Teddy Afro: An ethnocentric con artist in Ethiopia
By Berhane Kahsay
Tigrai Online, July 29, 2017
Teddy Afro’s new album titled ‘Ethiopia’ which had $650,000 recording budget, made him megabucks by securing the first spot on Billboard’s world music chart. This highly political artist also received substantial amount of money from his previous releases which include ‘’Tikur Saw’’, ‘’Abugida’’ and ‘Yasteseraly.’ The pop idol is now filthy-rich and currently resides in a grand house in an exclusive and serene location far from prying eyes. The dodgy driver appears to have a large following among the vocal diaspora which he cleverly utilized to build his music empire and to consolidate his celebrity status.
On the other hand, many acclaimed and up-coming pop artists that do not conform to the regressive political aspirations of the disloyal extremists have been experiencing great difficulties selling their records in addition to facing ongoing and concerted campaigns to boycott their concerts in America, Europe and the Middle-East. Among those affected by this disgraceful action include Asther Aweke, Neway Debebe, Gossaye Tesfaye, Mandingo Afewerk, and Tadele Roba; the last three artists have been coerced to make public apologies for their perceived association with the present government.
It is very sad indeed to witness highly regarded performers who made invaluable contributions to the development of Amharic music being overtly humiliated, and their colleague, Teddy Afro, never uttered a word in their defence. In any case, why is Tedros Kasahun conferred all the idolisations when there are many other artists with superior and impeccable track records?
Teddy Afro has been in the business of lionising Amhara emperors Haile Selassie, Menelik and Tedros---- the intension of this being to carve a niche for himself and to espouse the waning Amhara nationalism. But to avoid the narrow nationalism tag, he plays the ‘greater Ethiopia’ mantra to a great effect. In his recent interview with The Guardian newspaper( Thursday 13, July 2017), the pop artist, who has Menelik’s original sword and Haile Selassie’s photograph on his living room wall, stated that’’ The young generations need to know what our for fathers did for this country,’’ and he further stated ‘’ …Menelik fought for Ethiopia, for unity, and against colonialism.’’
When you teach history, you can’t be selective. Shouldn’t the new generation also know about Emperor Yohannes who fought the Egyptians, Mahdists and Italians for 17 years, and managed to protect the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty? How about the fact that Eritrea was handed over to the Italians two months after the death of Yohannes by signing the Treaty of Wuchale on 2 May 1889? Teddy Afro should also mention the desertion and flight of the emperor he worships (Yasteserayl) to Bath, United Kingdom, when Ethiopia was invaded by the Italians in 1935. Hiding behind ‘Ethiopianism’ to bolster Amhara nationalism, culture, values and history is extremely divisive and can have a serious impact on the unity of the nation.
‘Menelik fought for unity’? The fact of the matter is that Emperor Menelik’s expansion southwards and occupation of 2/3 of the fertile lands were achieved at a heavy cost in terms human and material loses to the indigenous people. Is it hardly surprising that the Oromos and other southerners erupt with fury at the mention of the emperor’s name? If the divisive musician has the slightest bit of intelligence, he should figure it out as to why the Tigrian people also feel the same way, albeit for different reasons, about Emperor Menelik. Talk of ‘unity’ is simply poppycock.
Teddy Afro further said that’’ We used to be a model for Africa, but because of our government, our country is divided. The album is a call for unity and rehabilitation of Ethiopia’s glorious past.’’ Based on his track record, the musician is not qualified to preach about unity because he invariably offends and polarises the vast majority of the Ethiopian people by churning out songs that devalues their culture, identity and history.
Tedros Kasahune is simply confusing the constitutional enablement of the various ethnic groups to manage their own affairs in addition to developing their culture, identity and history as division. This is far from the truth; but during the era of the feudal rulers that the artist worships, the country was hopelessly split and on the verge of disintegration due to the rampant repression and discrimination based on ethnicity. Inevitably, this led to the establishment of liberation movements such as the TPLF that played a significant and decisive part in bringing the ugly epoch to an end in May 1991. In its place a new Ethiopia has come into being where the rights of all nations, nationalities and peoples’ have been guaranteed by the constitution.
Emperor Haile Selassie’s constitution of 1931 stipulated that all Ethiopians were his subjects and that the emperor was sacred, with inviolable dignity and supreme power. Why do we have to constantly be reminded of a system that considered its citizens as objects? What is ‘glorious’ about this? And what makes Ethiopia a ’model for Africa’ when the emperor, idolised by Teddy Afro, presided over the demises of 300,000 lives during the 1973-1974 famine? And to make matters worse, the ‘’Elect of God’’ spent $35 million to celebrate his eightieth birthday in 1973 at the height of the devastating famine. Clearly, Ethiopia was a total embarrassment for Africa and not a ‘model’ as the egocentric and parochialist singer unashamedly asserts.
Ethiopia was not only synonymous with famine but it was also known for its destructive conflicts that tested its solidity. Emperor Menelik gave away Eritrea; Emperor Haile Selassie destroyed the workable federation and led to 30 years of armed struggle ending in the independence of the former Ethiopian province. Nearly 130 years later, we are still wrestling with the Eritrean issue and finding a panacea to the long standing problem is becoming increasingly difficult. What is this ‘glorious’ past we keep hearing? Have we not been burying our heads in the sand in utter mortification and only begun to lift it up, with pride, after the arrival of ‘woyane’?
No question that the bad old days are behind us, and Ethiopia has now moved on to become a real role model for Africa because of its impressive and unparalleled socio-economic achievements which it attained in less than two decades. Things are looking up for Ethiopia; in 2017, it made it to the world’s five fastest growing economies and this has acted as a spur for new foreign investors to move to the country and get involved in various ventures. While ‘Woyane’ continues to create economic opportunities for all the citizens; Teddy Afro will be busy releasing more albums by taking advantage of the favourable conditions created thereby fill-up his dollar-caskets that will enable him to maintain his lavish life style. This is what ‘asra sebat merfe’ does, including to those who grotesquely scorn the people that have made it possible for them to become dollar millionaires.