Me-go Mix: Track 7
“Gondar” — Madingo Afework
Traveling around Northern Ethiopia I spent a lot of time on buses, including four days round trip to Lalibela. The long rides were always accompanied by upbeat and high-pitched music. Before I left Addis Ababa I wanted to pick up a CD of music that would remind of me of my long bus rides through the North. The music shop next to my hotel, where I rented DVDs to watch while I was in bed with the flu for three days, had a small collection to pick from. The woman working was confused as to why I wanted to buy traditional music instead of more modern imports (but she also didn’t understand why I would want to watch a movie that didn’t star Denzel Washington, her favorite actor). We weeded out anything too traditional and decided on Mandingo Afework. The music has the rhythm I heard all over Ethiopia but wasn’t played with only traditional instruments.
Gondar is a city in Northern Ethiopia famous for it’s castles and the beautiful Debre Birhan Selassie Church. In the video for “Gondar” below, you’ll see some shots of the city as well as Lalibella, Axum and a few shots of the South. Most interesting are the beautiful dancers in traditional white robes. The dancers show off Ethiopia’s distinctive shoulder dancing, often laughingly attempted by tourists. Fast forward to 5:00 in the video for a good example of an enthusiastic shoulder dance.
Below is a video I took on a bus in Northern Ethiopia. Although bus music was often more traditional, you can hear a local recording of “Staying Alive” playing. The music on each bus was usually chosen by the bus driver or his assistant from a collection of cassettes. Once I witnessed an older man, probably a farmer, insist a driver play his own tape. This incited a lot of discussion among the other passengers—most objected to the traditional “folksy” music he wanted to play.