Teddy Afro’s album launch stopped by police

Ethipian pop star Teddy Afro
Ethipian pop star Teddy Afro says police demand for permit ridiculous

Authorities in Ethiopia have stopped singer Tewodros Kassahun, popularly known as Teddy Afro, from launching his much-acclaimed album, Ethiopia.

A BBC reporter says federal police showed up at the hotel in Addis Ababa hours before the party and stopped Teddy’s sound team from setting up.

His manager told the BBC that they are yet to get official reasons why the launch party was cancelled.

Teddy’s 15-track album is the fastest-selling album in the country’s history.

Following its release in May this year the album topped the Billboard World Albums chart for weeks.

On his Facebook Page, Teddy Afro has termed the police demand for a permit as ridiculous.

His concert scheduled for the eve of Ethiopian New Year, which falls on 11 September, has also been cancelled in unclear circumstances.

Source: BBC

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Teddy Afro concert cancelled for a third time

teddy afro-playing-piano

Teddy Afro’s New Year’s Eve concert, which was to take place on 10 September at the Addis Ababa’s Millennium Hall has been cancelled again. The artist was reportedly to receive $76 980 (1.8 million birr) from organisers of the event Joy Events and Promotion PLC, which sent an application for the concert in the first week of July.

According to the Addis Ababa Mayor’s Office, the decision was taken to give space to a different Ethiopian New Year’s Eve events which will be also attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemarim Desalegn.

The event’s organisers have announced that Teddy Afro’s concert has been postponed. The new date for the concert is yet to be announced by the event’s organisers.

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Teddy Afro: At the top of his game

Teddy Afro: At the top of his game

Some may link my song on Emperor Tewodros with with what happened in Gondar. However, the song has nothing to do with the unrest.

Tewodros Kassahun (Teddy Afro), Ethiopia’s best selling artist, controversial, often times poetic at all times talented released his long awaited album – Ethiopia – this week. It has since shot to number 1 in Billboard’s World Album chart – a milestone for Ethiopian music. At home, relaxed, uplifting and vulnerable at all the same time, he hosted Samuel Getachew and Dawit Endeshaw of The Reporter as he opened up on his family, career, Ethiopia and what it means for him to be loved by millions of people around the world. Excerpts:

The Reporter: Congratulations Teddy on your new album. Since we saw you four years ago, you have become a second time father. You seem more in love with your wife. How is it different to perform, not just as an artiste, but as a father?

Teddy Afro: The difference is perhaps felt more by others who observe me when I perform. It is true, being a responsible husband and a father has given me a sense of who I am and where I belong. It has changed me. It has helped me become a better person, a better artiste. It has given me a home, a place to belong. It is something to behold. It really has been a blessing and a happy experience for me.

The Reporter: Going to your latest work, inside the album cover, you describe yourself as “Ra’ey” (vision). What exactly are you referring to? Are you referring to yourself having a vision, your country’s vision or something else?

Teddy Afro: As you saw for yourself, I included pictures of my parents, my father, mother and a picture of Emperor Tewodros II. It is to be a remembrance, a memorial. As a child, I called my mother Ra’ey. For me, Ra’ey is to be Ethiopian. Ra’ey is to be given by God. That is what I meant.

The Reporter: Your album is a hit and has given a sentiment value to your fans. You named your album Ethiopia. What does Ethiopia and Ethiopianism mean to you?

Teddy Afro: I have often been asked that question and I have always been frank with my assessment of what it means. I have reflected on it a lot by the way. For me, being Ethiopian is to be free, kind, patient and humble. It is to have and hold on to better ideals for oneself.

The Reporter: The current generation, sees you as the voice of a generation. Even at the beginning, when you released your Abugida album, you were seen as a voice of that generation. The current generation also sees you, as the current generation’s voice. You seem to have a way with every generation. Do you see yourself as the voice of a new generation?

Teddy Afro: I cannot be far from any generation, especially my own generation. I can only reflect on an experience. Mine or others!

The Reporter: Woubshet Werkalemahu, has congratulated you on your interpretation of the iconic book “Fikir Eske Mekabir”. The book is 600 pages. Do you think your interpretation in a four-minute song is inclusive of the message of the book?

