Reviews Section

Ethiopian Pianist Girma Yifrashewa’s Stellar Performance in Bethesda

Ethiopian composer & pianist Girma Yifrashewa live at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Maryland on July 30th, 2014. (Photo by Matt Andrea)

Tadias Magazine
By Matt Andrea

Published: Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) – On Wednesday July 30th, Ethiopian composer and pianist Girma Yifrashewa performed to a sold-out audience of more than 300 at the legendary art deco Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, close to Washington, DC. His concert coincided with the release of his new CD Love & Peace by Unseen Worlds.

The show included exquisite renditions of Yifrashewa’s compositions Ambassel, Sememen, Chewata and The Shepherd With the Flute, which he performed as piano solos, as well as Elilta, Hope and My Strong Will, which he performed as ensemble pieces, accompanied by Besufekad Tadesse (Clarinet), Christein Kahrazian (Violin) and Elise Cuffy (Cello). While many describe Yifrashewa as a classical Ethiopian pianist, his music clearly defies category, as it fuses classical structure with traditional Ethiopian melodies and chromatics, in a blend that is truly sublime and transcendental.

Yifrashewa was introduced by Rick Brown, the proprietor of venue, and Tommy McCutchon, producer of Unseen Worlds. While supper clubs can often be somewhat noisy venues, the audience for this performance was very hushed and respectful. Each piece was exquisitely rendered and transported the audience to otherworldly realms. The concert concluded with standing ovations, followed by encores of classical and Ethiopian compositions.

The significance of this performance was reflected not only with the size of the audience, but also the prominence of those who attended, including Alemtsehay Wodajo, founder of the Tayitu Cultural Center; Francis Falceto, creator of the Ethiopiques series, which has brought world-wide attention to Ethiopian music; Charles Sutton, a pianist and massinko player, who served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia during the reign of Haile Selassie; and Alemayehu Gebrehiwot, who was instrumental in publishing the late Tesfaye Lemma’s book Ye Itiyopia Muziqa Tarik (The History of Ethiopian Music).

Unseen Worlds Records shares via Facebook: “With the success of this concert, Girma’s CD proudly entered the Billboard Classical Music Chart at #23!”

Below are photos from the event:



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Video: Teddy Afro Rocks New York’s SummerStage, B.B. King Blues Club

Teddy Afro performing at SummerStage festival in New York on July 5th, 2014. (Credit: Tsedey foto)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, July 12th 2014

New York (TADIAS) – Last week, Teddy Afro successfully played his first back-to-back show in New York at the 2014 SummerStage festival and at B.B. King Blues Club on Saturday, July 5th. Teddy briefly chatted with Tadias Magazine following his second show. The Ethiopian star was greeted at both venues with an enthusiastic audience that hailed from as varied locations as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Boston.

Below is our video coverage of both events:



Related:
Photos: Teddy Afro at SummerStage 2014 Festival in New York

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From the Birthplace of Coffee: Café Buunni Serves Ethiopian Organic Specialty Coffee

Café Buunni is located at 213 Pinehurst Avenue (at 187th St) in New York City. (Tadias Magazine photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, May 30th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — In the enclave of Hudson Heights in Upper Manhattan, close to the highest point on the island, there is a quaint new addition to the neighborhood. Café Buunni serves certified organic, micro-roasted specialty coffee sourced from Ethiopia, the birthplace of the bean. This Washington Heights neighborhood is dotted with Art Deco style residential buildings, a bagel store, a vegan pizza joint and a Mexican restaurant aptly named ‘Refried Beans.’ Past a children’s playground and park, on the corner of 187 and Pinehurst Ave, a 30-year old shoe repair shop has been converted into a sunny, spacious cafe by its new proud owners Elias and Sarina.

Elias is an Ethiopian native and his wife Sarina is originally from Nepal. “We met in Ethiopia, in Addis,” Sarina tells Tadias Magazine. Sarina worked for a string of non-profit organizations including WaterAid, initially visiting Ethiopia in 1997 and then residing there for seven years. “It’s like a second home,” she says of the capital Addis Ababa. Elias ran several small businesses including a restaurant, a car service and also worked as the Addis Ababa distribution agent for DKT International – a family planning and HIV prevention organization.

“I wasn’t as busy as I am now,” Elias says reflecting on his small business days in Ethiopia. “Back then, I had six staff. I go to work in the morning and I ask my staff “what is the order today?” Then I go visit some customers; I know who the major customers are. That’s it. And then I have like 5-6 hours to just relax, hang out with friends.”

Elias and Sarina moved to New York three years ago in July. “We came to the States because Sarina got a job here,” Elias says. Sarina had visited New York before. When they decided to live here they visited the Hudson Heights neighborhood. “And we liked it. We had a few friends here as well,” Sarina adds. Elias pondered about starting a small business in the city. He wanted it “to be something related to Ethiopia.”

“My original idea was to bring coffee here from Ethiopia, to roast it and to distribute it online. So I started an online business,” Elias shares. He learned how to micro-roast from a friend and opened an online store: buunnicoffee.com. The word buunni is an Amharic term meaning “brown” or “brown-colored.” Bunna, the word for coffee in Amharic, cannot be trademarked so Elias and Sarina chose a descriptor instead. The online store was launched two and a half years ago and the distribution was mainly to individual clients.

“We started really grassroots,” Sarina shares. “Elias was going around to weekend markets, festivals, getting to know people and conversing with them saying “hey I roasted this myself.” He gave out samples of the micro-roasted coffee, and we have a small group of very loyal customers online. At that time we were not thinking about opening a café. We wanted to do wholesale online distribution for reasons such as low overhead.”

A year and half ago Sarina and Elias had traveled to Ethiopia to do some coffee tasting and selections and when they returned they noticed a ‘For Rent’ sign around the corner from where they live. The 30-year old shoe repair shop had closed.

“Should we?” they asked themselves, thinking about it being the right spot for a café. Elias was used to running several small businesses and he knew how difficult it was to operate a restaurant. They had a toddler (two years old at the time) and he knew the business would be a 24/7 operation. So they debated some more and finally decided to just do it. “Because even in this neighborhood there wasn’t a place for us to have coffee. And we thought there could be other people like us who would want to have coffee,” Sarina says. They took over the lease and opened Café Buunni. All of the coffee is certified organic and comes from small cooperative farms in Ethiopia. They roast the beans as ordered to preserve the freshness and quality. Café Buunni offers several Ethiopian coffees including single origin blends called Addis Ababa, a popular light roast named Yirgacheffe and a dark roast called Harar. They also have a Half-Caf Blend from Sidama decaf beans and a special holiday blend that is a combination of Harar and Tanzanian coffee.

As we interview Elias and Sarina, a customer who overhears our conversation says to Elias, “You’re not going to sell are you?”

“No I’m just speaking with journalists,” he assures her.

“This is a great place,” she tells us. “I really enjoy it. It’s better than Starbucks.”

Legend has it that Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. Ask any Ethioipan how coffee was discovered and they will tell you the story of Kaldi, a 9th century goat herder who noticed the plant after his goats had nibbled on a few beans and started prancing around with excitement. Other versions of the legend point to the origin as a region in Ethiopia called Kaffa. However, the earliest reported coffee drinking was in Mocha, Yemen where Sufis in monasteries drank the strong brew to stay awake for their rituals and studies. According to Wikipedia, coffee was first exported from Ethiopia to Yemen.

The coffee ceremony in Ethiopia is as elaborate and rich in tradition as the Japanese tea ceremony. Most Ethiopians grow up used to seeing green coffee beans being roasted, then ground by hand in a mortar and pestle and then brewed in Jebena. “It’s such a different thing,” Sarina says reflecting on how coffee is consumed and thought of in Ethiopian culture. “It’s not just about having your coffee. It’s about enjoying your drink and having conversations and the community that goes along with it.”

“In Ethiopia we don’t talk about coffee, we talk around a coffee gathering,” Elias adds. “Who taught you to roast coffee? You just watch and do it the way it’s done and you’re not so much concerned with measurements.”

As we wrap up our interview with the owners of Café Buuni, another customer, an Ethiopian woman and her daughter, greet Elias and Sarina. She too says “It’s better than Starbucks.”

“You’re the second customer who just said that,” we tell her.

“Absolutely. I have no doubt in my mind, she says with a smile.



Learn more about Café Buunni at http://buunnicoffee.com.

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Pop-up Bunna Cafe Finds Permanent Spot In Brooklyn

(Photos courtesy Bunna Cafe)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Sunday, January 26th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – More than two years ago, New Yorkers Liyuw Ayalew and Sam Saverance hosted a party in Brooklyn to launch their pop-up Ethiopian Vegan restaurant named Bunna Cafe. Their mobile restaurant could be found at street fairs and at Smorgasburg — Brooklyn’s Flea Food Market — and dozens of other locations in the city. As the popularity of their Ethiopian dinners, layered fruit smoothies (Espris) and traditional coffee ceremonies grew strong the duo decided to scout for a permanent location and found a place on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn. They are keen on revamping the bar top, storefront as well as furniture, and building a stage surrounded by a half-hut to host the Ethiopian coffee ceremony and live music. This past December they launched an indiegogo campaign for the permanent restaurant.

Below is an interview with Bunna Cafe about their venture’s evolvement:

TADIAS: Please tell us a bit about how you started Bunna Cafe. Who are the main individuals behind it? Your mission/goals?

BC: Bunna Cafe is a partnership of Liyuw Ayalew and Sam Saverance. Liyuw had spent years managing restaurants and coffee shops, and also worked deep in the tourism industry back in Ethiopia. Sam has a graphic design and publishing background and spent some time in Ethiopia to working on launching an org to teach people graphic/web design and desktop publishing. We came together two years ago with a desire to do something unique, creative, and authentic with Ethiopian cuisine and coffee in a way that adequately reflects our own dining experiences. We felt it was important to emphasize the family-oriented feel of eating together, and not least, the sensual experience of the coffee ceremony. We also decided to focus on the vegan tradition of Ethiopian cuisine, which was something we both deeply appreciated despite being meat eaters. Our vegetarian chef Kedija Srage provided an amazing set of recipes from her cooking experiences and helped us get going as a functioning pop-up restaurant.

TADIAS: You started Bunna Cafe as a pop-up at various locations in New York City. What was that experience like?

BC: We started by doing secret dinner parties in Bushwick, Brooklyn. While there are very few Habesha and no Ethiopian cuisine to speak of in this area, most people there were at least a little knowledgeable of the food and were eager to experience it again. So we found a strong home base there very quickly. Soon we were arranging pop-up dinners at bars and cafes around Bushwick and Williamsburg as well as street markets and major events. When we did a popup or dinner, we made sure to perform the coffee ceremony whenever possible. Also we would bring in musical entertainment of a variety of genres, including Ethiopian performers such as Tadele Daba and Girma Yifrashewa. The feeling was amazing — we were able to be creative with each event we performed, and we quickly began to see regular customers. But perhaps more impressive, we would see people who had attended one of our early dinner parties appear two years later saying they had been keeping track of our progress all this time and were eager to make time to pay another visit.

TADIAS: What made you decide to get a permanent place? Can you tell us a bit more about your current crowdfunding campaign?

BC: We have always planned on opening a permanent spot. Being a pop-up was a strategic decision for the moment given our lack of funds and the need to build a following. Now the time is right to make the switch to being a restaurant. However, we are still intending to pop up even when we open doors. We will focus more on elegant, well-crafted dinner and entertainment events, coffee and coffee ceremony-oriented events, and also on emerging further outside of our corner of Brooklyn, into Manhattan, Harlem, Queens, and New Jersey.

In July we began operating as a pop-up lunch counter in a southern food restaurant/bar called Mama Joy’s. They only worked dinner service so we were able to take daytime hours for a nominal rent. In November, Mama Joy’s went out of business and we took the opportunity to take over the space. After a whirlwind negotiating period we took over officially in mid-December. There was no time to get a bank loan so we are renovating off of our cash reserve. To supplement this we decided to launch an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and get our supporters invested in our growth. There has been a great response so far and with 22 days to go we are pushing hard to reach our goal of $15,000. People can learn more and contribute at http://igg.me/at/bunnacafe.

TADIAS: What is one thing you absolutely enjoy about running Bunna Cafe?

BC: Not to sound like a cliche, but we love everything about it. Perhaps the greatest thing though is seeing the overwhelmingly positive and amazed response from our customers to the food, drink, and ambiance. It cannot be denied that Ethiopian cuisine is growing in popularity in this country and the world. Being a part of that growth and seeing people react positively and with overdue respect to Habesha culture and identity is something that is invigorating and something that gives us hope for the future.



You can learn more about Bunna Cafe at their website www.bunnaethiopia.net.
You can support their indiegogo campaign at http://igg.me/at/bunnacafe.

