Dechase Originals is a series where we shine a light on friends of the brand and talents across the globe. For this edition, we had a chat with Maranata Tegegne; a multi-disciplinary artist, founder of groundbreaking record label Meedo Records and co-owner of restaurant Shifta in Addis Abeba. He shares what has inspired him to pursue a career in film and music, and the global impact he hopes to make with Ethiopian hip-hop.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Maranata. I am a filmmaker, script writer and creative director. Currently the founder and co-owner of a record label called Meedo records. Where we manage artists, find new talent and try to provide a platform for them to express themselves and work on their craft. I mostly do the creative directing, music videos directing and documentary making under the label. I am also the co-owner of Shifta, which is a Caribbean/African vegan food joint where we host events. And I am a father of a one-year-old baby daughter. Her name is Ge’ez.
How did you start your career?
The start of my career was the failure of a business I started about 10/11 years ago. I started an import/export business, and it went horribly. I failed. Then I was like; I got to get back to my passion. So, I enrolled into a film school and did a 10-month directing and scriptwriting course. After that I’ve been working on my craft. You could say my biggest failure was my biggest lesson. Throughout my life it caused me to be more cautious with the moves I make.
How did your passion for film start?
My father owned a video store - we used to rent out VHS. So, we had all the original films at the house. Whenever I had a break, I was glued to the TV. As I got older, I started finding out more and more about what goes on behind the scenes of moviemaking, who does what. When I was a teenager, I decided I would be a filmmaker. But there was not much of an industry. So, when the business failed, I decided I would rather be happy than endlessly chasing money.
How did watching movies as a kid influence your current work?
I was in love with movies - especially action movies; kung-fu movies, Hollywood and stuff. As I grew older, I started getting into more international films, like foreign films. I was in love with hip-hop and music in general. I would watch music videos back-to-back when I was younger. That’s sort of influenced me to try different things - style wise. People like Hype Williams, Spike Jones, Michel Gondry and all these awesome directors that did music videos. They influenced me to be a part of the music industry.
What was the first music artist you discovered that inspired you?
When I was way younger, I started to listen to MC Hammer a lot. But when I got more into hip-hop, I fell in love with the culture. Tupac was one of my biggest influences.
Where did you go to find new music?
Growing up there was not a lot of exposure to this type of music. You would wait for your uncle abroad to send you a CD or tape decks with collections of music. That’s how we mostly would consume music. Tapes, CDs, stuff like that. I remember we had the original CD from the Fugees. You remember “The Score”? That’s an album that got me into hip-hop. I really liked that album.
As a multi-disciplinary artist, how did you move into having your own restaurant and record company?
The restaurant was more my wife’s doing! She is from DC and wanted to open something here that was unique and different. She saw there were no Caribbean restaurants here, so we partnered up and opened Shifta. It has been open for 3,5 years now. The record company started a little over a year ago. The project started earlier; in late 2019 we signed our first artist - Kassmasse. And then we started making moves as an experiment. The year went by so fast. Then we started the record label to make it official.
What inspires you on a day-to-day basis?
My daughter is my main drive right now, trying to provide a better life for her. Art in general. Seeing something fresh, something new. When you come across something dope on social media or whatever. It makes you think like “oh shit, you can do something this way”. That kind of pushes me.
Has the internet and internet culture changed the way you do things?
Definitely! Being able to access any information on your phone has changed the game. We didn’t even have internet till I was like 10 or 12 years old. And then even after that it was like this slow-ass modem. You had to wait three hours just to get connected. And then it was AOL, MSN and Yahoo. The good old days haha. But now it is totally different, you got 3G/4G.
Social media has really changed the way we do marketing. It certainly has helped Shifta; it’s our main form of promotion. We have a Facebook and Instagram page. And recently started TikTok. This has gained us organic growth in our following. It has been really helpful. I don’t know how we would do it without the internet.
Currently there is a lot going on in the country. What are the positive things you see around you?
Hip-hop in Ethiopia is relatively new. It was not something you could gain commercial success with, back in the days. But now most of our artists are hip-hop artists. For example, with Kassmasse we’ve been gaining recognition and a lot of people really like the music. It gives you a positive push to keep doing what you do. 3 or 4 years ago this wouldn’t have happened.
Why do you think that is?
One of the reasons is globalization. The fact we are all we're all connected, and everybody has a satellite dish or internet. So, people are more aware and exposed to different kinds of music.Whatever they like listening to abroad - if they can find it here, they would rather listen to it in their own language. It is a big plus for the local market. For us, to be able to provide people with the same quality of music but in their own language, is something worth continuing.
What is something you are the most proud of?
The fact that we are trying to do something new and different, and people really fuck with it. It gives us - me and the team - a lot of motivation.
What would you want to leave behind for the next generation?
Our biggest aim is to be able to export music - make a defining sound. If we can have people from neighboring countries, other parts of Africa, and eventually the world to take it in and enjoy the music. Just like what Mulatu did with Ethio-Jazz, if we could do that with Ethiopian hip-hop that would make me really happy.
What are your future plans?
The plan with the record company is to sign more artists, provide them with platforms where they can grow and shine. Get that unique sound from Ethiopia and export it, like I said. That would be the main goal. Then support it with dope videos and visuals. Hopefully we can grow to have 100s of artists. Influence the Ethiopian music industry to the point where you turn on the radio and it is one of our artists that is bumping, turn on the tv and it is one of our videos that is playing. That would really be dope.
For Shifta we want to grow it, have our own beverages and organize all these different events. To the point where we take those events and hold it in bigger venues. Make a strong brand that resonates with people.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Do what you love. Follow your heart. That’s it. The rest will follow.
Maranata Tegegne is wearing the Ragali Erta Black. Photography by Karlton “Kopeto” Seydi.