Traditional / folk music of Ethiopia
Ethiopia and it's folk music and culture has a long step in the history of civilization. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa never to have been colonized. It can be said that it is one of the most unique folk music and also culture in the world. Folk music of Ethiopia is consist of many type music instruments with thousands years old which survived through the history. The music and culture of Ethiopia has been influenced by christian-ism, Islam, jewism and also Afros.
Ethiopia has diverse number of ethnic groups ( more thank 75 ethnic groups ). Each ethnic group has it's own traditional music and sounds.These folk musics have tighten with other cultured aspect of each ethnic group like dances, clothes, spirituality, wars and ... .
About their music theory
Unique character and sound of Ethiopian folk music comes from a pentatonic modal system, with strange and long interval between the notes. For the modern ears nowadays, this will be more strange and tasty when this music played with western instruments.
The music from highlands of Ethiopia has a modal system called qenet which consist of four main modes: tezeta, bati, ambassel, and anchihoy. It also contain three additional modes: tezeta minor, bati major, and bati minor. Some songs has the same name with it's qenet. For example tizita or tezeta. The meaning of the tizita is nostalgia. This type of folk songs usually compared with the blues in western music. On the list of songs below you can listen to different variation of this mode with Ethiopian music instruments and also western instruments.
A little bit more about history
The first recordings of folk music of Ethiopia and popularizing it, happened during the time of Emperor Haile Selassie. In 1924 he had a diplomatic tour to Europe but he started his travel with Jerusalem. Because every respected Ethiopian should visit and be pilgrim to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem he met a marching band of young Armenian orphans. He was impressed by this band and made a deal to send them to Ethiopia and to form a military music band. This was the seed of early recording for other early Ethiopian musicians like Tilahoun Gessesse, Neway Debebe, and Ethiopia’s most famous musical artist, Mahmoud Ahmed. The same as many other African countries ( or even Asian countries ), military was a place to grow and develop folk music into popular music or receiving of western modern instruments and combine it with folk music instruments and harmony.
The traditional music instruments of Ethiopia are diverse and as it is mentioned they have thousands years old, some of them which can be mentioned here are masinko, the krar, the washint, the begena, the kebero, and the tom-tom.
The masinko is a single-stringed instrument that is used in many parts of the country specially in the highlands. It is kind of fiddle style instrument which is made by tail of horse. It is widely play by young and old people from amateur to professionals and used in restaurants and bars.
The krar is another famous traditional instrument in Ethiopia. It is kind of lyre with five instruments. It usually decorated with woods, cloths and beads.
Another folk instrument is begena which is Ethiopian harp. It is used for spiritual purposes.
The washint is wind instrument (bamboo flute) which mostly used in highlands and by shepherds. Originally it is used by Amhara and Tigray people.
The traditional music of Ethiopia is huge and diverse. If you have more information about folk music of Ethiopia, it's genres or instruments or you know specific songs on each genre, please kindly contact us and let us know about it. Also if you see any wrong information about the song tags on the list below please kindly let us know.
Traditional / folk songs for Ethiopia
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