post Dangerous Love

March 13th, 2008

Filed under: News from Germany — Lissan Magazine @ 12:29

The story below is taken from Spiegel Online Magazine . This is not a usual case in Germany. We just want to make our readers aware of the social and cultural impact this story of a brother and a sister might have in a country like Ethiopia. How would our society get along with such a case? What would be the constitutional and social reaction towards this situation?

By presenting this story, we are not trying to reflect that this matter is normal in Germany. Actually, this story is quite unusual in Germany too and it doesn’t reflect the core nature of the daily life and the culture of the country. (Lissan Team)


German High Court Takes a Look at Incest

By Dietmar Hipp (Spiegel Online)

Must consensual sex between close relatives be punished? Germany’s highest court is about to rule whether incest will continue to result in a jail term. It is referring to the case of a brother and sister who have already had four children together.

Brother and sister, and lovers with four children. Patrick and Susan from Leipzig.

At first sight they look like an ordinary couple, strolling through the park with their child and their dog. But when the two adults hug each other their physical similarities are unmistakable. They have the same pronounced nose, the same blue-green eyes, and the same thin lips. Patrick S. and Susan K. are brother and sister. They are an incestuous couple.

Since Susan became pregnant with Patrick’s child and their relationship became known to the authorities, they have been prosecuted repeatedly. Their case touches an age-old taboo, it’s exotic and tragic at the same time. “Coitus between relatives” is illegal in German law and punishable with a fine or a jail sentence.

Patrick S. has served a jail sentence
of more than two years because of his love for his sister, and he may have to go back to jail for at least another year, unless Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court rules in his favor. The verdict is expected soon.

The key issue is whether the protection of a powerful moral taboo is sufficient justification for punishment. And whether there are reasons beyond that taboo for locking someone up, for depriving children of their father, a woman of her partner.

Some 2-4 percent of the population have “incestuous experiences”
, according to an estimate by the Freiburg-based Max Planck Institute. There are fewer than 10 convictions for incestuous sex in Germany per year.

Incest trials usually involve a father’s abuse of an under-age daughter, which is punishable under a separate law on abusing minors. Even cases of incest between siblings that come to trial are usually based on sexual abuse charges.

Consensual Incest
But in cases of incest between two consenting partners like Susan K. and Patrick S. there is no victim to be protected. Theirs is a rare case. Patrick S. was born in Leipzig in 1976, the second of five children. His sister Susan K. was born eight years later, and he didn’t meet her until he was 23.

The father was a violent alcoholic. When Patrick was three years old his father grabbed him and held a knife to his throat. Neighbors called the police and Patrick was taken into care before being handed to foster parents near Potsdam. His new family adopted him, but they eventually told him they weren’t his real parents.

Patrick is a shy man.
When he speaks, he frequently looks down at the floor, tells his story with few words and a soft voice. When he was 23 he went to the youth welfare office to find his real mother. A few days later she contacted him.

On May 20, 2000 he travelled to Leipzig
to see his mother again for the first time in 20 years. His parents had separated long before and the mother had a new partner. The three other siblings have since died, and the 16-year-old girl staring at him wide-eyed across the living room table was his sister.

Susan K. is a bit slow mentally.
She looks up to her brother because he seems so capable and experienced compared to her. He was only meant to stay for a week but Patrick’s mother asked him to stay longer. He said yes. “I felt drawn there,” he recalls. He gave up everything. A job in Berlin, a relationship with his girlfriend at the time, and moved into a four-room flat in an apartment block near Leipzig.

There was a stepbrother who had his own room, and Patrick and his sister shared a room. No one thought anything of it and the relationship at that time was still platonic, says Patrick. Suddenly, on Dec. 12, 2000, their mother died. She had heart problems but the exact cause of death was never found.

“We couldn’t cope with losing our mother,” says Patrick. Before her death his relationship with his sister was “quite normal,” says Patrick. Afterwards “the connection between us grew stronger because we were the only remaining children of our parents.” Initially no one appeared to notice that the relationship between the two had become intimate.

Incestuous Desire Is Ages Old
The phenomenon of incestuous desire is ages old, as is the taboo surrounding it. Napoleonic France stopped punishing incest in 1810 in the wake of the declaration of civil and human rights during French Revolution that the law only has the right to prohibit such actions that are damaging to society. It’s impossible, or at least very hard to prove that consensual incest does such damage.

German law since 1973 has stated
that punishing incest serves to protect families from destructive influences. But social research shows that incest is more likely to be the result of family problems than the cause. Eugenic aspects, which the German statue book cites regarding sibling incest, are a poor justification for punishment. The risk of hereditary disease for offspring also exists with other people with genetic defects. Yet the German constitution would scarcely forbid such people from having children.

It’s the physical proximity of siblings
as they grow up that helps to suppress sexual desire between them. But if close relatives only get to know each other as adults, this no longer applies. Patrick S. and Susan K. probably wouldn’t have fallen in love if they hadn’t grown up apart from each other.

Endless Trials

In October 2001 Susan gave birth to their first child, a boy. A social worker suspected that her brother was the father and reported them to the police. In 2002 Patrick was first taken to court. He got a one-year suspended sentence. Then, they had a second child. The first two children are slightly physically disabled and are a little slow mentally as well. They were both taken into foster care. They then had a third child which had a heart problem, but which is now completely healthy after a heart operation.

In 2004 there was a second trial in which Susan K. was a co-defendant because she was 18 when the second child was conceived. Neither of them was assigned a defense lawyer. Patrick was sentenced to 10 months in jail. Susan was put under the supervision of a social worker for six months.

After his second conviction Patrick approached a lawyer who appealed against the verdict. Meanwhile Susan gave birth to a fourth child. It’s healthy and she was allowed to keep it.

Both were put on trial again.
Patrick got sentenced to one year and two months in jail, and his sister was again placed under supervision. An experienced lawyer then took over the case and managed to bring it before the Federal Constitutional Court. By November 2006 Patrick had served his second sentence. Only if the court now rules against his third sentence will he be spared a further jail term.

“One can’t put this poor person in jail again,” said his lawyer Endrik Wilhelm.


post Francis Falceto, Part I

February 22nd, 2008

Filed under: Music Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 14:59

Francis Falceto-Ethiopia: Empire and Revolution
Interviewer: Banning Eyre…. Part I


Francis Falceto is the creator of the 21-volume, and growing, Ethiopiques CD series on Buda Music. The series gives the most complete picture available of modern Ethiopian music, specializing in the highly productive era of the late 60s and early 70s in Addis, on the eve of the 1974 revolution that ended the long regime of Haile Selassie and launched the 18-year, socialist-military regime known as the Dergue. Ethiopiques includes some traditional music, and some music created since the end of the Dergue in 1991, but it’s great strength is its careful documentation of the extraordinarily creative years leading up to the revolution. Francis Falceto is also the author of a beautiful book, Abyssinie Swing: A Pictorial History of Modern Ethiopian Music (Shama Books). Banning Eyre met Francis in New York in 2005. Here is part one of their conversation, a companion to the Afropop Worldwide, Hip Deep program, Ethiopia—Empire and Revolution. The black and white photographs here come from Abyssinie Swing. Click here for Part 2 of this interivew, Ethiopia: Diaspora and Return.

B.E: Tell me about your personal background, how you came to Ethiopian music?

F.F: My background was music. I started to organize concerts in the mid-70s with some friends in the city. I used to live in the country side in France. We had a non-profit organization to produce concerts. Our music tastes were very, very special. It was between experimental music, free jazz, noise music, industrial and many traditional musics from all around the world. From ‘77 until the late 80s, it wasn’t very fashionable to like these two kinds of music. In the minds of the people, they were very separated. It was rare that in a personal discothèque at home somebody would have both pygmy music and Sonic Youth, you see? We were very into innovation. We made a lot of premiers in the city, Poitier, in west France, like Sonic Youth, Glenn Branca, the Residents, and many, many, incredible things. And also, many sorts of traditional music, from Japan, from Africa, from everywhere.


And it happened that, one evening, we were partying, and a friend of ours brought an LP which he had bought in Ethiopia. He was there as a stage manager with a French theatre troupe, touring all over Africa in the French Cultural Centers. And passing by Addis Adaba, taking a walk in the street, hearing music, he went in a music shop and bought this LP of Mahmoud Ahmed. So that night, he played the LP, and I was amazed. “What’s that?” So immediately, I took the LP from him, made some cassettes—at that time it was cassette; this was April, 1984. I sent it to many journalist friends of mine, music reviewers and the like. By the next day, they all called me back, saying, “Francis, what’s that? Where did you get this from? It’s great!” So, immediately I understood that, if these people, supposedly knowledgeable about music by profession, if they don’t know this music, it must be a place to dig, to try to find out if it’s an exception, or if it’s one among many. The next month, I went to Ethiopia to check and invite Mahmoud Ahmed to tour in France and Europe. I was absolutely ignorant about, not only Ethiopian music, at the time, but about Ethiopia itself.

B.E: Amazing. When did the first Éthiopiques CD Come out?

F.F: 1997.

B.E: 97? So there were quite some years between that moment of discovery and the actual beginning of the series.

F.F: In fact, the first release was ‘86. This LP of Mahmoud Ahmed on Crammed Disc in Brussels. This was the first release abroad of modern Ethiopian music. It was a kind of fetish for me. This was the LP which opened the doors for Ethiopian music.


B.E: I remember that record very well.

F.F: It was released in 86 in Europe and in America. It got good reviews In the New York Times, John Pareles wrote a beautiful article about the LP. It was praised as one of the five or ten best world music albums of the year.

B.E: It was very striking, amazing to me. It made me very curious about Ethiopia. But the official Ethiopiques series didn’t come for another ten years, right? 1997?

F.F: ’97, yes. But in the meantime, by ’90, I had recorded in Paris and released two CDs: one with Alèmayèhu Eshèté and another with Netsanet Mèllèssè, two brilliant, famous singers with the Walias Band. We were still under the Dergue time. It had been possible to invite them to Europe, but the full band could not come. They did not allow the guitarist or the saxophonist to leave Ethiopia. You used to need an exit visa to leave your country. Can you believe it? It was quite a hard time to complete these recordings: I had to work with some French saxophonists and guitarists to play the guitar and horn lines. And in ‘94, came the second release of golden oldies. That was the first edition of Ethiopian Groove. By the way, it’s in early 94 when the CD was released, a collection of oldies from Kaifa Records, the label belonging to a famous producer Ali Tango. What a beautiful name! So before I started the Éthiopiques series in ’97. There were these four releases in the meantime.

B.E: Let’s talk about Ethiopian history. Tell us what led up to this very fertile environment of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

F.F: In general, all of us are very ignorant about this country, because we are living through clichés that have been here for more than 20 years. We imagine this country as a kind of desert where everybody is dying of famine and hunger. One thing to understand, first of all, is Ethiopia is a highland country. It’s as large as France and Spain together, with 60 million inhabitants, a huge country. Two thirds of it is over 2000 meters in altitude. It’s a green country in fact. And, historically, we need to note that it is the only African country to have been independent for 3000 years. OK, they were invaded by fascist Italians in 1935, but this ended in 1941, so it’s a very short period of non-independence. But the country has existed for 3000 years.

B.E: Did it think of itself as one country? Was it unified in terms of its sense of political identity?

F.F: It was not exactly. 2000 years before, it had not exactly the same borders as today. But basically what’s made the unity of Ethiopia is the altitude, the highlands. It’s a kind of natural fortress from which you can defend against invaders. Another historic point that is very important, which gives a deep identity to this country and this culture, is that they were Christian before us, before France, before Hungary, before Russia, before England. From the early 4th century, meaning more than 1600 years before, they were Christianized. They are still nowadays Christian Orthodox. So it’s a kind of backbone for the culture of this country. This is very, very, very important.

The church had the same role in Ethiopia as the church had in Middle-Age Europe. No king could be a king without the consent of the church. Another historic point is that Ethiopia had its own script, its own writing, almost from eternity. The church has the language Ge’ez, which is the equivalent of Latin for the Catholic Church, for instance. From this Latin, always spoken by the priests in Ethiopia, came Amharic, also Tigrinia and several other languages, just the way Latin gave us French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, and other languages. Ge’ez is a Semitic language, just like Hebrew or Arabic, but written from left to right, not right to left. The design of these letters is really beautiful. So all these points: religion, long history, Christianity, are the core things that make this country absolutely unique in Africa.

B.E: Most of Africa fell to colonial rule in the 19th century. What was going on in Ethiopia then? There must have been attempts to conquer it.

F.F: Of Course. In the 19th century, most of Africa was colonized by the French, English, Portugese, and Germans—except Ethiopia. Italy had decided also to have a colonial empire, and little by little, Italy installed some ports on the coast of the Red Sea, in the northeast of Ethiopia. Actually, nowadays it has become Eritrea. Then little by little, they started to go inland from the coast. In 1896, Italy tried to conquer Ethiopia militarily. But what happened, and this is another unique thing in African history, the army of the Emperor Menelik completely defeated the Italians. This was something that made a big noise all over the world. And right after this incredible victory of an African country, an African king over a colonial country, many delegations, many ambassadors from Russia, from France, from England, even from the US, came to visit Menelik in 1897, ’98, 1900. “Who is this king that can resist the Europeans?” And that started the first modern meeting between Western countries and Ethiopia. I have to say, then, that during the Fascist invasion of the Italians in the late ‘30s when Haile Selassie, who was in exile in England, came back with the support of the British, England tried to colonize Ethiopia. In fact, if you look at a map of colonization in Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town, it was just Ethiopia who was missing to be complete and perfect for British colonization. They had everything, from the Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and almost South Africa.

B.E: Yes that was Cecil Rhodes’s vision, that they would have control from Cape to Cairo, right?

F.F: Yes, but Cecil Rhodes was 19th century, so this is another time to colonize Ethiopia. So after this incredible victory of Adwa in 1896, it was very clear that the country intended to remain independent. By 1924, Ethiopia became the first African country to become a member of the Society of Nations, the ancestor of the UN. It was something incredible. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to preserve Ethiopia from Italy’s invasion. The Society of Nations should have defended Ethiopia against this invasion, but many countries thought, “Oh, this is just the remaining African country not to be colonized. Why not this one, too?”

B.E: So that was 1935, but the Italians weren’t there very long?

