Advertisements
jump to navigation

Oromia: Torbee Afran Qalloo, Anaa Dhufuu Artistoota Oromoo Afran Qalloo. #AfranQallooweek, 18-25 January 2019. Pioneers of Oromo resistance music January 18, 2019

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , ,
7 comments

In 1962, when it was still illegal to sing in the Oromo language, one of the most widely spoken languages in all of Africa, a small group of activists risked persecution by forming the first-ever Oromo music band, in Dire Dawa, a bustling city in eastern Oromia, Ethiopia.

Afran Qallo, whose historical name derives from the collective reference to four of Qallo’s sons – Alaa, Babile, Daga and Oborra – soon struck the chord with locals when the troupe began performing cultural songs at weddings and holidays, often hidden from the watchful eyes of government officials.

At the time, in the city of Dire Dawa, the Somalis, Amharas and Hararis had their own music bands – but the Oromo did not. “Whenever there was a need for wedding celebration, Oromo families had to either pay for the Somali or Harari musical bands because generally, in those days, the Amhara bands did not deal well with the Oromo and did not have any respect for our people,” said Dr. Mohamed Hassan, a professor of history at Georgia State University. “It was the absence of any cultural space for the Oromo which inspired Oromo individuals to form an organization and create a musical space for themselves.”

Initially, four musical bands emerged almost simultaneously in different neighborhoods of Dire Dawa, namely: Mascob Tokkumma Jaalala, Hiriyaa Jaalala, Biftu Ganama and Urji Bakkalcha, which was later renamed Afran Qallo, according to Ismail Mummad Adam, one of the founding members of Urji Bakkalcha.

What happened next, no one — not even the founders — expected. “For the first time, there was this general feeling that Oromo music was as good as anyone’s music,” said Dr. Hassan. “It created a tide of anger against the Ethiopian government because the Oromo realized they were denied the opportunity to enjoy their own music.”  

The 1960s was a tumultuous decade in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian students’ call for land reform, mainly coming from then Haile Silassie I University, was reverberating, and the dispossessed peasantry – who were condemned to a life of serfdom by absentee feudal landlords – were beginning to take notice of their plight, which was dismal. The Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, was getting organized in various forms in different parts of the country.

In the center of the country, formed in 1963, the Macha Tulama self-help association, whose main aim at the time was educational empowerment and infrastructural development, was gathering momentum. In the southeast, the Bale people’s revolt, under the chairmanship of General Waqo Gutu, was threatening to take back a vast swath of land from the regional nobility that was taking away their pristine land in the name of the crown and levying heavy taxes on the peasantry.

Individuals like Shaykh Bakri Sapalo, a prominent scholar who invented an Oromo language writing system, were creating a stir by writing poems aimed at awakening the Oromo. “By producing powerful poems, that demonstrated the richness and beauty of the Oromo language, he set in motion a generation of famous poets and singers,” Dr. Hassan wrote in the Journal of Oromo Studies. “Shaykh Bakrii’s ideas, his poems, his teaching and cultural nationalism dominated the thinking of Oromo elite in Hararghe, especially in urban areas such as Dire Dawa.”

As such, the formation of Afran Qallo in Eastern Oromia was a watershed moment — a welcome addition to the Oromo movement. Soon, leaders of Afran Qallo musical band established links with the Macha Tulama association and other Oromos to unify its opposition against Haile Silassie’s imperial rule.

There was also the Oromo radio program broadcast into Ethiopia from Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, by famed Oromo journalist Ayub Abubakar. “The radio program was so effective in mobilizing public opinion against Emperor Haile Selassie, that the regime sent a secret agent to Mogadishu and murdered Ayub Abubakar in 1966,” Hassan said. Abubakar, who himself was one of the founding members of Afran Qallo, was one of Shaykh Barkri’s protege.

In its heyday, the Afran Qallo cultural group did not limit itself to singing and music production. “We started doing theatre, making a mockery of the government’s mistreatment of the Oromo,” said Mr. Adam, 72, who has written a forthcoming book about the history of the group. When officials threatened to shut them down, Oromo elders asked the band “to sing songs of praise for the king,” according to Mr. Adam. They buckled under pressure and produced a song called, “Mooti biyya teenya yaa Haile Silassie, si garaan Xaliyaanin dheefa dhuke kaase” – loosely translated, oh! Haile Silassie, the king of our country, Italians ran for their life when they saw you coming. The song is an inference to the emperor’s return from his brief exile, after Italy invaded Ethiopia, and the Italians defeat in 1941.

