Saving the Begena
It is often said that one of Ethiopia’s sacred musical instruments, Begena is on the verge of disappearing. But the recent interest and enthusiasm for the instrument is proving it untrue.
Around 53 people recently graduated from the Abune Gorgorioys School, a school under Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church’s Sunday School, Mahbere Kidusan.The graduation ceremony drew friends, family and church officials who were able to see the musical progress of students with the pieces they performed. It is doubtable that the singers could dupicate the style of the established players like Alemu Aga, but they were impressing the audiences at the ceremony.
On the occasion, it was announced that the EOC has just developed a music education curriculum in accordance within the musical canons of the church.The curriculum set by Mahbere Kidusan is being tested at some schools and would be fully operational next year.
Deacon Wasyhun said that the well-rounded curriculum is a useful educational repertoire that would be used in the church and schools affiliated to it.Others courses of study included, stringed instruments, Masinqo, voice and Geez language. Some of the students were trained for three-months and other for six.
The Deacon told the graduates that it is reward for them to serve the Holy Church after getting good teaching and liturgical direction from qualified and dedicated teachers. “All Orthodox followers should be brought to understand and to appreciate the treasury of church music, both by performing it and by listening to its performance,” he said.
Alemu Aga, who attended the graduation ceremony, said that the instrument is mainly used to praise God. He said that playing the lyre was one of the gifts God gave to David. Thus, the Ethiopian Begena replicate David’s legendary harp and it has 12 strings that are plucked with fingers, according to Alemu.
Stating the significance of this God-given, holy instruments, Alemu recalled how begena lesson came to be given at Entoto Amha Desta School by person called Aleqa Tesema Wolde Amanuel but discontinued by the Derg.
Alemu said seeing more and more young people taking the up the instrument is giving comfort.
(Photo Courtesy of Shambel Tilhaun, editor-en-chief of Sima Tsadik, newspaper)