F.F: By ’41 it was over.


B.E: And Haile Selassie comes back and basically takes control of the country at that point.

F.F: In fact, his reign started in 1917, not immediately as an emperor himself. He was first Prince Regent. There was a queen, the daughter of Emperor Menelik, but the power was in the hands of Regent. At this time he was Ras Tafari, and he became Haile Selassie upon his coronation in 1930. But, in fact, when he was Regent, he was the one to rule the country, and his reign finished in 1974, which means he was the ruler of his country for nearly 60 years, one of the longest reigns in the 20th century.

B.E: So the British helped him come back in 1941, but they were also hoping to manipulate him and take control?

F.F: Exactly, if not to colonize the country properly, at least to control everything. It didn’t work out because Haile Selassie was a very smart ruler and he had other allies, including the Americans and some Europeans countries just to pull and push and fight against the British. By 1952, the British completely left the country.

B.E: Fascinating. During this period, from the Battle of Adwa in 1896 up until the time when Haile Selassie reconfirms his control in the 1940s, what has been happening culturally in Ethiopia?

F.F: It’s deeply related to the victory of Adwa in 1896. As I told you, many countries sent ambassadors to Ethiopia. And it happened that the tsar of Russia sent an ambassador to meet Menelik II. And as a gift, he sent 40 brass instruments and a music teacher. Menelik decided to use them as his royal music. In this sense, the same thing happened in Ethiopia, a non-colonized country, as was happening in the rest of colonized Africa. The European colonialist introduced army bands because they were present. It was through the army bands that modern music started. First of all, they play marching music in the European style, but then the local musicians try to adapt their own music and musical culture with these Western instruments. And that’s the way, all over Africa, modern music, meaning local music played with Western instruments, started. Everywhere, you can see the same thing. Even in many other countries, in Asia, in South America. All this modern music is linked to military music. You find this in Jamaica. The Adwa victory was also a kind of starting point for the development of modern music in Ethiopia. The repertoire of the musicians at the time was limited to the marching music, national anthems of various embassies: France, Russia, America, England, etc. The teacher was probably a Polish guy; his name was Milewski. And this guy tried to teach the Ethiopians to perform marching music.

It was quite difficult, because, in Ethiopia, to be an artist, to be a musicians, is something like to belong to a cast. The traditional musicians, known by the name azmaris are considered as a cast, as they are a bit outside of the society. An average Ethiopian will never play music, you see. Still this type of cast exists nowadays. The way that they look at a musician is a bit despising. They have a very ambivalent position in regard to them. So, they like them for the jokes they can tell, the freedom of speech they have, the way they use double meaning in their songs. But they wouldn’t like their children to get married to such a musician. To set up this marching band, it was a bit difficult to find the right people to blow those instruments. They used to invite people from the Southern provinces, considered almost as slaves; very dark, black people, whereas the average Amharan or Tigrean, who were the dominant population, were quite light-skinned.


There was this kind of racism within the country itself. We have to wait about 20 years to see the development of modern music. In 1924, Ras Tafarai, before he became Emperor Haile Selassie, went on a diplomatic tour on Europe. His first stop was Jerusalem, because for Ethiopians, Jerusalem is a bit like Mecca for the Muslims. Every respectful Ethiopian should be a pilgrim to Jerusalem one day. So before he went to France, England, Sweden, Italy, and Greece, he went to Jerusalem just to go to the tomb of Christ. And he was welcome there by a marching band of young Armenian orphans. This was a few years after the genocide of the Armenian people in Turkey. They were spread all over the region and some landed in Jerusalem. Ras Tafari was amazed by these musicians and immediately made a deal with the Armenian patriarch in order to send them to Ethiopia to become the new royal music. And when he came back from his tour all over Europe, he took them from Port Saïd to Addis Ababa. These forty, again forty, young Armenian orphans became another royal music. Still nowadays, they are known as “Arba Lidjoch” in Amharic, the Ethiopian language, “the forty kids.” The Forty Kids had a music teacher, Kevork Nalbandian. After Kevork, other Nalbandians will come to come to teach Ethiopian musicians, and in the 50s, 60s, early 70s, the nephew of Kevork, Nerses Nalbandian, will become a core person to develop modern music.


B.E: In 1924, when these 40 Armenian children from Jerusalem come, what they really bring is not instruments but expertise, ability, and knowledge. Is that right?

F.F: Yes, especially Kevork Nalbandian, and already his kids were much better than any other Ethiopian musicians when it came to playing marching music. But this music teacher, Kevork Nalbandian, also was the one to write the new national anthem of Ethiopia, for instance. From 1924 until 1974, during those 50 years, the Ethiopian National Anthem had been written by an Armenian. Kevork Nalbandian lived his whole life in Ethiopia and died in the late 50s or early 60s. Then came the Italian invasion, and everything was frozen again.

B.E: You’re talking about 35-41? So Nalbandian is recently arrived; he’s only been there, 8 or 9 years?

F.F: Yes. They had an official contract of four years, while they were performing with this music director, Nerses Nalbandian. And other music teachers were also invited to come to Ethiopia, a Swiss by the name of Nicod, for instance. But with the Italian invasion, nothing could continue. Everything was disbanded. The very serious thing which will announce the blossom of the 50s started right after the war. After 1941, Haile Selassie started to reorganize all the military bands, inviting new music teachers to come. He developed Imperial Body Guard Band, the Police Orchestra, the Army Band. There were many, many institutional bands, all related to governmental institutions. Apart from the military music, they began to develop pop music, dance music, light music, and by the late ‘40s, we hear the emergence of pop music, traditional songs played with a brass section. The real blossoming of that would be 1955, because The Haile Selassie Theatre was inaugurated that year. We can say that from 1955 to the fall of Haile Selassie in 1974, those twenty years were the golden years of modern Ethiopian music.

B.E: Did Selassie himself have a real feeling for this culture and music, or was this just a status thing?

F.F: He wanted, just like every other African country, to have a marching band, just for demonstration. Also to welcome the various ambassadors, protocol for visits. But on top of that, he used to organize, in the palace, Western classical concerts. It happened that, between 1944 and 1948, one of these musical teachers who came from Europe, Alexander Kontorowicz, was a schoolmate of Jascha Heifetz, in the musical school of Vilnius in Lithuania—just to show the level of some of these music teachers. Before he came during these four years to reorganize the music of Ethiopia, he had been responsible for 12 years for the music of King Fuad in Egypt. So you see, there were very strange influences coming into Ethiopia’s modern music.

B.E: Do you think that Haile Selassie was consciously trying to manipulate the course of that music?

F.F: It was totally under his control. Probably not what ended as Ethiopian pop, but he was totally responsible for the development of this military music firstly, and secondarily, light music. As I mentioned, he used to organize these concerts of Western classical music, but also the Haile Selassie Theatre, the Agher Feqer Theatre, which was a kind of national theatre of Ethiopia, started to develop popular music, with singers, which was something new for this country. In front of these big bands, Ethiopian singers started to sing. It wasn’t any more military music, instrumental music; it becomes Ethiopian songs, arranged by all of these music teachers, coming from abroad, teaching themselves Ethiopian arrangements.


So, little by little, the Ethiopian influence in this music was stronger and stronger. Also, we have to keep in mind that after the Second World War, in Ethiopia, like everywhere in the world, the biggest influence was the American big band, Glen Miller and the like. If you consider what happened in Europe, in France, in particular, everybody was listening “In The Mood,” or these kinds of songs. Everywhere, you could see the development of these big bands, playing more or less American music, or local music with influences of jazz big bands. And because there’s this tradition of marching bands with big horn sections, the Ethiopian big bands appeared immediately. You had big civil bands with 10, 15, 20 players, incredible horn sections. This gave the real blend of modern Ethiopian pop music. Until the fall of Haile Selassie in 1974, you could feel this influence of the horn section, coming from the jazz band influence from America post the Second World War.

B.E: Let’s return to the the azmari. We have singers emerging as part of this light music, this early popular music. Are these singers coming from the azmari background?

F.F: Not at all. The azmari remains the azmari, all the time. They are wandering singers, minstrels. They come from the deep countryside, mostly the Northern Provinces, Gondar, Gojam, Welo. And they are wandering minstrels, just like we had in Europe in the middle ages. They have their own instruments—mostly a one-stringed violin with a bow—and they sing everywhere they see some people they can get money from. It can be a party, a wedding, a seasonal festival.


B.E: Like griots in West Africa?

F.F: There are many similarities. When there is a market, every time there are people, they go and sing, praise them to get money from them. Or they can joke with them. They are very famous because, in this country, there’s a hierarchy, because it has been an empire for so many centuries. It’s a feudal regime, in fact. There is no special freedom of speech, and these azmaris, these minstrels, are the ones who are in charge of this freedom of speech. Under the conditions, their lyrics are not open; they must use double meaning in their critiques, for instance. They can criticize the king, the princes, the high people, but not openly. The most famous azmaris are the ones who find the nicest joke, the nicest double meaning. This is very important because we have to know that in Ethiopian culture, they don’t pay so much attention to the music itself. When I say music, I mean the melody, the sound of the instruments. They are fond of, first of all, lyrics. It was something very special, in this culture, to develop instrumental music, or big bands. The main thing, more than a great melody or a great voice, is what the lyrics mean. That is true still today.

B.E: In this period of the 50s, when this popular music is beginning to take shape, bandleaders are looking for singers. If they don’t turn to the azmaris at all, where do they look for singers?


F.F: Almost everywhere. For instance, take the case of Mahmoud Ahmed. Mahmoud Ahmed was not born a singer. He did not belong to a family of azmaris. He was just working in a nightclub where his father had a small job. And it happened that one night, in the early 60s, the singer of the local band was absent, so he said, “Can I try to sing with the band,” and, immediately, the musicians said “Wow, nice voice. We’ll integrate him into the Imperial Body Guard Band.” So, it could go like this. Among the high people, there is one who is quite important. He was the famous General Tsegue Dibu, and the head of the police in the ‘50s, and he was a music lover. He himself played cello. And he wanted the Police Orchestra to have a great string section. So what he used to do, was, in the street, seeing some kids without jobs, he’d ask them if they wanted to work. He’d take them to the Police headquarters, clean them, give them food, new clothes, and schooling, and he would try to intensively teach them cello, violins, things like this. Nobody was basically willing to become a musician in Ethiopia. It had to start with such ways. But the musicians were not recruited from the azmari cast. Not at all.
Azmaris always continued their role as improvisers, wandering in the villages, going up north, following the season of weddings and harvest. They always remained azmaris. Basically, an Ethiopian is a warrior. He will never prefer the job of business or commerce, or the job of a musician. So, even if you were not a pure azmari from ancient decent, but just a singer or guitarist or saxophonist, you were more or less considered an azmari—not a good person to marry one’s kids to.

B.E: So anyone who does take this step of becoming involved with music, either as a horn player, or singer, or even an arranger, they have to really love it, because they’re potentially identifying with something that has low status.

F.F: Yes, of course. But also, keep in mind that all these bands were institutional, were depending on the will of the king, the emperor. All of them belonged either to the army, to the police, to the Haile Selassie Theatre, to the Imperial Guard, Police Band, Haile Selassie Theatre Band, Army Band. These people were on salaries. So it was quite a comfortable situation. It’s not everybody who used to have work, a job, payment, salary. When you are in such a band, you have security also.

B.E: So in that sense, these people had a higher status than the azmaris?


F.F: Oh definitely, because they have a monthly salary, a quite normal job, even if it’s music. It’s only in the late 60s that independent bands start to rise. We still have to consider the period in time, post Second World War. It happens in Ethiopia what happens everywhere in the world, in America, in Europe, in Asia, everywhere. There is the baby boom generation, the generation born after the war who became teenagers in the late 50s, early 6os. Together with this generation, rock and roll came, along with electric guitars, rhythm and blues, soul music. It was a real musical invasion of the world. For the very first time, you could listen to more or less the same music everywhere in the world, even if the original music came from American or Europe.

So you could find some Ethiopian James Browns, Ethiopian Elvis Presleys, but always with a local blend, something special. They were not only simply copycats. Ethiopians are so nationalist, almost chauvinist sometime. They are so proud of their culture they need to inject Ethiopian culture in with the Western influence. It’s not only Western influence that invades Ethiopia, it’s also Ethiopia who uses Western influences. And when you listen, for instance, to singers like Mahmoud Ahmed or Alèmayèhu Eshèté—who is probably the best example of this outrageously Western influence, when he sings like James Brown—there is always something deeply Ethiopian.
But it happened in Ethiopia what happened in Europe or in America. There are deep conflicts between generations, because this new generation, these baby-boomers, they crash in some ways, the traditional cultures of each and every country. This was also my generation, and I remember, when I was a teenager, the fights that I had with my parents. I didn’t want to listen any more to accordions or old French singers Eddie Piaf and things like that. I changed my mind in the meantime, but at that time I was much more into Elvis Presley, rock and roll, rhythm and blues. Even if I didn’t understand anything that was sung in English.

B.E: Were artists like James Brown and Elvis Presley just freely played on the radio in the 50s and 60s in Addis? If you turned on the radio, would you hear all that?

F.F: This started only in the late 60s. James Brown came in the picture in Ethiopia in the mid and late 60s only.

B.E: So does that mean at that time there was sort of a liberalizing of what you could broadcast on the radio, or was it just driven by public taste. I assume the government controlled radio.

F.F: Yes, definitely. Well, it doesn’t change overnight. When the first singers of these institutional bands started some very Western influenced rhythm and blues and soul music, and blended this with Ethiopian music, it was not accepted immediately. It was not a demand of the audience. It was the new generation, the youngest of the musicians, who heard about this music coming from abroad. And there are many reasons for this. Remember, it was a time of the Peace Corps Volunteers. There were several thousand who come in Ethiopia, from the beginning of the 60s. Those youngsters brought with them their records, their guitars, their long hair, their bell-bottom trousers, many things like this. The fight between the generations was also through things like that—external to the music itself. But it was an ensemble of new ideas that was shaking the old society.