But as the group gained unprecedented momentum among the Oromo, pressure from regional bureaucrats continued, Mr. Adam recalled. Members of the band, including Mr. Adam, were even detained and interrogated to name civilian leaders of the band who were supplying them with modern musical instruments.

Amid continued harassment from local lords, who accused the group of narrow nationalism and separatism, and a subsequent injunction against its members, the Afran Qallo band eventually fell apart around 1965, according to Mr. Adam. But by then, he says, some of its star artists had found a voice, and more importantly, a calling to contribute to the Oromo peoples struggle for freedom.

“Before the government started harassing them, the band traveled to places like Haromaya, Awaday, Dadar, Qobo, Hirna, Ciro, and several places in Hararghe providing the necessary cultural service that the community needed at weddings, cultural events, holidays and so on,” said Dr. Hassan.

Unable to continue working in the country, some including Abubaker Musa and Yonis Abdullahi left for Somalia where they continued writing and producing songs. “Ali Birra, Ali Shabbo, Usmail Mummad, Mohammed Yusuf, Salah Mohamud, Shantam Shubisa and others kept marching forward…using their penetrating melody and captivating lyrics to reunify the disjointed Oromo regions to rise up in unison against national subjugation,” the jubilee organizing committee said in a statement on Jun. 22.

The birth of the Afran Qallo cultural troupe is also said to have inspired other Oromo performers in different parts of the Oromo country. Zarihun Wadajo, one of the earliest Oromo vocalists, who was born in Western Oromia, sang his timeless song, “Koottaa Aramaa Aramnaa,” at the age of fifteen in 1977, according to Shawn Mollenhauer, who recently completed his PhD thesis at the University of California-Riverside on Oromo music. “Zarihun was immediately placed in prison for eight months for his song,” wrote Mollenhauer. Click here to read more from the Opride, the original source of this article.

Advertisements

“We are here”: The soundtrack to the Oromo revolution gripping Ethiopia. – African arguments March 30, 2018

Posted by OromianEconomist in Muscians and the Performance Of Oromo Nationalism, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

Far from being a footnote in the Oromo struggle, musicians like Haacaaluu Hundeessa have been its centre of gravity.

Haacaaluu Hundeessa's music has given sound and voice to the Oromo struggle.

With the appointment of Abiy Ahmed as chair of the ruling coalition, Ethiopia is set to have an Oromo leader for the first time in recent history. This is in no small part thanks to brave and sustained protests by ethnic Oromo youth.

For nearly two and a half years, activists have defied brutal government suppression that has seen over a thousand people killed and tens of thousands arrested. Mostly led by the Oromo and Amhara, who together make up two-thirds of the 100 million population, demonstrators have endured the imposition of two states of emergency and a brutal crackdown.

Now, for their pains, they have overseen the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. And they will soon witness the assent of a young and popular Oromo leader as Ethiopia’s next prime minister.

When historians look back at this period, they will see how persistent protesters reconfigured Ethiopia’s political map in just a couple of years. They will note how Oromo politics was forced from the distant periphery to the very centre of affairs. And they will observe how the passionate Oromo youth – known as the Qeerroo – drove this change.

In all this, however, one thing that should not be overlooked is the critical role played by Oromo musicians and artists. Through their work, they have mobilised scattered marginalised publics and helped create a politically conscious, defiant, and resilient generation. They have tapped into the transformative potential of subjugated memories and experiences, disrupted official histories, and altered the people’s very relationship to power.

Oromo music, the struggle’s centre of gravity

Oromo music and concerts have rarely been strictly musical. They have always been sites of political agitation, cultural self-affirmation, and spiritual rejuvenation, drawing together audiences who share an unassailable commitment to the Oromo cause.

Activist stalwarts have provided the conceptual architecture and strategic direction of the struggle. But Oromo artists’ poignant and powerful lyrics have given voice and significance to the group’s insufferable indignation. When their political leaders have failed, artists have given new meaning to the agonies of defeat. When they have prevailed, artists have amplified small victories to inspire whole generations.

Far from being a footnote in the history of the Oromo struggle for freedom and justice, musicians, poets and creators are its centre of gravity – the signature tune and the definitive sound of the Oromo revolution.

“We are here”

Amongst the many Oromo artists to have played a role in recent events, one musician and one performance stands out.

On 10 December 2017, the capital Addis Ababa staged the biggest Oromo concert it had ever seen. It was held to raise humanitarian funds for the over 700,000 Oromos displaced by violence in the east. But the event held a much deeper significance too. It was not only the most symbolic, defiant and spectacular Oromo concert ever broadcast live by Oromia Broadcasting Network (OBN). It also featured an unprecedentedly large number of senior government officials, a sign of the slow but tectonic shift taking root in Ethiopian politics.