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New Book by Ethiopian Author: How Obama Won the 2012 Election

Dereje Tessema, author of How this Happened—Election 2012. (Courtesy photograph/Gashe Publishing)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — During the 2012 presidential election, President Obama was supposed to be headed for a sure defeat on election day given that most polls had shown him trailing his opponent by a significant number, which was trumpeted by many pundits across the country, including by several in the Ethiopian American community. But how did they get it so wrong? “As one prominent pollster put it they were drinking the ‘Republican Kool-Aid’,” said Dereje Befekadu Tessema, author of the new book How this Happened—Election 2012: Perfecting the Science of Presidential Campaigning, pointing out that most of the major polling agencies missed predicting that election accurately because they were ‘out to lunch’ when it came to understanding “new ways of collecting data” from young people and minority communities that he argues the Obama campaign perfected. “The only person who got it right is Nate Silver, the statistician and author of the FiveThirtyEight blog then published in The New York Times.”

In its review of Dereje’s book (Gashe Publishing) ForeWord Clarion Reviews noted: “A meticulously constructed, frank examination of the 2012 US presidential election drawing from a plethora of sources, How This Happened follows up on Dereje B. Tessema’s earlier project of the same title, which covered the 2008 election. This exploration of how Barack Obama secured his second term expounds upon other Monday-morning analyses. Though few pollsters and pundits predicted a strong win, the Obama administration ended up being re-elected by a strong margin, and the author makes a case that the victory was well-earned. ‘The signature of the Obama campaign,’ Tessema asserts, ‘was its ability to maximize positive events and turn challenges [in]to opportunities.’”

Dereje, who teaches at Virginia International University in Fairfax, Virginia, told Tadias that he is in the process of organizing a “semi-professional” panel discussion at a university location in Washington, D.C. area to explore “the lessons learned from the past” as we approach another election season that he hopes will include a record participation by Ethiopian American voters.

“Both in the 2008 and 2012 elections Alexanderia, Virginia [home to a sizable number of Ethiopians] was the tipping point,” said Dereje in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine, emphasizing that the large turnout by Ethiopian American voters was crucial in the swing state.

Dereje said he was a volunteer with the Obama campaign in both elections. “How This Happened is a cleverly constructed, well contextualized insider’s history of the 2012 presidential campaign, one which will imbue supporters with a sense of pride, and which may prompt fruitful conversations with detractors,” Michelle Anne Schingler concluded in the Clarion Reviews. “It is a sure treat for those fascinated by the political process.”

You can learn more and purchase the book at: www.amazon.com.

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ArifZefen: Digital Access to Ethiopian Songs

ArifZefen is an Ethiopian music app for iPhone, iPad, Android and available on the web. (Courtesy photos)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: December 25, 2013

New York (TADIAS) — Over the last decade CD sales have plummeted globally giving way to online music services such as Pandora Internet Radio and Spotify. For Ethiopian artists, however, the transition to digital music (still in progress) has been difficult given the lack of legal mechanisms and the proliferation of piracy in both online streaming and sales. But according to the founders of ArifZefen, a multi-channel music streaming service dedicated to the Ethiopian community worldwide, that may be changing soon. ArifZefen says it’s committed to the artists that are behind this wonderful music, and it’s conceived with the purpose of finding ways to compensate the musicians giving them control over their creative work. The California-based venture states: “Our vision is to create an economically sustainable, middle-income artist community in Ethiopia leveraging modern technology. We also assist artists to generate revenue from their work by helping them list their music for sale on some of the most popular music sales sites, like iTunes, and link to those points-of-sale directly from the app.”

Currently, ArifZefen is available as a free app on both iOS and Android and on their website that features both established and up-and-coming singers in various categories: Best Oldies Collection, Timeless Classics, Easy Listening, Contemporary Greatest Hits — including songs by Tilahun Gessese, Mahmoud Ahmed, Aster Aweke, Teddy Afro, Jano, Eyob Mekonen, Kuku Sebsebe, Ephrem Tamiru, Rasselas, Jah Lude, Zeritu Kebede and more. “ArifZefen is committed to bringing a superior listening experience to fans of Ethiopian music, and it strives to capture our diverse musical heritage through a rich selection of music from all corners of Ethiopia,” a representative of the Bay Area company said in an email. “By bringing listeners into our free, ad-supported service, we migrate them away from piracy while offering them a better music experience. Aggregating a large number of listeners allows us to generate revenue and share the profit with the artists that we are committed to support, and sustain the music we love.”

ArifZefen also serves as a social platform by allowing users to share their favorite playlists on Facebook, Twitter, or via SMS and email. The company said it strives to provide a level playing field for all artists regardless of their popularity: “We do not decide what is good music and what isn’t, and we generally leave it to the community to pick and consume its music of choice.”

Learn more, listen and share your favorite Ethiopian music at ArifZefen.com.

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Yohannes Aramde’s Bona Fide Step

(Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Heran Abate

Updated: Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Among Ethiopians the well-known Scotch Whisky brand Johnnie Walker is humorously nicknamed Yohannes Aramde. And recently a collection of t-shirts depicting the gabi-clad version of the Scotsman, complete with his own dula, has become a hit in the Ethiopian Diaspora and at home. On social media Yohannes Aramde’s Twitter handle says it all, “#walkdifferent, #becauseyoudeservebetter.” The series was unveiled this past July during the 2013 ESFNA Ethiopian Soccer Tournament in Maryland by a trio of young Ethiopian designers and entrepreneurs residing in the U.S. — Teffera G. Teffera, Zerabrook Minassie and Ambaye Michael Tesfay.

Unlike John “Johnnie” Walker who started to sell whisky in his grocery shop in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1820, the Ethiopian Yohannes Aramde is Teffera G. Teffera’s imagination that comes in the capacity of a merchant who, in departure from his Scotsman twin’s profession, barters in rich stories. These t-shirts come in colors equivalent to the whiskey’s different labels: red, black, green and blue. True to form, the standard and price is also set in ascending order of color, with blue selling the highest.

In a recent interview Teffera said the trio design and sell products that capture the bilingual vernacular of the Ethiopian-American community. He said the three are united by their shared experiences as young adults who grew up in Ethiopia and Washington, D.C. while they completed higher education.

As a basis for the design, Yohannes Aramde was nurtured by the distinct ways that the Ethiopian diaspora has weaved its traditions and mannerisms so thoroughly into the social fabric of Washington, D.C. For Teffera in particular, he felt strongly that the environment that inspired the concept is the same demographic that they are trying to reach. For a few months after graduating in May 2011, he toyed with designs that his friend Dagmawit Mekonnen visualized while Ambaye and Zerabrook advised every step of the way.

The result was Yohannes Aramde whose persona for Ethiopians provokes comical food for thought. Here, he sets down his dula, picks up his buna or perhaps tela, to re-situate historical icons and cultural symbols into a compelling perspective that reflects the modern Ethiopian experience in the Diaspora. Yohannes Aramde seems as much learned in the kine (literary tradition of wax and gold) of Ethiopia’s forefathers as he is in the social media explosion of the 21st century through its vivid presence via t-shirts, tweets and Instagram pictures.

In one design, a solemn Emperor Menelik charges an Uncle Sam’esque forefinger in a would-be war recruitment poster for the Battle of Adwa. In another, the colors of the Ethiopian flag converge onto the American flag’s layout, at once a startling and clever meditation of the dual experiences of its client-base.

Below are photos from the collection courtesy the designers. As a fun twist, the owners say there is a 5PM to 9PM weekday ‘happy-hour’ when you shop on their website — you will get a $5 discount.



Learn more at www.yohannesaramde.com. You can follow updates on Twitter and Instagram.

About the Author:
Heran Abate is a creative non-fiction writer. Born and raised in Ethiopia, she recently graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut where she studied Sociology and Hispanic Cultures and Literatures.

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Meseret Defar Defeats Tirunesh Dibaba at Diamond 5000 in Zurich (Video)

Meseret Defar won the Women's 5000m at the 2013 Diamond Race in Zürich. (Photo: Diamond League)

LetsRun.com

August 29, 2013

In the first clash of the year between the two Ethiopian giants of women’s distance running at the Weltklasse Zürich meet tonight, the final 100 meters belonged firmly to the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World 5000 champion Meseret Defar. Defar emphatically kicked away from Tirunesh Dibaba to win the women’s 5000 as well as the Diamond League crown in 14:32.83 after a 58 low last 400 (58.48 leader to leader but Defar was in second at the bell).

Dibaba was second in 14:34.82 as those two were leaps and bounds better than everyone else over the final 600. 2013 5000 silver medallist Mercy Cherono was third in 14:40.33 – the only other woman in the race within 10 seconds of Defar.

Read more at LetsRun.com.

Video: Meseret Defar Defeats Tirunesh Dibaba at Diamond League 5000 in Zurich


Related:
Defar defeats Dibaba in Diamond 5,000m battle (AFP)

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Los Angeles’ Little Ethiopia Prepares for 2013 Cultural Street Festival

The 2013 Little Ethiopia Cultural Street Festival in Los Angeles will be held on Sunday, September 8th.

Tadias Magazine
By Aida Solomon

Published: Monday, August 19, 2013

Los Angeles (TADIAS) – It was 11 years ago this month on August 7, 2002 that the city of Los Angeles designated through a unanimous council vote that the neighborhood on Fairfax Avenue, between Olympic and Pico Boulevard, be recognized as Little Ethiopia, making it the first street in the United States to be named after an African nation.

For the last 12 years the Little Ethiopia Business Association has been hosting a popular cultural street festival that attracts a diverse crowd from L.A. and beyond to the area. Organizers say this year’s celebration is scheduled to take place on Sunday, September 8th, 2013 between Olympic and Whitworth Avenue with events including live music, vendors, fashion show, comedy, and much more.

The 2013 festival will also feature Alemtsehay Wodajo, an accomplished actress, poet and songwriter, as well as city and state officials. According to Berhanu Asfaw, President of the Little Ethiopia Business Association, students from a local elementary school will also perform the Ethiopian National Anthem. The keynote speaker is Dr. Menbere Aklilu, owner of Salute e Vite Ristorante in Richmond California.

Below are photos from past events.



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New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women

A collection of stories and photographs of accomplished and inspiring Ethiopian women. (Book Project by Mary-Jane Wagle with photos by Aida Muluneh )

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – An upcoming coffee table book aims to inspire young girls in Ethiopia and elsewhere through a collection of stories and photographs highlighting 70 accomplished Ethiopian women. The book features female leaders from diverse backgrounds and professions including farming, business, the arts, activism, international diplomacy and more. According to a Kickstarter fundraising announcement the portraits are captured by award-winning photographer Aida Muluneh.

The author, Mary-Jane Wagle, a former community development and women’s health care specialist from Los Angeles, has lived in Ethiopia off and on since 2011 and works in partnership with the Network of Ethiopian Women’s Association.

“We never hear about accomplished Ethiopian women, even though Ethiopia is a country of nearly 90 million people,” she noted in the statement posted on kickstarter.com. “Not because there aren’t any, but because their stories haven’t been recorded and few outside their own circles know anything about them.” Mary added: “This project aims to change that by telling the stories of 70 remarkable Ethiopian women who are pioneers in their fields and have expanded opportunities for girls and women in their communities.”

Thus far a third of the honorees have been photographed for the book and nearly all have been interviewed with help from a team of female university student volunteers.

“In the first phase of our work, we created a website, Ethiopian Women Unleashed, where we are posting profiles of the more than 130 women we interviewed as we worked on making selections for the book, along with profiles of a few historical women,” Mary wrote.

You can learn more and support the project at kickstarter.com.

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Ethiopia Habtemariam, Senior VP of Motown, Makes Billboard’s 40 Under 40

Ethiopia Habtemariam is Senior Vice President of the storied Motown Records label and Executive Vice President and head of Urban Music for the parent company Universal Music Publishing Group. (UMPG)

Billboard Magazine

By Gail Mitchell

In her dual role, Ethiopia Habtemariam, 33, maintains one single focus: “Quality songwriters, producers and artists who will have careers for a long time. Nothing novelty,” she says. Universal Music Publishing Group’s urban division is having a hot year, thanks to Miguel (his own “Adorn” as well as work on Janelle Monáe’s new album The Electric Lady) and chart successes penned by roster mates J. Cole (his No. 1 Billboard 200 album Born Sinner), Rock City (Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Ciara) and Ester Dean (Selena Gomez). Another UMPG artist, Big Sean, will release his sophomore set on Aug. 27. Also on the roster: Def Jam singer/songwriter Jhené Aiko. Launching its revamp last November with Ne-Yo’s R.E.D. (which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200), Motown recently scored top 10 R&B album debuts with Chrisette Michele and India.Arie. Habtemariam is ramping up several forthcoming projects, including a Babyface and Toni Braxton duets album and one with Erykah Badu. Also on the Motown docket: projects by newcomers B. Smyth, Stacy Barthe (another UMPG urban roster member), Kevin Ross, BJ the Chicago Kid and Scotty Rebel.