And there was another phenomenon. The Americans had a military base in Asmara [today the capital of Eritrea]. This military base had everything, clubs, bars, its own radio, its own TV. They used to receive weekly all the charts from America: from Frank Sinatra to John Coltrane, from country music to James Brown. Through this radio, all the musicians based in Asmara and around could benefit from these influences, which they’d bring later to Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. Many GIs, many young American militaries were musicians, and they played either in the military base, or downtown in the nightclubs of Asmara. So, on one hand, the Peace Corps volunteers, on the other hand, this American military base, well-equipped in all types of Western music up-to-date, plus the travelers, the Ethiopians who went abroad bringing back records. All of this used to feed the young Ethiopian musicians of the time. You find on some old records some funny covers of rock and roll, soul music, rhythm and blues. But again, in spite of this copying of American songs, musicians mostly developed something with a deep Ethiopian blend. One funny thing is, again, because they are so proud of their culture, so nationalist, so chauvinistic sometimes, generally about their own culture, their own country, they were completely closed to the influence of the African neighboring countries.

B.E: So you weren’t getting influence from Congo music, which was so big at that time.

F.F: At that time, not at all.

B.E: Nothing? South Africa, nothing? West Africa, nothing?

F.F: Nothing. I would even add, Haile Selassie was a political genius who made Addis Ababa the capital city OAU, Organization of United Africa in the 1960s. It meant that embassies from all of Africa were suddenly opened in Addis Ababa. With this kind of diplomatic invasion of Ethiopia, we could think or expect that many influences from other Africa nations would settle and develop in Ethiopia. Nothing like this. Not at all. They were very reluctant to adopt other cultures. They felt much closer to American or European music. This must be pointed out. Until very recently there were no African influences in Ethiopia. You could never listen that much music from lets say Zaire rumba, or highlife from Ghana and Nigeria, music from South Africa, from Senegal, Mali, nothing like this. This also is one of the very important reasons why Ethiopian music is so unique, so closed to itself.

B.E: I want to clarify two things. One: the young musicians in the 50s and 60s are getting Western music from Peace Corps volunteers, US military radio, visiting musicians, not at all from Ethiopian state radio, right?

F.F: Little by little, it improved, mostly to answer the need of the audience. It was just young musicians who were real artists, I mean excited by creating new music.

B.E: That’s the other point I want to ask about. The audience did not at first demand this. It was the artist presenting this to the audience? Saying, “Listen to this.”

F.F: Exactly.

B.E: So it wasn’t everybody who knew about soul and stuff like that. In the late fifties, before you get to the late sixties. It’s only specialized people or people who’ve sought it out, and they are in fact changing the taste of the general public by presenting this new idea. That’s very interesting, because it is quite different from places like Zimbabwe where Western music was being played on state radio and audiences demanded local groups rock and roll and jazz and Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and all that.

F.F: There was not a blackout on such western music. Not at all. But it was not national radio that initiated the development of western influence. It was mostly this new generation who wanted to leave the institutional bands, and create their own orchestra of 4, 5, 6, 7, pieces. Never mind this huge big band of twenty musicians and more. They wanted to have a set up just like the Rolling Stones or an American soul band. They wanted to imitate this. And they were closer to that than anything else. They were real artists in the sense they wanted to develop, to create something. To present to the general public this new thing, you see.

B.E: Let’s talk about some of the key people who made this happen. And probably the person we should start with is Amha Eshèté. Tell us his story.

F.F: Amha Eshèté is the patron saint of the modern Ethiopian musician, because he was really the first independent producer to support private bands, and to create his own record label. We have to know even record production was in the hands of the emperor, in the hands of the authorities. You could not release an album, a disc, by yourself. It was normally forbidden. But at some point Amha Eshèté thought, “Oh, they will not kill me if I release this disc.”

B.E: So who was he? What was his background?

F.F: He was a baby boomer himself. He had a music shop. He had started to import some of this rock and roll, rhythm and blues, soul, James Brown, and the like, in Ethiopia. Even the import of discs was something not really allowed. You needed a kind of visa to import. So after a few years, he said, “Why don’t we make our own discs?” The officials who are supposed to import and record and manufacture discs, they do nothing. At least nothing for this modern music. So, he took Alèmayèhu Eshèté and recorded a few 45s, one song on each side. He sent his master tape to India. Why India? Because as in many African colonies, there were many Indian merchants in Ethiopia. India was and still is the biggest producer of discs in the world. The discographic industry there is huge. So through this Indian merchant base in Ethiopia he sent his master tapes to India, and after a few weeks he received his 45s. It was a big deal, because the officials started to wake up. I mean when this disc of Alèmayèhu Eshèté, his first one, AE 100, came in Ethiopia it sold like crazy.


B.E: And in what year?

F.F: ’69. Possibly late 68, but early 69. ’69 is a key year for all of these new things. Amha Eshèté had some problems with the authorities, but finally, the emperor decided let this youngster go ahead.

B.E: He personally decided that?

F.F: We don’t know exactly. But he used to decide everything. Of course the official head of the Haile Selassie Theatre and the like, went to complain and say, “What this youngster is doing is against the law.” And finally, after some turmoil, which you can understand through the press at the time, they decided to drop it. And little by little, other producers came, but he remains one of the key persons for the real new pop scene in Ethiopia.

B.E: Tell us about Alèmayèhu Eshèté.

F.F: Alèmayèhu Eshèté used to be a singer of the Police Orchestra. Mahmoud Ahmed and Tlahoun Gèssèssè, used to belong to the Imperial Body Guard Band. They all wanted to leave these institutional bands, but they were paid by the Police Orchestra or Imperial Body Guard Band. Sometimes at night, they’d leave the barracks and go to a nightclub and sing for themselves before some hip audiences, which brought them some problems. You know, they might go to jail 1 or 2 days because of this. But it was not a big deal. You know, very soon, by ’74, this regime is finished and dead.
Usually, the end of a reign has a very developed night life. Many people call it decadence, but it’s almost the contrary. Little by little, the empire, the state, starts to lose its power. In December 1960, there was coup d’etat against Haile Selassie. It failed, but there are several attempts in the following years. We had student movements, we had the ’68 in Europe, but there is something like this also in Ethiopia. And so the whole society was in turmoil. And this has always been favorable to creativity. We can see in many ends of reign or regimes a very highly developed artistic life, night life. As we had swinging London, they had swinging Addis. It was unimaginable parties, incredible fun, where everybody was mixed—the royal family, the nobles, the rich merchants, the bourgeois, the prostitutes, the beauties. You had beauty contests, Miss Ethiopia, even Miss Swing, many, many daily or nightly events that gave a special cache to this scene. So from the mid 60s until the last fifteen years was something. I mean it would have been a dream for me to have been there, you know. (Laughs).

B.E: Incredible?

F.F: Yes and it’s difficult for us to imagine that because we have such a miserable vision of Ethiopia. We see this country as a cliché. As a kingdom of hunger and famine.

B.E: Tell me what you can about some of these other important musicians. Take Muluqèn Mèllèssè.

F.F: Muluqèn Mèllèssè was one of the most famous singers in Ethiopia. He started to sing in the Police Orchestra by the age of 13, 14. As I told you before, they used to recruit youngsters to be members of the band, to teach them an instrument—they even had workshops for songwriting, arrangement, even dance. So Muluqen started in one of these institutional bands before he became an independent singer with his own band. He recorded beautiful masterpieces. What is unfortunate for music lovers, but respectable from his point of view, is that by the early 80s he changed his mind about that, and he converted to Pentecostalism, and decided to stop singing pop music. For music lovers it was a big loss, and he remains a big artist who recorded classics in Ethiopia, kind of standards.


B.E: Let’s talk about another singer, Tlahoun Gèssèssè.

F.F: Tlahoun Gèssèssè is the singer in Ethiopia, the voice. Big T big V. He started to sing at the Agher Feqer Mahber, meaning Patriotic Association. It was a kind of national theatre, and he was very young, about 16 or 17 when he starts to sing in this institution. But very quickly he was taken by Imperial Bodyguard Band and he became the main soloist there by the late 50s. Since then until nowadays, he has been the most beloved singer in Ethiopia. He is a kind of icon. Everybody loves him. There are many other singers. But Tlahoun Gèssèssè is a core singer, even if he is not the most easy to listen to for western audiences. He has such a big powerful voice that sometimes you think it’s too much for a Western ear. He had dozens of imitators of course, but none with such vocal talent as Tlahoun himself.

B.E: Maybe an interesting subject to talk about a little bit would be political messages. You talked about how the lyrics are so important and especially among the azmaris there is this tradition of saying things in round-a-bout ways, using words with double meanings.

F.F: They have a name for this, sem-enna-werq, it means “wax-and-gold.” There is a wax meaning and a gold meaning. The wax meaning is the apparent meaning. Just a love song—you can take it as a love song. The gold meaning is something else. It can be a protest song. Somebody like Tlahoun, a member of Imperial Bodyguard Band, was in jail after ’60 because he had a song, a love song called “Altchalkoum,” that meant “I Can’t Stand Any More.” A kind of love story. “She left me I can’t stand any more”—in fact, I can’t stand any more of this regime. And after the failure of the coup d’etat, Tlahoun went to jail for a few weeks. Because by itself the Imperial Bodyguard was involved in the coup d’etat. All the heads of the Imperial Bodyguard were pushing the band to sing double-meaning songs, protest songs in some way. And if you are popular with this protest song, this double-meaning, you become also very popular. Because they could see through the way the audience received it, if the coup d’etat was popular, if they could go with the protest. If the protest song is popular, it means that everybody understands the protest of the singer. And there are many instances of this; this song is one of the most famous.

B.E: Let’s talk about instruments a little bit. There’s a very interesting Ethiopiques volume featuring a musician who plays a lyre believed to be a descendent of King David’s harp. Talk about that but also bring us up to date on the krar. Just in general, give us a bit of an overview on the lyre in Ethiopia.

F.F: Yeah there are different kinds of lyres, especially the krar which is played mostly in the North, a lot in Eritrea, less and less in Ethiopia, unfortunately. But there is one instrument which is unique to Ethiopia it is the begena. The begena is a big lyre, something like one-and-a-half meters. This instrument used to be played by the nobility, by priests and learned people. It was high society. You could not say that a begena player was an azmari. This was an instrument related to religion and nobility. Nowadays the nobility has disappeared, but the begena continues to be played. It was almost destroyed during the revolutionary period because precisely it was related to the nobility which the revolution had abolished, and related to the church, which the Stalinest government did not encourage. So , it has come back slowly through brilliant exponents like Alemu Aga for instance. And nowadays, for the most important religious period of the year, like Christmas, Easter, the radio plays extensively this type of music. But it is not the kind of music you can play during the mass at the church. It is not the type of music you can play in the church. It is played in religious contexts, but it is not an instrument of the church.

B.E: And it’s thought to be extremely old. They call it King David’s harp. What’s the significance of that?

F.F: It’s a kind of legend. It’s difficult historically to demonstrate it because it’s three thousand years. King David was supposedly a lyre player, you know, and as the Ethiopians claim they are descendents of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, which is exactly 3000 years ago, it’s part of the historical legacy of the country. I’m not a historian but I’m not sure I would agree with this antiquity of the instrument. But it remains to be demonstrated on both sides.

B.E: And it’s in the popular imagination, the idea.

F.F: Absolutely.


B.E: I know who we need to talk about. Mulatu Astatké.

F.F: Mulatu Astatké is a very special case. It’s quite unique in the history of Ethiopia and Ethiopian music. He was not the first to be taught abroad, because 30 or 40 years before him, there was a lady who learned piano and violin in Switzerland. But as a modern musician, Mulatu was really the first to be taught abroad. He started his musical studies in England and then in New York, he attended also Berkelee College of Music in Boston. Later on, during his stay in New York, he was in touch with a lot of jazz men and Latin musicians. He was very fond of jazz and Latin music. He was one of the first Africans—this must be mentioned—to record modern African music in the early 60s. Before Manu Dibango, before Fela, and when he came back to Ethiopia in the late 60s, the modernist movement had started already. But he came in time to bring a special blend. Especially his jazz touch. He invented a style—Ethiojazz. But to tell the truth I’m not sure he was influential in terms of introducing Latin music to Ethiopia. I cannot say that the Ethiopian audience became crazy about Latin music, not at all. Again, they are so close to their own roots, if it is too much something from abroad they are reluctant to pick it. So we cannot seriously say that there was Latin invasion in Ethiopia, not at all.

B.E: But you can hear Latin flavor in Mulatu’s arrangements, and you don’t hear that anywhere else.

F.F: No, definitely. That’s why I say he is a unique case. He is a special case because he was the first to be put in such a position. When he came back to Ethiopia he put this in his own composition in his own arrangement. But it was not followed by the other musicians, I would say. It remains that the music that he has recorded at the time is simply gorgeous, great music. Just listen to Éthiopiques, Volume 4, Ethiojazz. For me, it’s a total masterpiece. There are some other musicians on this CD, who we should mention. For instance one of my favorite saxophonists ever in Ethiopia, by the name of Tésfa-Maryam Kidané. Actually he’s living in Virginia now for many years. He left Ethiopia to study at Berkelee College of Music in ’72 and he stayed and settled in America but he’s still active as a musician and is a gorgeous saxophonist. It’s amazing the level of inspiration those musicians had reached at the time.


B.E: Who was the audience for Ethiojazz? Was it a small audience, a specialized, elite audience?

F.F: I mean again, what I’m saying about Latin music, I would say it also about Ethiojazz. Ethiojazz is the thing of Mulatu Astatké, he is the inventor of this style, and I cannot say that there are really followers picking the concept and trying to develop it. It’s simple to understand because he was exposed to the jazz culture, but the other Ethiopians were not. So it was difficult to develop the same thing, parallel things, you see? But again it remains the musical works Mulatu left from this period are simply among the most beautiful productions of the time. You know Ethiopian audiences, they don’t pick everything you play for them. They make their own choices. Of course, he is very respected in Ethiopia, no question about this. I think Ethiopians respect the fact that he was educated abroad, that he was a taught musician, a learned musician, which is not the case for most of the others, who just know music because they were in an institutional band or taught themselves.

For instance, there is the case of the brilliant musician, Girma Beyene, who was a pianist, an arranger, a singer, a composer, a session man. It is unfortunate because he did not have the same destiny as Mulatu Astatké. He had to leave Ethiopia at the Dergue time, and he has a bit disappeared in the Ethiopian diaspora in America. But he left behind a huge collection of productions statistically, dozens and dozens of songs he had participated in the recording of as a singer, as a pianist, as an arranger. You know history sometimes doesn’t pay justice to everybody. I would say Mulatu, because of his background, because of what he has done remains one of the most respected musicians in Ethiopia. Meanwhile, somebody like Girma Beyene has been forgotten. But if you consider Éthiopiques, the productions where Girma Beyene is present, almost every piece is a masterpiece.

