Video: Ethiopians Bid Farewell to Tilahun Gessesse at State Funeral


Ethiopia hosted a state funeral for its legendary vocalist
Tilahun Gessesse. It is the first such state funeral in the
nation’s history. Ethiopians have lost the greatest popular
musician the country has ever produced.

Ethiopia is mourning what many describe as one of the greatest -
if not THE greatest popular musician – the country has ever produced.

Read more at BBC.


Legendary Ethiopian Singer Tilahun Gessesse Dies at 68

Monday, 20 April 2009

The popular Ethiopian singer, Tilahun Gessesse, has died at the age of 68.

He had been the most dominant figure in Ethiopian music for more than half a century and will receive a state funeral later this week.The country’s radio and TV stations broke into their programmes to broadcast tributes. He started singing in the days of the Emperor Haile Selassie, and was for a time the lead singer in his imperial bodyguard band. The BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says that over the years, his plaintive tenor voice sang of love, family and friendship, as well as the more public themes of liberty, unity and justice. He had been in poor health in recent years because of diabetes. Read more.

66 Responses to “Video: Ethiopians Bid Farewell to Tilahun Gessesse at State Funeral”

  1. 1 ma Apr 20th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    We all die in the end. We just don’t know when the final call comes to you and I. It is sad to hear Tilahun’s passing away. He voiced so much of our joys, sorrows, and everything in between. We had him for over 50 years. A very appropriate song I can think of at the moment is Tnfashe TeqerTso Yqemet Malqesha…

    I was browsing Ethiopia-related websites and all seem to carry the news of Tilahun’s death and writing their condolences in so many words. For the moment we all seem to agree on one thing and to care about each other. The big question is if we can sustain it and if we can look back and declare our life had any purpose and meaning to bring to those we shared our life with.

  2. 2 Nafkot Apr 20th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    What a national treasure. He will be sorely missed!!

  3. 3 Hirut Zewdie Apr 20th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    What a huge loss for Ethiopia. Tile was the best and undisputed king of Ethiopian music. I thank him from the bottom of my heart for all he has done for us.

    I can’t stop crying. got to go.

    Good bless his soul and may he rest in peace forever!

  4. 4 Brook Apr 20th, 2009 at 1:04 pm


    we love you very much. we thank you very very much for being our king.
    I cry a lot. I wish I could change this bad news.

    tilshe I love you
    oh I love you

  5. 5 Abate Tekeba Apr 20th, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I have no words to express my feelings. This is a tragic event to the people of ETHIOPIA.

    May God bless him.

  6. 6 tadele Apr 20th, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Dr. Tilahun was one of Ethiopia’s greatest singers. He made history. I am so sad to hear the death of this brilliant singer of all time. I think the Ethiopian government should do something for the memory of this genius.

    May his soul rest in peace.

  7. 7 Begudu Apr 20th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    The worst thing in life, is the waste of talent.Tilahune used his God given talent so we can love, cry, dance, defend, help, cherish and flourish with them. He is a man who used all his talent to inspire. He is a real Ethiopian, Who is proud of our culture and celebrated our difference. He taught us to get back again and again regardless of physical limitation. He kept his cool throughout and reserved his respected spot in every Ethiopian heart. His music, In which my mother and father dated with, and I chose to perform in my own wedding, lives with me and all of us forever.Yes his body is no longer with us, but his music and voice will always live. It is time to celebrate his life. I know when Tilahune gets to he heavenly gates, he will perform, “Tenfashe tekedto yehune mastawesha” and God will say, “let him in” After all his voice belong to the heaven.

    ” Well done Tilahune, God Speed”

  8. 8 wuhibus Apr 20th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I can see how this news is affecting my soul; disturbing me in and out. I hate this fate… for being so far away from HOME, at this important day, not to be among the multitude millions of crowd of my people in Ethiopia, and cry out my desperation, anger… and humility. His life and career had been symbolically representing the lives of millions of the owners of those words and messages, the subjects of that Land, Ethiopia. His words and musics were a de-facto spokesperson for many of us … . This Man has raised my consciousness since I was born, he has played a very important role in shaping my views towards my culture, my people and my beloved country… his overwhelming quinching gestures of the right respect and tribute to those who served their country, bled for Ethiopia; and his diminishing voice and words-of-sword upon those who betrayed their land; all will be remembered and kept in our hearts. He mobilized a whole nation in love, war and peace, for that Ethiopia. The legend has at last passed out, or shall I say rested; leaving us with these broad-day light thieves and robbers, who have been torturing/ killing, burying him alive; by humiliating him, and those who make it their duty of selling his songs without his knowledge and permission; and walk away free, laughing at our cripple judiciary system and his fans. Now he has died, his house is open to be robbed further, “go ahead and take away as much of his songs/properties as you like …. You bloody “Chigar-terriwoch”. You will never make it up anyways. Tilahun has ascended, never will he come back and be hurted again. God mercy upon his soul! I wish “Mastaweqia Minister” saves his records and keeps his musics and other old musics clean. Even recent records are rusting in ‘that building’. But what can we do with people like … and his likes…? whose business has been to have any of our country’s heritage and archives be systematically destroyed. It’s just a sad time.

