Music of Ethiopia

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Introduction

The music of Ethiopia is extremely diverse, with each of Ethiopia's ethnic groups being associated with unique sounds. Some forms of traditional music are strongly influenced by folk music from elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, especially Somalia. However, Ethiopian religious music also has an ancient Christian element, traced to Yared, who lived during the reign of Gabra Masqal. In northeastern Ethiopia, in Wollo, a Muslim musical form called manzuma developed. Sung in Amharic, manzuma has spread to Harar and Jimma, where it is now sung in the Oromo language. In the Ethiopian Highlands, traditional secular music is played by itinerant musicians called azmaris, who are regarded with both suspicion and respect in Ethiopian society.

Music theory

The music of the highlands uses a fundamental modal system called qeent, of which there are foour main modes: ambassel, and anchihoy. Three additional modes are variations on the above: tezeta minor, bati major, and bati minor. Some songs take the name of their qenet, such as tizita, a song of reminiscence. When played on traditional instruments, these modes are generally not tempered (that is, the pitches may deviate slightly from the Western-tempered tuning system), but when played on Western instruments such as pianos and guitars, they are played using the Western-tempered tuning system.

Musical instruments

Chordophones

In the highlands, traditional string instruments include the masenqo, a one-string bowed lute; the krar or kirar, a six-string lyre; and the begena, a large ten-string lyre. The dita a five-string lyre and musical bows including an unusual three-string variant are among the chordophones found in the south.

Aerophones

The washint is a bamboo flute that is common in the highlands. Trumpet-like instruments include the ceremonial malakat used in some regions, and the holdudwa (animal horn; compare shofar) found mainly in the south. Embilta flutes have no finger holes, and produce only two tones, the fundamental and a fourth or fifth interval. These may be metal (generally found in the north) or bamboo (in the south). The Konso and other people in the south play fanta, or pan flutes.

Idiophones 

In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, liturgical music employs the senasel, a sistrum. Additionally, the clergy will use prayer staffs, or maqwamiya, to maintain rhythm. Rural churches historically used a dawal, made from stone slabs or pieces of wood, in order to call the faithful to prayer. The Beta Israel use a small gong called a qachel as liturgical accompaniment, though qachel may also refer to a small bell. The toom, a lamellophone, is used among the Nuer, Anuak, Majangir, Surma, and other Nilotic groups. Metal leg rattles are common throughout the south.

Membranophones

The kebero is a large hand drum used in the Orthodox Christian liturgy. Smaller kebero drums may be used in secular celebrations. The nagarit, played with a curved stick, is usually found in a secular context such as royal functions or the announcement of proclamations, though it has a liturgical function among the Beta Israel. The Gurage and other southern peoples commonly play the atamo, a small hand drum sometimes made of clay. 

Popular music

Tilahun Gessesse, one of the most popular artists in Ethiopia during the local music scene's "Golden Age" in the 1960s.

Ethiopia is a musically traditional country. Of course, popular music is played, recorded and listened to, but most musicians also sing traditional songs, and most audiences choose to listen to both popular and traditional styles. A long-standing popular musical tradition in Ethiopia was that of brass bands, imported from Jerusalem in the form of forty Armenian orphans (Arba Lijoch) during the reign of Haile Selassie. This band, which arrived in Addis Ababa on September 6, 1924, became the first official orchestra of Ethiopia. By the end of World War II, large orchestras accompanied singers; the most prominent orchestras were the Army Band, Police Band, and Imperial Bodyguard Band. Most of these bands were trained by Europeans or Armenians.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, Ethiopian popular musicians included Bizunesh Bekele, Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete, Hirut Bekele, Ali Birra, Ayalew Mesfin, Kiros Alemayehu, Muluken Melesse and Tilahun Gessesse, while popular folk musicians included Alemu Aga, Kassa Tessema, Ketema Makonnen, Asnaketch Worku, and Mary Armede. Perhaps the most influential musician of the period, however, was Ethio-jazz innovator Mulatu Astatke. Amha Records, Kaifa Records, and Philips-Ethiopia were prominent Ethiopian record labels during this era. Since 1997, Buda Musique's Ethiopiques series has compiled many of these singles and albums on compact disc.

During the 1980s, the Derg controlled Ethiopia, and emigration became almost impossible. Musicians during this period included Ethio Stars, Wallias Band and Roha Band, though the singer Neway Debebe was most popular. He helped to popularize the use of seminna-werq (wax and gold, a poetic form of double entendre) in music (previously only used in qiné, or poetry) that often enabled singers to criticize the government without upsetting the censors.