B.E: Mulatu also did a lot for popular singers. Probably that was the main thing he did to make money, right?

F.F: Yes. In fact he has recorded very few albums in his own name. When he came back to Ethiopia he was more active as an arranger, and if you listen to Tlahoun Gèssèssè on Éthiopiques 17, I think it is, there are beautiful arrangements of classic songs by Tlahoun Gèssèssè, so he was very influential as an arranger. This is true.

B.E: Great, that’s great. Okay. Let’s see. Oh yes I want to talk a little bit about this other very interesting saxophone player, Gétatchèw Mèkurya?

F.F: Gétatchèw Mèkurya. This is also a very special case. For me, it’s extraordinary. He started to play messenqo at first. And then when he was a teenager, he was recruited right after the Second World War with the Italians in the late 40s. He was recruited by the Municipality Orchestra of Addis Ababa. The Municipality theatre had also its own theatres and bands, and very quickly he started to play saxophone. What is brilliant according to me, he has decided one day to transpose with his saxophone tenor, to transpose a traditional vocal style, of war songs. And when you listen to these war songs, known as shellèla fukara, which are shouting, howling, until you lose your throat—he did that with the saxophone. And the result is it sounds a bit like Albert Ayler and the like. And he started to blow like this by the early 50s, by 53, 54. So when I found his recordings, and checked the dates when he invented this style of music, as I am a music lover, not only of Ethiopian music—I know free jazz, and many other kinds of music—I could compare. But he himself doesn’t know who Albert Ayler is. And, by the way, he started to blow like him so many years before, almost 10 years before. So I thought it was good to point that out, how a traditional vocal style could lead to really modernist, avant-garde saxophone style. I think we have to pay homage to such blowers, because he has invented a form, in some way. He himself, again, has no jazz culture. He doesn’t know anything about Albert Ayler and the like. And the Ethiopians themselves, they love this style of saxophone, not because it is free jazz, but because it reminds them of the vocal style, the war songs. The shouting style. Again, this is nationalism.

B.E: It’s boasting, right? It is the warrior saying how great he is.

F.F: Exactly. It’s boasting. Boasting. And in the booklet of this CD dedicated to Gétatchèw Mèkurya, I have translated some of these war songs, some of these vocal, shelèlla songs. They are saying, “We will kill you. We will cut the balls off you. We will do this, and we will do that.” And when he plays this, each and every Ethiopian can hear behind the saxophone the lyrics to that traditional, war song.

B.E: Now, he is still around, right?

F.F: He is still around, and well.

B.E: Good. And by now, of course, he must have heard all of this free jazz. People have told him that his music sounds like that. What does he make of it now?

F.F: You know what is funny? One of the collateral advantages, I would say, of Éthiopiques is that now, some of these musicians are invited to perform in Europe, or elsewhere. And it happened that recently, Gétatchèw Mèkurya has performed with a free jazz big-band in Holland, crazy people. A free jazz band. And they are simply crazy about Gétatchèw, and Gétatchèw feels at home with them. So sometimes, there are incredible meetings like this, and I’m very pleased that the release on Éthiopiques of his music drove him to meet such musicians. He really feels at home with them. He enjoys so much to blow. Who is the one who will boast the loudest? And musically, the result is incredible.

B.E: So, even though these artists have arrived at this place through completely different paths, they are able to really communicate and the artistic together, despite the fact that the road got them there is so different.

F.F: Oh, yes. There is no problem. The Dutch, they play free jazz. The Ethiopian blows war songs. Aesthetically, formerly, it’s very, very close. So there is no problem to meet you. No problem at all.


B.E: That’s amazing. Finally, I would like to ask also about this artist Asnaqètch Wèrqu, the so-called “lady with the krar.”

F.F: Asnaqètch Wèrqu. She is a krar player, and a singer, but she started her artistic career as an actress, a theater actress, in the early fifties. At this time, to be a woman, and to go on stage, was worse maybe than to be an azmari. Just like in many cultures, including ours. In France, until the late 19th century, early 20th century, theater actresses were considered almost as prostitutes, you see? So she is a pioneer. She established that a woman could be on stage and be an actress. And also, she was a krar player and singer, very famous for her double meaning poems, even though she doesn’t have an azmari family background. She belongs to this culture, and she knows how to handle the double meanings of the lyrics. And because of this, as I told you, the more brilliant you are using the double meanings in your lyrics, the more beloved you are by the audience. And she was very good at that. During more than 30 years, she is to be a very beloved singer and krar player. She still lives in Addis Ababa.


Part II is coming soon.

post Race through Fear

February 14th, 2008

Filed under: Sports — Lissan Magazine @ 12:40

Kenya’s Runners Race through Fear
By Thilo Thielke in Iten, Kenya

The world’s fastest long-distance runners normally train in the Kenyan highlands. Since the outbreak of ethnic unrest in the country, two athletes have been murdered, and many feel threatened. Yet, they remain. And they run — afraid.

Kenyan runner Sammy Karanja. The country has some of the best athletes in the world.

At 6 a.m. it is cold up here in Iten, a mountain village 2,400 meters (7,874 feet) above sea level in the Kenyan highlands. Thamer Kamal Ali laces up his running shoes and pulls his hood over his head, as if trying to conceal his identity. He is slightly built, 19 years old, hardly more than a child. A hurdler, Ali has several kilometers of road ahead of him today, a route that takes him past roadblocks, burned-out cars and the ruins of houses. The ethnic violence in Kenya reached Iten six weeks ago. Ali is shivering, but not just because of the cold. He is afraid.

Iten is one of many training centers
for Kenyan long-distance runners. It lies about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Eldoret, a city in the western Rift Valley. World champions and Olympic medalists have trained in Iten, a legendary place in the world of professional runners. The Kenyans are proud of this village and its inhabitants, who run in small groups through the darkness. Nowadays, Ali only trains very early in the morning. “It would be too dangerous later in the day,” he says. “That’s when people with machetes rule the roads.”

Birth of a Disaster
The catastrophe descended upon Kenya in late December, when it was revealed that President Mwai Kibaki had come to power in a rigged election. Within days, barricades were burning throughout the country and, in Eldoret, people were burning, too. They were members of the Kikuyu ethnic group, which Kibaki belongs to. For five years he has ruled this country. His cabinet is considered one of Africa’s most corrupt, and his associates are notorious for having brazenly filled their pockets and given preferential treatment to members of their own ethnic group — in a country with more than 40 tribes.

After the election, members of the Kalenjin tribe set fire to a church in Eldoret. Thirty people, mostly women and children, died in the blaze. Most of the residents of the Rift Valley are members of the Kalenjin tribe. Many Kalenjin, who consider themselves the true masters of the country, feel besieged by members of the Kikuyu tribe who have settled in the region. Many runners also belong to the Kalenjin tribe.

Since the fiery death of the 30 Kikuyu in Eldoret, the unofficial death toll in Kenya is 1,000, though the real figure is probably higher. The victims have been hacked to death with machetes, killed with poison-tipped arrows or shot by the police. There are 300,000 internally displaced people.

Despite the danger, Ali completes his daily training regimen. A specialist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, he brought home two gold medals from the 2005 Asian Indoor Games in Bangkok. He is ambitious. He runs at six every morning, shivering and afraid for his life.

‘Giving Up is the Worst Thing to Do’
“Should I tell him: Go home, neglect your profession, drop everything and leave it alone?” asks Ali’s coach, Yobes Ondieki. Discipline, says Ondieki, is the only way to overcome one’s own fear and concerns about one’s family. Ondieki, a former world-class runner, was the first man to run 10,000 meters in less than 27 minutes. That was in Oslo on July 10, 1993.

Ondieki is sitting in the restaurant of the Kerio View Hotel drinking a Coca-Cola, facing an enormous glass wall. Perched on a cliff, the restaurant offers a magnificent view over the tops of acacia trees and of the broad valley below. Ondieki looks down. In the grasslands below, bush fires are burning. The milky-white smoke, typical of a bush fire, looks like fog. The smoke from house fires is dark, almost black. Before now, no one in Kenya would have paid much attention to the color of smoke.

Ondieki has received anonymous text messages, too, disparaging him for being a Kalenjin — and a murderer. “The country is in ruins,” he says. “There is no longer any security anywhere in Kenya. The police are even shooting at children with live ammunition.” It is virtually impossible for the runners to focus on their training here. Kenya’s national Olympic trials would normally be held soon, and the season of major marathon races in Europe and the United States begins in April.

“Giving up,” says Ondieki, “would be the worst thing to do now.” He tries to preserve at least the appearance of normalcy, hoping to keep the runners from becoming discouraged, even as everything else around them falls apart.

Bad Time to Be a Hero

Kenya is famous for its long-distance runners. Like most of their countrymen and women, the runners have not been able to escape the violence. Here, mourners carry the coffin of runner Lucas Sang, a champion relay runner, who was hacked to death by a machete-wielding mob.

In Eldoret, Moses Tanui has barricaded himself into his Hotel Grandpri. The former 10,000-meter world champion has hardly even ventured into the street since the evening of Dec. 31, when his best friend, 400-meter runner Lucas Sang, was murdered. Sang and Tanui were close friends, almost inseparable. They met in London in 1985, shared the same manager and trained together in the highlands.

Sang got mixed up in a Kikuyu riot. They hacked him to death with machetes. “Everyone knew Lucas,” says Tanui. “He was a hero.” Sang and Tanui are members of the Kalenjin tribe, which can be a death sentence in the new Kenya.

Tanui is also well-known in Kenya. Tanui also has money.
But his wealth can’t protect him. On the contrary, money is one reason why Kenya’s top athletes live in fear. There have been rumors that Kenyan runners are funding tribal militias, including a group called the “Kalenjin Warriors,” and that the athletes use their money to buy weapons, transport the weapons in their big cars and allow the militias to meet in their large houses. “There are people who claim that my hotel is a meeting place for groups of killers,” says Tanui. “But that’s nonsense. We are athletes. We want to run, not fight.” Then he locks the door and glances over at the street. “We are on the path to civil war,” he says. “It is a war between one tribe and the rest of the country, and it will be terrible.”

The ethnic violence in the Rift Valley
has worsened in the wake of the murder of an opposition politician by a police officer two weeks ago, and there is no end in sight. In a place where public order no longer exists, old scores are settled and long-forgotten rivalries are suddenly reignited. The conflicts get so caught up in each other that you can hardly separate one from the other. Each side has its dead to avenge, and each side fears the revenge of others. This is not an African phenomenon. The situation was no different in the Balkans.

The disputes are about clan allegiances. About land. About money. Envy plays a role, too. Where chaos reigns, the underprivileged are quick to turn to violence. There is a vast divide between rich and poor in East Africa.

Source: Spiegel Online

post Alfred Ilg

February 5th, 2008

Filed under: History Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 12:16

Foreign Involvement in Ethiopia’s Progress
By Richard Pankhurst

Alfred Ilg was a Swiss craftsman, who emerged as Emperor Menilek’s principal diplomatic adviser, and ranks as one of the most important Europeans in Ethiopian modern history.

A. Ilg travelled to Ethiopia with Three Compatriots.

In the meantime we can say that Ilg was born in Frauenfeld, north-east of Zurich, Switzerland, in 1854, and studied at the local Zurich Polytechnic. Later, in 1878, he set forth for Ethiopia, in the company of two of his compatriots, by name Appenzeller and Zimmermann. They came at the request of Menilek, then King of Shawa, who had asked a Swiss trader at the port of Aden to find him some European craftsmen able to act as engineers and train Ethiopian workers.

On his arrival in Shawa, Ilg, we are told, was asked by Menilek to make him a pair of shoes. The young Swiss dutifully complied with this request, and Menilek was enchanted with the visitor’s handiwork.

Emperor Menelik II, photographed by Alfred Ilg in 1880

Menilek, who doubtless recalled
how his predecessor and sometime master Emperor Tewodros had persuaded European missionaries to cast him cannons and mortars, then asked Ilg to make him a rifle. The Swiss, like the above mentioned missionaries, protested his ignorance of gun-making, and declared that an imported weapon would be much superior to anything he could himself produce.

Like Tewodros
Like Tewodros before him, Menilek, however, insisted. He declared that he wanted to see what Ilg could do. The latter accordingly did as he was asked, and duly made a passable rifle. This greatly pleased the monarch, who ordered it to be given an honoured place in his armoury. Ilg had thus gained Menilek’s good-will, and was never to lose it!

Emperor Tewodros

He was therupon appointed a craftsman, attached to Menilek’s staff, and was granted a monthly salary, payable in Maria Theresa thalers, of seven or eight pounds Sterling per month. He was soon engaged in all sorts of work for Menilek.

Bridge-building: One of Ilg’s first achievements was building a modern bridge over the Awash River, in 1887. Describing this work, he writes to a friend: A few weeks ago I completed the first bridge… It spans the river Awash. The beams had to be carried 15 kilometres on human shoulders. For the bridge-heads I had to square up the stones on the spot. I even had to burn charcoal in order to forge the nails, rivets, screws and bolts required. Add to this the tropical sun with all its dangers, heavy rains with resultant dysentery, intermittent fever, cyclones which almost pulled out my beard and carried the tent in all directions. At night the hyenas almost stole our leather pillows from under our heads; jackals and other rabble plundered the kitchen and obliged me to obtain respect with strychnine”. A few years later Ilg erected a palace for the monarch at his then capital, Entoto, situated, as most readers know in the mountains above present-day Addis Ababa.

Piped Water: Later again, in 1894, Ilg installed the water installations for the Emperor’s palace at Addis Ababa. This created something of a sensation, as the water, obtained from a spring in high Entoto, had to flow down to the Addis Ababa plain beneath it, and then make its way up again to the Palace compound, which was located on a smallish hill. People in the capital had never seen anything like this, and could not believe that water could ever, under any circumstances, flow upward. Menilek, however, was a great believer in innovation, and insisted that Ilg should proceed with his project, if only to see whether it would work. When the great day for inauguration arrived, the tap was turned on - but nothing happened. A European “friend” had secretly stuffed cotton into the pipe, as Ilg later discovered. This obstruction was duly removed, after which Ilg - and his project - were widely acclaimed. At least two Amharic poems were composed in honour of the event.

