Historical Journey Of Ethiopian Music Continued -By Claudia Nieblas

I begin the discussion by proving a succinct description of the The Azmari. The Azmari, traveling minstrels, were entertainers, but also served the use of delivering the news through music. They could serve as political commentators, and they had repertoires of songs that had historical content (Shelemay, 2006). Because of these repertories, and because they were carriers of these traditions of the past, and because they celebrated Ethiopian heroism, and Ethiopian history, they themselves became targets [for Italian officers during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia from 1936-1941] (Shelemay, 2006). While the fascist Italian government attempted to control and eliminate the Azmari the Italian government was unsuccessful. In fact, The Azmari continue the heritage of minstrel traveling. This is an example of tenacity and continuity in the Ethiopian culture
The period after World War II represented a new era for most of the world. Changes in technology and politics transformed traditional cultures. Countries like Ethiopia grew increasingly influenced by music popular only in the west. Musicians like Mulatu Astatké traveled to and fro the United States during the 1950s. With him he brought back home "jazz". Indeed he is recognized as the innovator of Ethiojazz.


During the 1960s and 1970s ethnomusicologist Halim El-Dabh founded the band Orchestra Ethiopia. His music led to a revival of interest in Ethiopia's traditional folk music. Conversely, the band's success was short-lived as an incoming government controlled by "Mengistu Haile Mariam" (the Dergue) led a totalitarian regime where people were forced to abide by a 6:00p.m. curfew. The curfew was a detrimental effect for the night club scene, and eventually took a toll on the music industry. Not surprisingly, a civil war ensued as a result of the tyrannical new government. War, followed by a famine in the 1980s, led to a diaspora.

In the 1990s producer Francis Falceto compiled and delivered to the western world "Ethiopiques". Ethiopique is a 25-volume CD series. 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 Ababa (Eyre, 2005). The film "Broken Flowers" starring Bill Murray features an Ethiopique song by Mulatu Astatke titled Yegelle Tezeta. Ethiopiques has been a compilation of music enjoyed by young and old generations alike. Today Ethiopia, like many developing and developed nations, possesses a diverse playlist. Traditional music native to each particular region within Ethiopia is pervasive. Pop-music is common to younger generations. One of the most popular musicians from Ethiopia is Aster Aweke. Featured here is Y'shebellu:

Currently the most prominent Ethiopian singer internationally is Ejigayehu Shibabaw, or "Gigi". Featured here is Guramayle:

Timeline of Ethiopia 1935-2010

1935 - Italy invades Ethiopia.
1936 - Italians capture Addis Ababa, Haile Selassie flees, king of Italy made emperor of Ethiopia; Ethiopia combined with Eritrea and Italian Somaliland to become Italian East Africa.

Haile Selassie’s reign

1941 - British and Commonwealth troops, greatly aided by the Ethiopian resistance—the arbegnoch—defeat the Italians, and restore Haile Selassie to his throne.
1952 - United Nations federates Eritrea with Ethiopia.
1962 - Haile Selassie annexes Eritrea, which becomes an Ethiopian province.
1963 - First conference of the Organisation of African Unity held in Addis Ababa.

Red Terror

1973-74 - An estimated 200,000 people die in Wallo province as a result of famine.
1974 - Haile Selassie deposed in coup led by Teferi Benti.
1975 - Haile Selassie dies in mysterious circumstances while in custody.

Mengistu Haile Mariam Mengistu: Led a reign of terror

1977 - Benti killed and replaced by Mengistu Haile Mariam.
1977-79 - Thousands of government opponents die in Red Terror orchestrated by Mengistu; collectivisation of agriculture begins; Tigrayan People's Liberation Front launches war for regional autonomy.
1977 - Somalia invades Ethiopia's Ogaden region.
1978 - Somali forces defeated with massive help from the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Famine of the 1980

1985 - Worst famine in a decade strikes; Western food aid sent; thousands forcibly resettled from Eritrea and Tigre.
1987 - Mengistu elected president under a new constitution.
1988 - Ethiopia and Somalia sign a peace treaty.

