The Weeknd

The Weeknd
Photo: © Universal Music

If you watched the American Music Awards in end November last year, you would’ve noticed one very strange-looking artist emerge winner in Favourite Male Artist and Favourite Album categories — The Weeknd. Strange we say for his peculiar hairstyle that befits the reason he has it.

Inspired by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd (again strange name isn’t it, well we will come to it soon), has been growing out his signature hairstyle for four years now, maintaining it with nothing more than an occasional hard shampoo that keeps it in place. But this style has had him compared to a tsunami, a cresting wave, the Elephant Man and many more daringly embarrassing names! Abel falls in a similar category of artists who tamper with their looks like Get Lucky duo Daft Punk’s funny stage antics that include wearing suits and strutting around in helmets, keeping their true identities away from audience. Though Abel has not tried to hide his face, he is one of the out-of-the-box music-makers who think and work differently. His hair makes for a great conversation point, and even though we hear that this hardened piece of hair gives him neck pains when he sleeps, he has no plans to do away with it anytime soon.

Abel Tesfaye was born on 16 February 1990, and raised in Scarborough, Canada, an only child of Ethiopian parents who came to Canada in the 1980s. His mother did odd jobs to support the family, working tirelessly as her husband was never around to look after the family. English was not the mother tongue at home and so Abel picked up the Amharic language (a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia) instead of English. He attended school at the nearby West Hill Collegiate Institute, but later dropped out due to disinterest. He had a bent for music while growing up and would tune into hip-hop, indie rock and post punk.

When he was about 17 years, he adopted the stage name The Weeknd after he and a friend “left one weekend and never came back home”. The spelling was modified to avoid trademark issues with a Canadian band already named The Weekend. But this is just one of the reasons why he changed his name. Another version states that while he was in Toronto, he met producer Jeremy Rose who had an idea for a musical project called The Weeknd. He played one of his instrumentals for Abel who loved it and decided to work with Rose. Rose produced three songs What You Need, Loft Music and The Morning and a few others on which Abel rapped. But Rose found them unsuitable and decided to do away with the project. One good thing that came out from the collaboration was that Rose let Abel keep the tracks he had produced under the condition that he would ultimately be credited for them when he wanted to use it.

In late 2010, Abel anonymously uploaded several songs to YouTube under the name The Weeknd. The songs drew attention, and were also featured on a blog by Toronto-based rapper Drake. From then on he worked on his music independently and performed from club to club, on the street and online, until he finally got coverage from Rolling Stone, The New York Times and other big publications.

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Verus Ferreira is a music journalist for over three decades. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book and the founder of

Verus Ferreira

Verus Ferreira is a music journalist for over three decades. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book and the founder of