One declared:
“We have seen wonders in Addis Ababa.
Water worships Emperor Menilek.
O Danyew [i.e. Menilek] what more wisdom will you bring?
You already make water soar in the air!”

And the other ran as follows:
“King Abba Danyew, how great is he becoming!
He makes the water rise into the air through a window.
While the dirty can be washed, and the thirsty drink.
See what wonders have already come in our times.
No wonder that some day he will even outdo the Ferenje {i.e. Europeans].”

The Railway Project: Menilek himself was so pleased with his Swiss technician’s success that he granted Ilg a concession, on 9 March 1894, to build and operate a railway line from the French Somaliland port of Jibuti via his capital (Entoto) to the White Nile, on the western borders of the realm. The railway project faced almost insuperable difficulties, technical, financial, political, and diplomatic, but Ilg eventually succeeded in establishing a railway company, which constructed the line from Jibuti to the then new town of Dire Dawa (reached in 1902), after which a successor company continued the line to Addis Ababa. The latter town had by then replaced Entoto as Ethiopia’s capital. The projected line of the Nile was, however, never built: why don’t we build it now?

The Addis Ababa Palace: Ilg also helped in the construction of Menilek’s main palace at Addis Ababa, which was begun in 1897. Testimony of his involvement is provided by a contemporary British traveller, Mrs Pease, who reported seeing “many signs of Swiss work”, including paintings of a Swiss lake, and William Tell’s chapel.

Expeditions: Ilg accompanied Menilek on several of his expeditions, including one to Tegray, in 1889-90, and another to Lake Zway, in 1893. He also attempted, though without success, in 1887, to purchase bullet-making machinery, and equipment for a mint. He likewise travelled to Rome, in 1891, where he met members of the Italian Cabinet, and then, after a second visit in 1894, warned Menilek of Italian ambitions to annex Ethiopia.

Diplomacy: After Menilek’s historic defeat of the invader, at the battle of Adwa in 1896, there was a great expansion of Ethiopia’s diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and the outside world. Menilek appointed Ilg as a Chancellor of State, and gave him the exalted title of Bitwoded, or Beloved. He was made responsible for Ethiopia’s foreign relations. His duties were to interview foreign diplomats arriving in the country, and to conduct correspondence with foreign Powers, and envoys, on Menilek’s behalf. Ilg was linguistically well equipped for this work, as he was able to write in German, French, Italian, and English - and also in Amharic. He corresponded, over the years, with several important Ethiopians. Besides Emperor Menilek and his consort Empress Taytu, these included Negus Takla Haymanot, the king of Gojjam; Ras Makonnen, Menilek’s governor of Harar; Abba Jifar, the semi-autonomous ruler of Jimma; and Abuna Matewos, the Coptic head of the Ethiopian Church. Ilg also exchanged letters with such prominent Ethiopian personalities as Ras Gobena Dachi, Dajazmach Mashasha Workie, and the renowned interpreter Ato Yosef Negusie. Ilg, in his diplomatic capacity, played a prominent part in the negotiations with the Italians, leading up to the post-Adwa Peace Treaty, of 26 October 1896 (in which Italy recognised Ethiopia’s full independence), as well as with the subsequent treaties with Britain and France, signed on 14 and 20 March 1897 respectively. And subsequent agreements with other Powers, including Germany and the Ottoman Empire.

Trusted: Though a foreigner Ilg was well trusted by Menilek, who was of course fully aware that Switzerland was a small neutral, and land-locked, country without colonial ambitions. An essentially safe country to do business with! Ilg served Menilek, with loyalty and devotion, for twenty years, but retired from the Emperor’s service in 1906, just when the monarch’s health was beginning to fail. After he left Addis Ababa his house, situated near the Emperor’s palace, was for a time used to accommodate Ethiopia’s first modern school, the Menilek II School, which was founded in 1908, but soon afterwards removed to its present site at Arat Kilo.

Ilg meanwhile returned to his native Zurich, where he lived on until 1916. He died that year of a heart attack on 7 January: Ethiopian Christmas Day.

post Languages of Ethiopia

January 22nd, 2008

Filed under: General Issue — Lissan Magazine @ 20:17

Living languages

[aiz] 158,857 (1998 census). 129,350 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 155,002 (1989 census). North central Omo Region, southern tip of Ethiopian plateau, near the Hamer-Banna. Alternate names: Ari, Ara, Aro, Aarai, “Shankilla”, “Shankillinya”, “Shankilligna”. Dialects: Gozza, Bako (Baco), Biyo (Bio), Galila, Laydo, Seyki, Shangama, Sido, Wubahamer (Ubamer), Zeddo. Galila is a significantly divergent dialect. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, South

[aar] 979,367 in Ethiopia. 905,872 monolinguals (1998 census). Population total all countries: 1,439,367. Eastern lowlands, Afar Region. May also be in Somalia. Also spoken in Djibouti, Eritrea. Alternate names: Afaraf, “Danakil”, “Denkel”, `Afar Af, Adal. Dialects: Northern Afar, Central Afar, Aussa, Baadu (Ba`adu). Related to Saho. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Saho-Afar

[alw] 126,257 (1998 census). 95,388 monolinguals (1998 census). Ethnic population: 125,900 (1998 census). Rift Valley southwest of Lake Shala. Separated by a river from the Kambatta. Alternate names: Allaaba, Halaba. Dialects: Lexical similarity 81% with Kambaata, 64% with Sidamo, 56% with Libido, 54% with Hadiyya. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[amh] 17,372,913 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 14,743,556 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 17,417,913. Ethnic population: 16,007,933 (1998 census). North central Ethiopia, Amhara Region, and in Addis Ababa. Also spoken in Egypt, Israel, Sweden. Alternate names: Abyssinian, Ethiopian, Amarinya, Amarigna. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Amharic-Argobba

[myo] 500 (1990 SIL). Ethnic population: 1,000 (1990 SIL). Anfillo Forest, west of Dembi Dolo. Alternate names: Southern Mao. Dialects: Lexical similarity 53% with Shekkacho. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gonga, Central

[anu] 45,646 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 34,311 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 45,665 (1998 census). Gambela Region in the southwest. Along the Baro, Alworo, and Gilo rivers and on the right bank of the Akobo River. Gambela town is the main center. Alternate names: Anywak, Anyuak, Anywa, Yambo, Jambo, Yembo, Bar, Burjin, Miroy, Moojanga, Nuro. Dialects: Adoyo, Coro, Lul, Opëno. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Western, Luo, Northern, Anuak

[arv] 4,441 (1998 census). 3,907 monolinguals (1998 census). Ethnic population: 6,559 (1998 census). Extreme southwest, Omo Region, near Lake Stefanie. Alternate names: Arbora, Erbore, Irbore. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Western Omo-Tana

[agj] 10,860 (1998 census). 44,737 monolinguals. Population includes 47,285 in Amharic, 3,771 in Oromo, 541 in Tigrigna (1998 census). Ethnic population: 62,831 (1998 census). Fragmented areas along the Rift Valley in settlements like Yimlawo, Gusa, Shonke, Berket, Keramba, Mellajillo, Metehara, Shewa Robit, and surrounding rural villages. Dialects: Ankober, Shonke. It is reported that the ‘purest’ Argobba is spoken in Shonke and T’olaha. Lexical similarity 75% to 85% with Amharic. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Amharic-Argobba

[awn] 356,980 (1998 census). 279,326 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 397,491 (1998 census). Amhara Region. Widely scattered parts of Agew Midir and Metekel, southwest of Lake Tana. Alternate names: Awiya, Awi, Agaw, Agau, Agew, Agow, Awawar, Damot, Kwollanyoch. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, Central, Southern

[bsw] 1,010 (1995 SIL). Ethnic population: 3,260 (1994 M. Brenzinger). Alge village near Merab Abaya, halfway between Soddo and Arba Minch (390); Gidicho Island, Baiso and Shigima villages (200); and Welege Island on Lake Abaya (420), and the western shore of the lake. Alternate names: Bayso, Alkali. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Western Omo-Tana

[myf] 5,000 (1982 SIL). Beni Shangul Region, in and around Bambesi. Alternate names: Bambeshi, Siggoyo, Amam, Fadiro, Northern Mao, Didessa. Dialects: Kere, Bambassi. Lexical similarity 31% with other Omotic languages, 17% with Hozo-Sezo (Bender 1983). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Mao, East

[bst] 57,805 (1998 census). 42,726 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 51,097 (1998 census). North Omo Region, on a plateau west of Bulki. Alternate names: Basketto, Baskatta, Mesketo. Dialects: Lexical similarity 61% with Oyda. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, West

[bcq] 173,586 (1998 census). 149,293 monolinguals. Population includes 10,002 She, 1,070 Mer. Ethnic population: 173,123 (1998 census). Kafa Region, in and around Mizan Teferi and Shewa Bench towns. Alternate names: Gimira, Ghimarra, Gimarra, Dizu. Dialects: Bench (Bencho, Benesho), Mer (Mieru), She (Sce, Kaba). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Gimira

[wti] 124,799 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 99,689 monolinguals including 4,146 Fadashi. Population includes 8,715 Fadashi. Population total all countries: 146,799. Ethnic population: 125,853 including 7,323 Fadashi (1998 census). Beni Shangul Region, the corner formed by the Blue Nile River and Sudan border north of Asosa, and Dalati, a village east of the Dabus River. Also spoken in Sudan. Alternate names: Beni Shangul, Bertha, Barta, Burta, Wetawit, Jebelawi. Dialects: Shuru, Bake, Undu, Mayu, Fadashi, Dabuso, Gobato. Probably two or more languages. Fadashi may be separate. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Berta

[bxe] 19 (2000 M. Brenzinger). Ethnic population: 89 (2000 M. Brenzinger). One village on the west bank of the Weyt’o River, southeast Omo Region. Alternate names: ‘Ongota, Birelle, Ifa’ongota, “Shanqilla”. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Unclassified Nearly extinct.

[bwo] 19,878 (1998 census). Population includes 144 Gamila; 2,276 second-language speakers including 45 Gamila; 18,567 monolinguals including 77 Gamila. Ethnic population: 32,894 including 186 Gamila (1998 census). Southwest Amhara Region, near the Blue Nile River. Alternate names: Bworo, Shinasha, Scinacia. Dialects: Amuru, Wembera, Gamila, Guba. Related to Kafa. Scattered dialect groups. Lexical similarity 46% with Shekkacho. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gonga, North

[bji] 35,731 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 29,259 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 42,731. Ethnic population: 46,565 (1998 census). South of Lake Ciamo. Also spoken in Kenya. Alternate names: Bambala, Bembala, Daashi. Dialects: Lexical similarity 41% with Sidamo (closest). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[dox] 6,624 (1998 census). 4,955 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 9,207 (1998 census). Omo Region, west of Lake Chamo. Alternate names: Dobase, D’oopace, D’opaasunte, Lohu, Mashile, Mashelle, Masholle, Mosiye, Musiye, Gobeze, Gowase, Goraze, Orase. Dialects: There is a dialect chain with Komso-Dirasha-Dobase. Lexical similarity 78% with Gawwada, 51% with Komso, 86% with Gollango, 80% with Harso, 61% with Tsamai. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Dullay

[cra] 6,932. 5,556 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 6,984 (1998 census). Central Kafa Region, just north of the Omo River. Alternate names: Ciara. Dialects: Lexical similarity 54% with Wolaytta. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Chara

[dsh] 32,064 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 31,368 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 34,564. Ethnic population: 32,099 (1998 census). Lower Omo River, along Lake Turkana, extending into Kenya. Also spoken in Kenya. Alternate names: Dasenech, Daasanech, Dathanaik, Dathanaic, Dathanik, Gheleba, Geleba, Geleb, Gelebinya, Gallab, Galuba, Gelab, Gelubba, Dama, Marille, Merile, Merille, Morille, Reshiat, Russia, “Shangilla”. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Western Omo-Tana

[dim] 6,501 (1998 census). 4,785 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 6,197 (1998 census). Kafa Region, north of the Omo River, just before it turns south. Alternate names: Dima. Dialects: Lexical similarity 47% with Banna. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, South

[gdl] 50,328 (1998 census). 41,685 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 54,354 (1998 census). Omo Region, in the hills west of Lake Chamo, around Gidole town. Alternate names: Dhirasha, Diraasha, Dirayta, Gardulla, Ghidole, Gidole. Dialects: Part of a dialect cluster with Komso and Bussa. Lexical similarity 55% with Komso. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Konso-Gidole


[mdx] 21,075 (1998 census). 17,583 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 21,894 (1998 census). Kafa Region, near Maji town. Alternate names: Maji, Dizi-Maji, Sizi, Twoyu. Dialects: Related to Sheko, Nayi. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Dizoid

[doz] 20,782 (1998 census). 9,905 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 28,990 (1998 census). Mostly in North Omo Region in and around Chencha, but a significant community is in Addis Ababa. Dialects: Lexical similarity 82% to 87% with Gamo, 77% to 81% with Gofa, 80% with Wolaytta, 73% to 75% with Kullo, 54% with Koorete, 48% with Male. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, Central

Ethiopian Sign Language

[eth] Classification: Deaf sign language

[gmo] 1,236,637 (1998 census). 1,046,084 monolinguals including 597,130 Gamo, 259,633 Dawro, 189,321 Gofa. Population includes 690,069 Gamo, 313,228 Dawro, 233,340 Gofa. Ethnic population: 1,292,860 (1998 census) including 719,847 Gamo, 331,483 Dawro, 241,530 Gofa (1998 census). Omo Region, in and around Arba Minch, and in the mountains west to Lake Abaya. Dache is a place name, not a language. Dialects: Gamo (Gemu), Gofa (Goffa), Dawro (Dauro, Kullo, Cullo, Ometay). Subdialects of Dawro are Konta (Conta) and Kucha (Kusha, Koysha). Gamo has 79% to 91% lexical similarity with Gofa, 79% to 89% with Wolaytta, 82% to 87% with Dorze, 73% to 80% with Dawro, 49% with Koorete, 44% with Male. Dawro has 76% with Gofa, 80% with Wolaytta, 73% to 75% with Dorze, 48% with Koorete, 43% with Male. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, Central

