Poetry will have a place at the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity, the precursor to today’s African Union. Award-winning Ethiopian-British performance poet and playwright Lemn Sissay is in town and he will be performing at different venues in Addis Ababa for the for the celebration of the Golden Jubilee.
The first event will take place on Wednesday, 22 May at the National Theater, where the poet will be performing selections from his internationally acclaimed works. Beweketu Seyoum and Ephrem Seyoum will be supporting him for the event. Read more…
Debebe Seifu (1950-2000), the late Ethiopian poet and academician, wrote poems exploring topics ranging from struggles of the working class to the great imponderable such as beauty and truth. A warrior for truth, Debebe’s poems ring with a remarkable sincerity. His major themes were the creative impulse, power dynamics, greater self-awareness, and the clash between the artist and the values of a philistine society. Debebe, who studied English literature at the Addis Ababa University at Master’s level, taught at the same university — all the while balancing his academic life with his writing. He wrote most of his poems in Amharic and he translated a couple of them into English, though they remained unpublished. Here is one of his poems entitled, “We are now writing dirges”.
The fire blazing
Its tongue flowering
Called on us
To wrap ourselves
With its flaming scarves
But you and me
Warmth-proof that we were
Began to write dirges
With left-over cinders
On a tablet
Of tear-gray ashes
It’s Friday, as good a day as any for an incisive Amharic poem by Yohannes Admasu (1927-1975) about a man interrupted during the act of contemplation. He is sitting in a contemplative mood in a solitary room, listening to sad and melancholic music. A cigarette between his fingers, the smoke has become his companion, so he says. The music and the smoke set him in a mood to release his inner feelings, the echoes of the heart. The following lines convey cloudiness with references to blood and poison. While in the middle of that inner search, there came an unwelcome knock at the door. The beauty of the smoke and the rhythm of the music are brought to a standstill. I liked the poem because of the way it evokes the man’s inner search and celebrates contemplation, silence, solitude.
A restored classic recording of the acclaimed Ethiopian musician and vocalist Azmari Tessema Eshete was reissued last month by the French label Buda Musiques.
The luxuriously restored and compiled CD was part of the 27th edition of éthiopiques, historic recordings made by Azmari Tessema in Berlin 100 years ago. This was the first ever Ethiopian music to be recorded.
This recently reissued CD was a collaborative effort of Tadele Tessema, Tessema’s grandson and French music producer Francis Falceto. This project has also gained the support of UNESCO as well as the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and the Alliance Ethio-Française.
Negadras Tessema’s songs are accompanied by the mesenqo, a one-stringed lute. The very first Ethiopian lyrics ever to have been recorded, they are mainly in Amharic, with two songs in Geez, and one in Amharic with some lines in Arabic. Read more…
Ethiopian music star Tewdros Kasahaun (fondly called Teddy Afro) has recently read number of poems that he has written while he was in Kaliti Prison. The poems were mostly personal observations, reflections and meditations and have some prominent people as their subjects.The following Amharic poem that came out in today’s edition of Kumneger magazine criticizes some people who were trying to make a scandal out of the renowned writer Sebhat Gebregziabher’s marriage to a girl much younger than him.”Enkuan” which literally means “So what?” is a word that Sebhat often makes use of when people confronts him with accusatory remarks.
The selection of the poems will appear in a book coming out soon.
(Addressed to Christian missionaries of the world)
by Dr. Hailu Araaya
When the last trumpet shall have sounded
And all men shall have risen from the dead,
To the left of the Throne shall assemble a multitude-
Men and women with faces behind masks.
(Masks of arrogant blindness they had worn on earth
And now risen with them to betray them on judgment day).
To this multitude Christ shall say:
I was there,
In everything and everywhere,
But you saw me not. Read more…
It was a surprise and delight to find an English poem written by Dr. Yonas Admassu in “Emergences’, a journal that I came across by chance in a small bookshop. The inside note says that it is the journal of the Group for the Study of Composite Cultures, published by the University of California.
Dr. Yonas is an assistant professor of Amharic literature in the department of Ethiopian Languages and Literatures at Addis Ababa University. In addition to his teaching post, Dr. Yonas produces various criticism and translation works famous for the lucidity and brilliance in both style and content. Yet he has also some poems to his credit.
I’ve already posted a poem that he has translated from Amharic before and once again I am taking the liberty of posting his whole poem here.
The poem, one could safely say, establishes a clear, precise prose standard and is accessible and plainspoken. He describes of his walk to the cemetery where he says has discovered a “solitary figure upon which sat the noble ideas of an old friend” and to his grandmother’s tukul where he says saw a snail “patiently leaving a trail of life” and a moth “dancing about to an inaudible rhythm”.
Lament of A Prodigal Son
In my mind’s mind,
hovering some thirty thousand feet
above neatly arranged patches of brown and green,
I tried to recreate the bits and pieces
of an unfulfilled vow,
and landed with a limping imagination.