Ethiopia: Teddy Afro's New Album Stirs Up Online Discussion

The release of a highly anticipated Teddy Afro’s new album, Tikur Sew, which can literally be translated as “A Black Person,” has stirred up discussion online. Tikur Sew is a homage to King Menelik II, whose victory over the Italians at the Battle of Adwa in 1896 made him a pride of Africa.

The lyrics of the song, which are written both in Amharic and Afan Oromo, are loaded with the history of Ethiopia’s Battle of Adwa, a topic that is seldom sung by Ethiopian musicians.

One of Ethiopian music Facebook pages writes:

Teddy Afro's new song is spreading like a wild fire in a street….love is in the air, in the streets of Addis……simply wow…………Teddy is the man……

Other discussions are taking place on Teddy Afro Facebook fans page, which has over 65,581 likes.

Teddy Afro in concert. Photo of Flickr user ALEMUSH released under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) .

Teddy Afro in concert. Photo of Flickr user ALEMUSH released under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) .

Another fan posts an extended note [am] on his page:

ዛሬ ለሕዝብ ጆሮ የደረሰው የቴዲ አፍሮ አልበም እጄ ከገባበት ቅጽበት አንስቶ እያንዳንዱን ሙዚቃ እስካሁን ቢያንስ ስምንት ስምንት ያህል ግዜ (በኃይማኖቷ ምክንያት ሙዚቃን አርም ካለችው እናቴ ጋር እየተነታረኩም ቢሆን) አጣጥሜዋለሁ ፤ በቶሎም የምረካ (የምሰለች) አይመስለኝም፡፡ በተለይ “ጥቁር ሰው” እና “ደስ የሚል ስቃይ” የሚሉት ስራዎች (ላለማጋነን ከሃያ ግዜ በላይ ደጋግሜያቸዋለሁ) የሚገርም እርካታ ፈጥረውብኛል፡፡
ሆኖም ያልተሞከረ ታሪካዊ ዳራ እና ወኔያማ አቀራረብ ይዞ ብቅ ያለው “ጥቁር ሰው” በተሰኘው ስራ ውስጥ የተወሱት (የተወደሱት) የኢትዬጵያ አርበኞች ማንነት (በብሄረተኛ ኦሮሞዎች ዘንድ ስለአርበኞቹ ውስጥ ውስጡን ያለው ውዝግብና ቅያሜን ማለቴ ነው) እንዲሁም አርበኞቹ ከተወደሱባቸው ስንኞች መኸከል የተወሰኑት
(ለምሳሌ …
“”…አድዋ ሲሄድ ምንሊክ “ኑ” ካለ
አይቀርም በማሪያም ስለማለ
ታዲያ ልጁ ምን አለ?
“ወይ” …
“ወይ” ሳልለው ብቀር ያኔ
እኔን አልሆንም ነበር እኔ
እኔን አልሆንም ነበር እኔ
እኔን አልሆንም ነበር እኔ…”)
…የሚሉት ስንኞች ለድርብ ፍቺ (MISINTERPRETATION) የተጋለጡ መሆናቸው ለታሪካዊና ፖለቲካዊ ክርክር ብሎም ቶሎ ለሚከስም ውዝግብ (ከላይ ከጠቀስኳቸው ብሄረተኛ ኦሮሞዎች ጋር) መንገድ እንደሚከፍቱ ከወዲሁ እየተሰማኝ ነው፡፡

የሆነው ሆኖ የቴዲን በሳል እና ወኔያማ ስራ ተከትሎ በርዕሰ-ጉዳይ ላይ አይቀሬ ሆኖ እየተሰማኝ ያለው እሰጥ-እገባ እንዲሁም በጉጉት የምጠብቀው የቴዲ ምላሽ (ሁሌም የምናውቀው አይነት ቀና እና አስታራቂ አንዳንዴም ብልጣብልጥ ምላሾቹን ማለቴ ነው) የኋላኋላ ለብሄራዊ አንድነትና መግባባት መንገድ እደሚደለድሉ ገና ካሁኑ ልበሙሉነት እና ደስታን ፈጥረውብኛል፡፡ ታሪክን ለመስራት ደፋር መሆን ካለብን ይሄ በቂ አብነት ይመስለኛል፡

