ጽንሐተ ፀገየስ ምንድን ነው?
አርቲስት ይሞታል፡ ኪነት ግና አትሞትም
What is Art? What is Artist?
Frankly speaking, I am not enchanted to memorialize the death of a singer (albeit famous) as to memorialize the death of victims of Red Terror. In Washington, DC, on the same day and at the same time, it is reported that only 50 people have attended in memory for the death of victims of the Red Terror that was presented by Ali Hussein from Canada whereas there were a thousand attendees for the memory of Tilahun Gesseses death. What is the art of death? Is it related with God or Life? Although we are neither sure to touch God nor to pinpoint Life, we are certain about death.
I hate to write on a subject I do not know, but on this one on the art of death, I need to express my opinion that of the Art and Artist – although not a professional level but on a cultural basis.
This man died in Asmara on December 1997 and hundred thousand Eritreans buried him. It was reported that his burial ceremony was larger than WWM (woldeab wolde mariam), who is considered to be the father of the Eritrean separation from Ethiopia. It was puzzling why a singer was given the highest death ceremony. The explanation is as follows:
Yemane Baria (I dont know his last name) was neither a talented vocalist nor a musician. But he composes his own lyrics. My question was, how did he become popular without voice and instruments, after all there are many singers with ghost composers behind them but were not or are not famous like him. The answer rests on something else.
Yemane blended love songs with political matters. In this case, the Eritrean population had embraced Yemenes music despite his deficiency in Auditory Arts. In other words, Yemane packages the feelings and thoughts of ordinary people and had presented it back to them. That was and still should be the art of politics. Politics after all is a relationship between a singer (in the name of ሐፋሽ ) and the government in power.
Another factor that was much superior to the above elements of his popularity was the fact that Yeman Baria owned nothing. Whatever material or financial he earns from his music, he used to give it back to the poor or to whoever needs help. That by itself is the hallmark of Eritrean cultural struggle. Yemane lived for the people and died for the people. And I believe, that thousands have attended his burial ceremony to say goodbye to their own inner Art of Death. The Auditory Art or lack of it has died with Yemane.
The Eritrean people became voiceless and powerless – ብከያንያን አዘራርባ
Yemanes touching song as far as I am concerned was that what is the solution now? እሞ ሕጂድአ እንታይ ይገበር has remained unanswered.
In sharp contrast toYemane Baria, Tilahun was a singer par excellence. Tilahuns song was targeted to the elites of Ethiopia. I believe that Tilahun neither composed his songs nor did he play musical instruments. Nevertheless, he was popular among all Eathiopians. Why was he popular, one may ask? The answer may lie in his Visual Art.
Tilahun Gessesse may not have been a political man but his composers were definitely revolutionaries of the time. To prove this sentence, let me narrate two stories.
On one occasion, that is, during the coming of the DERG, Tilahun had a song which runs like this.Beyond the revolution, I can see a bright hopeከአብዮቱ በስተ ጀርባ ይታየጝል ብሩህ ተስፋ, and EPRP members and associates were quickly dismissing Tilahuns false premise. It was very true that Tilahuns lyrics came from the Ethiopian elites and those of EPRPs supporters voice of dissent came from the leaders of EPRP. And so the struggle for hope against hope continued until the downfall of the DERG.
On another occasion, while we were sitting in a coffee shop, Ato Berhanu normally considered as a distributor of wisdom entered the coffee shop with the intention of selling a book entitled the Generation: a history of EPRP by Kiflu Tadesse. The book-distributor did presented the book to Tesfaye Lemma for purchase to which Ato Tesfaye Lemma rejected the idea of reading a book about EPRP. I asked Artist Tesfaye, whether Tilahun Gessesse was a member of EPRP? He snatched the book from Berhanu and found out that Tilahuns name was mentioned in a political context. Ato Tesfaye Lemma bought the book and he came back on the third day as happy as he can be. Later on I found out that the man behind Tilahun was Tesfaye himself. I believe that Art has a snowball effect. For this reason, it was no surprise that hundreds of thousands had attended the burial ceremony that was held for Tilahun Gessesse. Even if Tilahun was not a revolutionary per se to speak directly to the Power that be, he has indirectly contributed to the Eway Revolution albeit to the elite class not to the broad masses.
Tsegaye G. Medhin (DEBTERAW)
Performing Art is a combination of Auditory and Visual or it is an Art by itself. DEBTERAW belongs to this category of Art. Alternatively, DEBTERAW even though he is from an elitist class, he speaks the language of the people, he empathies with the people and he gives them back their true cultural identity. Above all DEBTERAW speaks to Absolute Power regardless. DEBTERAW owned nothing of material but he gave everything political, philosophical and spiritual to everyone and everybody. He calls such act as ኪነት የሕዝብ ናት not the art of death. DEBTERAW highly believes in CREATIVITY as opposed to carbon copy.
What is the difference between honoring a normal death and a victimized death? I have witnessed heroic deaths. I have also seen cowardly deaths. But they all are deaths or are they really? Apart from going to Heaven or to Hell, there is a criterion to judge by the way the deceased should be evaluated. I believe that death for some, it is heroism and for others it is patriotism. Yemanes Art belongs to heroism while that of Tilahun reflects of patriotism.
Of course, it is anybodys guess about DEBTERAW; it is both heroism and patriotism.
Tilahun may have had at heart – songs about Love-Family-Friendship, while that of DEBTERAW and Bariaw is about Liberty-Unity-Justice.
Of course, the triangle of love-family-friendship for DEBTERAW precedes the triangle of LUJ (liberty-unity-justice). It is a big CHOICE WE ALL SHOULD MAKE. At this junction of Eathiopian history, we cannot go back talking about sexuality, false unity and fake friendship. Instead let us dwell on liberty, unity and justice for all.
TRUTH WILL PREVAIL
For comments and questions
I have witnessed a party celebration for the dead. Three days of music with traditional dancing was carried out in Metekel Awraja, in Godjam among the Shankala people. Without my calculated intention, I landed among the celebrating population. Children were suckling and dancing at the same time, naked men and women compete for show. Some sit while others walk but all dance to the tune of the oncoming music that seems to come from nowhere.
I had asked the occasion for the celebration. I was very much in shock when they told me it was because a certain lady had died. I was puzzled why an entire community dances instead of mourning. Would you not ask the question I asked? Of course, you would.
The answer lies in the marital status of the deceased. If the deceased has children, he is parted with pomp and drink, if without children; the community burns the village and relocates. What a wonderful act of Art of death?
Should we mourn for Tilahun with twelve children, for Yemane with six children or for DEBTERAW with no children? The answer lies within each one of us.