Ethiopia: Wandering Poet Musicians –

It is not a nationalist bombast to claim Ethiopian culture is unique and attractive. Ethiopia is a land where diverse nation, nationalities and people live together with harmony. Ethiopia’s culture is diverse in many ways and it has its own color and beauty.

This color and beauty is revealed for the world especially on yearly holidays, celebration, public ceremonies and carnival like nation and nationalities day, Meskel (finding of the true cross) Timket, (Ethiopian epiphany) Feche Chembelala, Ashenda among many others.

Aside from these public holidays, cultural restaurants and cultural folk dancing houses are little models showcasing and promoting Ethiopian diverse culture and norms, dishes beverages costumes hair do’s dances and music all in one.

As Culture is one’s country manifestation and identity it needs to be kept and passed from generation to generation. Cultural restaurants play important role in keeping,developing as well as promoting our culture to the rest of the world. It is delightful to watch foreigners admiring out age-old traditional practices, dancing tuned to our music, trying different cultural grooving styles and enjoying the broad-array of mouth watering dishes of our different foods and beverages.

Azmariwoch or folk singers are jewels of most cultural folk dance restaurants in Ethiopia. With their cultural musical instruments like the one stringed massinko and drums, kirar (a gitar like musical instrument) they make these cultural restaurants alive.

These entertainers are found in most parts of Ethiopia and are common in weddings and gatherings as torches for the night life.

Before the new technology emerged, before the advent of TV or Radio or modern musical band, organizing weddings, ceremonies or social gatherings was unthinkable without folkloric musicians.

In earlier days, Azmaris or folk singers were a royal entertainers. They were permanent castle singers by giving praise for kings and military troops. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say a portion of the credit to all the wars that Ethiopia won goes to Azmariwoche they cheer up their king, they motivate the troops with melodic poems.

Azmariwoche are poet musicians and instrumentalist and dancers they are almost bands. They wander from place to place or settle on restaurants and they come in different ways. There are solo Azmariwoche with their one stringed massinko. Normally a male and female form a couple for staging works and go along with dancers.

They capture attention by their deep and mystical poems they sing about life, love hate, complaint, praise, agriculture, motivation, beauty among others.

They have power to influence their audience by reflecting their observation on social,economic, political or international issues with their melodious lyrics.

Azmariworch tell story, they praise, criticize and beyond entertainment involve in political aspects. They express their political ideology and wrong doings through mystical words publicly with no fear.

According to James Bruce Scottish explorer, in earlier times, during the Ras Michel Sehul’s rule, there was a movement to eliminate Azmaries or poet musicians for stirring up rebellion against the leader wielding influence on the society.

Azmariwoche were looked down and belittled as beggars and the word ‘Azmari’, which means singer was considered as a denigrating term used to describe a musician.

However the value of this wandering singers is above being just a musician because their contribution in keeping and promoting our culture is big. When Azmariwoche and folk dancers appear in front of guests they conjure up Ethiopian culture along with them starting from their clothing, necklaces, hair dos bracelets and instruments like kirar, washint kebero and the impressive ethiopian dance ‘eskesta’

They show how Ethiopian culture is many, diverse and beautiful that play a big role in promoting Ethiopian culture to the world.

Culture is not inborn but learned. It is acquired through nurture not acquired by nature! As culture is dynamic and it can develop and be violated and influenced by other cultures. Culture is a unique figure of one’s country that reflects one’s identity norms behaviors and principles. Above that culture has its significance in economic and development of a country. And Azmariwoche are part of Ethiopian culture.

Azmaris can be used as vehicles to revive Ethiopian dying culture buckling under the impacts of globalization. According to a research by Ethiopian Cultural Center, Ethiopia has around 5919 poet musicians. However the number is declining year after year. The main causes is it has not been kept and passed through generation. Also civilization and modern music has caused the culture to vanish.

If government, society and culture stakeholders don’t take measures concerning this matter, soon our culture will be replaced by outsider cultures that aren’t our own. Let us work to empower cultural elements and contributors in many sectors to make our culture and history everlasting.

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