The Abuse of Music by Abyssinian Azmari: the case of Tedy Afro
June 20, 2012 (Shaggar Index) – There are people who thrive on the fame of the dead. Indeed there are people who thrive on the noxious fumes of dead zombies. One such person is Tedy Afro who continued living on the dead spirit of Abyssinian worst dictators. This article is in response to Teddy Afro’s latest Album, the album which Tedy wrongly labeled Tikur Sew. My intention is not to educate Tedy or any other Habesha musician. The objective of this article is to indicate how Tedy abused music and also how he wronged the late Emperor Menelik II by mislabelling the Caucasian Emperor as a black man.
Purpose of music
Humanity employed music for several purposes, positive as well as negative. Music has been part of human experience in every culture and society since time immemorial. From the earliest cultures of humankind until now music has been used to express a wide range of human emotions; love, joy, celebration, sadness, anger and fear. Music has been used to inspire patriotism, incite wars and promote peace. Music played an exceedingly great role in communicating ideas to the masses with minimum resistance and it played great roles in bringing different cultures together. In this respect, music is rightly called the universal language. Ancient and modern society also employed the healing ability of music to threat patients. Music can also heal a racially, religiously, and culturally divided society.
Abuse of music
This great purpose of music has been continuously abused by past and present Azmari Habash. Azmari musicians fail to realize that a tool as powerful as music needs to come with guidance and instructions. For a society to use the healing ability of music, they must first understand the purpose of music for human consumption. To serve its positive purpose, music is supposed to be a pure and neutral spiritual force that should serve all humanity for positive end. Regardless of their philosophy of life or worldview, gifted musician should be careful in making their work free of prejudices and hates. Most Habash musicians lack this quality of using music for positive end and have been abusing the universal purpose of music. Abyssinian music, from ancient time to present, have been composed mainly not only to perpetuate hate message towards other ethnic groups which are outside their own narrow circle, but also to glorify kings, emperors, empress, war lords (like Tewodros), and those who share the bloodlines of the kings, while at the same time they despised common citizens and subjects of these emperors and dictators. It is out of such an unparalleled abuse of music that Habasha musicians composed music to honor brutal dictators like Mengistu Haile Mariam, who butchered hundreds thousands of youth during his 17 years reign.
Abyssinian’s negative music
Though Ethiopia is blessed with rich culture and music, past Abyssinian regimes have limited nations and nationalities from developing their culture and music. Amharic music dominated the country for over a century. Prohibition of nations and nationalities form developing their couture was not the only problem. Even those Amharic music and musicians have been openly expressing their hatred to other cultures in Ethiopia. Amaric music itself had been dominated by Azmaris. The Azmari of Habash, i.e., Habasha traditional musicians, through their music praised Emperors and the killing squad of these brutal Emperors. These Azmaris praised one race and despised others. It can be argued that they totally missed the important role that music serves. Many of the Artists that Ethiopia has witnessed have been serving the regime in which they lived. Modern Ethiopian musician are educated in the Azmari culture and share the same nostalgia of the past Emperors. Ethiopian music says almost nothing about the general society. No music is composed for the common people. Ethiopian music is dominated by odes for kings and Emperors. During Menelik, Habasha Azmari praised Menelik and his mercenary soldiers who mutilated millions of Oromos, and Sothern Nation and Nationalities throughout the empire. During Hailesilassie, the feudal land lords who lived on the sweats of Oromo subjects received appreciation from Azmari. This trend of Azmari praising those who live on the blood of common people continued into the Dergue Era and TPLF too. During Dergue period, those who killed innocent civilians in the so called Qey Shibibir were celebrated by Azmari( musicians) of Ethiopia as heroes.
Azmari Teddy Afro-Reincarnating the dead
With the above background on Abyssinian negative music, I would like to say few points about Tedy Afro. Tedy Afro, for the past few years, has been deliberately resurrecting some dead zombies, and he is making money and fame out of such dirty and unethical work. The two great Zombies that he resurrected so far are Emperor Menelik and King Hailesilassie. Anytime some one resurrect the dead, a lot of questions crop up; from political to ethical. Is there any moral guide that stops musicians from reanimating worst dictators and mercenaries? What is the political significance of reincarnating a barbaric mass killer like Menelik for Ethiopian people at this time? As a matter of fact, Tedy started his career from the very beginning by glorifying King Hailessilassie. This is the same king who watched in silence as millions of Ethiopians perish during the 1977 famine. Dr.Tilahun Gessessei wrote lyrics about the agonizing pains of those Ethiopians and he wept as he played the song. Tedy praised the king who saved millions of dollars in foreign bank while those Ethiopians suffered and perished. What a difference!
