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  • Teddy Afro’s “Ethiopia” translated into English

    Ethiopian Professor Alemayehu Gebremariam, a Lecturer of Political Science at California State University, San Bernardino, has translated Teddy Afro’s much beloved “Ethiopia” song into English aiming for those native Ethiopians, who have born and raised abroad.


    He wrote on his commentaries blog that, “I have prepared this translation for two reasons”. And, his reasons are;


    Firstly, said Professor Alemayehu, to help young Ethiopians in the Diaspora who do not speak or understand Amharic get a glimpse of the musical genius of Teddy Afro, and;


    Secondly, to acquaint them with the metaphysics of “Ethiopiawinet”, a state of being and consciousness, a philosophy and way of life, a system of beliefs and praxis of being Ethiopian. I do not believe there is anyone today who can explain Ethiopiawinet (“Ethiopianity”) better than Tewdros Kassahun.


    Certainly, no one better to communicate it to the younger generation. I also hope to introduce this musical legend to my global readership so that they too may appreciate and enjoy his music as millions have come to appreciate Ethiopian cuisine throughout the world. “If music be the food of love, play on,” wrote Shakespeare.


    Here you can find Professor Alemayehu’s English version poem for Teddy Afro’s Ethiopia:-


    “Ethiopia”
    Even if I pass [die] away
    My motherland [Ethiopia]
    She [remains] is my honor
    Indeed, [she is] my [mother] country.

    So many have died
    Guarding your [her] honor
    Against those who have crossed seas
    To dishonor you [her].

    You are the land of heroes
    [Land] Where Adam left his footprints
    The fountainhead of Ghion [river mentioned in Ch. 2, Genesis]
    [From where] your name is called out.

    Not only those who see your flag waving in the SKY
    Even those who hear the name “Ethiopia” [dare] keep quiet
    Not only those who see your flag waving in the sky
    Even those who hear the name “Ethiopia” [dare] keep quiet.

    With your rainbow [shining]
    The sky draped with your flag
    Your symbol is imprinted on the palm of the world
    And known [even] to Aryam [Ge’ez: sky above all skies, heaven].

    Mountain [ranges] of high peaks
    Have stood guard over you
    [From] The peak of mountains
    That citadel of Axum, Ethiopia.

    You are the gate to Creation
    The [beginning] chapter for the round world
    If [rainbow] colors are seen across the SKY
    It is hers [Ethiopia’s] and no one else’s.

    Even though the world calls her [Ethiopia] backward today
    She will be the front runner of the coming age
    Just let me repeat her name over and over
    Isn’t Ethiopia my own name?

    If there is less food [injera] on the table [Ethiopia is poor]
    Is it possible to TRADE one’s [poor] mother for anything else
    I will hold tight on her skirt
    And never give up hope in my mother.

    Before [I] finish paying her [Ethiopia] for all her favors
    Should not people say [shout out] “Unity” when they hear [the name] Ethiopia
    Ethiopia! Ethiopia! My country!
    Isn’t my honor because of you?

    You are the seed of Solomon
    Tears of the holy ones from which your leaf sprouted
    It should be nothing new [not be surprised] today to those
    Who touched [provoked] you to be burned by the fire they lit.

    Without any limitation to your glory
    In the book of your heritage with the history of the spirit of the ages [written]
    The prophets saw you from afar and wrote in their books:
    “Don’t touch Ethiopia!”

    In the north
    In the south
    In the east and in the west
    May your bounty be full!

    Begone hardship [misery] from the land [Ethiopia]
    Let your bounty be full!
    Begone hardship [misery] from your land [Ethiopia]
    Let your bounty be full!

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  • Teddy Afro: At the top of his game

    Tewodros Kassahun (Teddy Afro), Ethiopia’s best selling artist, controversial, often times poetic, at all times talented, released his long awaited album – Ethiopia –last week. It has since shot to number 1 in Billboard’s World Album chart – a milestone for Ethiopian music. At home, relaxed, uplifting and vulnerable at all the same time, he hosted Samuel Getachew and Dawit Endeshaw of The Reporter as he opened up on his family, career, Ethiopia and what it means for him to be loved by millions of people around the world. Excerpts:

    The Reporter: Congratulations Teddy on your new album. Since we saw you four years ago, you have become a second time father. You seem more in love with your wife.  How is it different to perform, not just as an artist, but as a father?