List of Ethiopian Vocalists

1

Abatte Barihun

 

66

Henok Z-Gulit

2

Abdu Kiar

 

67

Hirut Bekele

3

Abebe Teka

 

68

Hirut Bekele

4

Abie Lakew

 

69

Kassa Tesema

5

Abinet Agonafir

 

70

Kassa Tessema

6

Abitow Kebede

 

71

Kenedy Mengesha

7

Abonesh Adninew

 

72

Ketema Makonnen

8

Afework Nigussie

 

73

Kichini Manalemosh Dibo

9

Ahmed Legasse

 

74

Kiros ALlemayehu

10

Alemayehu Eshete

 

75

Kuku Sebsibe

11

Alemayehu Herepo

 

76

Lafonten

12

Alemayehu Makonnen

 

77

Madingo Afework

13

Alemu Aga

 

78

Mahmoud Ahmed

14

Alexander Aseffa

 

79

Maki Siraj

15

Ali Birra

 

80

Mamila

16

Amelmal Abate

 

81

Marta Ashagrie

17

Amsale Mitike

 

82

Mary Armede

18

Aregahegn Worash

 

83

Melaku Tegegne

19

Aregaw Alemu

 

84

Melkamu Tebeje

20

Ashebir Belay

 

85

Meskerem Mamo

21

Asnakech Worku

 

86

Mohamud Ahmed

22

Asrebib Tagede

 

87

Mulatu Astatke

23

Aster Awoke

 

88

Mulugeta Jiru

24

Aster Kebede

 

89

Muluken Melese

25

Ayalew Mesfin

 

90

Nestanet Melese

26

Bahiru Kagne

 

91

Neway Debebe

27

Berhanu Aweke

 

92

Rahel Yohannes

28

Betty Rock

 

93

Serkualem Tegegne

29

Béza Tadesse

 

94

ShewanDagne Hailu

30

Bezawork Asefaw

 

95

Sinke Assefa

31

Birhanemeskel H/Selasie

 

96

Solomon Haftu

32

Birtukan Dubale

 

97

Solomon Haile

33

Bisat Seyum

 

98

Solomon Tekaligne

34

Bisrat Lemm

 

99

Tadesse Alemu

35

Bizuayehu Demsise

 

100

Tagel Seyfu

36

Bizunesh Bekele

 

101

Tamirat Desta

37

Bizunesh Bekele

 

102

Tammirat Molla

38

Chachi Tadesse

 

103

Teddy Afro

39

Damtew Ayele

 

104

Tedros Kasa

40

Dawit Hileslassie

 

105

Tefera Negash

41

Dawit Melese

 

106

Tesfaye Kassa

42

Dawit Tsige

 

107

Teshome Assegid

43

Demere Legesse

 

108

Teshome Demissie

44

Dereje Degefaw

 

109

Teshome Wolde

45

Desta Berhe

 

110

Tewodros Kasahuh

46

Eden Abebe

 

111

Tewodros Tadesse

47

Efrem Tamiru

 

112

Tibebe Wokye

48

Egigayeh Shibabaw

 

113

Tigist Assefa

49

Elsabet Teshome

 

114

Tigist Bekele

50

Eyob Mekonen

 

115

Tigist Shibabaw

51

Fasill Demoze

 

116

Tilahun Gessesse

52

Fikeraddis Neqatebeb

 

117

Tsegaye Eshete

53

Genet Bekele

 

118

Tsegaye Eshetu

54

Getachew Kassa

 

119

Tsehaye Yohanes

55

Getatchew Mekurya

 

120

Twedros Mitiku

56

Gigi Shibabaw

 

121

Wasé Kassa

57

Girum Haile

 

122

Woubshet Fisseha

58

Gossaye Tesfaye

 

123

Yerdaw Tenaw

59

Hablul

 

124

Yihunay Belay

60

Haileyesus Girma

 

125

Yihune Belay

61

Hailie Taddesse

 

126

Yohannes Berhanu

62

Hamelmal Abate

 

127

Yonas Haile

63

Hanna Shenkute

 

128

Zeritu Kebede

64

Hebist Tiruneh

 

129

Zinabu G/Sillasie

65

Henok Abebe

 

130

 

References

  1. Shelemay, Kay Kaufman. "Ethiopia", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell (London: Macmillan, 2001), viii, p. 356.
  2. Abatte Barihun, liner notes of the album Ras Deshen, 200.
  3. Shelemay, pp. 355–356
  4. Eyre, Banning (2005-12-18). "Francis Falceto - Ethiopia: Diaspora and Return (interview)"Afropop Worldwide. World Music Productions. Retrieved March 10, 2007.

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