Read more at Billboard.com.

Related:
Ethiopia Habtemariam: The New Boss at Motown (TADIAS)

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Ethio-jazz Band: Teenage Ethiopian Americans Bring Parents Music to Life

Music often divides generations, but one group of Ethiopian Americans in California are challenging that norm. They've embraced music from their parents and are playing it in their band. (Photo by Noam Eshel)

Public Radio International

Updated: Sunday, July 28, 2013

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that kids hate their parents’ music, or at least do their best to ignore it.

Garage bands don’t borrow CDs from their parents so they can practice disco covers. Unless it’s in some kind of ironic hipster way.

There’s nothing ironic about the music being played in one particular suburban garage near Oakland, Calif. The Young Ethio Jazz Band are teenagers who rock out with their parents’ music.

The band played its first gig in San Francisco last winter. Now it’s slated to open for another act at Yoshi’s, a famous jazz club in San Francisco, and then it plays in the Ethiopian Heritage Festival at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

All of the kids are second generation Ethiopians between 11 and 16 years old. Before they started playing together a year and a half ago, most of them had the stereotypical reaction to their parents’ music.

“In the very beginning, I was really confused about the music,” said Yohanas Abanew, who plays keyboard in the band. “I just said ‘well this doesn’t really sound like music that I would really want to play.’”

Then he started practicing an Ethio-jazz song in his high school band.

“It really woke me up,” he said. “This is my culture, and I really need to learn this music.”

Yonathan Wolday had a similar revelation. He’s a tall, lanky 16-year-old who plays trumpet. Wolday is wearing a gray sweatshirt with a picture of a diamond and the letters “DMND.” A pair of white ear phones hang out from his collar and onto his chest.

His parents are from Ethiopia, and the songs they listen to are in Amharic, the official language in Ethiopia. Wolday doesn’t understand it well, and that initially turned him off from the music. He didn’t really start listening to the songs until he began playing in the band.

Even now, it’s hard to believe he’s channeling the music of his parents’ generation. Whenever the band stops practicing, you can hear simple rap bass lines pulsating out from his dangling ear buds.

Read more at PRI.

Click here to listen to the program.

Watch: Video of Young Ethio Jazz Band at Rasselas Jazz Club


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Washington Post: Mahmoud Ahmed and Teddy Afro Bring Echostage Home

Teddy Afro (Photo credit: Danny Studio)

The Washington Post

By Mark Jenkins

The two Ethiopian singers who performed early Saturday morning at Echostage, Mahmoud Ahmed and Teddy Afro, represent different styles and different generations. The 72-year-old Mahmoud sailed Semitic-style melodies over instrumental accompaniment that drew on 1950s jazz, while the 36-year-old Afro emphasized reggae, with some forays into funk-rock. Despite the stylistic differences, each drew a similarly ecstatic response from the crowd, which was heavily Ethiopian and Eritrean and large enough to pack the main floor of the 4,000-capacity club, Washington’s largest concert venue.

The concert was the biggest in a week of shows scheduled to complement this year’s Ethiopian Sports Tournament. The crowd was initially greeted by DJs who played a mix of Ethiopian pop and Jamaican dance-hall; video screens displayed pan-African symbols and the former Ethiopian flag, which has been redesigned several times since Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed in 1974 — an event that also interrupted Mahmoud’s career.

The live music didn’t begin until 12:35 a.m., when a sextet began to play dub-style reggae. The band was soon joined by Afro (born Tewodros Kassahun), who began with the first of several anthemic numbers about his native land and home continent. The audience sang along, often providing the rejoinder for the call-and-response choruses, as hundreds of arms pumped the air.

Read more at The Washington Post.

Related:
Tadias Interview: NYC’s AbayTeam Advances to 1st Division at 30th ESFNA Tournament in DC
Debo Band & Young Ethio Jazz Band at Yoshi’s in San Francisco – July 17th (TADIAS)
Highlights of Ethiopian Music During Soccer Tournament Week (The Washington City Paper)
Summer of Ethiopian Music: Jano to Fendika, Teddy Afro to Mahmoud Ahmed (TADIAS)
Hailu Mergia: A Beloved Ethiopian Musician of a Generation Ago (The Washington Post)
Reissues Songs From Hailu Mergia, Local Cab Driver (The Washington City Paper)

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Summer of Ethiopian Music: Jano to Fendika, Teddy Afro to Mahmoud Ahmed

(Photographs courtesy Massinko Entertainment, Lynne Williamson, La Beautiful Mess, and Munit Mesfin)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – It is poised to be an exciting summer for Ethiopian music on the East Coast with live concerts that include the highly anticipated U.S. debut of Jano band; the Addis Ababa-based duet, Munit and Jorg; the return of Fendika direct from Ethiopia; a joint performance by Teddy Afro and Mahmoud Ahmed; as well as the first American tour by The London-based trio, Krar Collective.

Jano, which leads the pack in publicity and expectation, was recently featured on CNN in preparation for their upcoming show at the historic Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. on July 4th.

The super-group Fendika that consists of six world class dancers and Azmari artists, once again bring its exhilarating mix of Ethiopian music and dance to audiences in the United States, highlighting the wealth of diversity of Ethiopia’s musical traditions. Fendika is currently in the Midwest, and is scheduled to perform on July 2nd at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington D.C., followed by a concert at the Lincoln Center Atrium, in NYC on July 4th, as well as in Boston at Hibernian Hall on July 7th.

Living legends Mahmoud Ahmed and Teddy Afro will share the stage on July 5th at Echostage in D.C.

Also in Washington, we are told, Ethiopian and German duet, Munit and Jorg, will launch their U.S. tour with a concert on July 1st at Tropicalia Dance Club. Organizers said the show will open with a performance by Feedel Band and will be hosted by the Seattle-based hip-hop musician Gabriel Teodros.

Below is a slideshow of flyers and photos courtesy of the promoters.



If You Go:
Jano in DC
Thursday, July 4th, 2013
The Howard Theatre
620 T Street, Northwest,
Washington, D.C.20001
Phone: (202) 803-2899
More info on the show: 201 220 3442
Thehowardtheatre.com

Legend & Superstar
Mahmoud Ahmed | Teddy Afro
Echo Stage in DC, July 5th
2135 QUEENS CHAPEL ROAD NE,
WASHINGTON, DC 20018
PHONE: 202.440.4301
FOR TABLES & GENERAL INFO:
www.echostage.com

Fendika Back in the U.S.
July 2: Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Washington DC
July 4: Lincoln Center Atrium, NYC
July 6: Lincoln Center Meet the Artist Saturdays
July 7: Hibernian Hall, Boston
July 10: Cedar Cultural Center workshop and concert, Minneapolis
July 12-14: Montana Folk Festival with Debo Band

Munit & Jorg in DC
w/ Feedel Band + Dj set by Tooth Pick
Hosted by Gabriel Teodros
Monday July 1st
Tropicalia (lower level)
2001 14th st NW
Washington, D.C.
Click here for ticket info.
Learn more about Munit and Jorg on their Facebook page.

Krar Collective, DJ Sirak in New York
July 21st, 2013 | 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm | Central Park
More info and directions at www.cityparksfoundation.org

Watch: CNN’s Errol Barnett interviews Jano Band in Addis


Related:
Tadias Interview: NYC’s AbayTeam Advances to 1st Division at 30th ESFNA Tournament in DC

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Photos From New York Concert by Pianist Girma Yifrashewa

Classical pianist and composer Girma Yifrashewa at Issue Project Room in New York where he performed on Saturday, June 8th, 2013. (Photo by Tseday Alehegn/Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Monday, June 10th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Classical pianist and composer Girma Yifrashewa performed live to a full house at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn on Saturday, June 8th. The event was Girma’s first solo appearance in the United States since he made his U.S debut four years ago when he was invited to participate in the International Symposium and Festival “Africa meets North America,” which took place in October of 2009 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). As part of his current tour, the talented pianist will return to the West Coast next month for a performance in Seattle, Washington on July 26th.

In New York, Girma delighted his audience not only with his expert renditions of classics by Chopin, Schumann, Debussy, and Gershwin, but also with his own arrangements based on traditional Ethiopian melodies including “The Shepherd with the Flute” — a short reflective and romantic piece originally composed by the late Professor Ahenafi Kebede.

The second part of Girma’s show was entirely dedicated to his own compositions including Ambassel, Chewata, Sememen, and his favorite Elilta. During his introduction of Elilta, as he concluded the evening, Girma asked the audience what elilta was, and Ethiopian members of the audience vocalized the joyful custom. The concert ended on a celebratory note as the pianist received a standing ovation.

Below is a slideshow of photos from the concert.



Related:
Girma Yifrashewa: From Chopin to Ethiopia (The New York Times)

If You Go:
Girma Yifrashewa in Seattle
July 26, 2013
Good Shepherd Center Chapel
4649 Sunnyside Ave. N, 4th floor
Seattle, WA
Learn more at: waywardmusic.blogspot.com

Ebs tv Instrumental Music- Girma Yifrashewa- ILILTA from EBS TV on Vimeo.


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Ethiopian Band Krar Collective, DJ Sirak at Summer Stage in New York

"Krar Collective" at an impromptu performance at Muya Ethiopian restaurant in London. (Photo: Vimeo)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – The London-based Ethiopian trio, Krar Collective, will make their debut appearance at the annual Summer Stage concert in Central Park next month along with Oliver Mtukudzi and The Black Spirits, a group with origins in Zimbabwe that have been performing since 1979, and the Paris-based West African musician Fatoumata Diawara who was born in Ivory Coast and raised in Mali. DJ sets will be led by Ethiopian-born Sirak Getachew of NYC.

“The Krar Collective have developed a distinctive style based on the reworking of traditional songs from their native land,” said an announcement from the City Parks Foundation (CPF). “Krar Collective provide their audiences with a colorful blend of dynamic roots music from different regions and ethnic traditions, but with a contemporary edge, plugged-in and funked-up.”

For DJ Sirak, who arranged the groups’s participation at this year’s Summer Stage (his third), the open air show is an extension of his passion for the art as the co-founder of Africology, an entertainment venture started together with his friend, Kalab Berhane, a few years ago here in New York to promote African music to American audiences. His past work at the venue include DJing with the Idan Raichel project, the Israeli musical ensemble featuring singers from Ethiopia.

“Our goal is serve as a conduit for both up-and-coming and accomplished African artists of all kinds to explore the world stage,” Sirak told Tadias. It’s a step by step process.”

Regarding his own skills as a disc jokey, “[Sirak's] endeavors as a DJ help to break down the cultural barriers through the medium of music,” CPF notes in its press release. “Sirak matches the beats of artists like the Notorious B.I.G and dead prez to the up-tempo drums and breaks from his homeland.” CPF stated: “The fusion is his way of bridging the culture gap between the communities of the Americas and Africa. His sets not only spice up the dance floor, but also add heat to the debate over the origin of rhythm driven hip-hop beats.”

Sirak said he is looking forward to collaborating with Krar Collective in July. “They are following Fendika,” he said. “I like their new and creative way of presenting our traditional music to a global audience.”

In an article published in September of 2012, The Guardian highlighted Krar Collective as “one of the most rousing, reliable new African bands of the year.” Per CPF: “Their first album, Ethiopia Super Krar, featuring their 6-stringed krar lyre, kebero drums and the powerful vocals of singer Genet Assefa, serves up some mind-blowing Ethiopian grooves.”

If You Go:
July 21st, 2013 | 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm | Central Park
More info and directions at www.cityparksfoundation.org

Related:
Video: Watch Krar Collective on BBC Africa Beats
Summer of Ethiopian Music: Jano to Fendika, Teddy Afro to Mahmoud Ahmed (Tadias)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Marcus Samuelsson Wins James Beard Foundation Book Award

The James Beard Foundation has selected chef and author Marcus Samuelsson as winner of its 2013 book award for his highly regarded memoir - 'Yes, Chef.' (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Published: Saturday, May 4th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Marcus Samuelsson has won the 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award in the Writing and Literature category for his bestselling memoir Yes, Chef, which documents his remarkable life journey from Ethiopia to Sweden and the United States.

The James Beard foundation announced the winners for the Book, Broadcast and Journalism categories on Friday, May 3rd. The other nominees in Writing and Literature included Tracie McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating, and Thomas McNamee, who wrote the acclaimed biography The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat. The latter explores the work of the food critic and journalist Craig Claiborne and his prolific contribution to culinary writing in America.


