Home > Music, Uncategorized > Soprano honors Gebrekirstos

Soprano honors Gebrekirstos

Ruth Dunkan who is from Scotland has moved to Addis with her husband and children a year and half ago. Though trained as a high school teacher, she has always enjoyed singing and performing.
Ruth joined Girma Yifrashewa on Thursday night, May 14, 2009 for a wondrous recital at the Italian Cultural Institute held to honor the late Ethiopian poet and artist Gebrekirstos Desta. She performed Girma’s composition “Zimitegna Liboch” (Silent Hearts), written by Getnet Enyew and originally sung by Michael Belayneh. It is a difficult piece, with its long, flowing lines requiring strong vocal technique, and a wide range. But Ruth managed to execute it with elegance and sensitiveness, singing in delightfully articulated Amharic that rang out so clearly in the hall.
How did a Scottish woman come to be part of the Gebrekirstos tribute and did it so adeptly?
I caught up with her for a brief interview.
Ruth’s music training began as a teenager. “I have sung since I was at school. I guess the tradition in the UK and Europe is, you can either go to the popular music roots or classical music roots. And I went to the classical music root,” she says.
She had trainings from various people from different institutes in the UK. ‘Just really enjoyed singing. I’ve always done a bit of performing, along with other things. Mostly I like the kind of what we call Baroque music, which you know, is normally performed with a soloist in the choir. And I really enjoy them. That’s been my main focus.”
Asked how she came to know about Gebre Kirstos, Ruth said, “Really I thought of him before but as an artist. So I’ve never heard of him as poet. And just basically before we came, when you research about a country, about a place, you know we were looking at various artists, the cultural side of things. And really that was how I came across him, it was from the internet. But I knew very little to be honest.”
“I have seen his paintings but only on the internet. Just photographs on the internet,” Ruth added.
She was prompted to join the tribute after Girma proposed it to her. “I met Girma through an amateur music scene here in Addis. I went to hear him play when he played a concert at Sheraton. And I also heard him play just very informal concert in Addis.At one concert, that we met in someone’s house, Girma just approached me and said “You know I’ve written this music” and really what I like about it was, European classical music is very different from Ethiopian music and Girma is bridging that. You know he has the classical training, European classical training. His background, of course, is he is Ethiopian. And it was such nice idea he is really bridging this gap between classical music and Ethiopian music. It is much more accessible to people because of that, because it is not this strange form of music. It is very much for Ethiopian people. I love that idea. Particularly being here as well, for me I want to be involved as much as I can in the culture here. And for me it was great to be involved in something that I could take part on that wasn’t completely foreign for me. Yet was very much Ethiopian. So that really appealed to me,” she says.
Girma has already written this music in a CD in which Michael Belayneh did the vocal.
“He was able to let me hear the music. I have been learning Amharic. It wasn’t easy. Because it is poetry, of course the Amharic is much deeper than the conversational Amharic that I am learning. So it was very much the case of Girma, he was fantastic, really helped me to make sure I was pronouncing everything correctly. And I was trying my best to pronounce things correctly. And also to let me understand the deeper meaning as well what the form was about.”
Describing the public’s reaction, Ruth said “It was lovely, it was kind. I am sure I made a lot of mistakes but I thought everyone was so kind. The atmosphere was very warm, very positive and very supportive of what the poets were saying. I think the atmosphere helped.”
Ruth said she would love to do something more with Girma. “His music is fantastic. For me it is wonderful to hear a piano used for Ethiopian music, plus the style is very classical. He is a fantastic pianist but also I think has a gift in composition as well. I think we will see more of that as he composes more.”

Categories: Music, Uncategorized
  1. May 23, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Красавчег! Пиши исчё!

  2. ETENU
    May 23, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Cederash, What does that mean? Please write in AMARIGNA , FRENCH OR ENGLISH.Are you saying you want to see an Ethiopian face when you opened this page, me tool Gebrekirstos, needs to be honored indeed, I don’t know why I feel like I have to see an Ethiopian face honoring him.

  3. Rahel
    May 25, 2009 at 11:44 am

    what are the Russains saying?
    Google tranlsation doesn’t much help either.

  4. ETENU
    May 27, 2009 at 4:53 am

    Me too, I want to know what the Russians are saying. Any one to interpret out there.

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