Some things about Tedy Afro


Remembering Teddy Afro on the eve of another New Year

December 31st, 2008 | Categories: Ethiopia  |  4 Comments

By Fekade Shewakena

NOTE: Many of you who regularly read my articles online may remember a commentary I wrote on a memorable experience of Teddy’s concert on the New Year eve of 2005 which was also my first encounter with Tedi Afro live in concert. Some of you asked me to share it again on the eve of another New Year to refresh memories Tedi Afro, Ethiopia’s most famous political prisoner, another victim of this unending mockery of justice in Ethiopia. It pains me to think that we are also the reasons for his suffering. We made the mistake of loving him and making him a cultural icon.

When you think of Tedi, I urge you to think of the poor dead homeless boy Tedi is accused of killing. This poor boy symbolizes something bigger in Ethiopia. He symbolizes how human life has become so cheap in Ethiopia. In Woyaneland he is not as a human being whose death cries out for justice. He is a simple tool used to manufacture a crime. Human life in Ethiopia has become so cheap like dirt. Have you seen how they altered his date of death to fit their concocted crime? Humans are used as cannon fodders; poor kids are thrown into wars for political benefits of leaders, so cheap to be led to walk over mines, so cheap to be mowed down in broad day light with impunity. So cheap that many sit in prison like herds of cattle without even seeing a day in court, many falsely confessing to a crime they haven’t done in exchange for the opportunity of seeing a day in court or dying than to keep living in earthly hellhole? When is this going to end and how? Or as Tedi would say, when is this long dark night over our country going to end?

The New Year with Ethiopian icon Teddy Afro

January 5, 2006
By Fekade Shewakena

I was one lucky person who attended Teddy Afro’s show on New Year’s Day in Washington, DC. Lack of space sent many people back home. I only hope those who missed the concert would have a chance to see him again. I have heard there were people who cried because they were turned back. The organizing and marketing of the show has had serious problems. Some say there were fishy deal breakings and sabotages behind it. I don’t know what. Teddy’s shows deserve to be organized in bigger convention centers and arenas the next time around.
It was a show unlike any other that I have ever been to. There was a Teddy Afro fever all around. I have rarely seen such a loved Ethiopian musical icon as Teddy. But you don’t need anybody to explain to you why so many love him so much. A young Ethiopian I talked to said, “God has given us Teddy to give us a soundtrack for our struggle and dream of changing Ethiopia for the better. His songs of love and unity resonate with me more than the sermons of the Godliest priest”, he said. The young man has a point. I was once told, and I think I also read it on reports, that young prisoners who were being ferried on trucks to their suffering in concentration camps in Dedessa and Ziway by the TPLF government were singing Teddy’s songs. I was also told demonstrators in Addis Ababa were also singing Yasteseryal.

Many see Teddy only as a talented musician which he certainly is. I happen to see more than a musician in him. I see a genius, a visionary artist with a sense of purpose, an icon living way beyond his age and fighting to break with the resistant past. In Teddy, I see a young man of great idealism and a big hopeful dreamer for his people and country. I see something Teddy does that no intellectual or politician can do. He has that unique God given power to touch our deeper sense of ourselves that few people are endowed with and I saw the energy live in display on this show.

The show began. Teddy came out on stage to a sound of earth shaking Ethiopian beat, a thunderous roar and scream of welcome from the audience that packed the hall and waiting so eagerly to see him. Young men and women, the vast majority of the audience, who have come to the occasion armed with our beautiful tricolor, were waving it in amazing frenzy. Frankly, you can’t stand there and not be emotional. I have seen an older man who was jumping up and down like a little kid. And there were the V-fingers everywhere raised to greet Teddy, which makes you wonder whether kinijit has really become the spirit that CUD’s vice president Bertukan Mideksa, another icon of our freedom, now a prisoner of conscience, has once said. Teddy’s voice of love soon started to overflow his audience’s hearts and began to fill the huge ballroom. Each time Ethiopia’s name comes out from Teddy mouth the crowd goes crazy. I saw many cry. When he calls out the name Ethiopia, it carries a different meaning- it feels like my heart is exploding with love, I heard one Ethiopian standing besides me say.

