27 June 2015

Ethiopia #1: Amharic and Hebrew

Africa is the continent that has been getting the least attention in this blog; If looking at the percents, other continents have very closely the same amount of their countries featured, but Africa is lacking way behind. I have in many occasion already admitted that my knowledge on African music is very little, but lately I have been trying to change that and focus on listening to more African music. So far the two African countries I have featured have been Arab countries. Now it is time to move further down the continent, to the Horn of Africa...

Wikipedia: Ethiopia

and more specifically to Ethiopia. One of the tasks that I came across often with this blog is deciding on which country to feature. I use various methods on this matter (though many times it also comes off randomly). A little while back, I asked my friend to name a random African country (minus Egypt and Morocco). She named Ethiopia and Libya. Since Libya is part of the Arab world and I wanted something else for a change, I picked Ethiopia first. (That Libya post will also be coming up in the near future!)

Without any actual knowledge on the Ethiopian music, I set out to look for good music from there. With Ethiopia's population being close to 100 million, it is not that surprising that there is lots and lots of music to be found. I had quite few surprises along the way and found out that Ethiopian music can be very interesting (in a good and a bad way)! I already have planned couple more posts about Ethiopian music, so needless to say that I really liked what I found.

Let's start with Ayala Ingedashet or איילה אינגדשט‎ in Hebrew. Ayala was born in Ethiopia to Ethiopian parents in 1978. When she was two years old she, along with her family I assume, moved to Israel. Ayala has made her career mostly in Israel and so forth she mainly sings Israeli music. She started her career in a youth band and during her military service she was part a navy band. After she left military, she started performing in various shows and released her first own music in 2006. Her self-titled debut album was released in 2007.

The first song from Ayala (the one found above) is called ממהרת. The title transliterates into Memaheret and translated into 'Rushes' in English. Rushes in the context of hurry. Ayala co-wrote this song. I rarely read the translations of song lyrics (since often it happens that it ruins the song), but this time I was very interested, since the title did not feel fitting to the atmosphere of the song. Well, it seems that Ayala is not singing about rushing from a place to place, but rather the opposite: She wants you to take it easier and pay attention to the good things in life. This message definitely fits the music well, since it sounds very peaceful and harmonic. It almost has a calming factor to it, though the chorus manages to still be catchy.

Ayala was the very first Ethiopian born singer singing Israeli to receive a record deal from a major label in Israel and she has become quite popular amongst the artists in this field. To be honest I was quite surprised to find an Ethiopian singer singing in Hebrew. And even more surprised I was when I found out that she was not the only one and that there were actually many Jews in Ethiopia. But more about that soon, now let's talk about the other song from Ayala.

The other song is called לנוע. This is transliterated into Lanua, which in English translates into 'To Move'. The refrain parts of this song are actually parts of the bible (in this context I of course mean the Hebrew bible), from a book called Ecclesiastes. Ayala sings about there being a right time to everything and the bible parts tell about these time, ie. "a time to love and a time to hate". I always find it very interesting when parts of a book or something have been written into the lyrics. Since I can not understand the lyrics, I do not know how well it actually works, but it sounds brilliant at least. She sings amazingly and the song has a bit sad, yet very strong and hopeful feel to it. It is actually fairly simple song, but also very stylish and touching.

Due to lack of information available, I am not able to tell from which album you can find these songs from.

Like I said previously, Ayala is not the only Ethiopian singer in Israel. Actually two of Ayala's sisters are singers too, which once again makes me wonder if talent runs in the genes. Other one of these two sisters is Malka Ingedashet (and the other one seems to be Miri or Mary, I have not listened to her, though I probably should). Malka can also be written as Malca due to differences in romanization. In Hebrew it is written as מלכה אינגדשט and it seems that her first name means 'queen'. Unfortunately I can not find information on her in English.

The song from her is called תחת עינייך, which in English means 'Under Your Eyes'. It is a very simple song, but sounds very nice. Malka sings nicely and the song has a nice, kind of warm, feeling. I must say I prefer Ayala, but Malka does not lose out much to her sister. Malka has not reached such popularity as her sister, so she does not have much music out, which is quite shame since I really like her voice.

But more about the Ethiopian Jews now. Like I said, it was quite surprised to find out about this connection between Israel and Ethiopia, since they look so far apart on a map. Perhaps this is some common knowledge, but I have missed it completely. The Jewish communities in Ethiopia are known as Beta Israel. Originally the Jews in Ethiopia were mainly living in the Northern and Northwestern parts of the country. Currently the most of Ethiopian Jews are living in Israel, on a big part thanks to Israel's government, which has made operations to help mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews into Israel. This is actually quite interesting subject to read into. More ie. on Wikipedia.

This third singer is not Jewish nor does he sing in Hebrew: Teddy Afro. Teddy is one of the biggest names in the Ethiopian music and has a long career behind him with his debut album being released in 2001. Teddy, real name Tewodros Kassahun, was born in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa in 1976. His name is written as ቴዲ አፍሮ in Amharic, which is the native language of Ethiopia and the language I think he sings in (obviously I do not speak it, so I can not be sure). I must admit that I have never before known the official language of Ethiopia (you automatically assume it is Ethiopian or something like that), so lots of new things learned!

The first song from Teddy is called Hab Dahlak. Unfortunately I am not able to write that in Amharic and since Google Translate does not know the language I can not even translate the title. So we are now left to wonder what she sings about. Well, it can not be something sad or bad, since the song sounds very lovely and positive. I feel a happy atmosphere in it and kind of a tropical sound, reminding me a bit of the music from the island nations of Caribbean and Oceania. Hab Dahlak reminds me of the summer (it is past midsummer and the summer has not yet reached Finnish Lapland, boo, so summery music is highly welcome) and gives me a warm feeling.

Unfortunately the Ethiopian music is not very popular around the world, so the English information on Teddy is little. He seems to have politically active in his lyrics; from his 2005 album songs were banned by the government to be played on radio or TV, since in the lyrics Teddy criticized the government. The album went to become the most selling Ethiopian album to date. His most recent album too caused controversy, since it referenced to a Menelik II, former emperor of Ethiopia. In 2008 Teddy was imprisoned for a hit-and-run manslaughter, though some claimed that this was a political act, since he had criticized the government. His visit to prison was fairly short and he was released in 2009. Teddy sure seems to have a way of making the headlines!

The other song from Teddy is called Lambadina. It was released in 2005. This has quite similar feeling to Hab Dahlak: warm and positive. Again I do not know what he sings about, but it sounds very happy. It feels very summery and is very fun to listen to. I find many of Teddy's songs (obviously I mean those that I have heard, since with his wide discography and questionable availability, I have not obviously heard all of his songs) have this warm and positive spirit. Which I like a lot.

Hab Dahlak is from Teddy's 2005 album Yasteseryal Edition 2, which is the re-issue of his controversial album I mentioned before. Lambadina is from the original version, and also the re-issue, of Yasteseryal.

1 comment:

  1. Todah Rabbah! Thank You Very Much for your Article! Very informative!