Friday, May 05, 2006

What Has Pity got to do With it?

What Has Pity Got To Do With It? He is in his mid-twenties. Tall and handsome. He is a singer, he chooses to call himself an artist, and using that word about himself he considers being his greatest achievement. Girls are never in short supply; wherever he goes he feels their stares. He wears dark glasses as a form of chic and also to disguise his identity. In the stage, he is a shaken, tearful figure lamenting about losses, his pitiful state .He complains about not finding the right partner, repeating the phrase 'alasazinim wey? (Don't you pity me?). Obviously, this is not the story of his life, but that is the kind of music he makes: the kind that he has always been hearing. He had released his album three months ago, it wasn't a financial success and he was inclined to blame the recording studio for bringing it on a wrong time and the FM Addis DJS for not giving it enough coverage (though one of his music was on air almost everyday) The person described above is purely a product of imagination but I contend he could represent many here. Whether financially successful or not, in many of contemporary Ethiopian songs, such messages of bewailing are prevalent. Young and old singers alike have been producing works full of complaint and personalized lament, a deliberate or not a not-so- deliberate attempt of provoking sympathy. Sentimental portrait of the lonely, the dumped, the desperate, the love-lorn are rife in the Ethiopian music scene. Of course, the works vary all over the map, some are fabulous, some are a mess but there is a striking similarity in their messages, she left for Beirut leaving him alone, he no longer trusts women after what she did to him, what good is it to her if he dies of love misery or, why didn’t she tell him she had another lover before? How long will he survive being starved for love? At times, they remind me of the Alkash women who sings laments for the dead, invoking sadness and tears in those attending the funeral. This description may seem exaggerated, but only because some would prefer to regard it as such. Why should people want to hear the trouble of someone whose lover has gone to Jeddah, Beirut or America? Is this worth telling? Can’t they think of something warm, bright and positive? Why anyone should waste his money to hear someone wailing and weeping blaming his misfortune on the whims of fate? I am not saying that their tone and voice is unappealing .A great number of them have such captivating voices that, one would find it hard not to like them. In many instances the beauty of their sound leads you to conclude that you need not bother about the meaning. But it is said that words are powerful and tyrannical, they exist for their meanings and if you will not pay attention to these, you cannot pay attention at all. Hama Tuma, an Ethiopian writer in Diaspora, says such wor are popular because our conditions are so desperate, our consciousness so trampled upon by loss of hope that we are easy victims to a rendition of the present and the future in unchangeable sad and somber terms. While, I agree, songs of unrequited love with the themes of unfullfilment, disappointments and frustration of people could be good material for any work of art, their unduly repeation can't be a healthy sign. It might give the impression that it is the only kind of art that existed .However, the truth is there has always been works of music that managed to captivate and fascinate music lovers continentally and globally expressing the joy of loving and being loved, the delights of romantic encounters and lovemaking, intimate description of our everyday life, devotion, harmony and beauty, truth and hope. Bob Marley is a timeless singer that will always be remembered for the positive message and optimistic outlooks on life. No matter what mood you may be in, he will be sure to uplift your spirits anger will change to peace, sadness shall evolve into ecstasy, joy will transform into bliss. The underlying messages f his themes are making the world a peaceful place, standing up for what you believe in, and enjoying life to the fullest. In his “Three Little Birds’, Marley sings “This is my message to you, don’t worry, about a thing _cause every little thing gonna be alright ‘ In ‘No Woman, No Cry’ he sings ‘Good friends we have, Oh, good friends we have lost, Along the way, In this great future, you can’t forget your past. So dry your tears, I say.' I believe artists should venture into types of art with positive message though they might themselves amidst the encircling gloom. Messages that renew our hope when things get dark. There are many people with successful love stories and a great number of people are not betraying each other. Hence their stories should deserve equal consideration too. I wish to hear music that reflects those who managed to overcome the bitter side of life. Messages that communicate the refusal to give up on life, the celebration of hope amidst ruins. An art that triumphs despite an endless defeat, a message in the words of Hama Tuma, that would ‘weave beautiful tapestry out of the sadness of what is and the bright colors of what should be.'


Anonymous Stéphanie said...

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5/06/2006 04:21:00 AM  
Anonymous N.taddesse said...

Very good read!!!.. Indeed i couldn't agree more with the current status of Ethiopian Music, the lamenting is being overdone..Furthermore, if you notice Pop-Music internatioaly it seems that the topic reflects the same..In our case it seems our art doesn't reflect other parts of our lives. Interestingly, i listened to a lot of Ethiopian Music from the Sixties and Seventies recently.. such as Alemahyu Eshete, Thilahun, Bizunesh, Mahomoud.. and many more had a variety of topics and subjects matter postive and negative that is sung beautifully.. It blew my mind that such music existed back then..It just amazes me now where that has left us.. but good read....

5/19/2006 09:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with that.NOt on the fact that there are more sad songs than joyfull ones.But on the fact that it is an ethiopian trend.On artistic things, i think those who suffer has more to say the satisfied ones with life.I just can't imagine a joyfull painting (may be for kids) or music (think of the american blues or jazz, is it not all about the misery those guys were living in? yet what a great artistic journey they made with it.).

5/24/2006 05:35:00 AM  
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