Tamirat Mekonen: The Person Behind Teddy Afro’s Music Video ‘Tikur Sew’

Tamirat Mekonen Teklu is the Director and Cinematographer of Teddy Afro's music video "Tikur Sew." The video is produced by Adika Communication & Events, Belama Entertainment and Sabisa Films Production. (Photo by Marie Claire Andrea)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, June 11, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – As a young boy growing up in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia where his mother worked at the local movie theater, Tamirat Mekonen Teklu, 31, — the director and cinematographer of Teddy Afro’s latest music video Tikur Sew — dreamed of one day becoming a filmmaker. And judging from early reactions to his newest gig, Tamirat’s directorial debut, only three years after receiving a scholarship to study at New York Film Academy, appears to be a smashing success.

TADIAS caught up with Tamirat shortly after he returned to his home in Washington, D.C., following the launch of the music video in Ethiopia last week.

“For 75 days, we worked 18-19 hours a day, non-stop,” he told us. “This was my first project after graduating from film school, so I was working under a lot of pressure.” He added: “My whole Ethiopian filmmaking family had great expectations about this project. At the end of the day, it was a great experience for the whole team.”

Tikur Sew (Amharic for black person), is Teddy Afro’s tribute to the legacy of Menelik II, the emperor who led Ethiopia during the world-famous Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896. Scoring a decisive military victory against the invading Italian forces Adwa was an event that changed the course of history not only for Ethiopians, but also for the colonial ambitions of a major European power, forcing Italy to recognize the sovereignty of an African nation.

“I really wanted to make the audience to feel and experience the six-hour historical battle,” Tamirat said. “Honestly, though, I did not expect that people would have such a positive and emotional reaction to the music video.” He added: “There were two main messages, which are found in the Amharic quote at the end of the film: ‘In order to define yourself now, you have to look at your past,’” he said. “If those who fought in the battle did not sacrifice their lives for us, we would have lost our culture and identity. We would not be who we are today.”

Tamirat continued: “There was a price that was paid for us to be the only non-colonized African nation. The last scene I created in color was a fantasy scene of the young people of our generation honoring and acknowledging what Emperor Menelik and Empress Taytu Betul accomplished.”

The behind the screens making of Tikur Sew Music Video Tamirat with the actor playing Emperor Menelik II. (photo by Sabisa Films Production)

Tamirat Mekonen with Tesfaye Wondmagegn and production crew in the making of Tikur Sew music video. (photo by Sabisa Films Production)

According to Tamirat, there were 420 actors who took part in the music video, most hailing from the theatrical arts department at Addis Ababa University. “We shot the film in four days and spent two months in post-production,” he told TADIAS. “We worked in four locations all around Addis, including Teddy Afro’s house.”

How did he get involved in the project? “The previous distributor of Tikur Sew before Adika, saw my work and introduced me to Teddy Afro’s former manager Addis Gessese, and then to Teddy Afro, himself,” he said. “After I met him, Teddy let me listen to all of the music that would be on his new CD.” He added: “Teddy and Adika were anticipating producing a DVD with a selection of four music videos from the Tikur Sew album, and I chose the title song Tikur Sew.”

“I grew up watching cinema because my mother was working in the only cinema theater in Bahir Dar.” Tamirat shared. “Every weekend she would let me sit and watch movies. Because of this, I dreamt of one day becoming a filmmaker.”

Tamirat later attended a one year certificate program in filmmaking in Addis Ababa. “I saved the money to pay for the program on my own by walking long hours in order not to have to pay for transportation and sometimes skipping lunch,” he said. “I worked on many films, including: Red Mistake, Ashenge, Albo, and the award winning Siryet. In 2009, he was awarded a Brett Ratner scholarship to attend the New York Film Academy, in New York City, where he studied cinematography. “I was also assisted by my future father-in-law Matt Andrea, who sponsored me to come to the United States,” he said.

Does he have any upcoming projects? “I am working as the director of photography on a feature film entitled Lovers’ Paradise,” he said. “We hope to start shooting around the end of September. Additionally, my company Sabisa Production is set to debut a new feature film, Sons of Sunrise, in the next two months.”
Watch: Tikur Sew – Teddy Afro – HD English version – Ethiopia Music (2012)

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38 Responses to “Tamirat Mekonen: The Person Behind Teddy Afro’s Music Video ‘Tikur Sew’”

  1. 1 Mule Jun 10th, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Well done Tamirat! It’s an amazing video and a well deserved tribute to Menelik and Taitu! God bless Teddy Afro!

