Skat Nati’s “Sira”

A rising star on the Ethiopian hip hop scene, Skat Nati is a young artist whose popular 2018 song ስራ “Sira” has made him tough to overlook. The sound, lyrics, and imagery in the “Sira” music video exemplify the extent to which hip hop has become so globalized in recent years, given the meteoric rise of trap music and developments in technology and communication.

“Sira” is an Amharic word that directly translates to “work”, so it is fitting that hard work and success are central themes of the song. The word “sira” is repeated many times in the hook, and Skat Nati includes several lines about working hard for yourself or for others, not “giving up easily”, and feeling “proud of yourself” for the work you do. He also invokes God and his faith, rapping that “God sent you to work”, so “thank him and receive the gift”.

While work is the main topic of the song, Skat Nati sends a message about success through his lyricism and his use of imagery in his music video. He combines the repetition of the word “work” with “play”, and outlines clearly in his lyrics that hard work is necessary in order to achieve greatness. In one verse, he states that we must work hard even when the world is “cruel”, and that work is the “key to success”. This mantra is evident in the scenes of his music video, the first half of which consists primarily of shots of him working out in a gym and running in Addis Ababa. These scenes of Skat Nati pushing himself and putting in work transition in the second half of the video into scenes of him driving a luxury car and partying at a lavish club. The viewer can easily understand Skat Nati’s message here: work hard if you want to live comfortably.

“Sira” is shot in Addis Ababa and the lyrics are in Amharic, but the song still speaks to the universality and globalization of hip hop. The beat of Sira distinguishes it from a more traditional Ethiopian hip hop song; Sira is identifiable as a trap song with more subtle Ethiopian influences woven into the sample, and could be easily mistaken with an American trap beat. The imagery in the music video of luxury suits, sunglasses, cars, and expensive liquor are all heavily prominent in American hip hop and especially trap music. Finally, the central themes of the song–hard work, personal agency and success, and invocation of God, are all universal notions that followers of hip hop can relate to anywhere from Addis Ababa to the Bronx.

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