I am super glued to just this minute ever since the release of Teddy’s new album. I have listened to all tracks for at least five times each and yet I am not satisfied with them all. Above all I am impressed with Tikur Sew and Des Yemil Sikay. Tikur Sew is overloaded with a praise of Battle of Adwa patriotic martyrdoms without hyperbole I have tuned to it over and over again for at least twenty minutes.But I am afraid this daring and hardly ever lyrical effort might get misread by jingoistic Oromo nationalists whose sentiment towards King Menelik II is so distant. Along with other eulogies of patriotic martyrdoms of Adwa that are open to connotative implications that can stir transient controversy among Ethiopians. Let me give example of such lyrics from Tikur Sew track:When Menelik called up on us
We will be with him forfeiting what it takes!
Hence, what did his lad declare?
Your majesty!
Yes! We will be with you as you have sworn with St.Merry
Yes! Your majesty!
Yes, Your majesty! Without your call
I wouldn’t be who I am today!
Yes, Your majesty! Without your call
I wouldn’t be who I am today!
I wouldn’t be who I am today!

I am looking forward to hear Teddy’s intelligent and shrewd response to the foreseeable controversies regarding his Album. But I feel his attempt will positively put in an element for building a common national identity. Besides, he sets an exemplary effort for courage and wisdom!

Markos, an Ethiopian blogger and Global Voices Author, lists 5 reasons why you need to buy Teddy Afro's album:

1. His songs invoke emotions

Artists should invoke emotions and Teddy Afro is very good at it. He takes Asmera to Addis; for most people still don’t believe that Ethiopians and Eritreans are two different nations. He invokes emotions about the social challenges what Ethiopians have in the country and outside the country. He sings about equality and unity. I would also expect that he would invoke emotions in this new album.

2. He is an activist

Activism is barely accepted in Ethiopian society let alone with the government. It is great that there are many online activists right now, thanks to social media! But the in the society at large most activists are driven by their political parties not in their own philosophies. Teddy’s activism comes out of himself. His new album titled “tikur sew” [am], Black Person. I expect that he will exercise activism in his new album.

However, Befeqe does not think that Afro is an activist. In his blog post he responds to Markos [am] explaining why he does not need to buy Afro's album:

ይህንን መንግስት እና ይህንን ኑሮ አላማረረም (I don’t want art for the sake of art)
‹እንዴ ቴዲ እኮ ዘፋኝ ነው?› ካላችሁ፣ እንዴ እስክንድርም እኮ ጋዜጠኛ ነው እላችኋለሁ፤ ‹እንዴ ቴዲን እኮ እያሰሩት ነው?› ካላችሁ፣ እንዴ እስክንድርንም እኮ ከሰባቴ በላይ አስረውታል እላችኋለሁ፡፡ ‹የፈለገውን አቋም መያዝ፣ ማራመድ ወይም አለማራመድ አይችልም እንዴ?› ካላችሁ ግን እስማማለሁ ግን ባያስጀምረን ነበር፡፡ የምርጫ 97 ሰሞን ጥዑም ፖለቲካ ዘፍኖ ከዘፋኝነት ወደነፃ አውጪነት ካሸጋገርነው በኋላ ማፈግፈጉ ያኔ የሕዝቡን ትኩሳት ተንተርሶ ሊጠቀምብን ነበር ማለት ነው? ያኔ ተቃዋሚዎች ተስፋ አላቸው ከነርሱ ልወዳጅ ብሎ ነበር ማለት ነው? ዛሬ ድንገት ተነስቶ ‹የለም! ኢትዮጵያ ውስጥ እየተካሄደ ያለውን ነገር አላየሁም፣ አልሰማሁም› ቢል እኔም አልሰማውም፡፡

