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  • Mehari Brothers: Music, an Integral Part of Life

    Their deep understanding of music goes beyond melody, and dance. Though it encompasses both, their anchor is message – resounding Fortune’s line,”Content matters”. With this strict rule, it is no surprise that they encounter many a stumble, but are never blocked. The leap from one challenge to the other is one thread that keeps them bonded, and helps them stand out from the crowd. Henok, band leader and vocalist of the “Mehari Brothers”, boldly claims their unique blend of spirituality, music action and style has contributed a great deal to their Brand M-Mehari Brothers. Now without losing their roots, they are rebranding the work becoming, “Henok & Mehari Brothers”, a project brand. Robel, the guitarist, thinks it is only a matter of time before they will follow their leader. Lewam actually concedes and projects a much shorter cycle between the musical products to which adoring fans look forward. The relations have not been so smooth – the playing field not level, they have their plateaus and valleys. Their friends describe them as a kaleidoscopic blend so colourful, unpredictable, mesmerizing audiences with their music and dance, optimized by their well-kept dreadlocks. Today as they release their album, Fortune talks with them about the energy, drive, worries and the way ahead for their band, their brand and the mix that comes with inspiration. 

    They have music and the arts in their genes and their spiritual values as well as family bonds seem to have put them on a solid foundation. They know they are brand name material and in this exclusive interview, SAMRAWIT TASSEW, FORTUNE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF discovers the ingredients of their success. Click here to read the interview 

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  • Hailu Mergia next up on Awesome Tapes From Africa

    Hailu Mergia and Dahlak Band will release Wede Harer Guzo on June 17th via Awesome Tapes From Africa.

    Mergia is an Ethiopian keyboardist and accordion player currently living in Washington, D.C. Wede Harer Guzo, his second album for Awesome Tapes From Africa, is a tape he made in 1978 with the Dahlak band, who were residents at Addis Ababa's Ghion Hotel club at the time. It was a follow-up to his 1977 album with The Walias, Tche Belew which is considered a cornerstone of the Ethio jazz-and-funk golden age of the '70s.

    The original version of Wede Harer Guzo was released through the now-defunct Sheba Music Shop. Mergia's copy of the cassette is the only known source for the recording. The label tapped Jessica Thompson at Coast Mastering to clean up layers of hiss, flutter and distorted frequencies, which were exacerbated by years of storage.

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  • The refugee writer from Somalia who influenced Beyonce's new album

    “I tried to make a home out of you/But doors lead to trapped doors.” So begins the first interlude of Beyoncé’s new ‘visual album’. Released on 23 April with a special on HBO, Lemonade features 12 songs – interspersed with words written by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire.

    While the album has whipped up a social media frenzy over Beyoncé’s lyrics, brimming with rage and accusations of infidelity, the quiet moments in between offer a thoughtful counterpoint. The words are those of Shire, a 27-year-old born in Kenya to Somali parents, who published her first pamphlet Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth in 2011 and went on to win the inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize in 2013.

    Taking second billing in Lemonade’s production credits for ‘Film Adaptation and Poetry’, ahead of the directors, Shire offers contemplation among shots of a flood, a car-smashing monster truck and a laughing Beyoncé wielding a baseball bat as she strides down a street followed closely by a fireball.

    The songs feature lyrics like “Looking at my watch you should have been home/Tonight I regret the night I put that ring on” – and their immediacy is given added weight by Shire’s poems. “I tried to change/Closed my mouth more/Tried to be softer, prettier – less awake” – uttered as Beyoncé spins under water, her eyes open as if in a trance – is adapted from For Women Who Are Difficult To Love.


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  • 'Congo rumba king' Papa Wemba dies

    Papa Wemba, known around the world as the "king of Congolese rumba", has died after collapsing during a concert.

    The musician fell ill on Saturday while performing at a music festival in Abidjan in Ivory Coast on Sunday. He was 66.

    The cause of his death is not known yet.

    Baudouin Banza Mukalay, culture minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), confirmed his death, calling it a "great loss for the country and all of Africa".

    "He was known as a true trendsetter," Suzana Omiyo, a Kenyan musician, told Al Jazeera.

    "One thing I remember about Papa Wemba was his way of performing and the fact that he was able to take African music to the global map. I believe he was one of the greatest musicians."

    Video footage showed the moment when he slumped to the floor behind a group of dancers before performers rushed to his aid.