[gza] 5,400 (2004). Ethnic population: 6,291 (2000 WCD). Western Oromo, near the Blue Nile. Alternate names: Ganzo, Koma. Dialects: Related to Hozo-Sezo (Ruhlen 1987.322). Lexical similarity 14% with Omotic languages, 6% with Mao. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Mao, West

[gwd] 32,698 (1998 census). 27,477 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 33,971 (1998 census). Omo Region, west of Lake Chamo. Alternate names: Gauwada, Gawata, Kawwad’a, Kawwada. Dialects: Dihina (Tihina, Tihinte), Gergere (K’ark’arte), Gobeze, Gollango (Kollanko), Gorose (Gorrose, Korrose), Harso (Worase). Lexical similarity 78% with Bussa, 73% with Tsamai, 77% with Harso, 92% with Gollango, 41% with Komso. Harso has 80% with Dobase, 56% with Tsamai. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Dullay

[drs] 637,082 (1998 census). 438,958 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 639,905 (1998 census). Central highland area, southwest of Dilla and east of Lake Abaya. Alternate names: Geddeo, Deresa, Derasa, Darasa, Derasanya, Darassa. Dialects: Lexical similarity 60% with Sidamo (closest), 57% with Alaba, 54% with Kambaata, 51% with Hadiyya. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[guk] 120,424 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 88,192 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 160,424. Ethnic population: 121,487 (1998 census). Near Metemma on Sudan border south through Gondar and Gojjam, along Blue Nile and south into Wellaga and Didessa Valley up to Leqemt-Gimbi Road, and villages southwest of Addis Ababa, around Welqite (possibly 1,000). Also spoken in Sudan. Alternate names: Bega-Tse, Sigumza, Gumuzinya, Gumis, Gombo, Mendeya, “Shankillinya”, “Shankilligna”, “Shanqilla”, Debatsa, Debuga, Dehenda, Bega. Dialects: Guba, Wenbera, Sirba, Agalo, Yaso, Mandura, Dibate, Metemma. There are noticeable dialect differences, and not all dialects are inherently intelligible. Mandura, Dibate, and Metemma form a distinct dialect cluster. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Komuz, Gumuz

[hdy] 923,958 (1998 census). 595,107 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 927,933 (1998 census). Gurage, Kambaata, Hadiyya Region, between the Omo and Billate rivers, in and around Hosaina town. Alternate names: Adiya, Adiye, Hadiya, Hadya, Adea, Hadia. Dialects: Leemo, Soro. Lexical similarity 82% with Libido, 56% with Kambaata, 54% with Alaba, 53% with Sidamo. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[amf] 42,838 (1998 census). 38,354 monolinguals (1998 census). Ethnic population: 42,466 (1998 census). South Omo Region, near the Omo River, and north of Lake Turkana, in the southwest corner, near the Kenya, Uganda, Sudan borders. Alternate names: Hamar-Koke, Hammercoche, Amarcocche, Cocche, Beshada, Hamer, Hammer, Hamar, Amer, Amar, Ammar, Banna, Bana, Kara Kerre. Dialects: Hamer and Banna are separate ethnic groups who speak virtually the same language. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, South

[har] 21,283 (1998 census). 2,351 monolinguals. 20,000 in Addis Ababa, outside Harar city (Hetzron 1997:486). Ethnic population: 21,757 (1998 census). Homeland Eastern, traditionally within the walled city of Harar. Large communities in Addis Ababa, Nazareth, and Dire Dawa. Alternate names: Hararri, Adare, Adere, Aderinya, Adarinnya, Gey Sinan. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Harari-East Gurage

[hoz] 3,000 (1995 SIL). Western Oromo Region, Begi area, 50 or more villages. Alternate names: Begi-Mao. Dialects: Related to Bambassi (Bender 1975). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Mao, West

[ior] 280,000. Population includes 50,000 Endegeny. West Gurage Region, Innemor and Endegeny woredas. Alternate names: Ennemor. Dialects: Enegegny (Enner). Part of a Gurage cluster of languages. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, tt-Group

[kcx] 4,072 (1998 census). 1,002 monolinguals including 816 Kachama, 186 Ganjule. Population includes 2,682 Kachama,1,390 Ganjule; 419 second-language speakers including 223 Kachama, 196 Ganjule. Ethnic population: 3,886 (1998 census) including 2,740 Kachama, 1,146 Ganjule. Kachama is on Gidicho Island in Lake Abaya. Ganjule originally on a small island in Lake Chamo. Ganjule have recently relocated to Shela-Mela on the west shore of Lake Chamo. Alternate names: Gats’ame, Get’eme, Gatame. Dialects: Ganjule (Ganjawle), Ganta, Kachama. Lexical similarity 46% with Wolaytta. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, East

[koe] 4,120 in Ethiopia (2000 WCD). Southern Ethiopia-Sudan border, Boma Plateau in Sudan (Kacipo). Dialects: Balesi (Baale, Bale), Zilmamu (Silmamo, Zelmamu, Zulmamu, Tsilmano), Kacipo (Kachepo, Suri, Western Suri). Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southwest, Kacipo-Balesi

[kbr] 569,626. 445,018 monolinguals (1998 census). Ethnic population: 599,188 (1998 census). Kafa Region, in and around the town of Bonga. There may be some in Sudan. Alternate names: Kaficho, Kefa, Keffa, Kaffa, Caffino, Manjo. Dialects: Kafa, Bosha (Garo). Related to Shekkacho. Bosha may be a separate language. Manjo is an argot based on Kafa (Bender 1983). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gonga, South

[ktb] 606,241 (1998 census). 345,797 monolinguals including 278,567 Kambaata, 51,541 Timbaro, 15,689 Qebena (1998 census). Population includes 487,655 Kambaata, 82,803 Timbaro, 35,783 Qebena. Ethnic population: 621,407 (1998 census). Southwest Gurage, Kambaata, Hadiyya Region. Durame is the main town. Alternate names: Kambatta, Kambata, Kembata, Kemata, Kambara, Donga. Dialects: Tambaro, Timbaro (Timbara, Timbaaro), Qebena (Qabena, Kebena, K’abena). Qebena may be a separate language. Lexical similarity 95% with Timbaro dialect, 81% with Allaaba, 62% with Sidamo, 57% with Libido, 56% with Hadiyya. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[kxh] 200 (1998 M. Yigezu). South Omo Region, upstream from the Daasanach, riverside settlements near the Hamer-Banna. Alternate names: Kerre, Cherre, Kere. Dialects: Dialect or closely related language to Hamer-Banna. Lexical similarity 81% with Hamer-Banna. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, South

[gru] 254,682 (1998 census). Ethnic population: 363,867 (1998 census) including 4,000 Gogot. Gurage, Kambaata, Hadiyya Region, just southwest of Addis Ababa. Alternate names: Soddo, Soddo Gurage, North Gurage. Dialects: Soddo (Aymallal, Aymellel, Kestane, Kistane), Dobi (Dobbi, Gogot, Goggot). Not intelligible with Silte or West Gurage. Dobi speakers’ comprehension of Soddo is 76%, and Soddo speakers’ comprehension of Dobi is 90%. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, n-Group

[xom] 1,500 in Ethiopia (1975 Bender). South and west of Kwama. Alternate names: Madiin, Koma, South Koma, Central Koma. Dialects: Koma of Begi, Koma of Daga. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Komuz, Koman

[kxc] 149,508 (1998 census). 138,696 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 153,419 (1998 census). South of Lake Ciamo in the bend of the Sagan River. A few migrants in Kenya. Alternate names: Konso, Conso, Gato, Af-Kareti, Karate, Kareti. Dialects: Lexical similarity 51% with Bussa, 41% with Gawwada, 31% with Tsamai. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Konso-Gidole

[kqy] 103,879. 84,388 monolinguals (1998 census). About 60 Harro families in Harro village on Gidicho (Gidicció) Island. Ethnic population: 107,595 (1998 census). In the Amaro mountains east of Lake Abaya, Sidama Region. Alternate names: Amarro, Amaarro, Badittu, Nuna, Koyra, Koore, Kwera. Dialects: Lexical similarity 54% with Dorze, 53% with Wolaytta, 52% with Gofa, 49% with Gamo, 48% with Kullo, 45% with Male. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, East

[xuf] 2,000 (2000 M. Brenzinger). West of Lake Tana. Alternate names: Kunfäl, Kunfel, Kumfel. Dialects: Related to Awngi. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, Central, Southern

[kmq] 15,000 (1982 SIL). Along Sudan border in southern Beni Shangul Region, from south of Asosa to Gidami, and in Gambela and Bonga. 19 villages, including one (Yabus) in Sudan. Alternate names: Takwama, Gwama, Goma, Gogwama, Koma of Asosa, North Koma, Nokanoka, Afan Mao, Amam, T’wa Kwama. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Komuz, Koman

[xwg] 103 (1998 census). 73 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 173 (1998 census). Kuchur village on the western bank of the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia. Alternate names: Koegu, Kwegi, Bacha, Menja, Nidi. Dialects: Yidinich (Yidinit, Yidi), Muguji. The dialects listed may not be inherently intelligible with Kwegu; it may be a name for several hunter groups. Lexical similarity 36% with Mursi. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southeast, Kwegu

[liq] 36,612 (1998 census). 14,623 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 38,096 (1998 census). Hadiyya, Kambaata, Gurage Region, northeast of Hosaina. Alternate names: Maraqo, Marako. Dialects: Syntactic, morphological, and lexical differences from Hadiyya. Lexical similarity 82% with Hadiyya, 57% with Kambaata, 56% with Allaaba, 53% with Sidamo. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[mpe] 15,341 (1998 census). 10,752 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 15,341 (1998 census). Southwest. Mainly within a long, narrow belt between Bure (east of Gambela) and Guraferda to the south. Covers part of Gambela, Oromo, and Kafa administrative regions. They have been scattered, but are now settling in villages. Alternate names: Mesengo, Masongo, Masango, Majanjiro, Tama, Ojanjur, Ajo, Ato Majang, Ato Majanger-Onk. Dialects: Minor dialect variation. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, North, Majang

[mdy] 53,779 (1998 census). 40,660 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 46,458 (1998 census). Omo Region, southeast of Jinka. Dialects: Lexical similarity 48% with Dorze, 46% with Gofa, 45% with Koorete, 44% with Gamo, 43% with Wolaytta and Kullo. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo

[mym] 56,585 (1998 census). 51,446 monolinguals including 4,553 Bodi. Population includes 4,570 Bodi. Ethnic population: 57,501 (1998 census) including 4,686 Bodi. Central Kafa Region, the Tishena in and around Bachuma, the Bodi in lowlands to the south, near the Omo River. Not in Sudan. Alternate names: Mekan, Mie’en, Mieken, Meqan, Men. Dialects: Bodi (Podi), Tishena (Teshina, Teshenna). Tishena is inherently intelligible with Bodi. Close to Mursi. Lexical similarity 65% with Surma, 30% with Murle. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southeast, Pastoral, Me’en

[mfx] 20,151 (1998 census). 13,264 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 20,189 (1998 census). North Omo Region, in and around Malo-Koza, northeast of the Basketo. Alternate names: Malo. Dialects: Related to Gamo-Gofa-Dawro, but may not be inherently intelligible. The Language Academy said it should be considered a separate speech variety. Lexical similarity 70% with the majority of Ometo language varieties. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, Central

[mvz] 25,000 (2002). West Gurage Region, Mareqo woreda, principle villages: Mikayelo, Mesqan, and Hudat. Alternate names: Masqan, Meskan. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, tt-Group

[mur] 200 in Ethiopia (1975 Tournay). South of the Akobo River. Olam is in southwest Ethiopia and on the Sudan border. It is between Murle and Majang culturally and linguistically (Bender 1983). Alternate names: Murele, Merule, Mourle, Murule, Beir, Ajibba. Dialects: Olam (Ngalam, Bangalam). Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southwest, Didinga-Murle, Murle


[muz] 3,278 (1998 census). 3,155 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 3,258 (1998 census). Central Omo Region, lowlands southwest of Jinka. Alternate names: Murzi, Murzu, Merdu, Meritu, Dama. Dialects: Close to Suri of Sudan. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southeast, Pastoral, Suri

[noz] 3,656 (1998 census). 1,137 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 4,005 (1998 census). Decha Awraja, Kafa Region, and scattered in other parts of Kafa. The nearest town is Bonga. A few in Dulkuma village of the Shoa Bench Wereda, and Aybera, Kosa, and Jomdos villages of Sheko Wereda. Alternate names: Na’o, Nao. Dialects: Related to Dizi, Sheko. Lexical similarity 58% with Dizi. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Dizoid

[nus] 64,907 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 61,640 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 64,534 (1998 census). Along the Baro River, in Gambela Region. Alternate names: Naath. Dialects: Eastern Nuer (Ji, Kany, Jikany, Door, Abigar). Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Western, Dinka-Nuer, Nuer

[nnj] 14,177 (1998 census). 13,797 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 14,201 (1998 census). Extreme southwest corner of Ethiopia, Omo Region. Two settlement centers: Omo River and Kibish River. Transhumance into the region of Moru Angipi in Sudan. Alternate names: Inyangatom, Donyiro, Dongiro, Idongiro. Dialects: Inherently intelligible with Toposa and Turkana. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Eastern, Lotuxo-Teso, Teso-Turkana, Turkana

[lgn] 301 in Ethiopia. 235 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 307 (1998 census). 5 villages along the Sudan border north of the Anuak and Nuer. Also spoken in Sudan. Alternate names: Opo-Shita, Opo, Opuo, Cita, Ciita, Shita, Shiita, Ansita, Kina, Kwina, “Langa”. Dialects: Lexical similarity 24% with Koma. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Komuz, Koman

Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji

[gax] 3,634,000 in Ethiopia. Population total all countries: 3,827,616. South Oromo Region. Also spoken in Kenya, Somalia. Alternate names: Afan Oromo, Southern Oromo, “Galla”, “Gallinya”, “Galligna”. Dialects: Borana (Boran, Borena), Arsi (Arussi, Arusi), Guji (Gujji, Jemjem), Kereyu, Salale (Selale), Gabra (Gabbra, Gebra). Harar is closely related, but distinct enough to need separate literature. In Kenya, Gabra and Sakuye may have significant dialect and language attitude differences from the Boran dialect. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Oromo