(Courtesy photo)

Click here to see the complete list of this year’s winners (PDF).

Learn more at James Beard Foundation: www.jamesbeard.org.

Related:
Video: Interview with Marcus Samuelsson About His Memoir ‘Yes, Chef,’ (TADIAS)


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Son Saves Up To Pay Off His Mom’s Mortgage — Video

(Images: Screen shots from the iProjectAtlas video)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – In the following video that is making the rounds via social media among Ethiopians, a young man in Canada surprises his mother on his birthday with a check that pays off her mortgage.

“At one point in my life I hadn’t been home for two and half years, I hadn’t spoken to anyone or sent any emails,” he says in the video posted on iProject Atlas. “I knocked at the door, she opened it, she said hi, she smiled and she just asked me what I wanted for dinner.” He added: “No questions asked, no whys, nothing, she just accepted me. Over time as she is getting older she is having a harder time keeping up with the bills so I have been saving for the last few years, have been getting ready and kind of wanted to do something for her.”

Why on his birthday? “I realize birthdays are a tradition and that tradition dictates that one should celebrate their existence on the day on which they were born every year,” the young man says in this written description of the video. “I just wanted to say that I am by no means a perfect son, for a long period I neglected my mother’s needs, I ignored her calls and brushed her off until I needed something. Just before I started putting money aside my Father passed away. It had a great effect on me because of the kind of person he was. I decided to make a change, value the only parent I had left.”

Watch the Video: Dear mother from iProject Atlas


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From California Comes Arada Fashion

(Image credit: Courtesy of Arada Fashion Wear)

Tadias Magazine
By Aida Solomon

Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2013

Los Angeles (TADIAS) – Long before Ethiopian fashion became vogue in the U.S., California resident Henock Abey, also known as Henock Arada, 26, has been producing innovative apparel designs that incorporate elements of Ethiopian culture with western style. He started his Arada Fashion collection in 2001 to meet the growing demand, especially among young people in the Ethiopian community and beyond, of merging traditional patterns and symbols into elegantly casual, trendy street styles.

Born and raised in the Arat Kilo neighborhood of Addis Ababa, Henock says he “learned how to hustle” at a young age. That explains why it did not take him very long to dive into his art and business after immigrating with his family to Los Angeles as a teenager in 1999. Henock attended Westchester High School, where he says his interest in design, fashion and video communication was sparked.

“I wanted to combine our culture with a modern look to give people something they have never seen before,” Henock says, speaking of his work that includes a popular mini-dress.

He started-out with branded t-shirts depicting the Arada logo and humorous captions such as “I am Arada” and iconic Ethiopian crosses, mostly marketed to a niche customer base at various festivals, online, as well as in stores targeting the African Diaspora community. More recently he has expanded his portfolio to include skirts and bags.

As to his parents’ reaction to pursue his entrepreneurial ambitions at such an early age? Henock laughs before he answers: “My parents are used to me coming up with new ideas, so they weren’t that surprised.”

What started out as a hobby selling graphic t-shirts soon began to grow into a full-time work. By 2002 Henock had staged his first fashion show in Los Angeles to a widely positive reception in the community.

And soon afterwards he took his Made in Arada collection on the road showing in Washington D.C., Chicago, Phoenix, Atlanta, and Dallas. His designs proved to be a hit garnering a following, which includes over five thousand on Facebook. He says his next fashion show will be at the 2013 Ethiopian soccer tournament in Washington D.C. in July.

Henock’s future plans include opening his own store in the U.S. and Addis Ababa as well as giving back to charity and church. “Set yourself apart and don’t listen to the negativity,” he said.

Below are photos courtesy of Arada Fashion Wear.



You can learn more about Arada Fashion at Facebook.com/Made.IN.Arada.

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Ethiopia Leaves 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, Walya Fans Apologize

(Photo: Gallo Images)

AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS

Updated: Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

South Africa (Tadias) – Ethiopia lost 2-0 against Nigeria on Tuesday in its final game in Group C at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in Rustenburg, South Africa, ending the team’s historic return to the continental tournament after 31 years of absence.

The Walya Antelopes could not overcome the Super Eagles to book their place in the last eight for the quarterfinals. The defending champions, Zambia, were also eliminated in the first round after a goalless draw with Burkina Faso yesterday at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

The Burkinabe’s lead Group C in advancing to the next stage followed by Nigeria.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian fans who made their own headlines last week for unruly behavior apologized by waving a banner during the game against Nigeria.

“We apologise for our behaviour, but we love the game” was written in huge letters on the banner against the background of the green, yellow and red colours of the Ethiopian flag. According to Reuters: “It was unfurled at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace during the team’s final Group C match.”

Related:
Nigeria tops Ethiopia, advances in African Cup (AP)
Ethiopia fans apologise for bad behaviour (Reuters)

Coach Sewnet Says Ethiopia Likely to Miss Top Players in Key Match


Ethiopia’s head coach Sewnet Bishaw gestures during a news conference at the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. (Photo: AP)

By TALES AZZONI

AP Sports Writer

RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) — Ethiopia’s chances at the African Cup of Nations have taken a hit with the team’s two top players expected to miss the decisive Group C match against Nigeria on Tuesday.

Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw said Monday that midfielders Asrat Megersa and Adane Girma may not recover from the injuries they sustained in the first half of the team’s match against Burkina Faso.
Ethiopia is last in the group but will still have a chance of advancing if it beats Nigeria in Rustenburg.

Ethiopia is last in the group but will still have a chance of advancing if it beats Nigeria in Rustenburg.

In its first tournament appearance in more than 30 years, Ethiopia earned a surprising 1-1 draw with defending champion Zambia in the opener, then fell 4-0 to Burkina Faso after Asrat’s and Adane’s injuries.

“Two very important players were out and I’m afraid that they are not coming back,” Bishaw said. “Adane and Asrat are not in a good position right now. It will be up to the doctor’s decision before the match.”

Read more.

Africa Cup: Coach Sewnet Says Ethiopia Looking Ahead to Next Game With Nigeria


Coach Sewnet Bishaw says his team will aim for goals in its next Africa Cup clash with Nigeria. (MTN)

Tadias Magazine
News Brief

Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013

South Africa – After a 4-0 defeat by Burkina Faso on Friday following 1-1 opener against defending Champion Zambia earlier in the week, Ethiopia will face Nigeria on Tuesday for its third and final game in the first round in Group C at the current Africa Cup of Nations underway in South Africa.

The Walya Antelopes still has a chance to advance to the quarterfinals but they must win the next match. The remote possibility also depends on the outcome of the Burkina Faso and Zambia contest scheduled for the same day.

Coach Sewnet Bishaw says he was surprised by the trouncing on Friday but promised to go on the offensive on Tuesday against Nigeria.

“We didn’t expect this result from the very beginning. We hoped that we would play again like the first game and take a point against Burkina Faso,” Coach Sewnet told reporters.

“We’re not going to the field to defend, because defending will only give you one point. Now we must try to play against Nigeria to score goals to have three points.”

He added: “Maybe if we have three points, totally we will have four points, and we may qualify to the next stage. “Not only will we just score one or two goals, we need to score lots of goals also, otherwise, it is a matter of dignity and to maintain the level of football of our boys.”

Burkina Faso Beats Ethiopia 4-0 in African Cup


Addis Hintsa Tekle of Ethiopia and Djakaridja Kone of Burkina Faso compete for the ball during the 2013 African Cup of Nations match between their teams at Mbombela Stadium on Friday, January 25, 2013 in Nelspruit, South Africa. Burkina Faso won the game 4-0. (Gallo Images/Getty Images Europe)

Tadias Magazine
News Brief

Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013

South Africa – Ethiopia lost 4-0 against Burkina Faso on Friday in its second game in Group C at 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

The dominant performance by Burkina Faso included two goals by Alain Traore who led the 10-man Stallions into victory over the Walya Antelopes. The third score came from Yusuf Kone on the 80 minute mark and the final by Jonathan Pitroipa at the end of the game.

This time, it is was the Burkinabe goalkeeper Abdoulaye Soulama who was red-carded. He was dismissed around 60 minutes into the match for handball outside his penalty area.

Ethiopia used substitute goalkeeper, Zerihun Tadele, in place of Jemal Tassew, who was suspended for two games following his red card last Monday during the Walyas opener against Zambia.

Matthew Kenyon of BBC Sport in Nelspruit says “Ethiopia haven’t been at the Nations Cup for 31 years and this is a lesson in what happens in tournament football. It’s not fair — it’s presumably not fun — but it’s why we love the game so much. Burkina Faso have been superb tonight and thoroughly deserve an awesome victory. Man of the match must be Alain Traore – but Pitroipa and the skipper Kabore run him close. Burkina Faso top the group.”

It is also the first time the Burkinabe have ever won a game outside of Burkina Faso.

The website Super Sport noted: “Burkina’s last victory in the continental showcase came way back in 1998, but Traore ended that sorry state of affairs in style to push the west African nation to the top of Group C and within touching distance of the last eight.”

“With quarterfinal qualification going down to the wire, Burkina Faso take on Zambia here while Ethiopia face Nigeria in Rustenburg, with both matches scheduled for Tuesday.”
—-
Related:
The Stallions silence Walya Antelopes (Yahoo News)
Burkina Faso trounce Ethiopia (SuperSport)
Burkina Faso 4 – 0 Ethiopia (BBC)

Ethiopia, Burkina Faso Face Off


Adane Girma of Ethiopia battles with Chris Katongo of Zambia during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations match at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, South Africa on Monday, January 21st. (Reuters)

Tadias Magazine
News Brief

Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013

South Africa (TADIAS) – Fresh off their spectacular return to Africa Cup earlier this week, after more than three decades of absence and an impressive 1-1 opening against defending champion Zambia, the Walyas who electrified Ethiopian fans around the world are preparing for their next game today against Burkina Faso at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, South Africa.

For audiences in the United States the game will be televised on ESPN3 beginning at 1 p.m Eastern and can be watched on the Internet and mobile devices.

In South Africa coach Sewnet Bishaw told the Associated Press that his team’s strategy is in place for today’s match. “We will try to play as many passes as possible because the Burkinabes are huge and physically very strong,” coach Sewnet said. “We will have a better team for the second game and use players with speed and good passing abilities.”

Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football has slapped Ethiopia’s football federation with a $10,000 fine for unruly behavior by fans last Monday, which included throwing plastic bottles, cups vuvuzelas, and other objects onto the field. The organization said it will suspend half of the penalty if the Ethiopians behave for the rest of the tournament.

It all began as a protest when goal keeper Jemal Tassew was given a red card for an aggressive tackle involving Zambia’s Chisamba Lungu. Jemal was taken off the field on a stretcher. His sending off started the wild outcry causing a security alert and delaying the game by several minutes. Jemal will not play against Burkina Faso on Friday as he is also suspended for two games.

According to AP: “Ethiopia drew by far the largest support base for Monday’s Group C double-header, with thousands of Johannesburg-based immigrants bussing in for the occasion. Sewnet predicted that the number of fans would double for the team’s next game.”

Burkina Faso coach Paul Put told BBC that after Monday’s performance his team can’t afford to take Ethiopia lightly. “We have a lot of respect for the Ethiopian team,” the coach said. “Any team that can draw with Zambia after playing against them with only 10 men after 30 minutes, that says a lot.”
—-
Related:
Ethiopia aim high ahead of Burkina Faso match (AP)
Burkina Faso vs Ethiopia (BBC)
Ethiopia seek to deepen Burkina’s Cup woes (AFP)
Great Start for Ethiopia at Africa Cup of Nations (TADIAS)

In Pictures: Photographs of the Walya Antelopes – Ethiopia’s National Soccer Team


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Burkina Faso Beats Ethiopia 4-0 in African Cup

Addis Hintsa Tekle of Ethiopia and Djakaridja Kone of Burkina Faso compete for the ball during the 2013 African Cup of Nations match between their teams at Mbombela Stadium on Friday, January 25, 2013 in Nelspruit, South Africa. Burkina Faso won the game 4-0. (Gallo Images/Getty Images Europe)

Tadias Magazine
News Brief

Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013

South Africa – Ethiopia lost 4-0 against Burkina Faso on Friday in its second game in Group C at 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

The dominant performance by Burkina Faso included two goals by Alain Traore who led the 10-man Stallions into victory over the Walya Antelopes. The third score came from Yusuf Kone on the 80 minute mark and the final by Jonathan Pitroipa at the end of the game.

This time, it is was the Burkinabe goalkeeper Abdoulaye Soulama who was red-carded. He was dismissed around 60 minutes into the match for handball outside his penalty area.

Ethiopia used substitute goalkeeper, Zerihun Tadele, in place of Jemal Tassew, who was suspended for two games following his red card last Monday during the Walyas opener against Zambia.

