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Saving the Begena

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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)

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Categories: Music
  1. ETENU
    May 10, 2009 at 7:59 pm | #1

    So proud to hear we are working to preserve our string instruments. I wish I could join them and practice. I will definitely support such groups.

  2. May 13, 2009 at 4:33 am | #2

    This caught me by surprise indeed. I had assumed that Ethiopians were losing interest in tradtional instruments but I have been wrong. I had attempted to establish a museum of Begena a number of years ago in collaboration with Felege Birhan School at Entoto and Ato Tadesse after noticing that many Begenas were being carried away by tourists and Ethiopians just to end up on the walls of residences or Restaurants around the world. Ato Tadesse attempted and worked hard but there was no interest at all by Ethiopians and the Begenas continue to go out of the country. I hope that the old Begenas left remaining in the country will be saved otherwise these “Organic” Begenas will indeed go extinct if not the tradition on how to play them. Also some Begenas have ten strings while others have twelve.

  3. Lakew
    May 18, 2009 at 9:23 am | #3

    I am extremely delighted to learn that ”Mahibere-kidusan” is still doing its best to preserve he almost forgotten Ethiopian treasure. I do believe that these blessed sons and daughters of our country are messengers of the Lord to lay the ground for our natinal rennaissance. Every honest Ethiopian should stand by their side and help them with what ever he can.

    I promise to contribute my share pretty soon. God bless you all, keep on the spirit of rennaissance.

  4. Abebe Mengistu
    June 27, 2009 at 5:49 pm | #4

    I don’t know how to explain my feeling,I was planned to learn before 4 year when i was in university and i can’t continue because of access,I think now this curriculum may help me.really I want to appreciate Mahbere Kidusan.
    may god bless Mahibere kidusan all over the world

  5. Abebe Mengistu
    June 27, 2009 at 5:50 pm | #5

    I don’t know how to explain my feeling,I was planned to learn before 4 year when i was in university and i can’t continue because of access,I think now this curriculum may help me.really I want to appreciate Mahbere Kidusan.
    may God bless Mahibere kidusan all over the world

  6. harer zenabu
    September 28, 2009 at 6:18 am | #6

    It is good to preserve the traditional instruments , so keep it up.

  7. October 1, 2009 at 11:55 am | #7

    to all ethiopian orthodox tewahdo church followers! you are invited to join dn. Mulugeta’s site called http://www.thetruthfighter.net

    thanks!

  8. wub
    January 19, 2010 at 6:53 pm | #8

    am so glad that my school is online.I got lesson for like 1,5 month by my Begena teacher.since i live outside of ethiopia i had to stop.but i took my lovely begena with me.now i have to straggel to keep practicing what my teacher thought me.Am going,if it is Gods wil, to ethiopia next year for further begena lesson.I just cant get enough of it.

  9. February 19, 2010 at 1:34 pm | #9

    I want to listen your interesting Begena song, I ‘m realy interested to listen it in this fasting season.

  10. Berhanu
    March 3, 2010 at 6:22 pm | #10

    I’m a big fan of Begena. People with class play such a marvelous and celestial instrument. King of Kings, Queens, nobels and aristocrats as well as average citizens used to play this heavenly instrument.

  11. March 10, 2010 at 8:30 pm | #11

    hi thank you for this post!!! do you know a website,blog or any links for this school in addis? if so could you replay her or email me write on my blog…thank you

  12. Berhanu
    March 11, 2010 at 12:49 pm | #12

    http://www.temesgen.com/

    check out Temesgen, for those who lives in the states.

  13. July 19, 2010 at 5:08 am | #13

    This is good news. I only recently discovered the begena but the instrument has fascinated me ever since. I’ve been frustrated by a lack of information available and can only pray that the future will bring more focus on this amazing lyre.

  14. Betelhem Asegid
    December 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm | #14

    oh i love this spiritual song very much. and i want to song it if it is from God

  15. Nebiyou
    February 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm | #15

    i liked the Begena instrument ever since i was a child and i love the spiritual songs with it and i want to learn to play the instrument pleas help!!!!

  16. March 1, 2012 at 7:06 pm | #16

    New information on the begena is very difficult to find in the United States. I hope to see updates soon.

  17. Weldegerima
    March 17, 2012 at 1:26 pm | #17

    it is tremendous effort to save the precious instrument from our “Betekrstiyan”. I am happy to see people interested in the instrument and I hope that one day i will have access for the training. God Bless You. thank you.

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