  9. 9 kidane Yitbarek Apr 20th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Tilahun is the voice of all-time. His throbbing voice will continue to excite many more generations to come. May he rest in peace!

  10. 10 tet Apr 20th, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    I am so sorry Tilahun Gessess. Tilahun was a man who cared about his country and people. All of us know who Tilahun is. I don’t think there is any Ethiopian that doesn’t know him. Tilahun is a great hero for many of us especially for the singers that he gave so much support and advice. However one thing I like about him is that unlike other Ethiopian singers, who have money, they like to support only their family. They do not care about others but Tilahun Gessess is the person who supported his community. We all know that in Ethiopia we have big (health) problems related to heart attack and one of the supporter of the cause was Tilahun Gessess, especially for the children who do not have family. God took you to a special home. Tilahun did not die.

  11. 11 SALEH YUSUF Apr 20th, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Ethiopians have lost a teacher, a singer, and a father for generations. I will miss you. I grew up listening to your Telaee.

  12. 12 Betty Apr 20th, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Tilish is one of those rare people that will always be remembered as the voice of Ethiopia. I say that not only because he was an extremely talented singer, but also because he understood the Ethiopian people and he expressed his love for all. His style and passion for each song comes from the bottom of his heart. You can just hear it in his incredible voice. His romantic love songs are timeless and borderless. I was very surprised to find out that he has quite a following in Asia because his voice sounds similar to most Asian melodies. He makes you dance, he makes you fall in love, he makes you proud of his country and all its people regardless of ethnicity. Everybody loves Tilahun. I know that during my mother’s generation the ladies were crazy about him. He was crazy about them too and that was one of his human weakens. I am sure many ladies heart was broken, but now all is forgiven. Tilish is remembered as Ethiopia’s treasure that he earned through a life of dedication to his art. Tall, handsome, gentle, talented, and simply beautiful man.

    I know you loved us, and today I want to tell you that Ethiopians everywhere love and honor you!!!

    My dear beloved countryman and a fellow artist Tilahun Gessese. May your soul rest in peace.


  13. 13 Desalegne Apr 20th, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    It is a national sorrow to loose a legend like no other. we never thought that we are going to loose him this time. He will remain in the hearts of all of us. We will always remember him in our lives but our children need to know about him and it will be good to build a statue of this legend around mesqel square or somewhere in the main streets of Addis Ababa.

    May God put his soul in heaven.

  14. 14 Desta T (Seattle) Apr 21st, 2009 at 12:22 am

    It is a very sad day for all of us. I grew up listing to his music in tearooms “shay bet” as a kid and then till now. He was not just a vocalist but also a singer who sang for our country, relationship, love and more. May God rest him in peace!

  15. 15 desu Apr 21st, 2009 at 12:29 am

    For me it was so heart breaking to hear the legendary Dr. Tilahun’s death. I think i can say we lost him as well as loss for Ethiopia. He is a great role model for us. He has done an unforgettable job. We all Ethiopians are sad as one and we pray to GOD to put his soul in peace and in heaven.

  16. 16 Ileni Apr 21st, 2009 at 1:15 am

    I am very sorry Tilahun, we have lost you.

    We will all truly miss you Tilahun and keep you in our hearts.

  17. 17 fitsum abebe Apr 21st, 2009 at 1:59 am

    what can i say we love u tilish

  18. 18 Zelalem Messele Apr 21st, 2009 at 2:38 am

    I am sorry i can’t say anything about the talent of Dr artist tilahun.
    Thank you very much.

  19. 19 Yirgu Ketea Apr 21st, 2009 at 3:15 am

    He worked hard for his country. He is a role-model for so many singers. He is a renaissance for Ethiopian Music. So he will not die.