Ironically, earlier in the day before the start of Teddy’s show, the tenured for life inept Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Ato Syum Mesfin, currently in DC was talking on a radio station mostly badmouthing the Ethiopian Diaspora for the predicament his TPLF government has gotten into by disappointing its donors. At one point, he shamelessly accused the Ethiopian Diaspora as “people who don’t care if their country is burnt to the ground’. Syum was obviously mad that the donors that his corrupt government has been successfully fooling for so long have now seen his ugly fascist face and refused to fill his bottomless pocket. I heard Ato Syum, has a son who was penniless 14 years ago but now owns a fleet of Scania trucks in Ethiopia that crush any competitor in the business. The Ethiopian Diaspora, by the way, has never asked donors to withheld humanitarian aid. I only wish this obnoxious human being had a chance to be there that evening in the middle of a huge Diaspora and see the kind of love we have for our people and country.

That is for another show but let me go back to Teddy for now. At one point during the show it seemed that everyone in the room was flying like birds along with Teddy’s swings. Listening to Shemendefer on CD is one thing, but watching Teddy sing it live was another. Teddy knows how to stage-show when singing Shemendefer. Christians here! Teddy said, to a thunderous Yaaaaaaaaaaa. Moslems here! He said again, to another thunderous Yaaaaaaaaaaa. And then you know the lyrics and the melody and then you see Christians and Moslem dancing to the music like the children of the same mother that they are, holding each others necks. I wish all religious bigots come there and take a lesson in love including the evil dividers like Meles Zenawi who think pitting Moslems against Christians is only another political card to be used for the extension of his criminal regime. The metaphor of the Annuar Mosque and the St. Raguel Church in Merkato separated by a fence and the prayers from inside both compounds reaching the same destination is something only a creative artist like Tedi could see. It was just beautiful and poetic.

Who else except the evil who want to live at our expenses and see us kill one another can hate Teddy! How can you not love such a human being, a preacher of love, tolerance and unity? Did I hear that the Ethiopian government has banned some of these songs from government radio and TV? It is unbelievably staggering. The people who liken Meles to Musoloni seem to have a point.

The song about Dahlak is an illustration of Teddy’s genius and far sight. It is also the work of a courageous young artist who defied conventional wisdom. Teddy wrote this song at a time when it is least popular to engage in such talks as keeping hope alive when it comes to Eritrea and Ethiopia. That did not stop him from seeing a hard fact that the brotherly people of Eritrea and Ethiopia may someday come to realize that their destiny is as inseparable as their geography. And Teddy knows how to sing this one too. He said Eritreans here! Yaaaaa! Ethiopians here! Yaaaa. Abesha here! A thunderous Yaaaaaaaa! And he reminded us that we are one people who only have to grow ourselves above the feelings of rage and vindictiveness.
There was one other striking thing I saw on the show. Throughout the five or so hours of show, there was something stuck in Teddy’s hand. It was our beautiful flag. He holds it to his heart, raises it to the sky and waves it at the crowd who wave theirs back to him. I now have began to understand why we are having more and more flag and freedom loving youth in my country and why the woyanes hate him. I have always feared that our symbolisms, be mythological, legendary, or other, would vanish in a few years because of the relentless attack by people who want to do something out of nothing. I was afraid and worried of the inward looking backward ethnocentrism would eventually diminish our shared nationalism and identity and love for Ethiopia.

Thank you Teddy, you have gotten the secrets of nation building and self preservation. I learnt the secrets after I became much older than you. All advanced societies use their myths and legends as force to help them build their countries images, their strength and nationalism. Thank you for singing about Hailesilassie. You are courageous and wise enough to see and praise his positive contributions. My generation has done that crime of rolling him all in his negatives and throwing him away. We even have forgotten that he was the leader who publicly cried of happiness the day he opened the first modern school in Addis Ababa. Thank you Tedi for seeing beyond the blinding hate.

It was way past midnight and nobody, including myself ever had enough of Teddy. But the show had to end. It ended and we were back to a crowded exit. I packed my car with family and friends who were telling me that they did not have enough of Teddy. Some young Ethiopian waved and stopped me and asked me how to get to Interstate 270 to drive back to Columbus, Ohio – I gave him my map. It was love night and I could have given him my jacket if he needed it. Thanks bro, my Ohioan brother said, and left flying like a bird in front of me. I put Teddy’s CD Yasterserial in the stereo, filled the car with Shemendefeer and began driving to my home, my home very far away from home.

Twado yalebet eslam christianu,
Tezenegash ende Ethiopia mehonu, …. Shemedefeeeeeeer

God Bless you Teddy for bringing the best in us. Thank you for taking care of what many of us could not do. As far as I am concerned, you are my, my Mozart, my Beethoven, my Luciano Pavarotti and the many others whose arts shine light on society’s darkness.

Thank you much for filling the gap Tedi and thank you for giving us the sound track as we fight the injustice raging in our country.

(The writer can be reached at

Make a Free Website with Yola.