Matthew Kenyon of BBC Sport in Nelspruit says “Ethiopia haven’t been at the Nations Cup for 31 years and this is a lesson in what happens in tournament football. It’s not fair — it’s presumably not fun — but it’s why we love the game so much. Burkina Faso have been superb tonight and thoroughly deserve an awesome victory. Man of the match must be Alain Traore – but Pitroipa and the skipper Kabore run him close. Burkina Faso top the group.”

It is also the first time the Burkinabe have ever won a game outside of Burkina Faso.

The website Super Sport noted: “Burkina’s last victory in the continental showcase came way back in 1998, but Traore ended that sorry state of affairs in style to push the west African nation to the top of Group C and within touching distance of the last eight.”

“With quarterfinal qualification going down to the wire, Burkina Faso take on Zambia here while Ethiopia face Nigeria in Rustenburg, with both matches scheduled for Tuesday.”
—-
Related:
The Stallions silence Walya Antelopes (Yahoo News)
Burkina Faso trounce Ethiopia (SuperSport)
Burkina Faso 4 – 0 Ethiopia (BBC)

Ethiopia, Burkina Faso Face Off


Adane Girma of Ethiopia battles with Chris Katongo of Zambia during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations match at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, South Africa on Monday, January 21st. (Reuters)

Tadias Magazine
News Brief

Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013

South Africa (TADIAS) – Fresh off their spectacular return to Africa Cup earlier this week, after more than three decades of absence and an impressive 1-1 opening against defending champion Zambia, the Walyas who electrified Ethiopian fans around the world are preparing for their next game today against Burkina Faso at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, South Africa.

For audiences in the United States the game will be televised on ESPN3 beginning at 1 p.m Eastern and can be watched on the Internet and mobile devices.

In South Africa coach Sewnet Bishaw told the Associated Press that his team’s strategy is in place for today’s match. “We will try to play as many passes as possible because the Burkinabes are huge and physically very strong,” coach Sewnet said. “We will have a better team for the second game and use players with speed and good passing abilities.”

Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football has slapped Ethiopia’s football federation with a $10,000 fine for unruly behavior by fans last Monday, which included throwing plastic bottles, cups vuvuzelas, and other objects onto the field. The organization said it will suspend half of the penalty if the Ethiopians behave for the rest of the tournament.

It all began as a protest when goal keeper Jemal Tassew was given a red card for an aggressive tackle involving Zambia’s Chisamba Lungu. Jemal was taken off the field on a stretcher. His sending off started the wild outcry causing a security alert and delaying the game by several minutes. Jemal will not play against Burkina Faso on Friday as he is also suspended for two games.

According to AP: “Ethiopia drew by far the largest support base for Monday’s Group C double-header, with thousands of Johannesburg-based immigrants bussing in for the occasion. Sewnet predicted that the number of fans would double for the team’s next game.”

Burkina Faso coach Paul Put told BBC that after Monday’s performance his team can’t afford to take Ethiopia lightly. “We have a lot of respect for the Ethiopian team,” the coach said. “Any team that can draw with Zambia after playing against them with only 10 men after 30 minutes, that says a lot.”
—-
Related:
Ethiopia aim high ahead of Burkina Faso match (AP)
Burkina Faso vs Ethiopia (BBC)
Ethiopia seek to deepen Burkina’s Cup woes (AFP)
Great Start for Ethiopia at Africa Cup of Nations (TADIAS)

In Pictures: Photographs of the Walya Antelopes – Ethiopia’s National Soccer Team


Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Great Start for Ethiopia at Africa Cup of Nations: Zambia 1-1 Walya

Adane Girma, right, celebrates with teammate Saladin Said, left, after scoring the goal that tied the game against Zambia. The goal was Ethiopia's first at the Nations Cup in more than three decades. (Photo: AP)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – The Walya Antelopes, the Ethiopian national soccer team, made a historic return to the Africa Cup of Nations Monday, successfully drawing 1-1 against the defending champion Zambia at Mbombela Stadium in Mbombela, South Africa. The game was Ethiopia’s first in the tournament after 31 years of absence.

Striker Collins Mbesuma scored the first goal for Zambia near half-time, and Adane Girma help equalize for Ethiopia in the second half.

Ethiopia finished with only 10 players after goal keeper Jemal Tassew was given a red card for an aggressive tackle involving Zambia’s Chisamba Lungu. Jemal was taken off field on a stretcher.

His sending-off had visibly angered Walya fans, some of whom unfortunately threw bottles and other objects on to the pitch causing a security alert and delaying the game by several minutes. According to Reuters it also created a disagreement between the Ethiopian and Zambian coaches.

“The goalkeeper is there to defend,” coach Sewnet Bishaw told reporters. “I do not think it was a sending-off, which is why the fans were so angry.”

“They were not angry with the Ethiopian team, but with the referee.” his Zambian counterpart Herve Renard responded. “I have looked at the replay and of course it was a sending- off. He had to go. The rules are quite clear, you cannot fly into an opponent like that.”

The Zambian coach added: “I congratulate the Ethiopian team they played very well and it was not a surprise to me.”

Ethiopia still faces Burkina Faso and Nigeria in the first round. The Walya’s next match is against Burkina Faso on Friday, January 25th.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Video: Goal by Adane Girma – Zambia vs. Ethiopia (Euro Sport)


Related:
Ethiopia holds champion to make its point (CNN)
Zambia frustrated by Ethiopia (Aljazeera)
Ethiopia Draw Champion Zambia in African Cup (AP)
Ten-man Ethiopia hold Zambia on Nations Cup return (Reuters)

Video: Jemal Tassew takes red card and injury after foul





Related:
Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Ethiopia Inspired by Their Past (BBC Sport)
Bonuses Promised to Ethiopian Players (BBC)
In Pictures: Countdown to Africa Cup 2013 (TADIAS)
Coach Says Ethiopia Ready Despite Second-guessing (TADIAS)

In Pictures: Photographs of the Walya Antelopes – Ethiopia’s National Soccer Team


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In Pictures: Teddy Afro & Abogida Band in South Africa

Teddy Afro with Abogida Band in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday, January 19, 2013. (Essatu Images)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Monday, January 21, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Teddy Afro performed in Johannesburg, South Africa this weekend at ‘Africa Cup Kick-Off Party’ supporting the Walyas.” The event took place at Sandton Convention Center on Saturday, January 19th.

Below are photos from the concert courtesy of the promoters.



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In Pictures: Countdown to Africa Cup 2013

South African President Jacob Zuma showed off his dribbling skills in front of television cameras and photographers on January 15th during a visit to the country's national team in advance of the opening of the 2013 Africa Cup competition this weekend. (Getty Images)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Johannesburg – The 29th Africa Cup of Nations soccer games will commence on Saturday, January 19th at the National Stadium in Johannesburg with South Africa’s team, Bafana Bafana, playing against Cape Verde.

The host team received a visit from President Jacob Zuma today. “Zuma took time off his busy schedule to give a word of encouragement to the national team as they go into battle with some of the best on the continent,” the South African Football Association (SAFA) said in a statement.

The South African President dribbled a ball and held a private meeting with the players while also facing the media to address critics who say his country is not well-prepared for the continental gathering.

“Critics will always be there, some of them are paid to be critics and they are doing their job,” Zuma said. “I think we have done our best. Bear in mind that this tournament was supposed to be in Libya, so this tournament was not given the normal time for preparations and people who are making criticism forget that.”

Zuma added: “We had to start very late as a result of that. I am happy and I think we are ready and I think the country is ready. Fortunately, we have the facilities. We might not have done everything precisely because of how we got to host this edition but we are more than ready.”

Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said his team is grateful for the visit. “It is a privilege when the number one citizen of the country comes to meet the players and give support,” the coach said. “It is always important for the players and the whole team that he made time in his busy schedule to be with us today. We really feel honored.”

Zuma displayed his soccer skills before he was given two Bafana Bafana jerseys by team captain Bongani Khumalo.

In Pictures: President Jacob Zuma Visits Bafana Bafana (Photos from the team’s Facebook)



Related News:
Ethiopia aim high: Team Committed To Excelling At The Africa Cup Of Nations (KickOff.com)

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The Walya Antelopes: Coach Says Ethiopia Ready for Africa Cup Despite Second-guessing

Coach Sewnet Bishaw (BBC)

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: Monday, January 14, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – As South Africa prepares to host the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations later this week the prospects of the Ethiopian national team, which is participating in the tournament for the first time in 31 years, is also receiving attention in mainstream media, albeit a bit dismissive and putting the Ethiopian coach on the defensive.

Regardless of the outcome at the upcoming competition, Ethiopian fans around the world (some already on their way to South Africa) are excited to see their country return to the Africa Cup after more than three decades of absence.

And, despite the noise, coach Sewnet Bishaw recently told Reuters his team is prepared to give it its best shot. “Our confidence is sky high,” he said. “We are looking at going as far as we can with the first aim being the quarter-finals.”

Coach Sewnet’s remarks came in response to Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger’s statements that made headlines recently when he suggested that none of Walya’s players are part of the international big league. “It is maybe the only international competition today where you do not know all the players,” Wenger said at a press conference last week. “This time in South Africa you will have Ethiopia; if I ask you to name five Ethiopian players, I am sure you will have a problem,” Wenger added.

“He (Wenger) is absolutely right,” Coach Sewnet’s said in his reply. “But that will help our team, that we are unknown in this tournament.” Coach Sewnet’s answer was reflective of his disciplined team. “I am sure that will not be the case at the end of the tournament for everyone, including Arsene,” he added.

The team faces the defending champions Zambia on January 21st for its opening match. We wish coach Sewnet Bishaw and the Walya Antelopes all the best and are proud of their accomplishments!


Video: Ethiopia Returns to Africa Cup 31 Years Later – The Guardian






Related:
In Pictures: Countdown to Africa Cup 2013 – Is South Africa Ready? (TADIAS)
Soccer-Ethiopia out to prove a point to the world and Wenger (Reuters)
Ethiopia Football Team Feels Pressured to Succeed (VOA News)
Ethiopia return to Africa Cup of Nations after 31-year hiatus (The Guardian)
Ethiopia Returns to Nations Cup After 31-Year Absence (VOA News)
Ethiopia Hold Tunisia to Draw in Warmup Match for African Nations Cup (Yahoo Sports)
Ethiopia’s Squad for Africa Cup Include 3 Foreign-based Players (TADIAS)
FEATURE-Soccer-Ethiopia’s ‘Walyas’ look to make up for lost time (Reuters)
Three Foreign-based Players Named in Ethiopia Squad (Reuters)
Nations Cup 2013: Ethiopia name squad (BBC)
Ethiopia Gearing up for Africa Cup 2013 (TADIAS)

In Pictures: Photographs of the Walya Antelopes – Ethiopia’s National Soccer Team


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Asylum: The Story of Zena Tafesse Asfaw

Zena Asfaw, the author of an upcoming book called "Asylum," speaks at a Los Angeles Press conference on Thursday, November 8th, 2012 calling on President Obama and the new Congress to pass immigration reform. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Saturday, November 17, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Two days after President Obama was re-elected for a second-term, owing in large part to the support of young voters, minorities and immigrant communities, a rally and a press conference was held in Los Angeles, urging the President and the new Congress to pass immigration reform in 2013. Among the speakers who were invited by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) to address the gathering held on Thursday, November 8th was a political refugee from Ethiopia named Zena Tafesse Asfaw.

Zena knows a thing or two about forced migration. Zena’s own personal story is part of an upcoming book called Asylum, which details her painful and at times shockingly daring journey as a fugitive from her country, illegally criss-crossing three continents and several countries with forged documents — including Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and Mexico — before arriving to her final destination in the United States, where she sought and received asylum.

Parts of her tragic odyssey became public four years ago when she testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration while looking into problems associated with medical care at various immigration-detention facilities in the United States. At the hearing that took place on June 4th, 2008, Zena recounted a near death experience during a five-month imprisonment in San Pedro, California while awaiting a decision on her petition for political asylum. She told Congress that she was forced by a nurse and guard to take the wrong medication that almost cost her life.

In a recent interview with Tadias Magazine, Zena said her stay in San Pedro was the most difficult aspect of her situation. “Prior to that I was on the road for more than a year, with very little money, without a home and in strange lands where I did not speak the language,” she said. “By the time I got to America, I was exhausted, too stressed, unable to sleep and was experiencing female health problems.” Zena added: “So I approached the medical unit for help. I was prescribed medication that was supposed to help me relax, two pills each night administered by the attending nurse. The medication was working fine for weeks until one day there was a different nurse on duty. This nurse gave me seven pills to take at the same time. The pills were different in color and bigger than my regular pills. I asked her if she was sure that those were my pills because I was supposed to take only two at night. She became angry and shouted loudly to swallow them. Then she instructed the security guard to check my mouth to make sure I did not hide the pills in my mouth. The guard used a flashlight to examine my mouth. That night I became very sick, I was shaking, sweating, and vomiting blood. I could not keep anything in my stomach. It would take me more than a month to recover. To make a long story short, I am certain that I was forced to take medications that was not mine.”