Teddy Afro: It’s true, the book is 600 pages and it’s long. I believe I only reflected the main characters in the book, which is the story of Bezabih while he was trying to find Seblewengel. Basically, the song narrates the story of Bezabih from Gojam to Addis Ababa. It talks about when Gudu Kassa helps Bezabih when he tried to find his love. So I have tried to capture this part of the book.

The Reporter: Was there anyone aside from you who was involved in writing the lyrics for the song entitled Fikir Eske Mekabir?

Teddy Afro: No, there wasn’t. I finished both the lyrics and the melody in one night. Then I have made some improvements after. So, except the contribution from the author of Fikir Eske Mekabir itself the song belongs to me.

The Reporter: Some say you’re all over everything. Given your popularity and fame people involved in the music industry always want to work with you. So how are you planning to work and mentor those young producers and musicians who want to be the next Teddy Afro?

Teddy Afro: Well, when I do my music, I always try to use every possible resource at my disposal. I always want and try to work and collaborate with other musicians. I go out of my way to do that. We have tried many times but effort couldn’t go beyond trying.

The Reporter: Speaking of your new album, in one of your songs, which is about Emperor Tewodros II, the style of your voice you used in this song is somehow unique and resembles with the tone of the so called Azmaris. How did you come up with the song and such unique ways to capture the unique voice of an Azmari?

Teddy Afro: I always found myself attracted with such unique and old voices. By the way, it was not the first time that I have played with such tone. Previously, I played the song by Bahru Kangne. So it comes from emotion and compassion. It was not planned. It just happened.

The Reporter: When did you write the song about Emperor Tewodros II?

Teddy Afro: It has been a while since I started to process the song but there were improvements made on the way. It was this year that I have completed the whole song about him.

The Reporter: Some people relate your song on Emperor Tewodros with the recent political unrest that erupted in the city of Gondar. Did you write the song after violence in Gondar?

Teddy Afro: Well…some may link it with what happened in Gondar. However, the song has nothing to do with the unrest. So my answer is; this was not the first time I sung about our emperors and praise them at all the same time.

The Reporter: After the release of your album, we have seen many people lineup to purchase your album. It must be nice to be appreciated and loved by many people.

Teddy Afro: All is because of the grace of God; it is a blessing from the almighty God. But seeing this from my perspective, it is really hard. Having all this acceptance and recognition by itself put a sense of pressure. So I have no words to express my gratitude for the love and acceptance I get.

The Reporter: In a number of times you sang about Emperor Haile Selassie I. Speaking about Emperor, people have different opinion on him. Some consider him as god, others as a prophet and many asking. How do you see him?

Teddy Afro: The amount of grace and knowledge that our forefathers and emperors had is not something that would be easily explained. By their time, our kings were feared and respected by the world. So for me Emperor Haile Selassie I was a very kind leader – a leader who has ruled his country with grace and compassion.

The Reporter: So you see him as an Emperor?

Teddy Afro: Yes

The Reporter: One of your admirers is The Weeknd. He has listed you, along with Aster Aweke and Mulatu Astatke, as his musical heroes. He has said how his mother used to play your songs all the time. Are you open to the idea of working with him?

Teddy Afro: The simple answer is yes. I would be happy. He seems like a nice, decent young man. I met with his family inside a plane. It was indicated to me how much he loves my music. He is a talented artist. The simple answer is yes, I would love to work with him.

The Reporter: There are new artists, in their teenage years, in their twenties who are struggling and want to follow in your footsteps. What advice do you have for them?

Teddy Afro: The first thing is to know your real talent and your own potential. You need to have the right attitude. One has to be able to listen to different kinds of music. Attitude and confidence is the foundation to a great success in art. Build the foundation early. Be a team player.

The Reporter: Your wife is staring in a movie currently in local cinemas. You are both talented artists. Will there be any chance for a collaborative effort for both of you?

Teddy Afro: We have already teamed up (laughs). We worked on the video, for the song, Mar Eske Tuwaf. She was the star, playing Seblewengel and she was also the director. We saw the finished product yesterday and it was beautiful. I expect it to be released very soon.

