Me-go Mix: Track 7

Posted by on Apr 15, 2008 in Ethiopia, Post-Trip | 3 Comments

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.

Ethiopian Bus Music from Megan Kearney on Vimeo.


  1. Liz
    April 20, 2008

    Hey Megan,

    Thanks for all these tracks. One of the things I regretted travelling (briefly) in West Africa was not being able to find cds (they only had tapes) of the music I heard. I love music and find it’s the easiest way to transport myself back to a place.


  2. Megan
    April 20, 2008

    You’re welcome. This isn’t my favorite CD from the trip but it sounds like Ethiopia to me.

    East Africa’s all about the CD, including CDs full of mp3s. How was traveling in West Africa? It seems more difficult that the East (which was actually really easy). I only speak enough French to ask for food “well done.”

    Next time buy the tapes, you can always transfer them once you get back home.

  3. Liz
    April 20, 2008

    We went to Gambia via a package beach holiday thing from London – ditched the hotel and took off in a cab. So it was pretty easy in that sense (and cheap). I had grand plans of heading to Dakar but the roads were really really really crap even in dry season. So we only made it to the border.

    Gambia was awesome – it made me realize that Africa is the place I want to see over and over and over again. It was also the impetus for my husband and I’s RTW trip hopefully starting in November. I can’t say enough about the people and how awesome they were.

    Hustlers are a problem and I know they can drive some people to leave but we paid a local guy to be our guide – even though Gambia’s official language is English, most don’t speak it. It was nice to have a friend (even if he was a paid one) to translate, negotiate and learn from.

    Just in case you were thinking about a new trip. West Africa can be really expensive to get to from North America (even more for us Canadians) but tonnes o’ charters go to Gambia from London and Senegal from Paris. So our trip cost the same as going to the Caribbean on a package.