Oromo, Eastern
[hae] 4,526,000 (1998 census). Eastern and western Hararghe zone in northern Bale zone. Alternate names: “Qotu” Oromo, Harar, Harer, “Qottu”, “Quottu”, “Qwottu”, “Kwottu”, Ittu. Dialects: Close to Borana Oromo, but divergent. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Oromo

Oromo, West Central
[gaz] 8,920,000 in Ethiopia (1998 census). Ethnic population: All ethnic Oromo are 30,000,000 in Ethiopia. Oromo Region, West and Central Ethiopia, and along the Rift Valley escarpment east of Dessie and Woldiya. Also spoken in Egypt. Alternate names: Afan Oromo, Oromiffa, Oromoo, “Galla”. Dialects: Western Oromo, Central Oromo. Subdialects are Mecha (Maccha, Wellaga, Wallaga, Wollega), Raya, Wello (Wollo), Tulema (Tulama, Shoa, Shewa). Harar and Boran are different enough to need separate literature. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Oromo

[oyd] 16,597 (1998 census). 6,244 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 14,075 (1998 census). Northwest Omo Region, southwest of Sawla. Dialects: Lexical similarity 69% with Wolaytta, 61% with Basketo. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, Central

[ahg] 1,650 in Ethiopia (1998 census). Ethnic population: 172,327 (1998 census). Northwest Amhara Region, north of Lake Tana. Communities of Qwara or Kayla are near Addis Ababa and in Eritrea. None in Sudan. Also spoken in Eritrea. Alternate names: Kimanteney, Western Agaw. Dialects: Qimant (Kemant, Kimant, Kemanat, Kamant, Chemant, Qemant), Dembiya (Dembya, Dambya), Hwarasa (Qwara, Qwarina, “Kara”), Kayla, Semyen, Achpar, Kwolasa (Kwolacha). Distinct from Awngi, Bilen, and Xamtanga. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, Central, Western

[ssy] 22,759 in Ethiopia (1998 census). Tigray. Alternate names: Sao, Shaho, Shoho, Shiho. Dialects: Irob. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Saho-Afar

Sebat Bet Gurage
[sgw] 440,000. Population includes Chaha 130,000, Gura 20,000, Muher 90,000, Gyeto 80,000, Ezha 120,000. West Gurage Region, Chaha is spoken in and around Emdibir, Gura is spoken in and around Gura Megenase and Wirir, Muher is spoken in and around Ch’eza and in the mountains north of Chaha and Ezha, Gyeto is spoken south of Ark’it’ in K’abul and K’want’e, Ezha is spoken in Agenna. Alternate names: Central West Gurage, West Gurage, Guragie, Gouraghie, Gurague. Dialects: Chaha (Cheha), Ezha (Eza, Izha), Gumer (Gwemarra), Gura, Gyeto, Muher. A member of the Gurage cluster of languages. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, tt-Group

[sze] 3,000 (1995 SIL). Western Oromo Region, near Begi, north of the Hozo. Alternate names: Sezo. Dialects: Related to Bambassi (Bender 1975). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Mao, West

[sbf] 400 to 500 (2000 M. Brenzinger). Ethnic population: 600 or more (2000). Kafa Region, between Godere and Mashi, among the Majang and Shekkacho. Alternate names: Shako, “Mekeyer”, “Mikeyir”, “Mikair”. Dialects: Apparently a hybrid. Distinct from Sheko. Lexical similarity 30% with Majang, 12% with other West Cushitic (Omotic) languages. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Unclassified

[moy] 54,894 (1998 census). 36,449 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 53,897 (1998 census). North Kafa Region, in and around Maasha. Alternate names: Mocha, Shakacho, Shekka. Dialects: Close to Kafa. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gonga, South

[she] 23,785. 13,611 monolinguals (1998 census). Ethnic population: 23,785 (1998 census). Kafa Region, Shako District. Gaizek’a is a monolingual community. Bajek’a, Selale, and Shimi are multilingual. Alternate names: Shekko, Shekka, Tschako, Shako, Shak. Dialects: Dorsha, Bulla (Daan, Dan, Daanyir). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Dizoid

[sid] 1,876,329 (1998 census). 1,632,902 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 1,842,314 (1998 census). South central Ethiopia, northeast of Lake Abaya and southeast of Lake Awasa (Sidamo Awraja). Awasa is the capital of the Sidama Region. Alternate names: Sidámo ‘Afó, Sidaminya. Dialects: Lexical similarity 64% with Allaaba, 62% with Kambaata, 53% with Hadiyya. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Highland

[xst] 827,764 (1998 census). Ethnic population: 900,348 (1998 census). About 150 km south of Addis Ababa. Alternate names: East Gurage, Selti, Silti. Dialects: Enneqor (Inneqor), Ulbarag (Urbareg), Wolane (Walane). Not intelligible with West or North Gurage. 40% or less intelligible with Chaha (Central West Gurage). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Harari-East Gurage

[som] 3,334,113 in Ethiopia (2000 WCD). 2,878,371 monolinguals. Southeast Ethiopia, Somali Region. Alternate names: Standard Somali, Common Somali. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Somali

[suq] 19,622 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 19,269 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 20,622. Ethnic population: 19,632 (1998 census). Southwestern Kafa Region toward the Sudan border. Some are west of Mizan Teferi. Also spoken in Sudan. Alternate names: Surma, Shuri, Churi, Dhuri, Shuro, Eastern Suri. Dialects: Tirma (Tirima, Terema, Terna, Dirma, Cirma, Tirmaga, Tirmagi, Tid), Chai (Cai, Caci). Lexical similarity 81% with Mursi. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern, Surmic, South, Southeast, Pastoral, Suri

[tir] 3,224,875 in Ethiopia (1998 census). 2,819,755 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 4,449,875. Ethnic population: 3,284,568 (1998 census). Tigray Province. Also spoken in Eritrea, Germany, Israel. Alternate names: Tigrinya, Tigray. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, North

[tsb] 8,621 (1998 census). 5,298 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 9,702 (1998 census). Omo Region, lowlands west of Lake Chamo. Alternate names: Ts’amay, S’amai, Tamaha, Tsamako, Tsamakko, Bago S’aamakk-Ulo, Kuile, Kule, Cule. Dialects: The Tsamai say Gawwada is difficult to understand. Possibly related to Birale. The most aberrant Dullay variety. Lexical similarity 56% to 73% with Gawwada dialects, 61% with Bussa, 31% with Komso. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, East, Dullay

[tuv] 25,163 in Ethiopia (2000 WCD). Southwestern region west of the Omo River. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Eastern, Lotuxo-Teso, Teso-Turkana, Turkana

[udu] 20,000 in Ethiopia (1995 W. James). Large refugee camp at Bonga, near Gambela town, Gambela Region. Some still in Sudan (1995). Also spoken in Sudan. Alternate names: Twampa, Kwanim Pa, Burun, Kebeirka, Othan, Korara, Kumus. Classification: Nilo-Saharan, Komuz, Koman

[wal] 1,231,673 (1998 census). 999,694 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 1,269,216 (1998 census). Wolaytta Region, Lake Abaya area. Alternate names: Wellamo, Welamo, Wollamo, Wallamo, Walamo, Ualamo, Uollamo, Wolaitta, Wolaita, Wolayta, Wolataita, Borodda, Uba, Ometo. Dialects: Zala. Dorze, Melo, Oyda may be dialects of Wolaytta or of Gamo-Gofa-Dawro. Lexical similarity 79% to 93% with Gamo, 84% with Gofa, 80% with Kullo and Dorze, 48% with Koorete, 43% with Male. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, Central

[xan] 143,369 (1998 census). 93,889 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 158,231 (1998 census). North Amhara Region, Avergele District and Lasta and Waag zones, 100 km north of Weldiya. Alternate names: Khamtanga, Simt’anga, Agawinya, Xamta, Xamir. Dialects: Low inherent intelligibility of Qemant. Lexical similarity 45% with Qemant. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, Central, Eastern

[jnj] 81,613 (1998 census). Ethnic population: 165,184 (1998 census). Oromo Region, recognized as separate district, northeast of Jimma, southwestern Ethiopia, Fofa, and mixed with the Oromo in their villages; Sokoru, Saja, Deedoo, Sak’a, Jimma. Alternate names: Yem, Yemma, “Janjero”, “Janjerinya”, “Janjor”, “Yangaro”, “Zinjero”. Dialects: Fuga of Jimma, Toba. Fuga of Jimma may be a separate language. Lexical similarity 24% with Mocha language. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Janjero

[zwa] 4,880 (1994 SIL). Ethnic population: 4,880. Shores of Lake Zway and eastern islands in Lake Zway. Alternate names: Zway, Lak’i, Laqi, Gelilla. Dialects: No dialect variations. Lexical similarity 61% with Harari, 70% with Silte (M. L. Bender 1971). Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Harari-East Gurage

[zay] 17,800 (1998 census). 7,530 monolinguals including 7,371 Zayse, 159 Zergulla. Population includes 10,172 Zayse, 7,625 Zergulla. Ethnic population: 11,232 (1998 census) including 10,842 Zayse, 390 Zergulla. Omo Region, west of Lake Chamo. Alternate names: Zaysse. Dialects: Zergulla (Zergullinya), Zayse. Close to the Gidicho dialect of Koorete. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gimojan, Ometo-Gimira, Ometo, East


Extinct languages

[gft] Extinct. South Blue Nile area. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, n-Group

Geez (Still used in the orthodox church and in religious manuscripts)
[gez] Extinct. Also spoken in Eritrea. Alternate names: Ancient Ethiopic, Ethiopic, Ge’ez, Giiz. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, North

[mys] Extinct. Gurage, Hadiyya, Kambatta Region. Dialects: Related to West Gurage. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Outer, tt-Group

Rer Bare
[rer] Extinct. Wabi Shebelle River around Gode, eastern Ogaden, near Somali border, and along the Ganale and Dawa rivers. Alternate names: Rerebere, Adona. Classification: Unclassified

[woy] Extinct. Ethnic population: 1,631 of whom 1,519 (93%) speak Amharic as first language, others speak other first languages. Lake Tana Region. Alternate names: Wayto, Weyt’o. Dialects: The former language was possibly Eastern Sudanic or an Awngi variety (Bender 1983), or Cushitic (Bender, Bowen, Cooper, and Ferguson 1976:14). Classification: Unclassified


post Ale Felege Selam

January 19th, 2008

Filed under: Art — Lissan Magazine @ 02:08

The Modernization of Ethiopian Art

“Since the artists in our country are once again rightfully following contemporary trends of creating and refining, we have great hope for the future.” Ale Felege Selam, 1968


On the threshold of a new century — a new millennium — talking and writing about 20th century Ethiopian art by nature includes talking and writing about art education in Ethiopia, as well as the path to modernization. There is no better way to accomplish these tasks than by focusing on one significant individual, Ale Felege Selam Hiruy. In 1959, Ale Felege Selam played a decisive role in the foundation of a modern art school: the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts. He would become its director. This accomplishment was in stark contrast to the 1940s wherein the first group of Western-educated artists — Abebe Wolde Giorgis, Agegnehu Engeda and Zerihun Dominique — failed, one after another, to do similar.

Before continuing with Ale’s history, let us first take a look at historical context. Sele, which means “art,” has a long history in the country. Thus anybody wanting to do Sele required an art education of some kind. The concept of “art education” was distinctly different from “craft training” and was considered a product of the learned. An art education had existed in the nation for several centuries; the church school system prepared scholars, known as Arat-Ayna (Four-Eyed Ones) who were also artists. They were sought after as scholars and as masters of the arts of traditional instruction and scholarship. However, as the 19th century progressed, ancient teaching methods gradually waned and faded away — including art education.

The concept of modernizing Ethiopian art education was born as part of the overall modernizing of Ethiopia, which began during the second part of the 19th century. This was a period that saw the beginnings of unification, military reform, the birth of fairly well developed literary Amharic, and the establishment of schools. As the foundations of modern educational institutions moved, in less than a century, from Gafat, Maqdela, and Tamben to Entotto – where it finally flourished in Addis Ababa — so did its artistic foundations.

As a matter of practicality, we set the clock of the modernization of art education in 1887. This was when the church trained artists; self-taught artists from all around the nation were lured to Entoto. Atse Menelik decided to send Afewerk Gebre Yesus to study art in Europe. In less than a quarter of a century, the art modernization movement shifted from its center in Entoto, where it all began, to Addis Ababa in part and to its primary center in Arat Kilo. In the 1940s, the modern art movement began to bloom — first with figures like Abebe Wolde Giorgis, Agegnehu Engeda and Zerihun Dominique, and moving on to the parliament studio, the Kine Tibebe School and the Prince Shale Selassie School. It finally reached its peak in 1959 at the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts. There, Ale Felege stayed on as the director until he was forced to resign in 1974.

Ale Felege was born in Selale, Fitch in 1924 and moved to Addis Ababa at an early age. After graduating from Technical School in Addis Ababa, he worked in a garage until the emperor granted him a scholarship to go abroad and study engineering. But engineering aside, Ale received his B.A. in Fine Arts from the Institute of Art, Chicago — reputedly the most influential art college in the United States — in 1954. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Europe; after returning home, he joined the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts.

Ale organized the first show for himself and his students in his own studio in 1955. During the couple of years he worked with the Minister of Education and Point Four, he painted, organized, and participated in shows and work as jury member. He served as a committee member at the 1958 first annual Ethiopian Students’ Arts and Crafts Exhibition. He also participated in several group shows and helped organize the 1967 Montreal show, representing Ethiopia.

His paintings exhibited in public places include those at the Trinity Cathedral St. Mary in Addis Ababa, and at Kulubi Gabriel Church in Harerge. He also designed postage stamps, illustrated books and designed several portraits and flyers. Apart from his commissioned works, Ale is interested in landscape and portrait painting. His paintings, we know, depict pensive individuals against flat dark backgrounds that are all the more powerful for their simplicity, psychological statements and articulations in rigorous, formal terms. It seems evident that he influenced some of his first students in this regard. Many of the early 1960s-era art school students displayed a similar vitality and the influence of Ale in their somber landscape and genre paintings. Ale respected the themes that traditional art had come to represent. If it appears to some observers that he turned his back on tradition, they should keep in mind that such a rejection was only on the surface. His theory about art was similar to those of many of his contemporaries and did not seem to have any set of aesthetic preconceptions. Many things remain to be said about his artworks; however, the research has not yet begun.