As a matter of fact Teddy did speak nothing about this government and hyper inflation in the country and I don’t want art for the sake of art! Some of you might say Teddy is just a singer and he is not expected to reflect upon these issues. I say to you Eskinder Nega is just a journalist. For those of you who say Teddy was jailed, I say to you Eskinder Nega is jailed for more than seven times. For those of you who argue that he has a right to hold any opinion, I would have agreed with you had Teddy was initially apolitical singer. Remember, we endorsed Teddy as redemption singer during a contentious 2005 election with highly politically charged songs. Why he has turn out to be apolitical singer now? Did Teddy had a desire to use the anti-government sentiment of 2005 for his personal benefit? Was he swinging towards the day’s zeitgeist? Now I will not agree with Teddy as he has grown too neutral.

But Zelalem Kibret, a blogger residing in Addis Ababa, looks at Teddy’s song in a different in a post titled “Ethiopian History 101 By Teddy Afro”:

The New Teddy Afro album is amazing as always has been and I prefer to give my reflection on the title of the album called ‘Tikur Sew’.

In Tikur Sew Teddy tries to give a history lesson for Ignorants but, not in a conventional way rather in a new & lovable way.

1. E pluribus unum , Out of Many, One

The first thing that I found Interesting in ‘Tikur Sew’ is Its mentioning of different Patriots & war lords who plays pivotal role in the battle of Adwa, from different Ethnic Group :

❥ First It mention Dejazmach Balcha Aba Nefso, an Oromo patriot

❥ Then Emperor Minilik ( Aba Gagnaw) , from Shewa, Amhara

❥ The Next is Fitawrari Habte Giorgis Dinagde ( Aba Mela ) , a Gurage Patriot

❥ It is Ras Mengesha Yohannes, Tigrian Patriot ( The son of Emperor Yohannes IV from Tigray) turn to be mentioned and followed by.

❥ Ras Alula Engida, another Tigrian Patriot,

An exiled satirist blogger Abe Tokichaw also posts [am] a rejoinder to the discussion:

ለእምዬ ምንሊክ የተዘፈነው ጥቁር ሰው! ኢህአዴግ ይበልጡንም ደግሞ ህውሃት ሚኒሊክን እንዴት አድርገው እንደጠመዷቸው ልብ ስል አደዋ ላይ ሚኒሊክ ድል የነሱት ጣልያንን ሳይሆን ህውሃትን ነበር እንዴ? ብዬ እጠይቃለሁ። ባለፈው ግዜ እምዬ ምኒሊክን ክፉኛ የሚያንጓጥጥ መፅሐፍ ከህውሃት ወዳጆች አንዱ የሆኑ ሰው አሳትመው ነበር። በዛ ላይም እንዳየነው ከኢህአዴግ ወላጅ አባቶች አንዱ የሆኑት አቦይ ስብሀት ፀሐፊውን “እጅህ ይለምልም!” ብለው ከሞካሹ በኋላ በሚኒሊክ ላይ ዘመቻው እንደሚቀጥል ተናግረው… “ጥቁር ሰው” ሙዚቃ አፄ ሚኒሊክን ድጋሚ ያነገሰ ቢባል ይገባዋል። አሁን እንግዲህ ሰሞነ ቴዲ አፍሮ ገብቷል።

Tikur Sew” a tribute to King Menelik II. I have been always wondering why EPRDF especially TPLFites (the ruling party) are so sentimental against King Menelik II and victory of Adwa? Sometimes I tend to ask did Menelik win TPLFites or the Italians. Last time one of the TPLFites published a book lampooning King Menelik and his stab on King Menelik was lauded by one of TPLF father Sebehat Nega. He also vowed to continue similar kind of effort against King Menelik. …Anyway I believe “Tikur Sew” has recoroneted. Now is the time for Teddy!