But Zena’s ordeal under the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the United States, is only the end-tail of a long and sad journey that began in Ethiopia in 2005. She was then a young woman in her 20′s training to become an airline ticketing and reservation agent, while working at USAID and living in the home of the country’s USAID director at the time.

When violence broke out in Addis Ababa following a controversial national elections, Zena says “I happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.” Zena added “I was doing errands along with the family driver. There was a lot of girgir (Chaos) in the city and many students were being arrested. I was crossing the streets towards the car, when a policeman shouted at me to get on my knees.” Zena continued: “After checking my mobile and finding a text message from a relative that he thought was a supporter of the opposition, I was arrested and taken to jail where I spent 12 days. Until then, I thought of myself as a very strong person. That day, however, I felt the world came crashing down on me.”

She said she was eventually released on a $10,000 bail signed by her uncle. “I was upset, I wanted to sue, I wanted justice, I wanted to do something,” she said. “My life in my own birth country could never be the same again.” She added: “In the end, I was advised by those who loved me that the best thing for me was to leave Ethiopia.”

And so begins her epic sojourn into exile with a car trip to the Kenyan border and then through a smuggler to South Africa where she obtains a fake passport for her travel across the ocean to São Paulo, Brazil, where she ends up in a hostel mostly crowded with African immigrants from Eritrea, Somalia and West African countries. Zena said she befriended two Eritreans there who had the same mission as she did: to get to the United States.

In an excerpt from her upcoming book, shared with Tadias Magazine, Zena notes that along the way she received financial and other assistance from her former employers in Ethiopia whom she kept in touch via occasional phone calls from the road.

In a chapter entitled On the road to Bolivia from Sao Paulo, while traveling with her new friends from Eritrea, Zena describes a dramatic scene in the mountains of Bolivia where their bus came under fire by rebels. “On the second day of our bus journey, all hell broke loose — the Bolivian guerrillas against the government forces emerged…men came out of the forest, from behind rocks, from nowhere with rifles and machine guns blazing,” She wrote. “We all ducked down in our seats and I crumpled up as tight and as close to the floor as possible. Bullets were whizzing overhead and men were shouting something in Spanish. I didn’t speak the language so I didn’t know what they were saying but it was angry and intense. In that blur of violence, I glanced to my left to see how the boys were. My one friend was flopping around in the aisle like a large fish out of water. At first, I thought he’d been hit by a bullet, but there was no blood. Then his friend said he was having a seizure.”

Zena said her Eritrean friends survived the incident as well, but she said they separated in Ecuador after the bus trip. “Both of them have finally made it to America.”

Zena, who currently works and lives in Los Angeles, gives a lot of credit to her attorney David Paz Soldan, with whom she connected by memorizing his number, which she discovered posted on a board inside a room where she was being questioned by immigration officers in L.A. after she turned herself in to airport security upon her arrival in the United States on November 15, 2006. “He manged to get asylum approved, he got me my work permit and my green card,” she said. “He is an incredible human being who never failed to give hope and always delivered on his promise.”

In his endorsement of Zena’s book, Mr. Soldan wrote: “Zena’s tale is the most tragic yet inspirational story that I have encountered in all my years as an immigration attorney. Her strength and perseverance in overcoming the insurmountable obstacles placed before her are an affirmation to the human spirit and her will to survive. I consider myself fortunate to have met Zena, and it is a pleasure to see her continue to grow and achieve her goals.”

This article has been abridged from the original version.

Zena Asfaw can be reached at zenaasylum@yahoo.com.

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Review of Pianist Samuel Yirga’s Album

Samuel Yirga plays Ethiopian standards with a voracious talent that helps him savor each musical flavor. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Art Talk

WBUR 90.9 (Boston’s Public Radio News Station)

By Milo Miles

Although he’s only been playing for 10 years, Yirga is quite the sponge. His mix of folk vernacular and jazz improvisations in vintage Ethiopian tunes most recalls a similar folky fluency in South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, who likewise has no use for categories of high and popular art. Yirga ranges around even further on Guzo [his debut album] with his reworking of “I Am the Black Gold of the Sun,” originally recorded in 1971 by the group Rotary Connection. Yirga revitalizes the graceful beauty of the tune without going lush or sentimental. All that dates the track is the corny words, and those are handled with understatement by singers Nicolette and Mel Gara.

I didn’t expect Guzo to be one of the stronger arguments for the album format I’ve heard in quite a while, but it is. Yirga finds his way into Ethiopian standards, displays his flair for jazz over solo and ensemble pieces, and performs effortless homages to vintage soul, holding everything together with voracious talent that helps him savor each musical flavor. This is much more impressive when Yirga develops momentum and unity over the course of 11 tracks that show how much more he is than his parts.

Be sure to check out Yirga’s website for extra music and videos, particularly a vibrant live recording in London. Those who want to hear him as part of a band should explore his work with the group Dub Colossus. And anyone who wants to know more about Ethiopian music in general should grab the recent anthology The Rough Guide to the Music of Ethiopia, which includes classics from the Golden Age as well as Samuel Yirga and other adventurous moderns. While the Golden Age of Ethiopian music is in the past, a new one may be beginning.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THIS STORY.

‘Ethiopia: Inspiring Journey’ A Coffee Table Book by Esubalew Meaza

Image courtesy of infoAddis Publishing.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, October 15th, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – If you live in the East Coast, you may have noticed a new book for sale at various Ethiopian stores and restaurants called Ethiopia: Inspiring Journey by Esubalew Meaza – a 180-page collection of photographs and descriptions of historical places, people, rare animals, cultural and religious ceremonies from different parts of the country.

Esubalew, the book’s author and photographer, is based in Alexandria, Virginia, and says he was motivated because of the shortage of similar books written from an Ethiopian perspective.

“I did the book because of my desire to promote Ethiopia’s tourist attractions, but during my research I found that most such books are produced by outsiders who lack the subtle understanding of Ethiopian culture and language,” Esubalew (also known as Esu) said in an interview. “I will give you an example, I was once reading a post by a blogger who had visited Ethiopia, specifically Nech Sar National Park near Arba Minch. I was amused by his description of a “Crocodile Market.” He was correct in a sense that he was literally translating Azo gebeya, which for Ethiopians means where the crocodiles gather. But for the readers of the blog-post, however, it sounded like a place where people buy crocodile meat, which was completely wrong.” He added, laughing, “I have never seen an Ethiopian eat Azo. So I thought it was my duty to correct this kind of misunderstanding.”

Esu, who is currently an IT project manager for the U.S. Department of Defense and a father of two, said he took the photos between 2005 and 2011. “I traveled back to Ethiopia in 2002 for the first time in 17 years but did not start the project until 2005,” Esu said. “I was a high school student when I moved to the United States so it was an incredible feeling for me to reconnect with the country, and I still keep going back.”

The publication is endorsed, among others, by Mr. Habte Selassie Tafesse, one of the pioneers of the Ethiopian tourism industry, who wrote: “the book is a perceptive, lively and a faithful photographic rendering of Ethiopia’s cultural, historical and physical features.”

Esu noted that some of his favorite sections of the book highlight Ethiopia’s hidden wildlife treasures including red jackal or Simien fox and the mountain nyala, as well as the Addis Ababa lions, which DNA tests recently confirmed to be genetically unique.


Esubalew Meaza at Sof Omar Cave in Bale. (Courtesy photo)
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You can learn more and back order the book on Amazon. You may reach the author at Ethiopia@infoaddis.com.

New Coffee-table Book Highlights Ethiopian Diaspora Success

Image credit: Tsehai Publishers.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Novelist and writer Dinaw Mengestu, winner of the 2012 MacArthur Foundation’s “genius grant,” is one of several Ethiopian-Americans highlighted in an upcoming coffee table book by California-based Tsehai Publishers. The publication documents the professional success of first and second generation Ethiopians in the United States and the Diaspora.

Additional features include entrepreneurs, artists, authors, musicians, and scientists such as Dr. Sossina M. Haile, Professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering at California Institute of Technology and an expert in materials science and fuel cells; Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged, Director and Curator of the Department of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences and the paleoanthropologist who discovered the 3-year-old Selam (nicknamed Lucy’s baby), which lived 3.3 million years ago in Ethiopia and is considered the earliest known such fossil excavated in the history of Paleontology; Dr. Dagmawi Woubshet, Assistant Professor of English Literature at Cornell University; as well as chef Marcus Samuelsson, artist Julie Mehretu, Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Wayna (Woyneab Miraf Wondwossen), and Grammy-nominated musician and philanthropist Kenna (né Kenna Zemedkun), who in 2010 led a group of celebrity friends to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in order to raise awareness about the international clean water crisis.

“The book is an attempt to change global perception of Ethiopia by focusing on the many accomplishments of successful younger Ethiopians living throughout North America and Ethiopia today,” said Elias Wondimu, the book’s Publisher and Editorial Director. “These individuals are the sons and daughters, and younger siblings of those who lived through the 1970s Ethiopian political turmoil. By focusing on these individuals, we want to tell their parents’ story of resilience and share with the world the proud heritage that they commonly inherit as Ethiopians.”

Elias said the book’s working title, Yezare Abebawoch: Yenege Frewoch, is borrowed from the famous line by the former Ethiopian television children show host Tesfaye Sahlu. “In his infinite wisdom each time before telling a story, Ababa Tesfaye used to address his captive television audience — the children of yesteryear’s — as ‘flowers of today, seeds of tomorrow,’” he said. “The book focuses on these individuals who are doing beautiful work today, creating seeds for an even more wonderful future. It is the flowers of today that create the seeds of tomorrow. We are also trying to inspire Ethiopian children with these stories.”

Tsehai Publishers is seeking public funding for the book via Kickstarter, an online funding platform. Click here to learn more and support the project.


Image credit: Tsehai Publishers.

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From Australia Comes Ethiopian Calendar With Mobile App

The calendar layout features an Ethiopian coffee ceremony theme. (Image courtesy of Jember Calendar)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The Australia-based designers of the Ethiopian wall calendar, Jember, have announced that their latest version comes with a mobile app for Android smartphones. The app can be downloaded from their website.

“The Jember app hosts a complete Ethiopic calendar with a full list of major and minor Ethiopian holidays and other personal event reminder functionality,” says Yohannes Tafesse, one of the developers of the application. “In addition, it allows users to easily keep track of the Ethiopic date system.”

“The application is also designed around various elements of the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony,” he said.

Yohannes pointed out that the iPhone version is not yet available. “We wanted to first see how it’s received on Android platforms,” he said. “The plethora of devices running the Android operating system, ranging from tablets to smartphones, is our best chance for getting Jember in the hands of more people.” He added: “Having said that, however, an iPhone version for Jember is inevitable.”

Yohannes and his business partner, Ermyas Teshome, both of whom are residents of Melbourne, Australia, say they came up with the idea out of personal necessity.

“Living in the West means working under the Gregorian calendar system, which can leave one rather disconnected from the Ethiopian date system,” Ermyas said. “This is a problem because most of the holidays, birthdays and other events of our friends and families back home are in the Ethiopian date system. For me, this has meant either forgetting the special days of loved ones or calling a few days late and in some cases a few days early, which can be just as embarrassing. So Jember really emerged as a means of solving our own problems with the date system.”

“The reviews of the app are quite good so far,” noted Yohannes. “We will be releasing an update to the calendar app [Version 2] by the end of this week. The update includes some of the usability enhancements requested by our existing users. We hope everyone will like it and let us know what they enjoy about using Jember and what they would like to see improved.”
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Click here to learn more about the Jember calendar app.
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The Ideas Exchange: Conversation With Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

SoleRebels' Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The trailblazing Ethiopian entrepreneur Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, founder of the green footwear label SoleRebels, will be featured in episode 1 of an 8-part BBC series called The Ideas Exchange — a new TV show that teams up with executives from various industries around the world to discuss their experiences by interviewing each other.

In the first segment that is scheduled to air on BBC World News this weekend, Bethlehem is paired with the CEO of Lego Group, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, who is credited for transforming the privately held Danish company into a once again profitable global brand.

“It’s a 30 minute program that showcases Jorgen and myself, our backgrounds, how we got to where we are and why,” Bethlehem said an interview with TADIAS. “In the second half, it transitions into a face-to-face meeting between the two of us at LEGO headquarters in Billund, Denamrk where we engage in an intensive and wide ranging interview of each other.” She added: “It’s a very interesting discussion.”

