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Ethiopian Music: A New Ethiopian Sound via Teddy Afro

by Samuel Getachew
The Huffington Post

A noted blogger was once asked to describe music by a certain Ethiopian musician after hearing it for the first time. He explained his first reaction as feeling as if he [had] died and returned from the dead. He said it took him on a journey of “deep bass, some jazz/rock funk mixed with Ethiopian melody (tizita) from a distance future.”

Ethiopian Music: A New Ethiopian Sound via Teddy Afro

Tewodrose Kassahun (a.k.a. Teddy Afro)

This is a wonderful compliment for music that has yet to be discovered by the rest of world. The fact is that Ethiopian music has been undiscovered partly because Ethiopia was never a colony of the outside world. While there have been superstar Ethiopian artists such as Mohamud Ahmed and Aster Aweke, their success remained within Ethiopia and did not translate onto the international market.

The young and gifted Ethiopian artist Tewodrose Kassahun (a.k.a. Teddy Afro) might just be the one who can help introduce Ethiopian music to the world. His latest CD, which is entitled Tikur Sew (Black person), is perhaps the most anticipated, controversial and scrutinized album in Ethiopian music history. In just one week, it sold well over a million copies and took Ethiopian social media by storm.

The CD has 11 tracks and includes songs arranged by the Ethiopian Japanese producer, Abegaz Kibrework Shiwota as well as the artist himself. Teddy Afro’s music is an anthem of many causes and among them is black power, African pride, love, country, and relationships are some of the themes. In the title track — Tikur Sew — he pays homage to an Ethiopian famous Battle of Adwa and its hero Emperor Menelik II in Amharic as well as in Oromiffa.

Des Yemel Sekay (Happy misery) is a wonderful dance hall track with impressive lyrics. In Africaye (My Africa), Afro offers a wonderful tribute to the continent of Africa, while in Hail (Power) he mixes powerful words of his own with those from the late playwright laureate, Tsegaye Gebremedhin’s great poem Feran coupled with beautiful Ethiopian Orthodox church hymns.

This album is expected to cement itself not only in the heart of fans, but also in the history of the Ethiopian musical journey. Similar to African music that is now known all over the world — Mariam Mekebe and Lucky Dube of South Africa and Youssou N’dour of Senegal, for example — the music of Teddy Afro is on the verge of being discovered by an international market.

It was his second album, Abugida that made Teddy Afro a household name in Ethiopia. A collection of tributes to Ethiopian greats, such as long distance running champion Haile Gebreselassie and the late Emperor Haile Selassie, with an ultra-accessible mix of reggae, funk, and Amharic music, it was this second album that made him an instant star.

His sophomore album, Yasteryal, took him four years to produce. While it was enormously popular, his socially and politically conscious songs were highly controversial. Some of these songs were banned and never heard on the radio in Ethiopia.

Teddy Afro’s youthful, and noble messages of social change in most of the songs (which included both love songs and dance songs with dance hall beat) resonate with fans, in particular young people. However, the music, persona and talent of Teddy Afro have been a wedge issue among Ethiopians. Either he is liked or despised. However, his latest effort deserves the attention it is getting, though most of the songs sound very similar to his older songs. It may not gain him new Ethiopian fans, but will solidify his devout fan base. As long as his song writing talent is concerned, he joins the elitist group of Ethiopian talented song writers such as musician Neway Debebe.

Tikur Sew consists of many excellent songs by anyone’s standard. If his latest effort is any indication, Teddy Afro will indeed become a real international superstar, and be the one artist to bring Ethiopian music to the world.

19 Responses to Ethiopian Music: A New Ethiopian Sound via Teddy Afro

  1. teddy

    May 22, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Wow, marvelous weblog format! How long have you ever been blogging for? you made blogging glance easy. The entire glance of your site is excellent, as well as the content material!

  2. Belata

    May 1, 2012 at 9:50 am

    ECADF Admin Enndelbu Worku ebakeh sekeh atasekegn lol
    The writer is from DEDEBIT UNIVERSITY thats why he is mixing Teddy Afro with Neway Dedeb (Ops i mean to say Debebe). Teddy Afro praised Emeye Minilik the king so hated by Dedebit Woyanes so i have so much respect for Teddy Afro. As far as Neway Dedeb he can continue to be a dish washer at Sheraton i dont care

    TPLF- The enemy of Ethiopian must be removed by any means

  3. Chala

    May 1, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Please choose your words, if you you don’ know how, then don’t comment.

  4. Henock alemu

    April 28, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Yedeseds you are just wrong and rude to say that about him. After all its easy to say that hiding behind a fake name. Its so poor of you to focus on the person behind the great writing and not the sunever. You are obviously a jelous and bitter man.

  5. Teddy

    April 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Teddy’s work is unique in quality. I believe he’s talent is enormous, listen the lyrics, the music, the back ground and video production, all that make Teddy is the top of the top. Beside that look his personalities we, most of Ethiopian, appreciate his humanity, patriotism and so on. It is very hard to put him next to “enesem aytere”

  6. Yedesdes

    April 27, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    I know who Samuel Getachew is, he is one of the “Hodam Woyane Telalaki” in Toronto area, time will reaveal his snake in the grass behaviour….

  7. t.goshu

    April 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    It is so great to see singers like Teddy not only keeping up their talents but also making impressive progres!!

    “Tikur Sew ” tells us about one of the patriotic leaders of the country ,and that is fanastic! I strongly believe it would have been deeply touching if the musical story had some sort of bridging between our past and our present( this generation).

  8. ben

    April 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I really liked your article, except the part “It may not gain him new Ethiopian fans”, because teddy is growing, as well as his fans. people adore him, he gave many people voice and last but not list, don’t compare him with neway debade, because people see teddy’s moral virtues and principles,not just his songs when they put him up in the ladder. i would see him as someone who is going in the direction of Tilahun gesus, the real Ethiopian, not some losers. .

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