    We will remember him by his work and music forever.

  20. 20 yodit Abera Apr 21st, 2009 at 3:16 am

    I am very sorry Tilahun, this is sad news we have lost you. You will always live in our hearts.

    very sorry

  21. 21 Eyasu Apr 21st, 2009 at 3:25 am

    So shocked when I heard the news. His good name still exists above the grave. Amazing to remember that same day 12 years ago, death had approached.

  22. 22 Dereje Seyoum Apr 21st, 2009 at 3:29 am

    Ethiopia has lost a legendary. How can we forget Tilahun for a second. Tilahun was born to be a great artist. He has proved it. All our artists are the results of Tilahun’s life. Let his soul be in peace in heaven.

    With kind regards,

  23. 23 Alemayehu Seifu (Dr) Apr 21st, 2009 at 4:35 am

    I have no words to express my feelings. We lost him!

    Tilhaun has made significant contributions in the Ethiopian Music, voicing our various culture. His songs are remedy when you feel sad, fall in love, in sorrow be it is personal or national.

    Let god bless his soul.

  24. 24 solomon mekuria Apr 21st, 2009 at 7:41 am

    I am shocked beyond I can express it. What a great and bitter loss! I have been and will be his big time fan and God knows I am sick right now. As anyone can say about the king, I am short of words to magnify his talent and deep rooted relation to his home land, Ethiopia. I could not find anyone who shares this feeing here….I am far away…but may God see and hear Tile’s attribute to the people’s favor. Peace and rest Tilahun. Let God heal the grief and sorrow of his family…………

  25. 25 Tenestual Apr 21st, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Yes Tilish was a great artist, he sang about all the things that mattered to us I can’t remember a thing that Tilahun hasn’t sang about. He entertained both the young and the old through his music and we were able to express our happiness and grief in historic moments. We have lost a great icon. It sure is a sad day for us all. God rest his soul in peace!

  26. 26 kiros seyoum Apr 21st, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Thanks a lot for the good and sweet music. I have no other words to express your talent. People like you may come to world only once in a century. Thanks thanks thanks for your wonderful music.

  27. 27 kidist abebe Apr 21st, 2009 at 8:13 am

    betam yasazenal

  28. 28 Etalem T Apr 21st, 2009 at 8:56 am

    ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! We lost u tilish.

  29. 29 MIKALEL FITUME Apr 21st, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Oh we has lost a legendary singer. How can me forget Tilahun. God heal the grief and sorrow of his family.

  30. 30 Mesfin Apr 21st, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Gobeze…Tilaye Tegefeffe !!

  31. 31 Genet Tadesse Apr 21st, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    oh oh it is not possible the voice of God –interrupted-
    WE Ethiopians must have been especially blessed -cause -
    When Tilahun opened his mouth to sing God himself poured out

    What else could it be – To have such heavenly talents and
    spirit, and —worldly -Beauty -also to much ,tall and handsome
    our Tilish was the expression of God on a good day.

    Even on his bad days God never forgot Tilahun and his mother Ethiopia

    We are selfish to the core –you can’blame us you spoiled us with
    your magic for so long it is –just we can’t get enough of you

    Well we feel right in that —WE Will Never Have enough of you
    Never Ever will we forget you— we love you always Tilish -knowing you have loved us
    and still do—We are the keepers of your inestimable legacy which is our legacy
    to preserve it for generations to come forever…..

    Long live Tilahun Gessesse Son of Ethiopia

  32. 32 Kedist Geremaw Apr 21st, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Thanks for all the memories! You were truly a national treasure. May your music live on past your untimely death. Let us now honor our living as life is fleeting.

  33. 33 Tezu Apr 21st, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    WE consider someone’s death a loss because we appreciate their presence and so miss their absence greatly. Gash Tilahun Gessesse will truly be missed by all who adore and grew up on his music. We screamed loud when coming out of our mothers’ womb to mark the moment we join this physical world; it s what we do with our lives that makes us valued, appreciated and missed when we depart this world and reunite with our maker. It’s clear to see that Tilahun has affected generations of Ethiopians through his music. I can only say i feel grateful to have met him and seen him perform. Its difficult to register the sad reality of his departure, but let’s be thankful for Tilish and his creator, for one life lived right, for what he has given us and left us with. He has done right by us.

    Nefsihin Yimarew

  34. 34 Zinash Apr 22nd, 2009 at 1:54 am

    betame yasazenale nefesone yemarewe.

