These days I have heard people claiming that Ethiopians are at their strongest unity because they faced with opportunity, in the form of the Great Ethiopian Millennium Dam whether it is worthy claim or rubbish remains to be seen. The proponents of “The Great Ethiopian Millennium Dam” are claiming that the project is bringing out the best in every Ethiopian, they say that it is a project that makes Ethiopians to fix on to put aside all differences and unite for a common cause:- “The Great Ethiopian Millennium Dam on Nile river”. But I think during such events; the reverse is also true. The broad bunches of the mass might need leadership and unity under one cause; but it also provides an opportunity for the tricky and crooked to maneuver for their own profit.
The Ethiopian popular culture is characterized by songs that we see that come out during such events. The celebrated Teddy Afro’s song after the victory of Kenenisa during the 2004 Athens Olympic is a case in point. However, it is common that other Ethiopian songs depicting social problems which would go unnoticed in Ethiopian media. Scholars suggest that songs are one of art forms and probably the most successful form of expression when it comes to connecting with an audience and getting peoples point across. These songs don’t need glamour and sex to make them popular; they have a mass audience because of their truthfulness.
Although we had remarkable artists like Tilahun Gessese and Ali Bira singing “political” music way back during the imperial regime in the 1950’s and 1960’ the influence of music on the general public came into the forefront during election 2005 during the rise of the growing opposition to the government. The 1990’s was also like a time in history when songs actually started to dictate public politics. This is evident if we take a look at some of Oromo songs. If one listens to Teddy Afro’s “Jah Yastesrial” it doesn’t tell you a story any of us would have trouble relating to. In fact, it pricks your conscience and makes you yearn for change in your social environment. The song doesn’t preach political upheaval or violence, either. It merely raises an issue and lets society think about it.
I feel these days that we are a little bit unfortunate that as the talk of Ethiopian’s mainstream music industry arguably flourishes, artists looking into the roots of conflict and social injustice are a scarcity. We have artists like Teddy Afro, who happily preach love and peace through his music and claim to be bringing the nation towards “unity”. But I find it difficult to take him seriously; I consider him as a representative of a bigger problem. I believe most of our artists today lack the genuineness and zeal to speak their mind. It’s all well and good to sing about development of the country, it is an extraordinary deed to try to project a good image of the country though music, but I believe it isn’t exactly doing us any favors. It amazes me that for a country plagued with lack of good governance, hard-hitting pricing, domestic violence, rape and vagabondism in the towns our music industry remains oblivious to the genre of topical songs. As far as I know, this unconcealed ignorance to our society can only be because of three reasons.
1. Either these artists lack the talent of creative songwriting to make anything of our plight
2. They simply don’t care or
3. They are cowards
What do you think?