The musical piece Tedy composed for the late monarch seems to have rallied the majority of feudal elements who during the reign of king Hailessilassie lived on the bloods and sweats of the Ethiopian poor. Now that Tedy wrote lyrics and composed music for the great zombie of all time (Menelik), he qualify to be recognized as an entrepreneur who lives on the fame of dead monarchies. He is making himself name and money off the dead dictators. By doing so he successfully milked those Abyssinians who always dreamt the second coming of Hailesilassie and Menelik, but immensely disrespected millions Ethiopians who suffered in the hand of these dictators.
I asked myself what objective the young artist might have on his mind when he composed the Tikur Sew lyrics for Menelik. We know that Menelik is not Tikur. That is to say he is notTikur by choice, by his own preference. Menelik is not a ‘black man’ because he rejected his blackness. You don’t need any other witness other than Menelik himself to prove that he wasn’t black. Shame on you Tedy; you tried your best to twist history just in the same way many Debteras did in the past Ethiopian history. Unfortunately, what you tried to reverse is irreversible. Historians have documented it very well. You cannot make Menelik to be proud of his blackness. Menelik dismissed it in public. He told the whole world that he is Caucasian, not black.
‘I am not a Negro at all; I am a Caucasian’ the Emperor Menelik told the West Indian pan-Africanist Benito Sylvian who had come to Addis Ababa to solicit the Emperor’s leadership in a society for the ‘Amelioration of the Negro race.’ Haile Sellassie confirmed that view in a declaration to Chief H. O. Davis, a well-known Nigerian nationalist, stating that the Ethiopians did not regard themselves as Africans, but as ‘a mixed Hamito-Semitic people.(See John H. Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay (1984), p. 306.)
With regard to the great purpose that music plays to bring people together and minimize tension among ethnic lines, Tedy’s recent Album played the exact opposite. Oromo youth around the world have taken to facebook and other Medias to boycott the album which glorifies a mercenary who butchered our forefathers and mothers. This album is more dividing than healing Ethiopian people. In particular it is an insult to Oromo nation and Southern Nations and Nationalities. It is a complete disregard to the lives of those who were massacred by the invading army of Menelik. It is an insult to the entire Oromo nation and South Nations who survived the genocide Abyssinian Army perpetrated against us. It is an outrageous act of praising a criminal who inhumanly butchered millions of children, women and innocent men.
It is only human for Teddy to sing about the suffering of those who were sold to slavery. It is right if Teddy condemn the misery to which Menelik and other slave traders subjected millions of children, women and young people from all corners of Ethiopia. What about the human dignity of those millions of Ethiopians who were sold to Arab slave traders? How about Oromo mothers whose breasts were cut off by Menelik and his army? How about the millions of Oromo men whose right hands were cut off after they surrendered to Meniliks army? How is that a son of Ethiopia, who lives in 21 century praise a butcher and slave traders like Menelik II?
That is what Abyssinians did to us, to the Nations in the Southern Ethiopia. Given the nature of Abyssinians, current or past, it is not surprising to see in market a musical piece that glorify criminals. What is so surprising is how we the victims react to such Abyssinian National Projects. Why do we buy albums that glorify the massacre of our forefathers and foremothers, our sisters and our brothers? Why would we sing to the beat of our tormentors? Why is that we fiancé Abyssinian projects which are intended to humiliate and destroy us? Abyssinians like Tedy have been taking Big Marches of the Dead in commemorating the dead who killed our ancestors. They are celebrating the victory of evil over good. They are celebrating the death of millions of innocent children and women in the hands of mercenaries like Menelik. Then, why is that the Oromo nation and Sothern Nation failed to take March of the Living to commemorate our ancestors who perished in the hands of Menelik and his army?
Debtera Tedy, here is a brief account of the two dead zombies which you tried to reincarnated as benevolent leaders.
When the facts of history are written King Haile Selassie will go down as a great coward who ran away from his country to save his skin and left the millions of our countrymen to struggle through a terrible war that he brought upon Ethiopians because of his political ignorance. While he was licking Europeans shoes in exile, Ethiopians were fighting Mussolini at home. Brave Ethiopians defeated the Italian invading army. Unfortunately the mighty British installed Hailesilassie back to power. Ethiopian patriots thought the Emperor would recognize their bravery and promote them. What that dwarf king did however was the exact opposite. He executed many of them and promoted those bandaslike himself who run away to foreign land during the period of occupation.
Running away from his country when his country needed him most was not the only shame of king Hailesilassie. He utterly denied his blackness. When Haile Selassie fled to London, Garvey tried to contact him but was snubbed, and it was reported that “the emperor did not desire any contact with ‘Negroes’ “. (The New World of Negro Americans by Harold Robert Isaacs p.153)
During the great Ethiopian famine, in which millions of our nationals in Wallo starved to death, the Emperor and his cabinets were saving millions of dollars in the Swiss Bank and lived in excess in Addis Ababa. Today, despite such shames, many Habasha musicians honor the late tyrant Emperor as a benevolent ruler of his subjects. Top among such Asmari who glorify this great dictator is Tedy Afro.
