What’s in a song?
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 🙂
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