo single Asli which has gained me my first fans. And soon after that I decided to work to alone.

-Weren’t you a bit scared to get in to the music industry solo for the first time?
I was but I wanted to show my skills at the same time. So, the only way to do it and get bigger at what you do is to take the risk even though it really is scary. Nevertheless, you get the hold of everything once you get in to the field, you learn on the way.

-You follow a style of your own…
I grew up watching foreign video clips, which have had an effect on my works. I want to introduce a style that would make our video clips competitive in the entertainment industry. I believe that we have the potential and we can be creative. In most of my clips, I try to link my music and story together. And I do work very hard to create my own style which can satisfy my fans.

-Do you get criticized for your choice of clips?
Well yes, since my video can have a taste of the modern world, some people think it is too much. I accept criticisms and advice from every one positively.

-Back to your time in Wari musical group, tell us something about how the musical group has shaped you as an artist?
We were like a family. I don’t think I would have been in the stage that I am today without Wari. A musical group has a great significance for an artist to grow and be disciplined as an artist. Especially if your manager is good, you get helped in so many ways. Our manager did so much for every member of the musical group starting from taking our academic studies seriously to developing good communication skills with people.

-Showing up in movies. How did that happen?
I have never given it a thought; it all sort of happened to me. So, as I said I used to get in to preforming in plays on the stage while I was in Wari band which made me have a hit about acting. However, one of the famous actors and directors, Nahom Abraham, invited me to be part of a movie, a comedy, Debengere. That was the first movie I did, which surprisingly went well. It was scary at first. I wasn’t sure that I was going to be good enough to be in a movie with big actors of the country. But I guess I did well. So far I have been in four movies and three television series and a fourth one is yet to come.

-Do you study your characters?
I read and study my characters. I actually don’t do it if I don’t like the character that I am going to play. I just don’t like to make movies for the money. I want to understand the story and concept, and I only do it if I am satisfied with it.

-Do you request your lyrics for your songs?
I sometimes try to add ideas on the lyrics that are given to me. Also, I try to fix words that I don’t like. I mostly do my works with specific people. If I find people who understand the things I want and say I just don’t want to let go of them ; the camera men, editing, studio, and lyrics. I have done eleven singles so far, and I am also in the process of making new ones.

-Choreographing and directing your videos….
I try my best to get in to everything. I choreographed and directed most of my clips except for a few. I know it seems hard but anyone can do anything they put their minds to. Again, I get ideas from my co-workers and friends. I try to think about the story line that I have to put after listening to the song for a while. I try to think about what people want to see. I also do the makeups for the clips which I definitely enjoy.

-You have a shy personality, where as in stage, you are a total diva.
I don’t know why, but once I am on the stage or in front of a camera, I forget everything that is standing around me. And I guess that works out for the best. However, an artist should have a different personality off the stage. It is hard to be an artist. There are things you have to do as an artist which should only be done to bring out the best work. So, all I have to say is that as artists we should be polite and handle our ways better as we are in the eye of the public almost all the time.

-Thank you, it was nice to talk to you Millen.
Thank you for having me. It is a pleasure.