Source: TheReporterEthiopia

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The hype of Teddy’s new album

tedy-afro-ethiopia-album-hype

The phenomenon created a temporary job opportunity for street vendors who praise the artist with remarks such as Yegna Jegna (our hero)

The release of one of the most acclaimed artist Teddy Afro’s album, entitled “Ethiopia,” definitely is one of the stories that “broke the Internet” (went viral) among Ethiopians and the Ethiopian diaspora.

Various memes, pictures of the artist, verses from the lyrics and reflections from his fans are some of the content social media pages of Ethiopians and those in the diaspora are composed of.

The virtual commotion seems to be shared on the ground, specifically when one considers what is happening on the streets of Addis. Following the release of the album, vendors have been trolling the major thoroughfares displaying the front cover of the album adorned with a photo of the vocalist as they try to lure residents – pedestrian or otherwise – into buying a copy.

The phenomenon created a temporary job opportunity for street vendors who praise the artist with remarks such as Yegna Jegna (our hero). Amusingly, there was a tent around Mexico Square with a framed picture of the artist hanging visibly and huge speakers amplifying the music to passersby. Especially in the morning last Tuesday, demand for the album was high, and the price of a copy went up to 100 birr. Whereas other albums normally sell for 25 birr, the going rate for Teddy’s album is 50 birr.

Some city residents The Reporter approached said that there were amazing scenes such as that of a vendor approaching a taxi full of commuters. The taxi stopped instantly and all of its occupants purchased a copy of the album without hesitation. In addition to the fanfare, the soundscape of Addis changed this week with taxis, private cars, video stores, bars and other establishments playing his music.

tedy-afro-ethiopia-album

Some of the comments include he has committed acts of plagiarism from famous artists, including Paul Simon and Alpha Blondy.

Without exaggeration, the situation is somewhat bizarre in that on top of playing Teddy Afro’s music in a loud stereo, the horn honking and chants of “Teddy Jegna” seem to come across as over-the-top reactions for those who do not have a taste for music or are not his fans. In a café located around Atlas Hotel called Mamo Kacha, The Reporter observed a person sending songs from the album via Bluetooth that he purchased online to friends. In addition to the exchange of music, many people also changed their social media picture into Teddy Afro or that of Teddy Afro with Emperor Tewodros.

This communal participation started with the news of the album release. The single “Ethiopia”, which was highly shared on social media, got more than 2,800,000 viewers.

On the one hand, the song “Ethiopia” was criticized for preaching the grand narrative of Ethiopian nationalism without deconstructing the historical injustice, thereby denying the existence of oppression.

Especially this criticism came from some Oromo “elites” who claimed the grand narrative of Ethiopian nationalism is one of glorification of an “oppressive empire state”. On the other hand, others praised him for calling for unity in an ethnically-divided Ethiopia.

His fans actually go to the extreme length of giving him royal titles, comparing him to the country’s former rulers, including Emperor Tewodros.

His fans do not stop at praising and defending his music talent and lyrical brilliance; but sometimes in a fit of frenzy can go so far as insulting and threatening people who dare criticize him. There were unfair comments that took any critique of Teddy Afro as betrayal, and as a sign of being less than patriotic. This puts him in the picture in the current controversy on the question of nation and nationalities.

Among his devoted fans, there is no gray area when it comes to Teddy Afro’s music and it appears that there is no room for constructive criticism when it comes to the works of this particular artist. Due to such a polarized atmosphere, music critics keep mum and refrain from giving their professional opinions. A couple of music critics openly said they faced various kinds of threat from devotees of Teddy for daring to take a critical look at his works. Scared of the trolling and name-calling, they actually eschewed making any kind of comment about his music.

Renowned bloggers are requested to say “good” vs. “bad” things about his music and they pass judgment depending on their political views.

Within the two days, self-proclaimed critics are dissecting the lyrics, the music arrangement and the inspiration for his songs. Some of the comments include he has committed acts of plagiarism from famous artists, including Paul Simon and Alpha Blondy.

