Letter to the Editor

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19April 2012

Dear Editor,


Thank you so much for the piece you wrote on your page on 17 April 2012 titled “The Teddy Afro Phenomenon : An Analysis”. It is thought provoking and one feels the need to say something after reading it. 

I am a big fan of Teddy Afro, reading this piece, also easy to tell 
how much you are fond of him too of course due to his work as you have very clearly and eloquently stated it. Any reader, who does not know Teddy would tend to idealise and give him a place more than he deserves if it is through your piece that the person came to know about him for the first time. It seems like you are a little un-objective when u narrate his contributions to music in Ethiopia. I don’t think we need to dis others to lift him up. Let me quote you “This resulted in the absence of creativity and originality in music. Almost all songs were about love and hate of a girl friend and boyfriend. Radically though, the happening of Teddy Afro converted that” Here for example, you reduced all art and artists before Teddy Afro to almost nil. Well, yes their contributions could be me minimal except that they played what others wrote for them. But we should not deny their agency in the song, not to forget they choose themes they want to sing about, themes they refuse to sing. It is not easy to sing in a situation where there was a strong tradition of censorship. We have read/heard experiences, during the imperial and the military regimes, of musicians detained or stopped from singing certain themes. There were risks they took in the process of their carrier too. So I wonder why it should be disregarded, it is still a contribution to the music industry and also it is not true that there were no themes touched by them except the love and hate thing. There were areas they have sung about like politics, health, culture, family and all sorts of social, political and economic critiques. So we should give credit to their contributions as well, or at least not reduce it to nonexistent. How is it possible to reduce Tilahun Gesses’s “way way way silu yerehabin gunfan sislu” ,“eyuat sitnafqegn kategebe qoma” a very politically informed song? There are a lot more. So we love Teddy and also we believe he has revolutionalised and diversified our music but we need to give credit to all those who deserve it. They are admittedly his inspirations too. 

Another quote, “This verse states that Ethiopia contains a fertile soil and land but the nation, millions continue to be hungry and self insufficient”. Yes this is beautiful. However, we should know how he is stating it in his song “sile fiqir” since he does not mention the name Ethiopia and the people but just implies it. Is he being subtle or explicitly saying so? It was good to be clearer because it also brings up how he manipulates our culturally imbedded use of wax and gold and shows his brilliance on his way of dealing with local traditions which makes him unique.

I find it uneasy to just give him the title philosopher may be will be good to consider sage philosopher. I do agree he does a lot of that kind of thing but to just give him the title without him being trained formally could be difficult. I guess sage philosopher will do. Looking at this would be very good http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/african-sage/ . I believe it should suffice to call him sage philosopher.

Putting Menelik on the map sounds as if he has never been there. The King has always been there and will always be. What Teddy did was a reminder, to me. Moreover, the hate mongers are not without grounds except that they over emphasise it; so we should not be harsh on them too. We all agree Menelik did a great job, we all agree that no state has become so in a round table discussion and also I disagree with those people who demonise the king for what they believe he did, but they have all rights to be against him bring their arguments on and debate on it. 

It would have been lovely had you reflected on the melody (musho and qererto) of tikur sew as it carries a lot in it. It has something that takes you back to the time the battle was fought. It manages to put you in that very context. Very much engaging I found that. I mean the melody he chose makes you cry and laugh and dance at the same time. It is not just the lyrics there is more to the music and melody too. 

I like the redundancy thing you mentioned. I think he doesn’t focus much on zema like on his poems. That is bad. I very much agree with you on that. On the line/couplet he skipped from Tsegaye, still wonder why. May be he didn’t want to take another risk of being thrown to jail? 

How come you didn’t touch on sile fiqir? Let me copy paste u a message I wrote a friend after listening to it. Well my impression about the way he calls for reconnecting ourselves to our history otherwise our future/present are deemed to unsuccess. “I am sure it looks like a holiday there. Here nothing except Teddy’s song comforting me. I can assure u he did some post colonial readings Seriously. He is singing what we have read with Eleni and Dr Roy. he is a scholar not just a singer! Sew lmewded kalkugn dekemegn yane gena wusten amemegn is the one I am falling for now” No future and present without the re-evaluation of the past. History is a decisive element so he preached that too in his sile fiqr song. 

Very humbly, I would love the reconsideration of those claims or thoughts. 


Peace,

Hagerie Ethiopia