  35. 35 asaye teklu Apr 22nd, 2009 at 2:18 am

    This is a major loss for Ethiopia and Ethiopians. A big landmark has moved away. Thilahun has always been a real Ethiopian. His patriotism has been reflected in both his music and life. Two things I learned from Tilahun are professional ethics with absolute passion and dedication and country love. I like his whistle that goes as ” benat hager fikir” The love of his country has welcomed him with the warmest final days of life. Not only the people of Ethiopia , its soil couldn’t afford to give away its invaluable asset to rest away from its abode. Rest in peace.

  36. 36 Haile Apr 22nd, 2009 at 5:54 am

    I am still trying to digest this sorrow and it will take a long time before we will be settled with this great loss. However, I think the most important thing now is to stay close to his loved ones and start to make plans to protect and preserve his incredible legacy. I appreciate and support what Artist Eyasu Berhe, eloquently said about Tilahun in an interview with ETV.

    God bless all of you and God bless Ethiopia!

  37. 37 getaneh Apr 22nd, 2009 at 6:23 am

    we lost the best & the king of Ethiopian music forever & ever it is a bad news for all Ethiopians.

  38. 38 hirut Apr 22nd, 2009 at 6:39 am

    I loved his music it reminds me of my childhood he really is the voice of Ethiopia no one can beat him in the voice department he sang from the heart and was proud to be an Ethiopian.

  39. 39 Hiwot Apr 22nd, 2009 at 7:46 am

    What a shock. I still can’t believe the news. I don’t have words to describe this legendary person but let me try: “Tilish was one of the greatest singers Ethiopia ever had and will ever have for the coming future”. I would like to say to all his family members and fans that may god give you the strength. Tilish, you will always be in our heart.

  40. 40 Martha L. Apr 22nd, 2009 at 8:04 am

    I am so sorry. There are no words for now.I loved all his music! My thoughts and prayers are with the family. Know that the good Lord is always here for you.

  41. 41 Tiruneh Apr 22nd, 2009 at 8:16 am


    May your soul rest in peace! Thank you for your generous gifts to us all! You have never been properly compensated for your great service.


  42. 42 belayenesh Apr 22nd, 2009 at 9:59 am

    I am so sorry I love Tilahun

    Egzabher nebsn begnet yaneraw

  43. 43 Adefris Arega Apr 22nd, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    It is with great shock that I learned the sudden death of the Honorable Artist Dr. Tilahun Gessesse. I was informed of this “hard-to-accept” incidence right after I reached in my office by my professional colleague and have to pass through great sufferings to take this unbelievable sad news for granted.This iconic singer is indisputably legendary and deserves to be nomenclatured “THE IMPERIAL SINGER” of modern & versatiLe songs of our beloved and cherished Ethiopia. There is no sphere of life that the late legendary imperial singer has’nt sang. He has been,is and will always be the irreplaceable,charismatic,iconic and prophetic leading IMPERIAL SINGER.

    May his soul rest in peace in heaven forever!!!

  44. 44 eliasism Apr 22nd, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Your majesty Dr Tilahun ! You were simply the best and unable to forget you…I will cry for you on your funeral tomorrow. May God Rest your soul in Peace.

  45. 45 Fasil Apr 22nd, 2009 at 4:10 pm


  46. 46 Mesfin the Godoliyas Apr 22nd, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    We miss him very badly. However, we can’t change the nature cuz every body have to go there at some point. May God welcome him to his home.

    We miss him.

  47. 47 beredu Apr 23rd, 2009 at 3:34 am

    It’s incredibly sad to hear. RIP. We need to keep his legacy alive, honor and finish his dream of establishing a diabetic center in Ethiopia for people with diabetics and couldn’t afford to be treated.

  48. 48 Terefe Mekonnen Apr 23rd, 2009 at 5:42 am

    I have no words to express my feeling about Dr. Tilahun Gessesse all Ethiopian we lost him.

    “Yihich Agatamy Beand Agetatman
    Yefikirn Shema Derba Agonatsfan
    Honom Sanasbew Gizew Bemehonu
    Beka Teleyayen Merir New Hazenu”

    May God put his soul in heaven!!!

  49. 49 TSIGEREDA Apr 23rd, 2009 at 5:43 am

    I don’t believe he died. He will always be with us through his music.

  50. 50 ENDUSH Apr 23rd, 2009 at 5:47 am

    I don’ have much words to say…i am Really sorry! Luv u Tille.