Bethlehem who also made Forbes magazine’s recent list of “The World’s Most Powerful Women: Women to Watch” said she is confident about the future expansion of her company. “I would say that the SoleRebels journey is only getting started and its about to get a whole lot more exciting,” she said. “We are opening soleRebels branded retail stores around the planet starting in Taiwan’s second largest city, Taichung, on October 1st.”

Bethlehem said more retail loactions will follow in Zurich, New York City, Seoul, Chicago, and London. “This is an exciting opportunity for us to put SoleRebels in closer proximity to our growing fan base.”

Click here to watch the preview. Watch BBC World News for all episodes of The Ideas Exchange.

Related:
Ideas Exchange opens for talks (BBC)

Kubee Kassaye of New York Earns Top Culinary Prize

Kubee Kassaye, a chef at the five-star Peninsula Hotel in Manhattan, has won the 2012 Legacy Award for culinary achievement by the prestigious philanthropic society, Les Dames d'Escoffier International. She was one of six women to earn the coveted distinction. (NY Daily News)

New York Daily News

Kubee Kassaye loves to experiment in the kitchen. On any given day, the young chef will whip up American, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and her native Ethiopian cuisine in her Parkchester kitchen.

“I just love the different techniques and style of food. It’s like an artwork,” said Kassaye, 28.
Her dream is to one day open an Ethiopian/Italian restaurant. And now she’s one step closer.

Continue reading at the New York Daily News.

Ethiopian Olympic Athletes Feted

Seated from left to right: Yanet Seyoum Gebremedhin, Tirunesh Dibaba, Werknesh Kidane, at an event in London on Monday evening celebrating their success at the 2012 London games. (Photo courtesy of Sabrina Yohannes.)

Tadias Magazine
By Sabrina Yohannes

Updated: Friday, August 17, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopian athletes at the 2012 Olympics received a hero’s welcome even before they left London when the Ethiopian embassy there hosted a gala dinner in their honor Monday night.

Ethiopia earned seven medals, three of them gold, in athletics in London. The nation’s largest haul ever was in Sydney in 2000, where four out of a total of eight medals were gold; while in Beijing, four out of seven medals were gold.

Ethiopia’s ambassor to the UK, Berhanu Kebede, praised the London team.

“They are first in Africa in athletics and 24th overall and achieved excellent results, and are capable of doing even better,” he said. “They have tremendous potential. … We feel great pride. They have changed the image of Ethiopia and many people have come to know about Ethiopia.”

The nation leads the continent and trails just the United States, Russia, Jamaica and the United Kingdom on the athletics medal table, in which the order of countries is based on number of golds followed by number of silvers and then bronzes.

Kenya follows Ethiopia with two golds, though the country’s overall medal count in athletics, 11, is greater than its East African neighbor’s.

Out of 33 countries that medaled in athletics, only those six took more than one gold, with the rest of the table consisting of those with just one title or only lesser medals.

After a poet referred to the athletes as jewels and another speaker told them they had left Ethiopians abroad “awash in feelings of joy,” gold medalists Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba and silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel briefly took to the stage and addressed the gathering at London’s Porchester Hall on Monday night. Wood paneling and red velvet drapes covered the walls and chandeliers hung from the ceiling in the room, which was filled to capacity by a 450-strong crowd decked out in traditional Ethiopian and formal wear.

“You have contributed to our success,” the 5000m Olympic champion Defar told the gathering, citing the reception given to members of the Olympic delegation upon their arrival at Heathrow Airport among other displays of support London-based Ethiopians had provided.

Defar went on to point out the greater success at the London Olympiad of Ethiopia’s female athletes. Five of the seven medals and all three golds were earned by women.

Her comments received general cheers and applause and ululations from some women in the audience, and prompted London 5000m silver medalist Gebremeskel to draw laughter when he felt the need to begin his remarks by stating that he was not necessarily speaking on behalf of the male athletes, but rather the whole team. The London women’s 10,000m champion and 5000m bronze medalist Dibaba echoed Defar’s comments.

The two women and former world cross country champion Werknesh Kidane were resplendent in traditional white Ethiopian dresses, while a wider array of national costumes was on display on members of the audience, a troupe that performed traditional dances, and models taking part in a fashion show of clothes inspired by traditional designs.

“We wished to express the respect we have for [the athletes],” said the ambassador, explaining the goal of the event. “And secondly, to celebrate Ethiopia as a nation of great athletes, past and present. Furthermore, we feel this allows those who don’t know Ethiopia to experience our culture, our dress, our way of life.”

The evening included many non-Ethiopian guests, some having some connection to Ethiopia, and a buffet dinner of Ethiopian and Western fare. The highlight for most in the room, however, was clearly the proximity to the star athletes, who untiringly obliged their requests for photographs and occasional autographs.


Seated from left to right: Werknesh Kidane and Meseret Defar. (Photo courtesy of Sabrina Yohannes)


Steeplechaser Nahom Mesfin (at right) and 1500m runner Dawit Wolde (not pictured) spontaneously escort London double medalist Tirunesh Dibaba, holding a banner Ethiopian flag behind her. (Photo by Sabrina Yohannes)

“I’ve run in London many times,” said Dibaba. “Many Ethiopians live here and they are always by our side, encouraging us. They left their work behind and came to the stadium to support us and their support means a lot to us. It gives me a morale boost and motivates me to run harder to please them.”

She also expressed pride in the female athletes’ performance in London, where Tiki Gelana won the women’s marathon and Sofia Assefa took bronze in the women’s steeplechase.

“It happens that way sometimes,” said national track coach Hussein Shibo on Tuesday. “The women’s performance has risen over the years.” He went on to enumerate the nine gold medals won by Ethiopian women at recent Olympiads since Barcelona in 1992 when Derartu Tulu became the first black African woman to win gold, and he compared that to the seven Ethiopian men’s golds in that time frame. (Ethiopia boycotted the 1984 and 1988 Games.)

“The numbers are close,” he said. “However, the women have shown growth and we are happy that they have come from behind and reached this level. In the 1500, if Abeba’s race hadn’t gone wrong and if Genzebe hadn’t been injured; and if [800m runner] Fantu hadn’t been injured, the women might have totally dominated the results. So perhaps we can say this time belongs to the women.”

Abeba Aregawi and Dibaba’s sister Genzebe were top contenders in the women’s 1500, but while Aregawi finished outside the medals, Dibaba was injured during the qualifying rounds. Injury also kept Fantu Magiso out of the women’s 800.

In many events, the competition is more fierce on the men’s side, while some countries’ cultures keep women out of sports. Ethiopian women have had the example of Tulu and 1996 Atlanta marathon champion Fatuma Roba to follow, augmented by the successes of Tirunesh Dibaba and Defar.

Injuries affected the men’s results in London too, with Beijing double champion Kenenisa Bekele making his way back from injury-filled years and the year’s second-fastest 5000m runner in the world, Hagos Gebrhiwet, having been injured in the lead-up to London, while Athens Olympics fourth-placer Gebregziabher Gebremariam suffered an injury while in London before the 10,000m race.

Bekele, who was fourth in that race, left London and headed back to Ethiopia a couple of days after it. His brother Tariku took bronze.

“The overall results are very good,” said London Olympic team leader Nega Gebregziabher on Monday, adding however, “We had expected a lot, and of those, we have achieved a few.”

“With some of the younger athletes, for example, in the 1500, the 800 and also the men’s 5000, in which we could have won, due to their youth and inexperience, we suffered losses,” he said. “We will assess our performance and guage what we must do going forward.”

Mohammed Aman was also widely expected to medal in the men’s 800.

“We have the world championships coming up [next year] and these youth are fully capable of being successful,” added Gebregziabher. “Ethiopians everywhere greatly encourage our athletes, and admire our athletes, and it’s important that they boost their morale and provide encouragement, and we are confident that they will.”

Meanwhile, an even younger athlete was taking in the proceedings at Porchester Hall with special appreciation. Ethiopia’s first ever female Olympic swimmer Yanet Seyoum Gebremedhin, 18, was seated next to Dibaba at the dinner.

“She’s a very strong athlete and a role model for us,” said Gebremedhin. “I’m so happy to be representing my country alongside her. I’ve always wanted to meet her.”

Her wish was granted when the athletics team arrived in London and Gebremedhin found herself staying on the same floor in the Olympic Village, and receiving words of encouragement from her and Defar and other team members.

“They all advised me to work hard and not give up hope,” said Gebremedhin, who watched their races with interest. “Swimming and running are very different, but I’ve learned many lessons,” she said. “They fight til the very end.”

Though not expected to medal, Gebremedhin had encouraging results of her own and hopes to inspire those who are younger still. “I improved my personal record, which is Ethiopia’s record,” she said. “I hope others will learn from my experience. I’ve competed for six years and to reach the Olympics in six years is very good, but I don’t have a coach and I work on my own. If we had coaches, we could do better and not just improve our own personal bests, but, I believe, make history.”

At the 2012 Olympics, Dibaba and Defar did make history. Tulu lost and then regained the 10,000 crown in 2000, but in London, the Beijing 2008 champion Dibaba became the first to successfully defend the title, while Defar became the only woman to win the 5000m twice, after she first won in Athens in 2004.

“It’s very pleasing that at this critical competition, at the Olympics, the whole team has performed this well,” said Defar.

Related:
Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar to Contest One Event Each at 2013 World Championships in Moscow

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A Project to Document History of Armenian-Ethiopians

A kickstarter campaign aims to produce a documentary on the history of the Armenian community in Ethiopia. (Photo: The Boyadjian family / Facebook)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, August 2, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In the early 1900s, when Armenians were faced with genocide orchestrated by the Ottoman empire, scores of families escaped and some arrived and settled in Ethiopia. Armenians make up one of the oldest immigrant communities in Ethiopia. Vahe Tilbian, a 4th generation Ethiopian-Armenian, told TADIAS magazine that “historically Armenians worked as goldsmiths, carpenters, builders, teachers, embroiders, silk makers, and carpet makers.” His great grandfather Tavit Aslanian was a carpet maker in Empress Zewditu’s palace, his paternal grandfather was a tailor in Addis and his maternal family members were cobblers.

Armenians have likewise contributed heavily to Ethiopian modern music. Kevork Nalbandian was an Armenian who composed the first national anthem for Ethiopia as well as served as the musical director of Arba Lijoch. His nephew Nerses Nalbandian was involved in the founding of the famed Yared Music School as well as led the Municipality Orchestra.

A kickstarter campaign has now been launched to produce a documentary of the unique history and contributions of Armenian-Ethiopians. The Tezeta campaign is directed by Aramazt Kalayjian.

Watch:


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Debo Band’s First Album: Interview with the Group’s Founder Danny Mekonnen

Debo Band is an 11-member Boston-based group led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, July 6, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In its recent, thumbs-up highlight of Debo band’s self-titled first album NPR noted: “The particular beauty of Debo Band is that you don’t have to be an ethnomusicologist to love it: It’s all about the groove. Debo Band transforms the Ethiopian sound through the filter of its members’ collective subconscious as imaginative and plugged-in 21st-century musicians. Klezmer-haunted wails dart in and out between disco thumps. The swooning, hot romance of [Yefikir Wegene] bursts up from the same ground as the funky horns of Ney Ney Weleba. From that hazy shimmer of musical heat from faraway Addis, a thoroughly American sound emerges.”

In an interview with Tadias Magazine, Danny Mekonnen, the group’s Ethiopian-American founder, agreed with NPR’s description, yet also pointed out that even he finds it difficult to explain the music. “It’s funny now that I am talking to the press more and more I am asking myself the same question”, Danny told TADIAS. “What is it?,” he said, admitting that he is not sure how he would categorize Debo’s music genre.

“I don’t think its Ethio-jazz because to me Ethio-jazz is a very specific thing branded by Mulatu Astatke. Its gentle,” he said. “Initially I didn’t want to start an Ethio-jazz band because I was interested in a lot of different things and influenced by unapologetic funk music as well, such as someone like Alemayehu Eshete, which is really about groove, dancing, and strong lyrics. That kind of energy.”

Debo’s debut album features originals, such as DC Flower and Habesha, the latter based on the Diaspora experience where a young man is mesmerized by an attractive East African woman walking down the street that could be either Ethiopian or Eritrean, while the former is an instrumental giving prominence to Embilta flutes and traditional drums. “The two songs are noteworthy because we are carving our space as a Diaspora, Ethiopian-American band,” Danny said.

Danny, who holds a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology from Harvard University, said he became exposed to Ethiopian music at an early age while growing up in Texas, mostly from his parents cassette-tape collections of old songs from the 1960′s and 70s. “I was just soaking it up like a sponge,” he said. “I was attracted to it because of its horn melodies and its closeness to American jazz.” He continued: “Later, in the early 2000′s I was introduced to the Éthiopiques CD series, which gave me really accessible context including photos. That also led me to meet some great people in the Diaspora. So when I entered Harvard I had already started Debo band and my scholarly focus was on Ethiopian music.”

