Reactions to Beyoncé’s Concert
The American entertainer Beyoncé Giselle Knowles, or Beletu as some has been calling her, has become the talk of the town and a topic for local newspapers headline after she joined the Ethiopian millennium celebration with the concert for 10,000 fans. Though she isn’t the first celebrated pop star to come to Ethiopia, Beyoncé was special among all as she came at the peak of her handsomeness, popularity and top singing ability, which wasn’t always the case with others.
After all, this world-renowned former member of Destiny’s Child has a second solo CD, “B Day,’ that’s gone double platinum; she heads the successful clothing line House of Dereon; and she recently had a starring role in the hit film “Dream girls”, all not unknown in Ethiopia.
And those who attended the concert were not certainly disappointed. Almost all said they had the most amazing time and for those who paid for the ticket it was a money worth spent.
All the local papers that come out this weekend have something to say about her. Ethio-channel, a new Amharic weekly in town, chose to tell the cost of bringing the performer home. It said it took the organizers over six months of hard bargaining to bring her for this night show of less than two hours, at a handsome payment of 9.2 million Br, not to mention the purchase a new built-proof-state-of –the art GM automobile and lodging during here stay here.
Not surprisingly, editors sympathetic to the government use Beyoncé performance to score their political point. The editorial in the Reporter associated the event to the onset of the new Ethiopian millennium that it says has sparked a positive spirit and beginning for Ethiopia.
“Despite the poisonous campaigning of a handful of Diaspora Ethiopians aimed at dissuading foreign entertainers from performing in Ethiopia, famous pop artist Beyoncé actually delivered a memorable performance before a large crowd. Beyonce in fact spoke highly of her Ethiopian fans who she said had delighted her more than the numerous other audiences she had entertained. This is a further demonstration that a renewed spirit is coursing through Ethiopians,” it reads.
Other reporters who have been to the concert wrote their own accounts to take readers ‘through the Beyoncé Experience’.
Consider this account from the Fortune columnist Lulit Amdemariam who admitted going to the concert with the intention of criticizing but got more than what she bargained for.
“Much to my surprise, not only did Beyoncé sing the entire two hours, but she did it accompanied by a spectacular band that ‘put -it -down’. Granted there was an impressive sound system that let the audience hear all the music with crystal clear clarity, but the woman for whom I had no fondness when I walked in impressed me beyond measure when she showed that she could shake her behind that hard and sing beautifully while doing it.
To add glitz to glamour, there were two gigantic screens hanging to either side of the stage just to make sure that you wouldn’t miss a moment of what was going on. Her all-female band included a list of eccentric characters, from a blond dread to a tattooed rocker guitar player that had a killer afro. Two drummers and two pianists performed solos while the divas was off to change from one shiny sexy outfit to the next, but the girls with the guitars did their parts to fill in those gaps magnificently,” wrote Lulit.
Hayal Alemayehu of the Reporter was impressed by what he said was the best concluding act.
The 26 year-old and her dancing group performed Ethiopia’s traditional Dance-the Eskista to Teddy Afro’s Millennium hit ‘Abebayehosh’ a revised version of traditional tune sang by young girls welcoming a new year.
“And did they dance as if they had always known hot to do it. The hall literally went out of control at that point,”he said.
Others commented how her presence overshadowed rapper Ludacris who was unduly disregarded by the press comments.
A certain columnist Yelibenwork Ayele, observed that it was only the name Beyoncé that was heard everywhere in town and Ludacris was eclipsed. Did he perform on Saturday evening? He asked.
Bur her performance also brought some clashes with conservative elements of the mainstream culture and some commentators thought her too aggressively sexual and threatening for the Habesha sensibility.
Girma Feyissa in his weekly column, View from Arada in the Fortune described what he saw on TV as Beyoncé had started rocking her first song clad in a super-mini skirt, showing her named thighs and shaking her hips in a suggestive movement before the light in his TV screen went off.
But what he found more annoying was the idea that the singer had an audience with not only the president of the country, but also the head of the Orthodox church, his holiness Abune Paulos,
“The singer is a celebrated artist, not an angel saint from Heavens come to bless the country. People do not see any special reason for deacons and priests to chant on their behalf,’ he said.
A letter to the Editor in the popular Amharic weekly, Addis Admass carries similar concern. “While granting her all the respect and admiration she deserves, the excessive attention Beyoncé has received, most of all in the church, is taking things too far. It borders on the sacrilegious on the part of the church clerks to go out of their way. It is a blatant disregard for the sensibilities of the faithful who may have every right to reject what they may consider as the defilement of sacred ground, it reads.
Addis Neger, a newly launched Amharic weekly, wondered if the nation wasn’t belittling itself by according all the adulation to a certain entertainer who is only after money.
“Why all this fuss when she is simply performing with the financial dividence in mind? After all, she isn’t doing this to offer free entertainment for the ‘poor Ethiopians’. We shouldn’t forget that she would come anywhere, as long as she is paid to, be it Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzanya,” said Addis Neger.
For Alemayehu Seife Selassie of the Sub-Saharan Informer, the deal was more than having one hip hop artist’s visit.
“It was about building a postive image,a goal that has been talked about for many months.” he said.
But the Addis-based English weekly, Guardian, doesn’t buy any of this.In fact, he mocked at any talk of the siginificance of the superstar’s coming to Ethiopia in boosting the country’s image.
“How would the world change its idea of a country because a very rich and expensive rocker hits the stage in a poor country once in a while?
If stereotypes changed with an all night music concert by some of the most famous stars in the international hall of fame, I think Egyptians belly dancers or Cuban samaba artists would have made their respective countries look like something akin to the Garden of Eden,” observes the paper.
But the responses, whether positive or negative, hint the importance the Ethiopian public gave to this girl they call Beyoncé who came from the far side of the Atlantic.