The question is whether Teddy Afro's music will be censored. Gezahegn Teji, an Ethiopian who has written a thesis on music censorship in Ethiopia, challenges the practice of music censorship in light of the Ethiopia’s Constitution which forbids of any form of censorship:

Officials, journalists, DJs, music editors, lobbying and religious groups, and music producers are found to be active agents censorship. Music is censored to circumvent retribution, to satisfy bosses and to be perceived as caretakers of “government’s ideology”. Hence, self-censorship overrides other types of censorship, i.e. official, unofficial, and market censorship.

De Birhan’s blog reports that the album might have been “censored”:

As the Ethiopian music audience eagerly awaits the release of Tewordos Kassahun’s aka Teddy Afro’s new album “Tikuer Sew” meaning Black Person rumour has been circulating in the city of Addis Abeba that the album might have been “censored’’from being distributed. No authentic source could verify this.

Teddy Afro is one of the leading young singers in Ethiopian music scene. He was accused of hit-and-run manslaughter and was imprisoned for six years in 2008. The appellate court reduced his sentence to two years in February 2009. However, Afro was released from prison eight months early on account of good behaviour. Ethiopian activists maintain that his imprisonment was a result of political nature of his music.


  • Bravo, Endalk! Another great piece. It is amazingly comprehensive and start completely a whole of discussion again on Teddy Afro’s songs.

  • me here

    Fit Habte Giorgis Dinegde is part oromo, part Gurage and ALL ETHIOPIAN.

  • me here

    Albert Einstein once defined Insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. The Governments of Ethiopia(an Eritrea for that matter) are so clueless it’s not even funny. If they censor they will make something even more popular. I don’t understand why they don’t learn from the past. It’s like their heads are filled with rocks or something.

  • meronmamo

    እንዳልክ ይመችህ አቦ!!

  • Lovejones

    The history of the Oromos and Atse Menelik, to say the least, was atrocious. So using Afan Oromo in praising Atse Menilik is an Oxymoron.

  • habtemichael abrham

    wow tikur sew really its pasioneted music by teddy afro that motivate peaple of ethiopia and africa to work hard to love each ather ,it advice you endurance hope .even for the governer of african it gives or shows a way to do god things ,forgivness and tolerance for the citizen even for other nations throught their governance ‘yeyazkut tikur afer westu arengade
    lemin rabew hode’ it just give an assignment for the governers and peaples of black

  • teddy is the real messiah

  • abel

    you can follow my recent popular blog about teddy on the following link

  • ali hassen

    wawwww i love this song & love 4 tedi

  • biqila

    Teddy Afro  is really gloryfing  BUTCHER MENELIK who  MASSACRED more than 5,000000 Oromo people in 1980s
    Another of Ethiopians brutal tyrant and mass butcher is Emperor Menelik who receives endless glorification form past and present Habasha Asmaris. Menlik is notoriously known in Abyssinia and around the world for mutilation of breast and hands of innocent Oromo nationals at Chalanko and Hanole in Oromia. Europeans called him the greatest slave trade entrepreneur ever known in Africa. He personally sold Ethiopians of black skin to Arab slave traders. In addition he generated income by taxing other slave traders in Ethiopia who sold millions of non-Abyssinian Ethiopians to Arab slave merchants.

    It is only human for Teddy to sing about the suffering of those who were sold to slavery. It is right if Teddy condemn the misery to which Menelik and other slave traders subjected millions of children, women and young people from all corners of Ethiopia. What about the human dignity of those millions of Ethiopians who were sold to Arab slave traders? How about Oromo mothers whose breasts were cut off by Menelik and his army? How about the millions of Oromo men whose right hands were cut off after they surrendered to Meniliks army? How is that a son of Ethiopia, who lives in 21 century praise a butcher and slave traders like Menelik II?

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