What’s in a song?

November 28, 2008 at 11:03 am 8 comments

I had a 1-hour class last night, yippee, so I was earlier than most when leaving school. I thought I might walk. The air was cool, the wind was breathy, and my friend Elias Mohammed who, oddly enough, happens to be a Christian wanted me to help him recite the “Min aine anta” (where are you from) portion of the Arabic lesson I was taking online. He was still replying “Waalekum Wasalaam”, so you can see why he felt he needed help.

We walked upto Arat Kilo, me asking, he answering; and bade each other goodbye infront of “Maleda Café”. Arat Kilo was filled with it’s usual bustle. There were those who sold and bought. Those who offered sell and found no body to buy them. There were men in cars, chicks on foot, and the rest of us busy trying to get home. When I approached the “taxi area”, which has inflated or deflated to the front of Mega Book Center, the voice I heard coming from a loud speaker became clear. A man was promoting a spiritual song album he said has now come to VCD. He was saying some of the words in the song along the tape that was playing it in the background. I recognized the song, perhaps the singer’s master piece, from my mini-bus rides to and from school. I called it, “Kalante lene maan lihonegn”, it perhaps went by the name “YemaatQeyer Ante Bicha”. I have loved that song ever since it caught my attention at the café near my office. It wasn’t just the singer’s serene voice that impressed me, but the fact that it seem deeply rooted in the bible and talked nothing but of love and dependency on the creator. I have always liked that about songs, any song. Those are the kinds of songs that surpass religious and race boundaries. Like good books, you share the sentiments even when they are talking about paths you would not be going through.

We all know, were we willing to face the truth (or think outside the box) how most spiritual songs (especially those from the Ethiopian Orthodox church) are a little short on imagination. If they aren’t lacking in imagination, they are mistranslating the bible (and not on purpose! Slice it how you will but “the good Samaritan” isn’t the lamb that didn’t open his mouth infront of his shearers). When they aren’t doing neither, they are giving the spiritual version of most pre-Gigi secular songs. Complaining how evil their neighbors are and how God would deliver them from “them”. “Des Yalew Yizemir”, that’s one heavenly order Ethiopian Zemaris do not always abide by.

Now, if these people for one moment stopped and thought how God wasn’t an abesha, an abesha with all the psychological disorders in the book, and has way too many important things to do than be their bully older brother, our minivan rides would have been more enjoyable. Not to mention how many people would have been spared needless pains from illogical expectations. Like my mother, for example, who one bright afternoon hoped God would help my 1 year-younger bro, Tagel, go to the university. Tagel went to school for one purpose, to beat up his teachers. He stayed in school because nobody dared kick him out. My father has served there for more than 20 years and was the best “YeEwqet Abaat” the school had. “What if” my mother said shyly that p.m., “Geta helps Tagel score a passing mark”. This was back when a guy needs to score 3.4 and above to go to the university. Even the undersigned, with being a pride and joy to her Father and exhibiting exemplary student behaviors such as spending most of her free time at the library (reading fiction!) only got so far as 2.8 (or 3.2, if you discounted Maths” “D”).

I was a full-gospel believer back then, trying to live in peace with my neighbors and attempting to be good, so it must have come as a surprise to my mother when I mused “Oh yeah? Then that would mean God goes against His own word, coz He has promised we only reap what we sow”. She gave me a look that I know so well. A look a mother would give her daughter she wasn’t brave enough to ask “minew anchi gin… Enjerashin aybelabish!?”. Then she said God could make my brother pass and use that opportunity to change him. “The only person who can change Tagel,” I observed “is Tagel himself, and he doesn’t seem ready to do that just yet”.

“There is nothing impossible to God”, she said stubbornly.

I dropped it.

Fwd: 6 months later. Matric result came. Tagel went to Menelik the 2nd to get it. Unlike Netsanet, my cousin, who would never know what her “Matric photo” looked like, for she’s been refused her certificate, for ‘raising a flag on all subjects’ Tagel signed and received his! But only because he scored a “D” on his English exam, he loved watching movies too. The rest were F – for flat.

Stop. Rewind. I was talking about how a line in the song I heard while walking down Arat Kilo killed me dead. Why did it kill me dead? Neger BeMissale, Tej Bebirille.