  2. 2 Mez Jun 10th, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Wow, the dopiest best abesha music video ever! Way to go my PPL!

  3. 3 andualem Jun 10th, 2012 at 6:37 am

    you did good!

  4. 4 Dawit Jun 10th, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Let this be reminder to all the bickering all the nonsense people use to divide us. Don’t listen to any one who tries to falsely demonize Menelik. They are either stupid or willfully ignorant. Ask them to make their argument in Italian instead :-)

  5. 5 Tizita Jun 10th, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Very nicely done music and video. A much deserved tribute to a great king.

  6. 6 Dagmawit Ayalew Jun 10th, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Really, really wonderful video. I am sooooo proud of you Tamirat Mekonen. Keep up the good work!!!

  7. 7 mimi Jun 10th, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    When i saw that the director and producer of the “Tikur Sew” music video were Ethiopians I was so proud and amazed to see this authentic piece of work. I really wanted to find out more about them and their vision. Thanks Tadias!

  8. 8 mimi Jun 10th, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Amazing piece of work!!! this will definitely be one of the benchmarks in Ethiopian film history! please continue your work and stay authentic :)

  9. 9 Mulatu Debebe Jun 10th, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I love it! If it was not for Menelik and the victory at Adwa, most likely today we would all be speaking Italian right now instead of Amhraic, Oromiffa, Tigrega, Guragena, Walita, etc…

    Fantastic job on the video and love the song as well. Teddy Afro has really matured!

  10. 10 aberra Jun 10th, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    wonderful, you did well, keep it up

  11. 11 Helen NJ Jun 10th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    The next video should be about the “children of Adwa,” during world war II, when Haile Selassie took the mantle again only 50 or 60 years after Adwa.

    I am very proud of the director Tamirat Mekonen! Way to go!

  12. 12 Ethiopiawit Jun 10th, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Tamirat said… “If those who fought in the battle did not sacrifice their lives for us, we would have lost our culture and identity. We would not be who we are today.”

    Well stated borther! Please keep up the good work. We need a postive and an intelligent Ethiopian like you as a role model!

    Tadias, thank you so much for posting postive stories on what Ethiopians do in Ethiopia and abroad!

  13. 13 Brooks Jun 10th, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Thank you honorable Mr Tamrat,this video shows our narrative history in human experience.Historical events in narrative history are path dependent.This video might remind those people in the Doubting Thomas skeptics column who believe in virtual,digital, analogical and secret history to abandon their revisionist beliefs Thanks.

  14. 14 Dr. Syoum Gebregziabher Jun 10th, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    This should have convinced all the present African leaders who have suggested Nakruma’s monument,(now in front of the new African Union Building) was a historical mistake. Menelik’s (the black person) would have been the appropriate one. Teddy Afro’s music video “Tikur Sew.” has hit the cord of true Africans. Thanks for reminding us. Congratulation for your supreme effort and accomplishment.

  15. 15 Jason Jun 10th, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I am delighted to see the re-enactment of this very significant piece of African history. Adwa was the biggest defeat suffered by the Europeans since Hannibal and it signaled the beginning of the end of European colonialism.

  16. 16 Rebika Jun 10th, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Teddy Afro’s music always rejuvenates Ethiopiawinet and on point. As to Tamirat, he has delivered!

  17. 17 mel tewahade Jun 10th, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    At first I like to thank Matt Andrea for sponsoring his son-in-law Tamirat Mekonen to study at New York Film Academy. That was a very good investment. As an alumni of New York Film Academy myself, it is a source of pride, that a NYFA graduate and a fellow Ethiopian produced a superb music video. The acting was great,the cinematography was one of the best I have seen and the audio is phenomenal. Thank you for choosing and selecting such beautiful looking horses. They look like they can race the Kentucky Derby.