Ale had naturally seen many Western modernist art while he was studying in Chicago. But his interest in mainstream art was puzzling and complicated. Nobody, for example, indicated why Ale, who studied in America in the 1950s, failed to follow the art movement of the time. At this point in time, until all historical materials are compiled, the matter of how best to characterize Ale’s artistic achievements is very complex.

Why did he, on the other hand, dedicate himself to encouraging and helping Ethiopian artists who favored the international mainstream art movement? Ale was able to anticipate and distinguish between short-term benefits and long-term benefits. He was quite aware of the changes that transformed the art world at the beginning of this century, and knew that Ethiopian painting lagged behind the times by several hundred years. Thus he made sure that the school didn’t embrace any one particular artistic style or theory nor abandon the art of the century. Despite the fact that his style of art identifies with the official style of art — as evidenced by the fact that he decorated churches and government buildings and painted portraits in a more conventional style — he did not show any determination to make the school reflect his kind of art. It seems that Ale had clear ideas about the function and role of the art school. He was not totally convinced that students should be trained as illustrators like those of Kine Tibebe School.

In the modernist building of the school, that maintains a certain likable architecture, even by today’s standards — there does not exist much signifying the ancient or the near past that would have burdened and overwhelmed its students. Neither the parliament studio artists works, nor the Kine Tibebe School artists’ works — not even the works of the first Western-educated artists —were considered important or good enough to be displayed in the new school’s gallery. It is no surprise that consequently; the students highly favored Western modernist art.

In fact, Kine Tibebe School was closed because it was considered conservative and out of touch with the modern art world. Once the School of Fine Arts was up and running, the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts gave Kine Tibebe School artists monthly stipends and studios behind the new building to continue their painting. As many of these artists were founding members of the first Ethiopian Artists Club, founded just before the school was opened, students were encouraged to visit them in their studios.

In the 1970s, there were still over 300 paintings by these artists in the store at the School of Fine Arts. Following the trend in painting portraits of women, started by Agenhu and later adopted by Afewerk and Ale himself, many of these artists played a critical role in depicting urban and rural Ethiopian women in their daily activities. Middle-class yearnings, morality, reformism, patriotism and activism are fundamental factors in the work of these artists. They would depict Ethiopians’ way of life and paint historical scenes even before such subjects had gained popularity via the occasional photography exhibit. They are all-Ethiopian to their bones and reflected the emerging middle-class; they are not in any way “traditionalists” or “traditional” artists. They are among the pioneers who modernized 20th century Ethiopian art. However, due to the backgrounds and education of the artists, their works are technically less convincing and less influential, and they remain obscure or unknown.

Ale had to exclude all these generation artists when establishing the school. As was the case at the time with higher-learning schools, Ale had to recruit instructors from the foreign community residing in Addis Ababa. Of these generation artists, only one, Yigezu Bisrat, succeeded in becoming a staff member of the school. (Yigezu would prove to be an innovator and pioneer of Ethiopian calligraphy).

However, though he had made a clean sweep of nationally trained artists from the school and hired foreign instructors, he knew he could not change the direction of art in the country alone. He solicited the aid of influential officials, including Kebed Mikael, in order to realize his vision. Many enlightened individuals got involved in helping Ale in his efforts. In addition, since Ale boasted more connections to members of the royal family and several high officials than any of his contemporary peers, his way of handling the school was favored and praised by the authorities. The Emperor, his most important patron, frequently visited the school, even more than any famous poets, authors or other cultural figures. Since political propaganda, commissioned artworks and royal portraits were done either by foreign artists, former parliament studio artists, Kine Tibebe school artists, Afewerk or by Ale himself, he did not expect or even want see the school as promoting his doctrines. The Emperor’s visits were to display encouragement and support and he was pleased with what he witnessed. It was only during the Ethiopian revolution that instructors, as well as students of the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts, were expected to be part of the propaganda machine for the government.

Ale’s objective and the official’s interest was to prepare independent professional working artists who could express their artistic personas with free will in a modern setting and environment. It is also important to consider the artistic interests of Ale in relation to the kind of art that was taught and practiced at the Kine Tibebe School. As a founder and the school director, Ale wanted to have it both ways — teaching the elementary and conventional aspects of drawings and paintings while keeping the school in touch with the currents of the art world. Despite his broad-minded goals, Ale nevertheless had preferences for certain kinds of subject matter, chiefly those expressing important national values. But overall, he encouraged a broader range of national themes. For example, there was no indication that he tried to make the school reflect Ethiopian identity. Nor is there any evidence that he persuaded students to create any kind of modern icons reflecting Ethiopia’s faiths or cultures. Rather, he believed in a healthy future for Ethiopian art education and encouraged students regarding their performances. Most artists, graduates of the School of Fine Arts, present instructors at the school and important artists elsewhere say that Ale allowed for any kind of artistic approach and tendency in the school. From every angle, it seems that he left a level field for a pluralistic art scene to flourish in the School.

Ale’s all-inclusive intention became even clearer a couple years after the school’s founding. In accord with the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts, he worked hard to prepare students to be art teachers. He hired as staff members Zemenay, Ethiopian modernist artists educated abroad. Gebre Kristos Desta, Skunder Boghossian, Tadesse Gizaw, Bisrat Bekele, Abdel- Rahman M Sherif, Worku Goshu, Tadesse Belyneh and Tadesse Mamecha joined the school as instructors between 1962 to 1972. The grammar of art — perspective, anatomy and academic drawing in general, narrative representation that evolved at the parliament studio, the Kine Tibebe school and during the first year of Ale’s school — were slowly beginning to look rather irrelevant. The dimensions of this trend projected not only upon an artistic freedom but also included a celebration of eclecticism wherein several contemporary international styles can quickly be identified: realism, impressionism, critical realism, surrealism, abstract, abstract expressionism, symbolism and expressionism. All were introduced to the school by these instructors.

The school’s most notable modernist achievements clearly represented pan-Ethiopian will, character, feel and spirit. This new esthetic expression become apparent at the landmark annual exhibitions of the school, held between 1963 and 1973. While the desperate concern Ethiopia’s people regarding the state of the nation continues, the Ethiopian art world provides a glimpse of hope and a common ground through its genuine expression of national spirit. If pluralism is the style of 20th century Ethiopian art, then the credit, or the blame, goes to Ale and the way he ran the only art school in the nation. Whatever definition and standard was given for 20th century Ethiopian art, its modernization phase has been attained and may be completed by the school. If, half a century after its establishment, the school did not achieve an academic or higher institution status, it is due to administrative and cultural complexity.

A decade after Ale first led the school, during the early 1970s and especially after the 1974 Ethiopian revolution, it was widely predicted that his glory days were over. He would be the subject of more iconoclastic scrutiny. Such scrutiny included unsubstantiated rumors that he was involved more with his farm and hunting affairs than with the day-to-day activities of the school. Ale only contributed to his sinking reputation when he interfered regarding the works of graduating students’ subject matters during the time of the mayhem. Ale was unhappy to see contemporary and radical subject matter displayed on students’ diploma works. Staff members were unhappy with his involvement. Although there have been no seriously researched accounts on these matters yet, the caricatures students drew depicting Ale sleeping on the roof of the school would provide the final blow. After 15 years as founder and director, Ale was intimidated by radical students, and the new government was forced to compel him to resign from his position.

Described by many as a fine individual with a charismatic character, Ale did not attract public attention. And despite the fact that art exhibitions have become a regular activity since the school’s opening —including its own annual exhibition—Ale never had his one-man show after 1955. He is the most reclusive and reserved of all artists. To the young students he was as remote, and as irrelevant, a personality as he would later appear to the young military juntas. There was something private and withdrawn, almost unapproachable, about him. He fits what the renowned artist Mezgebu Tessema said in general about Ethiopia artists: ‘introverted’. Students and staff members alike do not talk about him, especially in public. For the older generation of artists, for whom the school is most associated with Ale, any impolite action toward him appears incomprehensible and ungrateful.

Since his resignation, many things have changed. Presently, the school is affiliated with Addis Ababa University under its new name, Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts and Design. At last count it had six directors: Abdul Rahman Mouhamed Sherif, Tadesse Belaynh, Getachew Yosef, Bekele Mekonnen, Melaku Ayle, and Muze Awel. All are school alumnae.

In becoming part of Addis Ababa University, the school risks losing its semi-autonomous tradition. It is very unlikely that the kind of spirit that fermented for several years at the school will ever be resuscitated, even with the same kind of structure. But as it is, affiliating the school to the University may well dismantle what little there is left of its 50-year-old modern art tradition. If Ale had been consulted on this matter, he would not have approved it. One may also ask that, if up until now the University had never affiliated specialized schools, such as the Teacher Training Institute, Commercial school or Technical school, then why would it want to affiliate the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts now? Since it is believed that the school had contributed a lot and attained its goals; it should have been helped to become a charter school and left alone to follow its own course. If, at this point in the national modern education, an art department or art school is crucial — which it is — then the University would have been much better off opening its own School of Art and Design, or a department that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide range of arts disciplines.

Ale ultimately wanted to be remembered as a painter. In 2006, at the age of 82, he traveled from Ethiopia to Maryland in the United States to decorate Ethiopian Orthodox Church. However, Ale is still associated with and admired more for his role as the school’s founder, director and educator rather than as a painter himself. Even in his heydays, he never garnered as many honors as, say, Gebre Kristos or Skunder for his art. The Haile Selassie I prize for Fine Arts was awarded to these two artists in 1965 and 1967 respectively. In 1972, the fourth award for Fine Arts went to the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts, rather than to Ale.

The true spirit and legacy of Ale lies in the history of the school and within the field of art education. Nobody before him and to this day accomplished so much in promoting Ethiopian art and Ethiopian artists. No one has come close to approaching his level of contribution in popularizing and teaching art. Many successful and not-so successful artists are, in some way, his pupils. Clearly, Ale is among those who can be called pioneers of art education in Ethiopia, and he remains among the most renowned group. Considering the national and international achievements of the school’s alumnae, and the growing public interest in art during the past fifty years, it is not an overstatement to dub Ale Felege Selam Ethiopia’s Artist-Educator of the Century.

By: Esseye G Medhin, May 29, 2007

Statements and opinions expressed in this article herein are those of the authors. Lissan Magazine accepts no responsibility whatsoever for the content.

post Adolf Ellegard

January 11th, 2008

Filed under: Academic Cooperations — Admassu @ 01:09

Adolf Ellegard Jensen and the Frobenius-Institute at the University of Frankfurt

Adolf Ellegard Jensen was the oldest and most outstanding student of the distinguished Africanist, Leo Forbenius. The institute which Forbenius had founded in 1898 was directed by Jensen through the turmoils of Nazi period, the Second World War and the difficult years immediately after the war. His research in southern Ethiopia in 1934 - 35 yielded important results, although it was terminated prematurely on account of the impending war between Italy and Ethiopia. After almost three centuries of largely philological studies devoted principally to northern Ethiopia, Jensen’s undertaking marked the beginning of German historical and cultural research in the southern part of the country. This research was resumed after the war.

Adolf Ellegard Jensen (1899 - 1965)

Since 1950 eleven members of the Frobenius-Institue have worked in southern Ethiopia - some of them for several years - pursuing above all historical, geographical and linguistic studies. Their principal aim has been, in collaboration with prominent persons of southern Ethiopia, to study and record the cultures of these groups, which had received hardly any attention in scholastic literature and whose history existed only in oral traditions. As a result of his work, a large number of articles and books have appeared, mostly in German. Many further publications are in preparation, and increasingly the effort is being made to publish them also in English.

Members of the institute have worked or are working on the following nationalities: Sidama, Gedeo, Gidicho, Kambata, Hadiya, Tembaro, Arussi, Guji, Borana, Konso, Burji, Amarro, Dorze, Gamu, Wolayta, Zala, Gofa, Male, Basketto, Ari, Dauro (Kullo), Konta, Dime, Dizi, Gimirra, Chako, Shekka, Kafa, Bosha (Garo).

This research has dealt both with history and with cultural history: in other words, the aim has been to see history not merely as a stringing together of political events, but also as the evolution of the whole culture of a people. Consequently each research project has been designed to include in its investigations all aspects of the culture of the ethnic group concerned. Particular value has been placed on the recording of material culture in films, photographs, drawings and collections, because even the objects used in everyday life can provide important historical evidence. Parts of these collections have been presented to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at the University of Addis Ababa as a gift.

The following members of the Frobenius-Institute have worked in Ethiopia: Adolf Ellegard Jensen, Elisabeth Jensen-Pauli, Eike Haberland, Willi Schulz-Weidner, Helmut Straube, Wolfgang Kuls, Ulrich Braukämper, Siegfried Seyfarth, Werner Lange, Karl Heinz Striedter, Maria R.-Alföoldi.

Kaba Debo from Wolayta (1955)

It is unfortunately not possible here to name our Ethiopian friends and partners individually, for their numbers run into the hundreds. We are happy to have this opportunity of thanking them all most warmly for everything we have received from them - not only knowledge and instruction, but also friendship and kindness. As a token of our dept in these people, we show here the portraits of two great historians - Jilo Da’imu from Konso (sorry missing) and Kaba Debo from Wolayta.

Booklet: “Three Hundred Years of Ethiopian-German Academic Collaboration.”
Author: Eike Haberland (1924 - 1992)
1986. 39 pages, EUR 5,—. ISBN 3-515-04766-2
Frobenius Institute
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
Frankfurt, Germany

This is the last part of this series about the academic collaborations between Ethiopia and Germany. I hope this topic have given you an important side view about the relationship of these two countries. I want to thank the author of the booklet, Eike Haberland, and the Frobenius Institute in Frankfurt for publishing this sensitive document and give us such priceless informations.

« Previous Page
© 2012 Lissan Magazine , Powered by WordPress
Initiated & sponsered by Admassu Mamo Kombolcha, Frankfurt, Germany