By Seble Teweldebirhan
Addis Ababa, April 24, 2012 (Ezega.com) - The much-anticipated album of all time, Teddy Afro’s Tekur Sew (or Black Man), was released last week on the eve of Easter.
After his second album of 2005, Teddy released several singles, but he did not make full album. Since the last album, the singer who played a significant role through his music on the controversies of 2005 election went through several difficulties himself. Especially his arrest and subsequent sentence for running over a man with a car raised his popularity to high level. The case was treated as politically motivated.
After his release from prison, his every move made news and everything he said was quoted in almost all private publications in the country. Regardless of the actions by the public media to discount him, the private media was obsessed with him and so was the public. Teddy got the title of “The King of Ethiopian Music” which previously was assigned to the legendary Tilahun Gesesse.
In fact, Teddy Afro gives the media something to write and talk about now and then. Whether he donates money for an orphanage, holds a concert for the poor, or saves a man who was arrested in Somaliland for killing and needed 700,000 birr for bailout, he always came to save the day and put his name to a hero status. Therefore, the media is never lack of something to talk about him.
Even for those who have no interest in his music or music in general, the publications printed his personality deeply in people’s consciousness. He is now a superstar people talk about even when they do not want to. For his fans, obviously, teddy is a champion. It is not only about his music, his entire personality is an inspiration.
If anyone asks why Teddy is at the top of everyone’s mind, the answer is simple. Teddy is an Ethiopian dream. Every young in Ethiopia will kill to be like him. He is a success story who managed to change his regular life to extraordinary. Just using his astonishing talent and charm, Teddy is a close practical example of the endless possibilities of the world. Teddy lives the dream of many Ethiopian youth.
Additionally, Teddy seems to enjoy every bit of it – by appearing always content and satisfied. Even at the time of his downfall as a convict criminal, Teddy smiled telling his fans all will be alright. Throughout his career as a front public figure, Teddy never panicked or showed a character that could be judged against him.
Then there comes his song. Teddy, in short, revolutionized the Ethiopian modern music. He changed the tone and the melody. If there is ever a study on Ethiopian music, the first album of Teddy Afro ‘Abogida’ will be at the front of high level analysis. He manages to come up with new sounds, mostly creative.
However, the most powerful aspect of his music is the lyrics. Teddy seems to know the people and says the exact things at the exact times. His songs about Haile Gebreselassie when he won Sydney Olympic and Kenenisa Bekele for his Tokyo Olympic win are the testimony to that effect. The people went crazy over the songs, with emotions we rarely see in the country. He also has several songs for the famous and loved personalities in Ethiopia like Haile Selassie, Bob Marley.
In 2005 election, when millions were disappointed by the result and the whole process in general, Teddy Afro spoke of what was on the top of everyone’s mind. His songs about Ethiopian political history titled Ja Yasteserial, led the post-election demonstrations. Through his songs, he advocated forgiveness and love, between the ruling party and the opposition whose relationship was throat-cutting at the time. Teddy’s song about love being an answer for most questions was exactly what the people wanted to hear.
In addition to that, from the 2005 album the song titled “Dahlak” holds a special place in the hearts of many Ethiopian. The song is about a dream a women had on the island called Dahlak in Eritrea. When the storm hits the sea, the woman who was holding a baby asked God to save her child. God did show his mercy to the child and calm the storm, which saved the entire ship. Teddy expresses his hope about being that child the one who would bring the two countries together. For many Ethiopians who still do not figure out how the two countries went their separate way, the song is dear and tender.
Including the above two songs, Teddy represented the majority of Ethiopians and raised questions through his music. With that album, he told a story many Ethiopians like to hear: hope and a better day to come. Teddy, through his amazing skill of writing a song, draws Ethiopia exactly how the majority wants to see her. The difference between other songwriters and his is that Teddy admits about the downfall of the country and its people. His songs at the time were not about how Ethiopia is but rather how she ought to be.
Even for individuals, Teddy through his song mostly talks about loyalty, respect and beauty. He mostly manages to come with words completely new but amazingly expressive. Through his music he sees things the society ignores on everyday bases..
For this and many other reasons, the young king of music was missed for his works. It has been years since people started asking for his album. Several times Teddy announced that he was working on it but it took him longer than expected.
On the eve of Easter, in every part of Addis Ababa, he was the new voice. Within a few minutes of the album release, it controlled the public sphere. Cafes and taxis became promoter of the new voice of Teddy Afro. Many did not seem to consider whether the music fulfills their expectations or not. The only requirement to buy the album was the fact that it was his – Tedy Afro’s music.
In some music shops, people stand inline to get their turn and buy the album. The album was sold for up to 100 birr a piece. The producer Adika Records made a smart move by announcing that only limited numbers of the album were distributed for the first round. People went crazy, paying whatever asked to get their hand on the album. That probably never happened in the entire Ethiopian music history.
Throughout the week, his music were played almost everywhere. However, after the desperation to hear his new voice calm among the public, people are starting to question if the album does qualify what is expected of Teddy Afro. In fact, his new album recognized the Adwa Victory and the sad realities of current Ethiopian lives, regardless of having everything it takes to make it. The album itself titled Tekur Sew or Black Man was a representation for King Menelik II. His song titled Sele Feker or About Love shows the Ethiopian reality, which came along tough road but remains at the same place it begun. Teddy seems of the opinion that the reason for Ethiopia to be hungry while having green soil is lack of love and unity.
Besides that, unlike his previous album, he personalized most of the lyrics and became just another singer with several love songs. While the people wait to hear some of their sorrows and aspirations through his sound, just as he did in his 2005, the album he chose this time seems to be limited to love affairs. Still many are hoping against the odds that his songs are an irony and that their real meanings will be revealed through time. If not, Teddy’s fans will face disappointments knowing that their hero is just another very famous singer.
Whether Teddy Afro did meet the expectations of his fans, time will tell. For now, people are very happy to have the new album from him and they are listening to it in every corner. That is actually a lesson to many Ethiopian musicians who complain about people never buying an original CD.
The message especially for Ethiopian musicians is clear: if you work as hard as Teddy Afro did to build his name, then there is no need to have nonstop and meaningless workshops on copyright laws in the country. Of course, it takes courage and taking risks to do so, which many do not seem to appreciate.
Seble Teweldebirhan is Addis Ababa based Reporter for Ezega.com. She can be reached by sending email through this form.