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Sunday 28 October 2012

Teddy Time

Its been at least three days since I last droned on about my holiday in Ethiopia, so its long overdue for me to do so again. This time we will focus on the one disappointment of the trip, which was that the dose of Lalibela belly I succumbed to last weekend meant I had to miss the biggest gig in town - the live return of Teddy Afro. Teddy played the Ghion Hotel in Addis. I had a ticket but in the event was unable to leave my hotel bathroom.

As cosmopolitan types like you probably already know,Teddy Afro is one of Ethiopia's biggest (and most controversial) pop stars. Teddy - whose real name is Tewodros Kassahun - released his first album in 2001 but really hit the big time in 2005 with his album "Yasteseryal". The biggest selling Ethiopian album of all time, some songs were critical of the Government, which responded by banning them. Subsequently, Teddy was imprisoned in 2008 on charges of manslaughter caused by a "hit and run" accident. He continues to protest his innocence and there are those who believe the charges were politically motivated.

Teddy released his comeback album, "Tikur Sew", earlier this year to great acclaim. To be honest there are some tracks that are a bit too homogenised and bland for my personal tastes, but when he gets the balance between traditional Ethiopian sounds and modern production values right he makes marvellous pop music. Here are a couple of examples from the new album.

"Minilik" - Teddy Afro

"Senay" - Teddy Afro

Although I missed Teddy's gig I saw plenty of live music while I was in Ethiopia. The so-called "cultural clubs" are a great place to hear singers accompanied by the masinko (a single stringed bowed lute), drums and sometimes synthesizers, and to see some spectacular dancing - including, on one occasion, my own unsuccessful attempt to teach the locals how to boogie like Status Quo.

Some of the religious music is pretty special as well, especially if you are lucky enough to hear it early in the morning in one of the rock churches of Lalibela, which is where I shot this litle clip:

The production values (and bling levels) are slightly higher on this old Teddy Afro video.

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