GGNFT (Ethiopia Edition): Teddy Afro

By Cathleen Falsani 10-12-2012 | Series:

Teddy Afro in 2009

God Girl's New Favorite Thing for Oct. 12, 2012:
Ethiopian Pop Star Teddy Afro

ADDIS ABABA — Pretty much everywhere we've gone in Ethiopia this week, we've heard Teddy Afro's voice.

The 36-year-old Ethiopian singer whose given name is Tewodros Kassahun or ቴዎድሮስ ካሳሁን in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia, is sometimes referred to as the "Michael Jackson of Ethiopia." But, to my ear at least, he's more the equivalent of, say, Ethiopia's Usher (if he were more political, that is.)

Afro's debut album, 2001's Abugida, spawned several hit singles, including "Halie Selassie" (his tribute to the late Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie I), and "Haile, Haile," which honored Ethiopian Olympic runner Haile Gebrselassie.

It was his third album, 2005's Yasteseryal, the release of which coincided with a national election in Ethiopia, seems to have put him on the map and squarely in the crosshairs of some members of the government. Its themes of peace, unity, social justice and true political reform managed to irritate some politicans than the government banned four songs from Yasteseryal.

http://youtu.be/oUIl6JKqqz4

Afro has a new album out called Tikur Sew (the Amharic for a "black person") that's getting a lot of play over here. It's his first new album since his arrest, trial and imprisonment on hit-and-run manslaughter charges in 2008 — charges that many maintain were spurious and politically motivated. The singer served a little more than a year of a six-year sentence before an appeals court released him for good behavior.

The video for the title track of his new album, Tikur Sew, is "based on the historical Battle of Adwa (March 1, 1896) in which Ethiopian forces, under the leadership of Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taytu Betul, defeated the invading Italian army and secured Ethiopian sovereignty," according to its official English description on YouTube.

http://youtu.be/IuyfK7NLosY

Afro's music is can be catchy and kitschy, or controversial and thought-provoking. Afro is an iconoclast that way — an iconoclast with a voice and beats that will make you want to drop it like it's hot.

I'll leave you with Afro's tribute to Bob Marley (and dare you not to chair dance at least a little bit.)

http://youtu.be/YI_rIy5Zp0g

Cathleen is Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners. Follow Cathleen on Twitter @GodGrrl. Cathleen is traveling in Ethiopia this week as an expense-paid guest of the ONE Campaign on a listening-and-learning visit to programs and organizations that work primarily with women and girls. Learn more about ONE Moms and the Ethiopia trip HERE. Watch for Cathleen's tweets (and those of her ONE Moms traveling companions) on Twitter with the tag #ONEMOMS.

Read more of Cathleen's posts from her Ethiopian journey by clicking on the links below.

Ethiopia: The Face of God

Ethiopia: Motherhood is Powerful, Precious

Ethiopia: God Is Even Bigger Than We Think

Photo credit: Ethiopian pop singer Teddy Afro performs during a concert in Addis Ababa on October 11, 2009. Fresh from his prison cell, the singer known as Ethiopia's Michael Jackson who has managed to upset the country's government, delighted tens of thousands of fans with his benefit concert for street children on October 11. Photo by PETER DELARUE/AFP via Getty Images.

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