    Teddy Afro: The difference is perhaps felt more by others who observe me when I perform. It is true, being a responsible husband and a father has given me a sense of who I am and where I belong. It has changed me. It has helped me become a better person, a better artiste. It has given me a home, a place to belong. It is something to behold.  It really has been a blessing and a happy experience for me.

    Going to your latest work, inside the album cover, you describe yourself as “Ra’ey” (vision). What exactly are you referring to? Are you referring to yourself having a vision, your country’s vision or something else?

    As you saw for yourself, I included pictures of my parents, my father, mother and a picture of Emperor Tewodros II.  It is to be a remembrance, a memorial. As a child, I called my mother Ra’ey. For me, Ra’ey is to be Ethiopian. Ra’ey is to be given by God. That is what I meant.

    Your album is a hit and has given a sentiment value to your fans. You named your album Ethiopia. What does Ethiopia and Ethiopianism mean to you?

    I have often been asked that question and I have always been frank with my assessment of what it means. I have reflected on it a lot by the way. For me, being Ethiopian is to be free, kind, patient and humble. It is to have and hold on to better ideals for oneself.

    The current generation, sees you as the voice of a generation. Even at the beginning, when you released your Abugida album, you were seen as a voice of that generation. The current generation also sees you, as the current generation’s voice. You seem to have a way with every generation. Do you see yourself as the voice of a new generation?

    I cannot be far from any generation, especially my own generation. I can only reflect on an experience. Mine or others!

    Woubshet Werkalemahu, has congratulated you on your interpretation of the iconic book “Fikir Eske Mekabir”. The book is 600 pages. Do you think your interpretation in a four-minute song is inclusive of the message of the book?

    It’s true, the book is 600 pages and it’s long. I believe I only reflected the main characters in the book, which is the story of Bezabih while he was trying to find Seblewengel. Basically, the song narrates the story of Bezabih from Gojam to Addis Ababa. It talks about when Gudu Kassa helps Bezabih when he tried to find his love. So I have tried to capture this part of the book.

    Was there anyone aside from you who was involved in writing the lyrics for the song entitled Fikir Eske Mekabir?

    No, there wasn’t. I finished both the lyrics and the melody in one night. Then I made some improvements after. So, except the contribution from the author of Fikir Eske Mekabir itself the song belongs to me.

    Some say you’re all over everything.  Given your popularity and fame people involved in the music industry always want to work with you. So how are you planning to work and mentor those young producers and musicians who want to be the next Teddy Afro?

    Well, when I do my music, I always try to use every possible resource at my disposal. I always want and try to work and collaborate with other musicians. I go out of my way to do that. We have tried many times but effort couldn’t go beyond trying.

    Speaking of your new album, in one of your songs, which is about Emperor Tewodros II, the style of your voice you used in this song is somehow unique and resembles with the tone of the so called Azmaris. How did you come up with the song and such unique ways to capture the unique voice of an Azmari?

    I always found myself attracted with such unique and old voices. By the way, it was not the first time that I have played with such tone. Previously, I played the song by Bahru Kangne. So it comes from emotion and compassion. It was not planned. It just happened.

    When did you write the song about Emperor Tewodros II?

    It has been a while since I started to process the song but there were improvements made on the way. It was this year that I have completed the whole song about him.

    Some people relate your song on Emperor Tewodros with the recent political unrest that erupted in the city of Gondar. Did you write the song after violence in Gondar?

    Well…some may link it with what happened in Gondar. However, the song has nothing to do with the unrest. So my answer is; this was not the first time I sung about our emperors and praise them at all the same time.

    After the release of your album, we have seen many people lineup to purchase your album. It must be nice to be appreciated and loved by many people.