Despite some claiming that the song “Adey” was copied from a song by Alpha Blondy, the album’s music arranger, Abel Paulos, contradicts that and says it was merely inspired by it. Another song was actually credited to Paul Simon by another arranger, but not in the case of Alpha Blondy.

“We did not sample the song (of Alpha Blondy), but rather we used two keys which do not even qualify it for sampling,” Abel notes.

In addition to that, Abel says taking inspiration is a common phenomenon when it comes to reggae music. Talking about the process of producing the album, Abel says they used live instruments, including legendary musicians from Roha Band like Jovani Rico on bass guitar and Selam Seyoum on lead guitar.

Abel, the arranger of nine songs of this album, previously arranged for vocalists such as Tsedenia Gebremarkos on her album “Yefikir Girma”, Abinet Agonafir’s songs such as “Astaraki”, “Yachin Ken” and Gossaye Tesfaye.

Calling it “historical and his proudest moment,” Abel says that Teddy was highly involved in the production of the album.

“Without compromising my creative freedom, he consulted me at every stage. However, many arrangers in the past complain that Teddy dictates what should be in the music. My experience was to the contrary,” Abel adds.

With such memorable songs as “Haileselassie”, “Tarik Tessera”, “Yasteseryal”and “Tikur Sew,” Teddy is widely recognized as an artist who transformed the Ethiopian music scene. Especially after the historical election of 2005, his songs seem to be a voice for those criticizing the status quo.

His music is highly politicized and his every word is analyzed for juicy political tidbits.

One of those examples is the release of his album, which was supposed to be released on Octave day of Easter, was put on hold. One of the reasons given by his fans was Teddy’s resistance to release his album while the state of emergency is still in effect. Contrary to this, his manager, Getachew Manguday, says the release of his album was postponed because of delays in printing the album covers. With a less-than efficient album-distribution system, and music shops struggling to survive due to the ever-declining sale of albums, Teddy Afro’s album distribution seems to proceed smoothly. According to Getachew, they devised a mechanism where the artist sold the album to a company called “Joyous,” that is now responsible for the distribution. Though Getachew did not want to disclose the amount of money the artist made through the sale, there are rumors that it was a seven-digit-figure deal.

According to Getachew, the artist tirelessly worked on the album for the past two years and he is happy with the result. Plans are under way for the artist to hit the road and hold concerts in Ethiopia and overseas.

Source: thereporterethiopia.com

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Teddy Afro’s New Album Holds Fast to His Vision of a Diverse, Yet United Ethiopia

Ethiopian singer Teddy Afro

Ethiopian singer Teddy Afro, who delivered opening remarks at a U.S. Embassy-sponsored workshop for students on the occasion of World Environment Day 2015. Photo by U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa; CC BY-ND 2.0.

Ethiopian singer Tewodros Kassahun’s most anticipated and highly promoted studio album was released to great fanfare at the beginning of May, 2017.

More popularly known as Teddy Afro, his latest album — his fifth — comprises 15 songs of tribute and love that touch on issues of solidarity, reconciliation and the hope of living collectively in a diverse country. The album also includes a song with lyrics in a coded language, which is being interpreted by some as a rebuke to his detractors.

Ever since he caught the public’s attention with his debut album in early 2001, Teddy Afro has been a household name in Ethiopia. He is a melodic singer and prolific songwriter. “Ethiopia”, a single that appeared on his new album, racked up millions of views on YouTube as soon as it was released. His album attracted sales of up to 15 million Ethiopian Birr — a feat that no other Ethiopian singer has ever managed to accomplish — which is telling commentary on his popularity.

The recurring theme in Afro’s albums, is the need to nurture countrywide harmony, unity, and love which transcend ethnic and religious boundaries in his beloved Ethiopia.

Expanding upon this foundation, this latest album solidifies this message, both in thematic content and lyrics. While the album is mainly an Amharic language pop music offering, some segments of lyrics are inserted into his Amharic songs from other Ethiopian languages, such as Afan Oromo, Tigeregna, and Sidama, which all reflect the singer’s philosophy and interests.

