1 abesha’s confession!
I’ve talked about how I am not given to tears upon hearing songs. This is one of those few times in which a song made me cry.
But first, a confession!
It won’t come as a News to you I’m sure, the fact that I am not your typical Ethiopian, if you have been around this blog for the last few months. If it does, you would just have to get over it. I am an atypical Ethiopian who used to think she hates her country or country men (or both, don’t really know the difference, seeing I’m unable to sing “Ethiopia Hagere” and say ‘sew kifu’ with the same breath). There have been too many angers, resentments, etceteras, stuff my fellow-church goers at Winners International (Plc.?) used to call “gAs! niTsuh ayer yasfeligenal”.
Until, that is, my husband-to-become flew to Addis 3 years ago and we took residence at the Crown Hotel (was nearer to the countryside than any hotel in Addis; close to my office; nobody can see you! ;)).
After a long day of being stared at everywhere we go, escaping various attempts at ripping us off from drivers of every four wheel we went into, and dinning in a bar where two guys appeared to want to pick up, or take away, the sister (the kind of guys who would have tried to pass through me under normal circs. That’s the thing I notice about us Ethios. When we are seen with somebody cute/stud-like/hunky, or “tsegure liwit” – God knows how that translates as “cute” -we start glowing in the eyes of those who needed a microscope to pick us out), we decided to head back to our hotel and see what was on the menu. “They have music there,” one of the waiters suggested “at the Traditional hall!. Foreigners like it”.
“Why not?”, said I, made less than enthusiastic by the chilling weather & icy looks of the day but welcoming the diversion
“Why not?”, said my H-2-B excitedly
A hop, skip, and a puddle jump underneath a borrowed-umbrella later we found the restaurant; fully lighted and filled with the noisy preparation of a traditional band on the stage. Being younger & shyer than the two groups of white people who seemed to have claimed ownership of the place for the evening, we sat at the back. Ordering “tej beBirile”, we let our eyes wonder over to the various traditional paintings on the wall, lending our ear to what the loud spinster-type American lady was expertly speaking about (a comparison between Thai food and what was on the table, If I remember correctly).
That’s when the dancers came out! Apparently, three was the crowd needed. Young men in their mid 20’s; with their stuffed animal “giDaay” on their shoulder & Abonesh Ashagre’s “Gash WolaLoKo Haya” behind. Gracefully acrobatic in their colorful clothes, one of them shaking a spear playfully at me, and smiling. “I don’t know what touched me”, is how I’d put it in Amharic, if asked, and had to then translate it into bad english. It maybe the lonely feeling in a sea of strangers. The conciliatory “yager lij” smile or the tej! I simply couldn’t stop crying. It was as if i was having a crying fit; with the mind going blank, and the senses unable to defend themselves against the emotional assault I didn’t even know existed in me. As though some spell has been removed and I can see things clearly, for the first time. A clarity ephiphanic in quality, and more powerful than jumping water bodies from a broken dam.
The tears that were washing my face upset the Waiters so much that I had to be given bundles of napkins by their kindly supervisor wearing white, just as God intended! Ofcourse her sympathetic look and muttered “ayzosh” would have made things worse, hadn’t my H-2-B pressed my hand uncomfortably and whispered how the rude lady we heard praising Thai food earlier was giving me a look that plainly said “What’s her problem?!”.
That was a moment in my career as an Ethiopian that makes me go “Hmm… odd!!” every time I thought of it. Couldn’t make any sense of it then. There I was, I mean to say, solidly built in the abesha soil, almost as immovable as the “arbegnoch hawilt” infront of “Wannaw posta bet”. Never planning to leave my country and even demanding my sweetheart move here if he wants a future with the sister (which he did after a year). Having never put a foot on foreign soils and eating my mother’s “Enjera” and drinking some strange woman’s “tej”. “I guess”, I have said to myself while tossing and turning over the question of what my problem was that night, “Ethiopians will be Ethiopians”. Which, somehow, was a comfort to know!
Torn from my husband for more than a year and waiting for the U.S. Citizenship & Immigrations Services to process my visa, I view it as something else now. As a blast from the future – a preview of impending tears for all things I’d be missing when I kiss the family goodbye, and leave the country I’ve lived in/loved & hated/cried over and cried for all my life. Still, I’m training myself in the art of “eskista” (when noone is watching). So my tear could pass unnoticed when somebody abesha drags me to the stage to dance for “Min alegn agere”. There may not always be a lady in white handing one half a “laskit” napkins to cry into, you understand, and the darling who would press the hands whispering “Are you ok?” may not always have the time.
Still, this post isn’t a shout out to neither TeddyAfro’s “EyAnebu Eskista”, nor Abonesh Ashagre’s “Bahlen Bahlen”, both of whom I love and the later of which reminded me of the above mentioned event last night. It’s a shout out to all those who worked hard to help Ethiopian music evolve (including Dawit Melese, who usually made the sister wonder if mics should be given to all those that asked). For evolve it has!! It’s the only thing about Ethiopia I can confidently speak of… as evolving! You will do so too if you take the trouble to go through all of FM 97 stations one evening. It has evolved in an unimaginable way & with a vengence! Gigi is, ofcourse, the forerunner. She tore down the “teB gidgida” and come out as fresh yet familiar as a Difo Dabo right out of the oven. Elias Melka, a genius in his own right, help make her descendents stomachable enough. TeddyAfro brought a personality and a perspective, with an edge, to the songs. Zeritu sang it right out of the court (beDemtswa! She ain’t exactly the poet, that Zeritu ;)). All of them deserve mighty praises.
Dare we hope the film industry would follow suit?. That something good might actually come out of all these greasy efforts at making something worthwhile? And that all the crap we are seeing nowadays, however frustrating and pathetic, maybe a “Wazema: YeAbiyot Mebacha”?! That quantity shall proceed quality?
Or is that the typical response from a nation of believers and survivors? 😉