by Natalia Kasper

My study seems to be interesting and everybody has some kind of experience in it. Let’s have a little virtual journey to discover Ethiopian culture through its music videos, symbols, and styles.

From the time of establishing the MTV, musicians all over the world wanted to have visual illustration of their songs and their content. Music videos evolved from 80’s kitsch, through grunge Red Hot Chili Peppers to Madonna’s and Michael Jackson’s 3 – 5 minutes long masterpieces.

In Ethiopia, one can observe different video-clips some illustrating and showing traditional and historical heritage of Ethiopia, other following well–known pattern from the west such as 50 cent. Videos of first type, the traditional ones are very common in Ethiopia unlike they are in the West.

They seem to be old–fashioned to balance on the edge of folklore. This is easily noticeable as many of musicians and dancers dressed in traditional highland styles such as k’emīs and shemma.

K’emis is a long, full sleeved cotton gown that is often embroidered at the neck, cuffs and hem. Shemma, a special kind of shawl is draped over the head and shoulders in a graceful fashion and sometimes held by the wearer over the nose.

Men also have their traditional costumes which mainly consists of net’ela, jodhpurs and tunic. Net’ela is a shawl which is very light and comfortable for hot weather.

Jewelery is also involved in the traditional styles. As majority of people are Christians, they wear necklaces with various forms of cross.

Iskista is one among the popular traditional dances in Ethiopia. A most interesting feature which dancers involve mainly their shoulders, chest and whole body, shaking, jerking and bending rhythmically.

The placement of videos of these cultural dances is important to give it a complete sense. It mostly takes place in a rural area background where people are surrounded by kettle, at the fields, or between huts. This shows the importance of agriculture in Ethiopia.

On the other hand, they could be filmed in historical sites of Lalibela or Gondar mainly to underline historical heritage and show power of Ethiopia.

Ethiopian music is not only traditional. As the world more and more globalizes, people tend to different types of western style music.

The most important thing that still remains Ethiopian is language. Regardless of the genre of the music, the songs are sung in Amharic or another language that originates in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian national colors, the green, yellow, and red are important features their music. They are very important for patriotic Ethiopians who strongly identify themselves with. In traditional videos the colors occur on the clothes where they have been for centuries.

After emergence of the Rastafarian movement, they were transferred to Jamaica but are also returned to Ethiopia blended with Bob Marley Songs and printed on t–shirts .

Not only national colors have traveled their way back to Africa, but also music genres themselves. Hip – hop evolved in the United States’ ghettos where it was developed by the offspring of slaves brought from Africa.

The same situation occurs with the reggae which came into being in Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica. Now both of them are making big splash in Africa from where they really originate through people (slaves) taken to the different parts of the world.

Another important difference between the two kinds of described videos is the gender of performing artists and the role of men and women acting in them. As women played very significant role in traditional Ethiopian society, they very often occur in the videos of traditional kind.

This is another sign of copying trends coming from Western culture. In most common situation, they sing and women appear only in role of sexy dolls, and in choruses.

Ethiopian musicians compete with the artist from the region and from all of the Africa on numerous competitions, for example at Ethiopian Music Awards, Channel O all African Music Awards, Fest Horn African Music Festival and also MTV Africa Music Awards. Video – clips are also getting prizes there.

Ethiopian videos can be easily accessed through many popular web sites like, for instance, youtube.com. There are also some specific web sites devoted only to Ethiopian stuff like diretube.com or ethioclips.com.

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