The Queen of Kirar Asnakech Worku Passes Away

Be Seble Teweldebirhan

Ethiopia's Queen of Kirar passes awayAddis Ababa, September 19, 2011 ( - Every generation has its own dynamic individuals- people who breaks the rules and live they way they see fit. For many, musician and actress Asnakech Worku was one of the pioneer for her generation. The beautiful and talented queen of Kirar (a five-stringed instrument widely used in traditional Ethiopian music), Tizata Asnakech Worku, for the last almost half a century remained to be a sensation of the Ethiopian entertainment industry.

The last ten years however, Asnakech spent most of her time in bed with serious illness related to her nerve. Now and then, she kept her presence in the minds of the Ethiopian people with several interviews she gave to the media. Repeatedly, she demonstrated, even when sick and in bed all day, her passion for music, her Kirar and her fans kept her spirit up.


On Wednesday, September 14, 2011 though, for this star, it was the last day of her incredible journey. At the age of 76, Asnakech Worku passed away at Bete Zata Hospital in Addis Ababa.


The legend of her relationship with her music begins with the Kirar she bought with 25 cents when she was a child. Asnakech thought herself to play Kirar and to sing beautifully along with it. She began performing at a young age in small bars and cabarets in Addis Ababa as an Azmari.


She was also one of the first actress in Ethiopia, making her debut in 1952 at the City Hall Theatre. Extraordinary for her generation, especially in the ‘50s, Asnakech shocked the stage with her romantic roles in theaters that raised the eyebrows of the conservative society at the time. Asnakech worked at the National Theatre for 30 years before retiring in the 1980s. In a male dominated entertainment industry at the time, Asnakech is one of the very few who dared to break into the industry and win over the hearts of millions.

Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Asnakech was great in Kirar, and always surprised her fans with her quick improvisations and the lyrics she came up while performing. Despite the fact that she was the first female actress in Ethiopia, Asnakech is more popular for her Kirar and her music that have been part of us in the last 50 years.

In addition to her role as an entertainer, Asnakech was an icon of fashion and beauty of her time. Many remember her for her impeccable dressing and hairstyle, which made some of her fans compare her with Hollywood superstar Elizabeth Tyler. At the time, Asnakech was the only famous woman beside Mary Armede who played the Kirar.

Her funeral was held Friday, September 16, 2011 at St. Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa. Government officials, her friends, family, Ethiopian celebrities and many of her fans attended the ceremony.


Seble Teweldebirhan



Seble Teweldebirhan is Addis Ababa based Reporter for She can be reached by sending email through this form.



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