In the concert, a diverse cast of artists performed, leading up to the kaleidoscopic set by Haacaaluu Hundeessa. Through 11 minutes of heart-shredding ballads, the young singer delivered a show that was awe-inspiring and painful, honest and complex, impassioned and subtle. Working through themes of marginality, vulnerability and resilience, he articulated the distinct Oromo experience with raw clarity.

Haacaaluu has given sound and voice to the Oromo cause for the past few years. His 2015 track Maalan Jira(“What existence is mine”), for example, was a kind of an ethnographic take on the Oromo’s uncertain and anomalous place within the Ethiopian state. This powerful expression of the group’s precarious existence quietly, yet profoundly, animated a nationwide movement that erupted months later. Maalan Jira became the soundtrack to the revolution.

In October 2017, Haacaaluu released Jirraa (“We are here”). In contrast to his previous more sombre hit, this song was a statement of endurance, resilience, and self-affirmation. It celebrated transformations within the Oromo community and fundamental shifts in Ethiopia’s political landscape. It embodied a newfound collective optimism, a feeling that Oromo culture is no longer in jeopardy, and a sense that the Oromo society is finally in the middle of a robust ascendancy.

“Closer to Arat Kilo”

As many have pointed out, art can have a transformative power that a political debate or summit cannot. In her book Utopia in Performance, for example, American scholar Jill Dolan describes how a performance can have an effect “that lifts everyone slightly above the present, into a hopeful feeling of what the world might be like if every moment of our lives were as emotionally voluminous, generous, [and] aesthetically striking”.

Haacaaluu’s December show did just this. As soon as he occupied the stage, the scene immediately felt magical. His opening greetings – “ashamaa, ashamaa, ashamaa” – electrified an audience who understood his use of the traditional Gerarsa repertoire and its unconscious grammar. As he strode lion-like around the platform, he evoked a rare outpouring of exuberance in his adoring audience. And speaking at a moment in which the Oromo protests had been building momentum for over two years – and, unbeknownst to the crowd, just months before one of their own would become chair of Ethiopia’s ruling coalition – Haacaaluu repeatedly asked the audience Jirtuu (“are we here?”), driving everyone justifiably nuts.

In under a minute, the singer had created what Dolan calls moments of communitas, “resulting in a sudden and deeper insight into the shared process of being in the world.”

As the performance progressed, Haacaaluu escalated tensions, asking the audience how long they would have to wait for freedom. He lamented the absurdity of a marginalised majority, criticised a rigged system, and expressed his yearning for unity, peace, and justice.

In switching between articulations of precarity and resilience, Haacaaluu challenged the audience and the Oromo leadership in the gallery, which included Abiy Ahmed, to make bold moves befitting of the Oromo public and its political posture. He urged his audience to look in the mirror, to focus on themselves, and decolonise their minds. We are, he said, closer to Arat Kilo, Ethiopia’s equivalent of Westminster, both by virtue of geography and demography.

The Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, the party in the ruling coalition that put Abiy forward, thankfully followed Haacaaluu’s advice. After PM Desalegn announced his resignation, it fought tooth and nail to secure the position of the Prime Minister. After Abiy’s imminent confirmation, the first chapter of a journey for which Haacaaluu has provided the soundtrack will be complete.

The 41-year-old Abiy will be taking over at a highly fractious and uncertain time. He will continue to face immense resistance from the deep state and the security forces that stand to lose from democratic opening. In confronting these challenges, he should remember the deeper meaning and significance of Haacaluu’s lyrics and monumental performance.

*Awol Allo is a lecturer in law at Keele University School of Law. He tweets at @awolallo.

More:

[Wax & Gold: The tightrope challenges facing Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed]

Hanisha Solomon: New Oromo Music: Geerarsa May 6, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Muscians and the Performance Of Oromo Nationalism, Music, Oromo Music.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Photos from Saliha Sami’s upcoming Oromo music video: Diinni fira hintahu May 1, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Oromo Artists, Oromo Music.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

The award-winning musician and Oromo recording artist Saliha Sami is working on a new music video;  titled ‘diinni fira hintahu’. The following photos are released from the set of the video production on her Facebook page. Click here for more at Finfinne Tribune | Gadaa.com.

Oromia: OMN: Qophii Jiruuf jireenyaa Artist Dirribee Gadaa Bit 28, 2017. OMN: Interview with one of the most creative minds in Oromo music and art, artist singer Dirribee Gadaa March 29, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Muscians and the Performance Of Oromo Nationalism, Music.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
4 comments

 

JIRUU FI JIREENYAA

OMN: Artisti Dirribee Gadaa (Bit 28, 2017)