by Mewded Yelewossen

mulatu astatke

With more than 70 ethnic groups, Ethiopia is a country that holds many   languages, dress codes, eating habits as well as music.

In a land of natural beauties and cultures, religion plays a vital role in the average Ethiopian citizen’s life.

One of the most common religions being that of the Orthodox, it is obvious that Ethiopian music has inherited a great deal of materials as well as singing styles from Churches.

Church officials (Debtera) study very hard learning musical chats for different ceremonies such as Eastern and Christmas or simple Sunday mornings.

Orthodox choirs use drums and handclapping to animate their performances.

Otherwise, it is believed that music knew its birth in Ethiopia when Emperor Haile Sallassie visited Jerusalem where he found a group of talented artists which later became Ethiopia’s is first official orchestra.

Afterwards, using different instruments, Ethiopians began making a variety of melodies along with lyrics expressing different emotions of love, happiness and sadness. The commonly used instruments, also inherited from churches are Masinko (violin), Kerar (lyre), Washint (flute) and Kebero (Drums).

As the history of Ethiopian music grew, famous artist like Telahun Gessesse, also known as the king of Ethiopian music, started appearing, entertaining the public even though religions were against music unless composed for the Lord. Mohamud Ahmed and Neway Debebe are also definite names to be seen in the Ethiopian music history.

Singing and dancing play an important role in the Ethiopian cultural life. For instance, songs our ancestors have passed on are still sung on New Year for example. This song called “abebayehosh” expresses the feelings and routine of young girls during the holiday, the use of drums is common to this celebration.

Also, on ‘Buhe’ (holiday celebrated by the Orthodox prior to new year) young boys in the neighborhoods go around signing while rhyming, wishing the elderly health and wealth. In exchange, the older people give their blessings and small bread called “mulmul’ baked for this special occasion.

Singing also accompanies farmers on duty on the country side. Farmers sing different meaningful songs about their products while planting seeds and harvesting.

Occasions such as the birth of a new child or a wedding are definite subject so the certain of an overhanging melody.

On weddings for instance, singers keep the guests, the bride and the groom and their families entertained while singing about the couple’s meeting, the siblings who will get married in the future and the accomplishments to come of the married couple.

Songs are also composed by family members and specially designated people at the death of an individual. These songs are used to mention to good things the person had done in his/her lifetime and celebrate the individual’s life.

Nowadays, talented artist emerge everyday, especially in cities mainly Addis. Some may come to sing traditional music, with modernized organs and beats. ‘Eskista’ is the most famous Ethiopian dance which is very fun to practice, it is basically the movement of shoulders accordingly with the sounds and beats of the tune.

Others like Tedy Afro have been known to produce amazing pop and slow music and some along with video clips, all in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia.

Reggae singers have also continuously been producing awesome music. The famous Sidney Solomon lead singer along with the Imperial Majestic band, give breath taking performances, especially to reggae lovers.

Ethiopian Jazz musicians have also amazed the public with unbelievable melodies to the ear. So many hidden talents hope to join the greater music industry in the very near future.

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