You are in love. You are loved back. He then goes abroad. He calls, he e-mails, he sends stuff. Still.. you come home to an empty house. Which one would you do? Would you try to forget this person as much as you can or do you try to keep him alive & beside you by buying as many love songs you heard together as you can and go to bed weeping over them. I do the later. I buy Abinet Agonafir’s “Athijibign”, a song that was playing at the restaurant I took Chris out for dinner on the eve of his departure, and cry my heart out. “Negem Yante new Addisu Qen” I’d tell my beloved, the way Zemari Mirtnesh Tilahun told her God, “Ezemralehu Sitnafikegn”.

Here is the result of my youtube search for ‘Yalante Lene’. Enjoy 🙂

Entry filed under: Latest Posts.

Alright :) Eri Bey Agere!

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Girum  |  November 28, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Lol…Why Car a background?

  • 2. Mazzi  |  November 30, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    “What’s in a song?” … Apparently A LOT!!!!

    ‘Anjet yalemiknyat rezeme bilesh new?’

    With all the ‘anjet mebelat’ we occasionally (or even often) suffer listening to songs that resonate with us (for some … spiritual, for others … worldly, for the rest … both); we better have very very long ‘anjet’!! ‘Aleziya maleqachin new!’

    ‘Nafqot’ and longing are terrible things to experience, especially when our loved ones that we miss and long for are very far away … sometimes even across the ocean :-(. You miss your dear husband on this side, and I miss my entire family on that side of the Ocean. Sometimes, it seems to a point of tears :-(. ‘Tsinatun yesTen eskenagegnachew.’

    I was listening to Amharic music on my lap top when I was reading your post, and upon reading about Abinet Agonafir’s “Athigibgne” song, I immediately switched to that song and started listening to it as I too appreciate the song :-). Talk about self imposed ‘anjet mebelat yageren zefen eyangoragorku’ sitting in MidWest winterland.

    Another favorite song of Abinet Agonafir is ‘Yezaren,’ and I shall listen to it after this to cheer myself up as I also dedicate the song to you :-).


  • 3. Kermo Tija  |  December 1, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Hello Abesheet,

    I like how forthright you are about yourself – which I must say is not so common among our people. I kind of got a hint of where you stand in matters of faith a while back reading one of your articles. I want to tell you that I have done a whole lot of science in research organizations and industry. Yet reason and logic do not explain everything. Faith is the sixth sense. It makes you feel God the way you feel anything real.

  • 4. abesheet  |  December 1, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Thank you guys, for your comments.

    Lol, Girum. I know. But he’s darn cute, isn’t he?! “Yewah yiEgziabher beG”, that’s what he reminded me of. And how simple and uncomplicated most abesha guys’ days are 🙂

    Mazziye, I so know how you are feeling. I start crying when i hear songs like “Min Alegn Agere” when i think of how i’d feel if i heard it when i’m abroad. Talk about ‘beGeza ejj anjet maaSbelating’ :). Still, Abinet has never been my favorite (that song “QezQaza welafen” made him feel like a sail out, somehow). Also, he almost run me and a friend over by a car on Olympia road once. Not from any intent of harming us, but from an intent of trying to check out the size of our booty. Still, I’ve found one or two of his songs to be good. “Yezaren”, as you said, “Sitalekshi des alshign” and “Athijibign”. Chris loved “Susse”, coz it was so easy to sing along 🙂 .

    Kermo darling. Yeah, i’ve heard that said before. Faith being referred to as the sixth sense. I wonder how reliable this sixth sense is, though. Take me, for example. I have a sixth sense that “smells” danger from afair. It’s helped me in my relationships in the past. But helped my friends more, I give “netsa yemikir agelgilot” to those females in trouble from time to time. But i’ve noticed this sixth sense of mine, this instinct, this guide, can be very unreliable sometimes. For it seems as influenced by my background (fear and insecurity) as [an actual] presence of threat or reality. Could that be the case with “faith” too?!

  • 5. Mazzi  |  December 2, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Almost being run over by Abinet Agonafir when he was trying to check out the goods while driving…. that would have made a strange headline I tell you. Lewere yemayimech :-).

