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An Ethiopian musician has just released an upbeat song and a tribute to Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, the first African leader who defeated the Italian colonial forces at the battle of Adwa in 1896.

Teddy Afro is a pop singer in Ethiopia who often writes and sings about timely issues and political subjects that make him stand out from other singers. His romantic songs are also equally well received. Furthermore, Teddy cleverly understands the business side of music unlike his predecessors, popular mainstream singers like him such as Tilahun Gessesse or Asnaketch Worku, who barely benefited from their creative works.

In fact, most of Ethiopia’s old school singers lived their remaining few years in poverty, some rescued by the country’s only billionaire: Sheik Al Amoudi. In contrast, Teddy is quite entrepreneurial in his musical endeavors - he understands the music business well and he knows what people want to listen to, and what he needs to do to reap what he sows and to stay on top of the market. For example, he plans very carefully when, where, and how to release his albums. Often his album release dominates the market, scaring other artists from releasing their new albums because of their fear that they may get overshadowed.

Teddy recently released his latest album, which fans have been anticipating. Upon arrival the album has received mixed reactions from the public, as expected, because of the controversial nature of the song that serves as the title of the album: Tikur Sew (Black Man). Though his fans are as supportive as always, others question Teddy’s motives.

Tikur Sew is an upbeat song and a tribute to Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, the first African leader who defeated the Italian colonial forces at the battle of Adwa in 1896, securing Ethiopia’s independence, though he compromised the region that is now an independent country, Eritrea - which stayed under Italian colonization until 1941 (the British took over in 1941 after Italy lost in WWII), and reunited with Ethiopia in 1952 under Emperor Haile Sellasie. A protracted war that lasted close to 32 years resulted in its final independence in 1993. Emperor Menelik is also criticized for brutally crushing his domestic opposition, those who fiercely resisted his expansionist policies and leadership as King of Kings or Emperor.

The song praises Empress Taytu Betul, too. She is the wife of Emperor Menelik, credited for being a powerful woman behind him. She was a key player in the battle of Adwa and the years that came after it. Other important names are also mentioned in the song such as Alula Aba Nega and Balcha Aba Nefso - both well-respected generals. Overall, the song’s aim seems to be to remind young Ethiopians of the positive aspects of our past and to celebrate the valiant patriots who aggressively fought and defended Ethiopia from becoming a colony, that, of course, excluding Eritrea, for reasons mentioned above.

This week Teddy has released the music video for Tikur Sew. The music video is by far one of the best coming out of Ethiopia. The cinematographic quality is not only well done, but it captures the mood of Ethiopia in 1896. The quote at the end of the video reads: ‘There is no future without the past.’ I wonder why they skipped the present. The past is in fact more important to the present than to the future. We look at the past to build on what has been done and to avoid repeating similar mistakes in the present - so we can have a better future. You can’t have a future without the present; both the past and the future are meaningless without it. One of the reasons why Ethiopia remains a poor and politically divided country, despite its fascinating history and natural resources, is the fact that we have yet to reconcile with the present.

The song can be viewed here.

Please be warned that the video has some graphic parts as it depicts war. Though you will see swordsmanship, which Ethiopian warriors were very good at, the video is not too graphic. Having seen The Passion of Christ or any of Hollywood’s war movies, this one is tolerable.

* Elyas Mulu Kiros blogs at


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