    "Papa Wemba wanted to die on stage, that's what he told me two weeks ago when I spoke to him on the phone," Salif Traore, a festival promoter and singer also known as A'Salfo, told the AFP news agency.

    Papa Wemba, whose career spanned five decades, first burst onto the African music scene in the 1960s [Reuters] 

    'The music does not die' 

    The electric performer first burst onto the African music scene in the 1960s and scored one chart-topper after another, fusing African traditions with Western pop and rock influences. 

    In a career spanning nearly five decades, he won many fans across Africa and the French-speaking world.

    Read more at 

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  • New Ethiopian film addresses 'Red Terror' mass killings

    The Ethiopian film industry is growing, though most feature films, especially those shot in the country’s working language Amharic, are based on simple-minded concepts concerning wealth and love.

    It’s hard to find films that delve into historical matters. This could partly be due to a culture which sees history and politics as controversial matters that should be avoided for fear of public backlash or government disapproval.

    Those who dare describe Ethiopia’s often bloody and divisive political history have to contend with painstaking research, expensive finances and the danger that the government’s censor board will cut part of or even the whole film.

    Against this backdrop, a new film, “Ye Negen Alewdlem” (I will not be born tomorrow) has been causing a stir for probing what was probably Ethiopia’s most bloody period, the “Red Terror”, from the mid to the late 1970s.

    Against this backdrop, a new film, “Ye Negen Alewdlem” (I will not be born tomorrow) has been causing a stir for probing what was probably Ethiopia’s most bloody period, the “Red Terror”, from the mid to the late 1970s.

    It began with the 1974 revolution which overthrew the country’s last Emperor Haileselassie.

    Hailemariam Mengistu and the other military officers who led the coup then refused to hand over power to a civilian government, enraging leftist student activists.

    These students launched a campaign of “White terror” for democratic change and the overthrow of the military junta. Hundreds of officials and supporters from the new military government were assassinated.

    The military government retaliated with what was later dubbed the “Red Terror”, eliminating real and imagined enemies of the “revolution” and the country.

    Although no reliable figure exist, scholars have estimated the death toll of the Red Terror at about 150 000, with many others tortured.

    In 1991 the military junta was overthrown by a coalition of rebel groups which prosecuted many of the perpetrators of the Red Terror – many charged with genocide – in mass trials.

    “Ye Negen Alewdlem” – nearly two hours long – is based on a book written by veteran sports journalist Genene Mekuria about youths who used football as a distraction from the claustrophobic fear of the Red Terror.

    Local government cadres created much of that fear by their all-embracing surveillance of the population and the power of life and death or freedom and imprisonment they were given through the authority to denounce “anti-revolutionaries”.

    The main character is a football coach played by Berhanu Degafe, a veteran entertainment journalist and personality. The coach uses his job as an escape from the danger of forcible recruitment into a local government approved security force.

    He trains his players on roads littered with dumped bodies of “anti-revolutionaries” and anti-government leaflets as he tries to juggle family disapproval with his desire to build a great football team at a dangerous time.

    At a time when every young man not affiliated with government-approved structures risked torture and death, with a round-the-clock curfew in place to monitor illegal activities, it wasn’t long before the football team’s “rising stars” were under government surveillance.

    Eventually many of the young players of the football club are put in jail and tortured, while the coach’s wife urges him to quit his passion.

    But not before one last assignment where his players’ tormentors coerce him into a bizarre match between a government-approved team and his team of rising stars. If he doesn’t agree to the match he will be killed or imprisoned, he knows.

    The match ends with the coach’s team winning against the government favourites, annoying government officials.

    Defiant to the end, the “rising stars” chant anti-government slogans as they’re loaded en route to the prison, from which many would never leave, it is implied.

    While the “Red Terror” period is etched in many people’s minds through personal memories, or tales of survivors or of relatives of the dead, and a “martyr’s monument” in the middle of the capital city Addis Ababa, “Ye Negen Alewdem” is one of the few films to date to turn this particularly harrowing part of Ethiopia’s often troubled past into cinema.

    It must be admitted though that the filmmakers are treading on quite safe ground as the current government ousted Mengistu from power, so as long as the film portrays the Mengistu regime in a consistently bad light – which it does – it should be safe.

    The English sub-titles to the film suggest the producers intend an unusual move, to showcase to an international audience a period which most people outside Ethiopia know very little about. – African News Agency (ANA)



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