    I love many of the great classic Ethiopian artists and songs that I still listen to often. But I am forever in search of new, young, and decent Ethiopian singing artists as I love listening to music from home. However, I am embarrassed to admit that though occasionally I find some nice songs on CD and YouTube, the rest is like anybody who is anybody is trying to become a singer whether or not equipped with singing talent or artist quality. I listen to some ‘newer’ songs from home and say to myself, “this song does not even have harmony with itself let alone with me.” And I am not much into ‘hip-hop b’Amarigna’ songs that are poorly produced at a fast pace. It does not help that living in the West I have easier access to music by great artists of the decades from just about anywhere who have and have had access to best resources the music industry has to offer.

    I know some of these great artists are able to produce quality music because they have better resources, possibly music lessons staring from childhood, stiff competition with other artists, picky music market that demands quality for the most part, and other amazing artists who came before them to look up to. So I know it is not fair of me to compare some Ethiopian artists with other much more privileged artists from other countries. I use the word ‘artist’ loosely as well because not everyone who sings is an artist. Among many things, one needs a combination of talent, depth, imagination, originality, unique life philosophy, dedication to one’s chosen form of art, public persona, confidence, and potential for growth to be a great artist. So just having a nice voice does not cut it.

    I am one of those music lovers who die for the lyrics in songs. In general, I find many Amharic songs lack some much needed imagination when it comes to lyrics. Thanks to non existent copy right laws, and traditionally recycled lyrics and melodies, many ‘artists’ are not pressured to come up with quality, original, and dynamic lyrics. Most songs are soooooo predictable, and very shallow!!! Many ‘artists’ have not been in the music business long enough to show their own personal growth and journey in their works. It is about singing the style that is popular at the time, and less about developing a personal style unique enough to be easily recognized. Old and classic lyrics are so recycled sometimes in the same songs that singers even contradict themselves!

    I love Teddy Afro as much as the next Ethiopian and he may be the only artist in recent history that has come a little closer to a greater exposure outside of the Ethiopian circle at home and in the Diaspora. But he is a long way behind even after some of the greatest other African artists of his kind with world wide appeal. And his current predicament of being incarcerated is not helping his situation one bit. I wish him well, and wish for his career to soar to a point where his concerts will be attended by Ethiopians and others alike the way I occasionally find myself attending concerts by other great African artists whether I understand what they sing about or not. Great music of any kind has universal appeal that anyone can relate to, and I wish for Ethiopian artists to find that kind of appeal with wider audience and with better quality music.

    In the mean time, I will cherish the occasional quality songs from home that appeal to me and the few artists that I think have potential. What became of Zeritu by the way? I even love her name! I am tired of all this Western style ‘qulmicha’ names up and coming young singers tend to adopt in the name of appearing ‘cool.’ I thought Zeritu had the guts to be different in her debut album, and I so want that girl to find success with her own style of music and original lyrics.

    I can’t sing to save my life, and how easy it is to be a critic when I am not the one who has to produce quality music aydel?

    Oh well…..

    P.S. The first time I heard the song “Qezqaza wolafen” was when I watched the movie by the same name. I did not like the movie that much at all, and though I may have liked the song on its own, the fact that I associate it with the movie did not help me appreciate it that much. Is that the song that supposedly made Abinet Agonafir famous or what? Just curious!

  • 6. Kermo Tija  |  December 4, 2008 at 2:56 am

    I agree to some extent that it may feel ye dabesa guzo. It is hard to explain but it is a real thing. I don’t think that the world is all that we feel through our senses only it is much more than that. Normal logic and reasoning are powerful tools for explaining that segment of the world that is felt by physical means. Limiting all there is to all that we feel with our senses does not cut it for me. Any way I am not here to make you believe one thing or another. I just want to suggest to you not to close the door on faith all together. I am in Addis visiting family. Any chance I can walk over to your office

  • 7. abesheet  |  December 4, 2008 at 8:47 am

    I am in Addis visiting family. Any chance I can walk over to your office

    I wish, Kermo. But our offices are closed for YeGena Tsom. Maybe next time 😉 ?

  • 8. Odaw  |  November 1, 2010 at 10:19 am

    interestinggggg…i stumbled on ur blog…apparently looking for the song “sitalekshi des alshign” 🙂 keep it flowing 😉

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