  51. 51 fasika yilma Apr 23rd, 2009 at 6:03 am

    We lost an important and memorable figure in the musical chronology of Ethiopia…let us keep on remembering him!

  52. 52 Mil Apr 23rd, 2009 at 6:27 am

    He is alive by his artistic works.

  53. 53 Mesi Apr 23rd, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Ohhh God!!!! I don’t belive this. I am so sorry!! I said only this b/c I have no other words.

  54. 54 Berhanu Apr 23rd, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Tilahun Gessese – we miss you. You won’t come back? Hard to bear.

    afer yiklelih.

  55. 55 Melkamsew Abate Apr 23rd, 2009 at 8:45 am

    It is a tragic and regrettable moment for all Ethiopians. Tilahun is a king. Tilahun is a symbol. Tilahun is teacher. Tilahun is a preacher. Tilahun is a doctor, a professor. Tilahun is love itself. Tilahun is everything for us, Ethiopians. I just felt that a king who had been worshiped for centuries and generations had passed away leaving his people on a bare ground. I am really sad.

    I never thought that a man like Tilahun Gessesse would die.

    Finally I convinced myself that Tilahun was not dead because his spirits, musics, gesture and his body are all in my heart.

    God Bless your soul Tilahun

  56. 56 MEKONNEN TADESSE Apr 23rd, 2009 at 10:41 am

    It is a great sorrow for Ethiopians today. We lost our hero TILAHUN. Tilahun for more than half a century gave his true love for his country. He created so many singers. He helped so many people to leave aside their sorrow and to live in love with their partner by his lovely melody.

    I do not have words to express my deepest love to my hero Tilish.

    Thanks for those people who are gathering at his burial ceremony at Meskel square.

    Thanks for those people who are gathering at his burial ceremony at Meskel square.

    With great sorrow and grief: May his soul rest in peace in heaven.

  57. 57 mohamed moussa Apr 23rd, 2009 at 11:10 am

    moute ienkuan chekno

  58. 58 Alemayehu Mergia and JJ Hollingsworth (composer) Apr 23rd, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Voice of a proud people.

    Voice of love, affinity,
    endless expression of grievances,

    Insightful feeling and observation as a

    Whole educational and identity as a culture.

    Pavarotti is taking vocal lessons in Heaven
    And the angels are happy.

    Thanks, Alemayehu Mergia and JJ Hollingsworth

  59. 59 Debre Tabor Apr 25th, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Rest in peace.

  60. 60 yacob Apr 27th, 2009 at 3:07 am

    GOD keep your soul in paradise.

  61. 61 Dereje Abebe Apr 27th, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Many generations grew up, romanticized, married, celebrated, cried, and defended the country against invaders with you at the fore front. You are a giant of man among Ethiopian giants!. Your timeless voice will continue to entertain Ethiopians for generations to come.

    Gashe Tilahun, you will be sorely missed. Rest In Peace!!!

  62. 62 Kassa Apr 28th, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    Artist Tilahun is a unique person. I have many of his songs. Those are my antiques. May God put his soul in heaven and comfort his family.

  63. 63 Eritrean May 1st, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Rest in Peace!!

  64. 64 Abdulkadir Ahmed May 14th, 2009 at 2:52 am

    Doctor Artist Tilahu Gessese’s songs are like medicine. Even his conversation is music.
    Tilahun” has songs for everything.


    God please put his soul in Genet (Haven).

    From Adama University 3rd Year

  65. 65 Daniel Tadele zeway Jan 21st, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I am so sorry Tilahun Gessess. Tilahun was a man who cared about his country and people. All of us know who Tilahun is. I don’t think there is any Ethiopian that doesn’t know him. Tilahun is a great hero for many of us especially for the singers that he gave so much support and advice. However one thing I like about him is that unlike other Ethiopian singers, who have money, they like to support only their family. They do not care about others but Tilahun Gessess is the person who supported his community. We all know that in Ethiopia we have big (health) problems related to heart attack and one of the supporter of the cause was Tilahun Gessess, especially for the children who do not have family. God took you to a special home. Tilahun did not die.

    Yihich Agatamy Beand Agetatman
    Yefikirn Shema Derba Agonatsfan
    Honom Sanasbew Gizew Bemehonu
    Beka Teleyayen Merir New Hazenu”

    May God put his soul in heaven!!!

  66. 66 Teddy Apr 22nd, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    You will be missed by all……I love You Tilish

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