He blends his version of reggae with Ethiopian beats, styles, and instruments. His deployment of the sound of mesenqo, a single-stringed Ethiopian bowed lute, which he mixes delicately with acoustic guitar, bass guitar and drums — while he sings in Amharic and Afan Oromo on one of the tracks — is a great example.

The response to Afro’s album has been mixed. Teddy’s fans and detractors either apotheosize or admonish him based on his fame, his lyrical perspective — even his album’s cover art.

His enthusiasts adore him for his genius, while his detractors accuse him of simplifying the complex history of Ethiopia.

Music meets politics

The near-fanatical appreciation for — and opposition to — Afro’s latest album is an indication that, in Ethiopia, music criticism usually melds together with political ideology.

Since the release of the album’s single, “Ethiopia”, three weeks ago, much of the debate on social media has been about the politics of Afro’s songs. He received an unprecedented amount of criticism for being simplistic — penning lyrics that misrepresent the history of Ethiopia, the poetic quality of which, some believe, mixes cliché and nonsense.

As political concerns take priority over the quality of the music, the artistic aspects of Afro’s work are receiving less attention. However, there are some critics who falsely accuse him of recycling melody lines from his earlier albums, or even plagiarizing other people’s songs.

Powerful, yet vulnerable

As much as Afro is a prominent and influential artist, he is also a vulnerable one — producing socio-politically conscious songs while operating in a politically hostile environment. Ethiopian authorities have been known to censor political expressions, whether journalistic or cultural.

Afro was once denied playing a gig in the country’s capital, after authorities refused to issue a permit for the concert. He was also prevented from leaving the country for a concert abroad. In 2014, some individuals campaigned against him to strong-arm a beer company to cancel its sponsorship of Teddy’s national music tour over an alleged “politically insensitive” comment in an unpublished weekly magazine.

In 2005, when he released his second album, Afro was aligned with opposition politics because five of his songs were overtly political. One signature song in particular, “Jah Yastserial” can be read as a call for reconciliation among Ethiopian political opponents, a praise for Emperor Haile Selassie or, most plausibly, a critique of the Ethiopian government for failing to live up to its promise. Many consider this song as a popular anthem of anti-government protesters, as it resonates well with the mood of the post-election political turmoil of the 2005 parliamentary elections.

In 2008, Afro was arrested, charged with a hit and run, taken to jail and held there for almost two years. He denied he committed the alleged crime, and most of his fans claim the allegations are false and politically motivated.

While Afro does not fit the rebellious image of an overtly political singer, he forcefully asserts a collective version of Ethiopian history, culture, and identity, without bowing to pressure to adopt a political posture.

A vision of Ethiopia

In Ethiopian history, the dominant ideology was a national identity based on a shared, yet hybrid cultural and ethnic solidarity, with a modernizing project based on claims of Ethiopia’s 3000 years of “collective memory”. However, this project came to an abrupt stop in 1991, when two decades of civil war ended. The current regime defined “communities” based on their ethnic identity, and reorganized the Ethiopian state structure exclusively based on this — a deliberately administered, radical break with Ethiopia’s past.

Many blame the current regime for the gradual erosion of the shared Ethiopian identity. In what appears to be a response to the government’s over-emphasis on ethnic identity, Afro’s songs pay tribute to early Ethiopian civilization, history, and culture. He praises national figures of the past and considers them as enlighteners. In his latest album, he honored Tewodros II, a 19th century Ethiopian emperor who fought the British. In his fourth album, he did the same for Emperor Menelik II, who defeated the Italians in 1896 at the Battle of Adwa.

His assertion of a shared Ethiopian identity and national pride in an era of ethnic federalism, in which the regime has denied the existence of collective Ethiopian identity, is a potential threat.

For government supporters and ethnonationalists alike, Afro is a familiar villain. His tributes to past Ethiopian leaders and his devotion to “love and unity” represent an old Ethiopia, a defeated ideology.

Nevertheless, he continues to be a magnetic figure for younger generations and exerts a vast influence among his compatriots. Despite claims that Afro’s songs represent a defeated ideology, his albums generate sales on a record scale — and his fan base is passionate enough to overwhelm the Ethiopian internet and send the message that they are taking a relaxing break from repression.

Written by Endalk (Source: globalvoices.org)

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