    All is because of the grace of God; it is a blessing from the almighty God. But seeing this from my perspective, it is really hard. Having all this acceptance and recognition by itself put a sense of pressure. So I have no words to express my gratitude for the love and acceptance I get.

    In a number of times you sang about Emperor Haile Selassie I. Speaking about Emperor, people have different opinion on him. Some consider him as god, others as a prophet and many asking. How do you see him?

    The amount of grace and knowledge that our forefathers and emperors had is not something that would be easily explained. By their time, our kings were feared and respected by the world. So for me Emperor Haile Selassie I was a very kind leader – a leader who has ruled his country with grace and compassion.

    So you see him as an Emperor?

    Yes

    One of your admirers is The Weeknd. He has listed you, along with Aster Aweke and Mulatu Astatke, as his musical heroes. He has said how his mother used to play your songs all the time. Are you open to the idea of working with him?

    The simple answer is yes. I would be happy. He seems like a nice, decent young man. I met with his family inside a plane. It was indicated to me how much he loves my music. He is a talented artist. The simple answer is yes, I would love to work with him.

    There are new artists, in their teenage years, in their twenties who are struggling and want to follow in your footsteps. What advice do you have for them?

    The first thing is to know your real talent and your own potential. You need to have the right attitude. One has to be able to listen to different kinds of music. Attitude and confidence is the foundation to a great success in art. Build the foundation early. Be a team player.

    Your wife is staring in a movie currently in local cinemas. You are both talented artists.  Will there be any chance for a collaborative effort for both of you?

    We have already teamed up (laughs). We worked on the video, for the song, Mar Eske Tuwaf. She was the star, playing Seblewengel and she was also the director. We saw the finished product yesterday and it was beautiful. I expect it to be released very soon. 

    Source: The Reporter

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  • Ethiopia’s star singer Teddy Afro makes plea for openness

    Teddy Afro, Ethiopia’s superstar singer, is topping the Billboard world albums chart with “Ethiopia,” which less than two weeks after its release has sold nearly 600,000 copies, a feat no other artist here has achieved.

    Known for the political statements he makes in his music, an infectious mix of reggae and Ethiopian pop, the 40-year-old Tewodros Kassahun told The Associated Press that raising political issues should not be a sin.

    Open debate “should be encouraged,” he said. “No one can be outside the influence of politics and political decisions.”

    Ethiopia is an unlikely place for an outspoken singer to thrive. The government is accused of being heavy-handed on opposing voices.

    During a visit this month, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein expressed concern about the state of emergency imposed in October after months of deadly anti-government protests demanding wider freedoms. Opposition and human rights groups blame security forces for hundreds of deaths, but the government says they largely used “proportionate” measures.

    The human rights chief also criticized Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism laws, saying an “excessively broad” definition of terrorism may be misused against journalists and opposition members.

    In “Ethiopia,” the songs highlight the diversity of the country’s 100 million people while encouraging national unity. Pointing to Ethiopia’s formative role in launching the African Union continental body in 1963, Teddy said his country should find more cohesiveness at home.

    “A country that tried to bring Africans together is now unable to have a unified force and voice,” he said. “The tendency nowadays here in Ethiopia is to mobilize in ethnic lines, not ideas.”

    In his new album, Teddy sings mainly in Amharic but incorporates other local languages, which has been well-received by Ethiopians as a call for national unity.

    At the same time, some of his songs have been interpreted as carrying political messages against Ethiopia’s ruling elites, leading some fans to say his outspokenness has made him a target.

    In 2008, the singer was sentenced to two years in prison for a hit-and-run manslaughter but was released after 18 months in jail. He said he was never inside the car, and his fans suggested it was a politically motivated harassment by the ruling party. Hundreds of Ethiopians protested outside the court during his trial in the capital, Addis Ababa.

     

    Authorities also have frequently cancelled his concerts without explanation. “We have sustained a lot of damages. This is not right,” he said.

    Asked if he has any political ambitions, the singer said: “Let me continue doing what I’m doing now and we will see what the future holds for other things.”

    Source: AP

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