Ethiopia after Mengistu

1991 - Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front captures Addis Ababa, forcing Mengistu to flee the country; Eritrea establishes its own provisional government pending a referendum on independence.
1992 - Haile Selassie’s remains discovered under a palace toilet.
1993 - Eritrea becomes independent following referendum.
1994 - New constitution divides Ethiopia into ethnically-based regions.
1995 - Negasso Gidada becomes titular president; Meles Zenawi assumes post of prime minister.
1998 - Ethiopian-Eritrean border dispute erupts into armed clashes.
1999 - Ethiopian-Eritrean border clashes turn into a full-scale war.
2000 April - More than eight million Ethiopians face starvation after three successive years of poor rain and failed harvests.
2000 May - Ethiopia captures the strategic Eritrean town of Barentu.
2000 June - Ethiopia and Eritrea sign a cease-fire agreement which provides for a United Nations observer force to monitor the cease-fire and supervise the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Eritrean territory.

Haile Salessie's funeral Haile Selassie: Reburied in 2000

2000 November - Haile Selassie buried in Addis Ababa's Trinity Cathedral.
2000 December - Ethiopia and Eritrea sign a peace agreement in Algeria, formally ending two years of conflict. The agreement establishes commissions to delineate the disputed border and provides for the exchange of prisoners and the return of displaced people.
2001 24 February - Ethiopia announces it has completed its troop withdrawal from Eritrea in accordance with a United Nations-sponsored agreement to end the border war.
2001 March - Meles Zenawi says he has thwarted an attempt to cause political upheaval by a dissident group in the dominant Tigre People's Liberation Front.
2001 April - Thousands of demonstrators clash with police in Addis Ababa in protest against police brutality and in support of calls for political and academic freedom.
2001 12 May - Intelligence and security chief Kinfe Gebre-Medhin—a key ally of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi—assassinated as he entered an armed forces officers’ club in Addis Ababa.
2001 21 May - Ethiopia and Eritrea agree on a UN-proposed mediator to try to demarcate the disputed border.
2002 April - Ethiopia, Eritrea accept a new common border, drawn up by an independent commission, though both sides then lay claim to the town of Badme.
2003 April - Independent boundary commission rules that the disputed town of Badme lies in Eritrea. Ethiopia says the ruling is unacceptable.
2004 January-February - Nearly 200 killed in ethnic clashes in isolated western region of Gambella. Tens of thousands flee area.
2004 March - Start of resettlement programme to move more than two million people away from parched, over-worked highlands.
2004 November - Ethiopia says it accepts "in priniciple" a boundary commission's ruling on its border with Eritrea. But a protracted stalemate over the disputed town of Badme continues.
2005 March - US-based Human Rights Watch accuses army of "widespread murder, rape and torture" against Gambella region's ethnic Anuak people. Military angrily rejects charge.
2005 April - First section of Axum obelisk, looted by Italy in 1937, is returned to Ethiopia from Rome.
Disputed poll
2005 May - Disputed multi-party elections lead to violent protests over months.
2005 August-September - Election re-runs in more than 30 seats: Officials say the ruling party gains enough seats to form a government.

Many were killed in post-election protests in 2005

2006: Report says Ethiopian protesters 'massacred'
2005: High stakes in stand-off
2005 December - International commission, based in The Hague, rules that Eritrea broke international law when it attacked Ethiopia in 1998.
More than 80 people, including journalists and many opposition leaders, are charged with treason and genocide over November's deadly clashes.
2006 May - Six political parties and armed groups form an opposition alliance, the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy, at a meeting in the Netherlands.
Several bomb blasts hit Addis Ababa. No organisation claims responsibility.
2006 August - Several hundred people are feared to have died and thousands are left homeless as floods hits the north, south and east.
Somalia tensions
2006 September - Ethiopia denies that its troops have crossed into Somalia to support the transitional government in Baidoa.
2006 October - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urges Eritrea to pull back the troops it has moved into the buffer zone on the Ethiopian border. The UN says the incursion is a major ceasefire violation.