Another of Ethiopians brutal tyrant and mass butcher is Emperor Menelik who receives endless glorification form past and present Habasha Asmaris. Menlik is notoriously known in Abyssinia and around the world for mutilation of breast and hands of innocent Oromo nationals at Chalanko and Hanole in Oromia. Europeans called him the greatest slave trade entrepreneur ever known in Africa. He personally sold Ethiopians of black skin to Arab slave traders. In addition he generated income by taxing other slave traders in Ethiopia who sold millions of non-Abyssinian Ethiopians to Arab slave merchants.
Clarence writes, “Meneliks reign, first as king of SHOWA, and later as an emperor marks the watershed in the history of servile labour and slave traffic in Ethiopia.” (Clarence, page 115). Clarence-Smith observed commercial slavery was intensifies under the government of Menilik, particularly in the newly incorporated Southern peripheries (outside Abyssinia proper). After he was crowned emperor in 1889, Menilik signed several treaties with European nations to end slave traffic in Ethiopia. These include the Anti-slave provisions in the Ethio-Italy treaty of Wuchale and the 1889-1890 General Act of Brussels Conference on slavery. In the next decades Menelik promulgated several acts to abolish slavery; just the same way TPLF included several citizens’ right in the current Ethiopian constitution. Yet he (Menilik) continued with slave trade precisely for two reasons.
First the reach booty, in the form of slaves, he used extract from the newly colonized Oromo, South Nation and Somali land was irresistible (Clarence, page 116). He used the plunder from non-Abyssinian Southern captives (Oromo, South Nations, and Somali) to sustain royal finance. Clarence wrote that between 1878 and 1882 Menelik paid a punitive yearly tribute of 200,000 thalers(dollars) to Emperor Yohannes. Menelik sustained such financial commitment by taxing commercial slave traders. In the late 1880 custom duties on slaves, at thalers(dollars) as they entered Shawa and again as they left Shawa, was estimated to raise more than 10,000 thalers( dollars) per year.
The second reason for Meneliks reticence to end slavery was his financial commitment to European arms dealers. Menilik relied on income form slave trade to purchase arms from European traders such as Soleillet, Chefnaux, Bremond, and Labatat( Clarence Page 116).
Teddy and many Abyssinians glorify the human tragedy that the Southerners were subjected to after occupation. During the raid, conquest and occupation of Oromo land, thousands of free Oromo men, women, and children were seized and enslaved by Menilik and his commanders. Clarence describes the process of enslavement as follows. “ Menelik’s expeditions into the Southern Ethiopia set a ferocious pattern. As Shawan forces razed entire districts, they usually kill male defenders and enslave their wives and children. Menelik gained half the plunders and the captives; his generals and soldiers divided the rest according to rank.”(Clarence, page 117). This is the king which Tedy Afro glorifies and wrote epic poems to immortalize him. The children and women, the millions, who were deprived of their lives, their liberty, their dignity, and sold into slavery have no place for Teddy and other Abyssinian racists.
After the Oromo land was completely subdued, Emperor Menilik continued his territorial expansion to produce more captives. Clarence notes, “ In Walamo in 1894, Ethiopian forces seized 15,000-20,000 prisoners, of whom the Emperor took 1800 as slaves. Raids on the new colonial land( non-Abyssinian ) land persisted even after 1900.
Teddy Afro and many Habasha musicians who glorify Menlik II, Mengistu Hailemariam and King Hailesilassie are not ignorant of the wrongs that these brutal rulers have subjected the Oromo people and the South Nations and Nationalities. They know more than we know. They know more than the victims, how Habesha leaders subdued and converted the non-Abyssinian Ethiopians into their subjects. The killing of millions of children, women and innocent civilians in the formation of Empire Ethiopia is a heroic action that most Abyssinians are proud of. That is why all Habasha Azmari never mention the brutality of kings and emperors. That is why they never mention in their poetry or music about the suffering of ordinary people. That is why Habasha musician don’t know how to write poems that uphold justice, rule of law, and human rights. That is why Habasha musicians are not able to compose music about equality of human kind, freedom to life, freedom to expression, and equality of nations and nationalities. The music of a Habasha man and women is all about the unity of Ethiopia and those Emperors who rules that Empire, regardless of how brutal these rulers were/are and how the territorial integrity of Ethiopia tramped on the natural right of nations and nationalities.
Such abuse and misuse of music leaves negative impact on society. Its trail paves ways for destruction of future generation. Due to lack of knowledge Azmarian negative music of Habash has driven society down a path it was never meant to travel. I can argue that they contributed immensely to build mistrust among good Ethiopians than love and unity. Tedy‘s recent work is the worst divisive music ever.
2. The Economics of the Indian Ocean Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century, 1989
By W. G. Clarence-Smith