    The video represents the emotion of the theme. The message of the lyrics is well represented. The choice of the location and some of the majestic mountains and the Ethiopian citizens army rushing downhill, depicts the event of the war against Italians in a more dramatic way. This is a story that needs to be told as we as Ethiopians were unable to tell our own story until now. Emperor Menlik was one of the wisest working King Ethiopia was blessed with. It is my sincere hope that future generations of historians will see Emperor Menlik, in the context of nation building and all the unpleasant things that might have taken place to secure a country. I hope minorities in Ethiopia that sometimes feel undermined by Emperor Menlik will find it in their heart to be forgiving. God Bless all Ethiopians.

    Mel Tewahade

  18. 18 Dr. Aberra Molla Jun 11th, 2012 at 1:33 am

    እግዜር ይስጥልኝ! Thanks for an excellent job!

  19. 19 Ande Jun 11th, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Waawoo… glad we still we have people like you!!!!

  20. 20 Serawit Haile Jun 11th, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Had the Italians managed to capture or kill Menelik that day, that would have been the end of Ethiopia as we know it. And Menelik knew it. This situation was serous ya’ll. As all human-beings Menelik was not perfect. On top of that he was a shrewd and extremely intelligent administrator, but also used brute force against his own people even expanded his internal domain using military force by collaborating with Europeans, including the Italians, the British, the French, etc., and so on. But when it comes to Adwa, nobody can deny that he fulfilled his duty as the “commander in chief” and saved Ethiopia for generations to come. I will drink to that!

  21. 21 tata Jun 11th, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Wow!No words for this…..

  22. 22 Meron Jun 11th, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Tamirat: It’s a fantastic video! Thank you!

  23. 23 Zeway Jun 11th, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    The public secret is that Menelik turned to his faith and the Lord of Ethiopia, prayed and swore by the Ark of the Covenant at Tsion Mariam church, as have many of his predecessors in times of grave danger for thousands of years. The only thing he knew is that whatever the outcome, it was her decision. He had the Tabot with him and he was prepared to accept whatever result she willed. It was the peoples faith, from all religions and corners of Ethiopia, that saved the day. That’s what I believe.

  24. 24 Laura Reynolds Jun 11th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Great job Tamirat!!! So proud of you and all of the work you put into this! It’s beautiful!!!

  25. 25 rahel Jun 11th, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    It feels great seeing, our people unite to retold our history!I love the concept, long live ethiopian children who put Ethiopia name to the topl

  26. 26 Luele Ethiopia Jun 11th, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    in one word WOW! Amazing!

  27. 27 Mombasa, Kenya Jun 11th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Viva Ethiopia! Viva Africa!

  28. 28 Askale Dama Jun 12th, 2012 at 2:05 am

    Menelik is the essence of Ethiopian independence and dignity. Teddy is the conscience and voice our time. Tamirat is the new Ethiopia.

    Thank you,


  29. 29 Saba Jun 12th, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Endezinew gobez! It feels wonderful to witness our generation finally owning its history and telling it as it is from our own authentic perspective! As the African proverb says: “Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.”

  30. 30 Wossen abeje Belema entertainment Jun 12th, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Tame I have no word to say u are wonderfull (wossen abeje and theodrose Kasahun /AFRO/ WE Do Respect u ever and aver ).
    RISPECT ……………….

  31. 31 minyibel Semahegne Alemu Jun 13th, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Just long live all of you who participate in this work. Always we must remmber the foundation of our unity. REAL WORK,

  32. 32 Eskedar Jun 13th, 2012 at 11:47 am

    EPIC!!! a really wonderful well deserved tribute to the king and Queen (Menelik and Taitu) and I love the message @ the end—”yehuwalaw Kelele Yelem Yefitu” yes indeed, we are who we are today—and we are proud of it, because of the sacrifices they made for us. KUDOS to everyone who corraborated and TEDDY—what can I say? you have proved once again you are a true Artist!!!

  33. 33 Mame - Paris Jun 13th, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Betam korahubachu yagere lijouch! This is the true story of Adaw that should be told and retold. Thank you!

  34. 34 Abiye Tekle Jun 13th, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Kudos to Tamirat Mekonnen on job well done. We hope to see more of your works in the future…

  35. 35 Mimi Jun 17th, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Dear Tamrat: What a wonderful work you did. Please keep it up. God will be with you. God creat every time a person like you for a especial time. It is a wonderful work that you provided for this generation.
    thak you again.

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