Cinema Asmara in the musical resonance of AS.ME.V, the band

About Eritrea - Art & Sport

On the 8th of June powerful vocals and soothing guitar acoustic sounds accompanied by laud cheers of the audience were resonating from the premises of the historic building and architectural heritage, Cinema Asmara.

That same night, the embassy of Italy to Eritrea and AS.ME.V CALABRIA reserved Cinema Asmara to welcome the public to a dazzling concert. Unlike many concerts common in the capital this one, was heart-touching.

This rather small band is composed of a guitarist, two extremely talented vocalists and a group coordinator. The musical talent they staged on that night was one to remembered for long, indeed. The group of Italians from Calabria are, actually, medical practitioners. AS.ME.V is the Italian short form for Association of Voluntary Medics from Calabria. The presence of two professional vocalists and one guitarist has made the creation of an acoustic band possible ever since the association was formed. AS.ME.V, the medical group and the band, have been working and singing together for so many years.

As a result of a well-received small scale, concert they had held in Casa Degli Italiani, Asmara, they were encouraged to think of planning a bigger concert for a bigger audience. And the glittering concert in Cinema Asmara became one of the most memorable events this year.

Dr. Roberto Pititto is a neurologist of 36 years. Some 13 years ago his profession led him to Eritrea, marking a big imprint in his life. He was impressed by the country, its history, its culture and its people. For a first time visitor, Asmara, Eritrea and Eritreans were images that couldn’t be erased from his life-time memories. So much so, that he went back to Italy and founded AS. ME.V as soon as possibilities permitte him. AS.ME.V was created with a vision of friendship with Eritrea. Thereafter, this group of volunteer medical practitioners has been visiting Eritrea many times a year since 2008.

In January, 2008, the very first dialysis center in Eritrea was opened on the grounds of Orota National Referral Hospital. The Eritrean Ministry of Health, has always made safeguarding the wellbeing of all nationals its eminent task.

Granting suitable health service and equal access to medical care every Eritrean have been prominent agenda to the People and Government of Eritrea. Which is why Eritrea has been heavily investing on the sector, becoming one of the few countries in Africa that have attained close to impeccable results in the medical endeavors by eradicating harmful traditional practices, fully controlling epidemic diseases and spreading health centers all over the nation.

The country has accomplished a lot, and works with and looks for partners, big or small, who share the vision of the Government and People of Eritrea.

Dr. Pititto cherishes his early days in Eritrea when he worked hand in hand with many Eritreans in the medical field. He particularly mentions the, then, Mister of Health the late Mr. Salih Meki. Together, Dr. Pititto says, that the late minister and he were excited to formulate a joint venture between the association of AS.ME.V and the Eritrean Ministry of Health to alleviate one burden at a time and make the lives of so many nationals better.

It also seems that the hospitable tradition of Eritreans has possessed the hearts of the members of AS.ME.V; they have made Eritrea their second home. The voluntary visiting doctors come to Eritrea, rather frequently every year . For instance, Francesco Zappone, dialysis technician, and also a guitarist when not wearing his medical gown, has been a regular visitor of the dialysis centers in Eritrea, coming multiple times each year. In every visit he extends a helping hand to hundreds of patients and shares ideas with medical school students and newly recruited medical professionals.

The journey of friendship between AS.ME.V and the Ministry of Health has been remarkable. Beginning with the first and only dialysis center in 2008, AS.ME.V, alongside the Eritrean Ministry of Health, augmented the number of dialysis centers to eight centers in 2010.

Today, all of the dialysis centers in national referral hospitals in Asmara are operated by local experts. It is the pride of Eritreans to learn and avoid being dependent at all times. Hence, when members of AS.ME.V visit Eritrea it is a sign of a continuous and ever-growing companionship aimed at enhancing knowledge and securing excellent results in health for the future, especially, as regards illnesses linked to kidney.

The concert on the 8th of June 2018 in Cinema Asmara was held as AS.ME.V’s gesture of appreciation to the Eritrean people. Beyond sharing their knowledge and expertise in the medical field, AS.ME.V members they also wanted to share the universal passion for music that we all have.

AS.ME.V, the band, aimed for a cultural exchange between the people of Eritrea and Italy, the band prepared for long. Their preparations included some research of Italian Eritreans like and can relate to. The Italian oldies of big Italian names included Renato Carosone and Al Bano. Most of these songs are songs dearly cherished by the Eritrean community, especially, by the early 60s generation. However, even younger generations enjoy the Italian oldies as most of them are still, occasionally, played in radios and night clubs. Most of the younger Eritrean generations do not speak and nor do they understand Italian as much the previous generations, but when ‘Io di Notte’ plays at bars, many of them sing along ‘…Io di notte sto qui…’ and that is as far as it gets.

Speaking about the choice of songs staged that night, Tesfaalem Ghebresilasie, an art critique and journalist, said it was “fit to the taste of Eritreans”. He added that Asmara was the first African, and one of the few Metropolitan cities of the world. Asmara was inhabited by Eritreans, Arabs, Italians, the English, Americans and many people from around the world. The combination of all these cultures made Asmara a city of splendor. The phenomenon also gave birth to the real and proper identity of Asmarinos, whose distinction still stands to this day. According to the ‘Asmarino Code’ speaking many languages and rejoicing in the harmonious culture of togetherness is a must. That must be the reason many of the senior citizens we see in Asmara give the vibe of real elegance we rarely see in the world.

AS.ME.V made sure that the expectations of this exceptional generation and its succeeding ones were met through their artistry. AS.ME.V, the band, also took time to select patriotic songs to mark the recently celebrated Eritrean Independence Anniversary and the upcoming National Marty’s Day on the 20th of June. With Italian folk songs of resistance and martyrdom such as ‘Bella Ciao’ and ‘Nel Sole Di Albano’, the band commemorated the Eritrean narrative of devotion and sacrifice through the language and culture AS.ME.V is most familiar with.

The association has made this night of Golden Italian Oldies in Asmara possible, making a heart-touching ring of the past to generations that knew Asmara in its early days and served as a junction point between Eritrea’s senior generations, the young ones and the Italian people. The group of medics who danced away the night alongside Eritrean friends are Franceso Zappone, Giusy Bartoletti, Domenico Tarsitano (aka Dars), Maria Assunta Salineto, Dr. Roberto Pititto and Vincenzo Sansone.