Campaign In Somalia

2006 November - UN report says several countries - including Ethiopia - have been violating a 1992 arms embargo on Somalia by supplying arms to the interim government there. Ethiopia's arch enemy Eritrea is accused of supplying the rival Islamist administration.
Ethiopia and Eritrea reject a proposal put forward by an independent boundary commission as a way around a four-year impasse over the demarcation of their shared border.
Ethiopian troops enter Somalia, engage in fierce fighting with Islamist controlling large parts of the country and capital. The Islamists disperse.
Somalia invasion
2006 December - Exiled former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam is convicted, in absentia, of genocide at the end of a 12-year trial. He is later sentenced to death.
2007 February - Around 50,000 Somalis have crossed into Ethiopia in the past six months to flee instability at home, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (NHCR) reports.
2007 March - A group of British embassy workers and their Ethiopian guides are kidnapped in the northern Afar region bordering on Eritrea. They are eventually released in Eritrea.
2007 April - Gunmen attack a Chinese-owned oil facility in the south-east Somali region, killing 74 people working there.
2007 June - Opposition leaders are given life sentences over mass protests that followed elections in 2005, but are later pardoned.
2007 September - Ethiopia celebrates the start of a new millennium according to the calendar of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
2007 November - Ethiopia rejects border line demarcated by international boundary commission. Eritrea accepts it.
2008 June - Peace agreement signed between Somali government and rebels provides for withdrawal of Ethiopian troops within 120 days.
2008 July - UN Security Council votes unanimously to end UN peacekeeping mission monitoring disputed border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
2008 September - Celebrations held to mark completion of reassembly of 1700-year-old Axum Obelisk, looted in 1937 during the Italian conquest and returned by Italy in three parts after 2005.
2008 December - Police re-arrest key opposition leader Birtukan Medeksa, who was jailed for her role in the opposition protests after the 2005 polls, and freed under a government pardon in 2007.
Somalia pullout
2009 January - Parliament passes bill banning foreign agencies from work related to human rights or conflict resolution, as well as severely restricting foreign funding for local agencies, in move seen as effort to clamp down on unwanted foreign interference.
Ethiopia formally withdraws forces from Somalia.
2009 June - Ethiopia admits to "reconnaissance missions" in Somalia, but denies re-deploying troops there.
2009 August - Ethiopia, Eritrea ordered to pay each other compensation for their 1998-2000 border war.
2009 September - Chinese firms secure deal to build several hydro-power dams and wind farms.
2009 October - Government says 6 million need food aid, mainly because of drought.
2009 November - Twenty-six found guilty of coup plot.
2009 December - Rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front claim capture of several towns in the east in a month of heavy fighting.
2010 May - Ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) wins huge majority in parliamentary elections, handing PM Meles Zenawi a fourth term. EU observes say the vote "fell short". Opposition leaders demand a rerun.
2010 June - Countries sharing the River Nile fail to resolve their differences on how to use the waters during a meeting in Addis Ababa.
2010 October - Ongoing reports of clashes between government forces and rebels of Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).
Human Rights Watch accuses government of using development aid to suppress political opposition.

Works Cited

BBC News Online. 2001. Timeline: Ethiopia. A Chronology of key events
Retrieved from: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/33/051.html

BBC News Online. 2011. Timeline: Ethiopia A chronology of key events:
Retrieved from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1072219.stm

Bekele, Zenebe. A Preview of Ethiopian Music
Retrieved from: http://www.ethiopians.com/eth_musika.htm

Eyre, Banning. 2006. (Interview) Kay Kaufman Shelemay-Ethiopia: Empire and Revolution
Retrieved from: http://www.afropop.org/multi/interview/ID/107/Kay+Kaufman+Shelemay-Ethiopia:+Empire+and+Revolution

Eyre, Banning. 2005. (Interview) Francis Falceto-Ethiopia: Empire and Revolution
Retrieved from: http://www.afropop.org/multi/interview/ID/106

2011. Ethiopian culture.
Retrieved from: http://www.selamta.net/culture.htm

2010.Traditional Ethiopian Music and Ethiopian Culture.
Retrieved from: http://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/ethiopia-social-manager/read/15231/traditional-ethiopian-music-and-ethiopian-culture

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