Edilegnaw Niguse: A Tribute to an Extraordinary Ethiopian Cultural Asset and Unchallenged Musical Symbol


By Maru Gubena

Some of my readers may think that my tribute upon the untimely death of the phenomenal, the irreplaceable asset of Ethiopia, the unchallenged cultural and musical symbol and the undisputed role model for Ethiopian musicians of my generation, Tilahun Gessese, whom I, as a political economist and organization strategist have characterized not as a “King of Ethiopian Music,” but as “Edilegnaw Niguse,” is too late and perhaps too little as well. But I know it is neither too late nor too little. Because in our Ethiopian culture, families who have lost a loved one and who are grieving and weeping uncontrollably over the sudden loss of their family member, or someone well loved and highly respected by Ethiopians of all ages and sexes, can be extremely happy to receive any condolence at any time, whether written or in person. Yes, all Ethiopian families experiencing such sorrow, always feel tremendously comfortable and happy with the presence of those who come to share their grief and those who come while shading their tears. This is a part of our Ethiopian culture – a culture implanted deep inside our minds and our bodies.

Also, I know I did not write this text early this morning or yesterday evening but last Friday, the 24th of April 2009, intending to present it in person in my own personal capacity and in my own way, to express my grief and deep sadness at the abrupt disappearance – the death of the Edilegnaw Niguse, Tilahun Gessese, who unquestionably will remain in the hearts and minds of all Ethiopians of all generations. Yes, I wrote this text with the full intention of presenting it in the form of a memorial speech at the memorial service organized for artist Tilahun Gessese by the Association of Ethiopians in the Netherlands, held on Saturday, the 25th of April 2009. But due to the organizational style, the objectives, and the atmosphere of the event itself, which seemed, at least to me, not to correspond with my objective in presenting my talk, I thought it would be wiser to find other means to express and share my grieve with my Ethiopian compatriots in other ways.

Yes, the highly loved, highly respected icon and cultural asset of our country – Ethiopia – was and is indeed Edilegna Niguse, the Lucky King, and the Extraordinary King of the land of Ethiopia. Artist Tilahun is also Edilegna, because, completely different from our previous Kings and Emperors, Princes and Princesses, he was and is a Niguse of every Ethiopian, with no a single social or political enemy. Not even a single person. Artist Tilahun himself and his images will therefore live and sleep so comfortably and so widely in the hearts and minds of all Ethiopians, including the coming generations. Yes, indeed, he is absolutely different from Ethiopians who have had the highest socio-cultural and political positions within Ethiopian society.

It is also undeniably true that, at least as far as my recollections are concerned, in the past fifty or more years there has never been such an extensive, well organized and most memorable state and people’s funeral service as the one we all saw and witnessed last Thursday, the 23rd of April 2009 in Addis Ababa. Again, as far as I can recall, Ethiopians have never witnessed such a hugely attended, unforgettable funeral service for any member of Ethiopian society, not for Emperor Haile Selassie, or for his ministers, who had had the highest political positions in the country. Artist Tilahun is just an extraordinary, very special and unique social animal and far more. Not just a musician or singer, but a son, a patriot, a brother, a husband, a father and above all, a loving friend to everyone, all Ethiopians, not just those who live in cities, towns, or villages, but also those who reside deep inside the most complicated Ethiopian forests or its low and high mountains.

Maru Gubena

Readers who wish to contact the author can reach me at info@pada.nl

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