Even though Debo’s sound is heavily indebted to the classics of the 1960′s and early ’70′s, Danny said he is sympathetic to those who say the overwhelming focus on that era alone undercuts the contributions of subsequent generations of Ethiopian musicians. “Unfortunately the focus on the so called ‘Golden Age of Ethiopian music’ sort of discredits what came after it,” he said. “For example, if you listen to Teddy Tadesse’s Zimita album, that was a pretty heavy record, very progressive, and at least ten years ahead of its time. You can hear its influence in singers that came later like Gossaye and Teddy Afro.” He added: “Zimita was entirely arranged by Abegaz Shiota. Abegaz and bass guitarist Henock Temesgen are two of the many contemporary Ethiopian musicians that I have the highest respect for. They were part of Admas Band that worked with everyone from Aster Aweke to Tilahun Gessesse and Mahmoud Ahmed.”

Danny said his friend Charles Sutton, Jr. – the Peace Corps volunteer who in 1969 arranged for Orchestra Ethiopia, then led by Tesfaye Lemma, to tour the United States under the name “The Blue Nile Group” – was also instrumental in helping him to connect with older Ethiopian musicians in the U.S. “Charlie arranged for me a private lesson with Melaku Gelaw, one of the top washint and kirar players of that generation,” Danny said.

According to Danny, Mr. Sutton was also responsible for suggesting the name “Debo” as the group’s identity. “I told Charlie I was searching for a band name and he spoke to an Ethiopian lady friend of his and she came up with the word,” Danny shared.

“Debo means communal labor or collective effort in Amharic” Danny said. “An easy word to pronounce for non-Ethiopians, short four-letter word and very simple. But it also strikes up a fun conversation among Ethiopians because it’s an old archaic word and not part of their daily usage.”

“Ethiopians tell me that it sounds like Dabo (bread),” Danny said laughing.

If You Go:
Debo Band is getting ready for their CD release tour starting next week and will be performing at The Bell House in Brooklyn, the U Street Music Hall in Washington D.C. as well as at the renowned Philadelphia Folk Festival in Schwenksville, PA. For a detailed listing of their upcoming tour please visit Debo Band’s website. You can learn more about Debo’s new album and pre-order at www.subpop.com.

Watch: Debo Band Live (NPR)


Related:
Golden Age Pop – from Ethiopia (WNYC)

Ethiopia at Summer Stage NYC: Q & A With Guitarist Selam Woldemariam

Guitarist Selam Seyoum Woldemariam, former member of legendary Ethiopian bands, Ibex and Roha, will be featured in Tomás Doncker's upcoming performance at NYC's SummerStage Theater presented by Time Warner. (Photo: Selam at Howard Theatre in D.C. on May 26th, 2012 / by tsedey foto)

Tadias Magazine
By Tsedey Aragie

Updated: Monday, July 2, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Guitarist Selam Woldemariam is scheduled to take part in this month’s Summer Stage concert in New York, paying a musical tribute to Ethiopia’s storied resistance against Italian occupation during world war II. The show entitled The Power of the Trinity is an adaptation of a play by American writer, the late Roland Wolf. The stage production is directed by Alfred Preisser and the music is scored by New York-based musician Tomás Doncker.

According to City Parks Foundation NYC’s annual “SummerStage” concerts, sponsored by AT&T, brings over 100 performances to eighteen parks throughout New York City. Selections range from pop, latin and world music to dance, spoken word and theater. Selam will perform at Springfield Park in Queens on July 27th and 28th, as well as at Central Park in Manhattan on July 31st. The show will conclude at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem on August 5th.

Below is our recent interview with Selam Woldemariam:

But first, here are video clips from Selam’s recent appearance at the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. during a Memorial Day weekend concert featuring Mahmoud Ahmed and Gosaye Tesfaye.

Watch:

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Q & A With Guitarist Selam Woldemariam:

TADIAS: Please tell us about your upcoming NYC show. How did you get involved with the project?

Selam Woldemariam: I got involved with the project 3 years ago, when I met Tomás Doncker. At the time the sons of the playwright Roland Wolf were working to continue their father’s work. They were setting out to complete the play he wrote about the second Italian invasion and Haile Selassie’s leadership role. Roland Wolf’s sons met with Tomás Doncker about doing the score for the play. This was the driving force behind the Power of the Trinity project. Doncker was interested in creating a fusion of Ethiopian music and was particularly inspired by the Ethiopiques CD series number seven. Doncker did not expect to find the musicians from the Ibex band still doing the music thing. So this led to the meeting between Tomás Doncker and I in Washington D.C. one afternoon. I served as a production consultant in the play and co-wrote 3 to 4 songs on the album. The play will feature an all-American cast and I have been working with the cast so that they deliver their lines with an Ethiopian twist.

TADIAS: Tomás says you are the Jimi Hendrix of Ethiopia.

SW: (Laughter). I call him ‘Gash Tomás.’ I’m happy to have worked with him; he is a man of his word. He is an inspiring individual that really brought out the best part of me. He was so enthusiastic about learning how to play Tizita. It was one of those unique situations that allowed us to really have an open meeting of the minds that doesn’t come around often.

We also played together at the Blue Note Jazz club in New York — where one of our sets was completely sold out. Tomás Doncker is also an incredible songwriter he composed an album of 11 to 12 songs it was great to work with him. My job was to maintain the authenticity and infuse commonly known melodies like Tizita, Anchi Hoye, Bati, and Ambassel; translating important highlighted words from the songs. I chose Tsegaye Selassie from Lasta Band for his unique voice that is most known for the ancient, raw folk sounds that are heard throughout the old city of Roha, which is known as Lalibella. Commonly known as Lalibeloch, they would go out into the city and sing spiritual songs early in the morning. We added 3 to 4 new compositions, which included Mahmoud Ahmed’s newest Guragigna song.

TADIAS: How would you describe the music and what are your expectations for SummerStage?

SW: The genre is classified as global soul, because it connects the world with the sounds of Africa, specifically traditional Ethiopian melodies, which is classified as pentatonic. I am excited about playing on some of the most prestigious stages in NY. I expect a large turnout with people from all over the globe, because it is a transient and global sound. It is very different. I believe that this is a great opportunity for people to experience Ethiopian music.

TADIAS: Please tell our readers more about yourself. (where you were born, grew up, and how you developed your passion for music?)

SW: I was born in Addis Abeba where my father was the Director of one of the first school that was established for the vision impaired. I grew up in Kazanchis on the compound of the school. The Missionaries from the Protestant Church were the teachers at the school, and this is where I was first exposed to music and singing. My father was later commissioned to be the director of the second school in Asmara. That’s when I started to get involved with music. In Asmara we put a quintet band together, which was a church group that I formed at the age of 11. We were very popular; we had so many supporters and were highly encouraged. Right after I finished high school I joined the Black Soul Band with members Alemayehu Eshete, and Slim Jones, and toured with Orchestra Ethiopia in 1973. Orchestra Ethiopia is mostly known for Tesfaye Lemma and his group, who did their first and last tour in 1969 when they traveled to the U.S. with Charles Sutton. The band broke up so Hailemariam G. Giorgis the keyboard player and I went to play at the Venus club. Months after, the Zimbabwean guitarist left Ibex Band and so they were looking for a guitarist. This is when I joined the Ibex band and shortly after brought Hailemariam with me. This is when it all began. The first recording was Ere Mela Mela by Mahmoud, which later became Ethiopiques number seven. That’s when people began to recognize me as a guitar player. We produced most of Mahmoud’s music, and an album for Tilahun Gessese, and one for Aster Aweke, these recordings spanned from 1975 to 1978. The most important recording at that time was the Ibex Instrumental where musicians like Abegaz, Henock, and Fasil started their humble beginnings. They all have mentioned this music during their interviews. During this time in 1979, is when the vinyl era began to decline and the cassette tapes appeared in the market. Then, three members of the Ibex Band: Giovanni Rico, Fekadu Amdemeskel, and I, formed the Roha Band. During this time Roha band recorded close to 250 albums. Most of the Roha recordings were done in the basement of Ghion Hotel that was our Motown.

TADIAS: We understand that you are also writing a book. Can you tell us about it?

SW: Yes, this will be a book about my reflection on Ethiopian music. It’s a subject that not many people write about. I have kept a memoir of the events and concerts that took place when we were on tour. I studied History at Addis Abeba University where I graduated in 1988; my senior essay was titled “Origin and development of Zemenawi music in Ethiopia (1896-1974)”. I prefer to say Zemenawi and not “Modern” because the word “modern” implies that the music is somehow better in terms of quality, which I don’t believe it is. I have pictures and of course a database of music that was produced during the era of what is known as the ‘Golden Years of Ethiopian Music.’ I’m currently looking for a grant to finish the work.

TADIAS: Regarding your guitar, why are you so in love with Gibson 335 ES?

SW: (Laughter). When I joined Ibex band at the end of 1974, my guitar was a Yamaha and then I started to listen to Crusaders and the guitar player Larry Carlton. And he plays the Gibson 335 ES and I have been greatly influenced by Carlton who is known for his elements of Blues. I had a good friend of mine who brought me the guitar back in 1979 from NYC. During the communist regime it was not so easy to get things into the country. Some time after I received the guitar, I heard through the grapevine that someone was selling the same guitar. Come to find out my friend had bought two and was trying to sell the other. So I caught up with him and took the guitar for half the price because he tried to sell my style guitar behind my back. So I have two Gibsons, which I refer to as the twins.

TADIAS: Thank you, Selam, and best wishes from all of us at TADIAS!
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If You Go:
SummerStage Theater Presented By Time Warner
THE POWER OF THE TRINITY
Written by: Roland Wolf
Adapted & Directed By: Alfred Preisser
Original Music Composition by Tomás Doncker
7.31.2012 | 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm | Central Park
Live global-soul music sets the backdrop for SummerStage’s world premiere of The Power of the Trinity.

Click here for complete schedule.

‘Yes, Chef,’ a Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson

In his newly published Memoir, "Yes, Chef," Marcus Samuelsson recounts his remarkable story of how he became one of the few widely accepted top black chefs in the world. (Photo: marcussamuelsson.com)

The New York Times
By DWIGHT GARNER

‘Yes, Chef,’ a Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson

The universal rule of kitchen work, Marcus Samuelsson says in his crisp new memoir, “Yes, Chef,” goes as follows: “Stay invisible unless you’re going to shine.” That rule applies to writers too, especially to those who would write food memoirs. Because you like to put things in your mouth does not mean you have a story to tell.

Mr. Samuelsson, as it happens, possesses one of the great culinary stories of our time. It begins in Ethiopia, where he was born into poverty and where, at 2, he contracted tuberculosis, as did his mother and sister. The three of them trudged more than 75 miles in the terrible heat to a hospital in the capital city, Addis Ababa, where his mother died.

Read more at The New York Times.
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Related:
Samuelsson Memoir Traces Rise From Ethiopia to Obama (Bloomberg News)
Yes, Chef’ by Marcus Samuelsson (Boston Globe)

Dallas & D.C: Tale of Two Ethiopian Soccer Tournaments

The 29th Annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament will take place in Dallas from July 1st to July 7th, 2012, while a new, separate tournament will be held the same week in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chicago 2009 / Tadias File)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Last winter, when the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA), a 29-year old non-profit in charge of hosting the annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament, elected new officers and sent out a press release announcing Dallas as the location of the 2012 Soccer Tournament, we reported that the much publicized disputes among the board members seemed to have been amicably resolved. Since then, however, things have dramatically changed.

“There is an ongoing lawsuit and because of our lawyer’s advice, I can not tell you the details of how our organization was formed,” Elias Dimberu, a public relations officer for the newly established AESAONE (All Ethiopian Sports Association ONE), told TADIAS in a recent response to our inquiry. AESAONE is aggressively promoting a rival tournament at the RFK stadium in Washington, D.C. scheduled from July 1st through 7th — the same time the ESFNA sponsored tournament takes place in Dallas.

“There is no court gag order so you can speak to me about whatever you need,” said Johnny G. Berhanu, the spokesperson for the older ESFNA. “The truth is that they are all former members of ESFNA, including the ex-president who lost an election, who have chosen to set up various entities basically disregarding not only the law but the bylaws of ESFNA as well.” He added: Our bylaws say no board member of ESFNA can use ‘proprietary data’ including business contacts for their own personal use for at least two years after they leave the organization. These guys stole our corporate identity, they took our sponsor accounts. They tried locking us out of our bank account and our website. Believe it or not, we were first alerted to the whole plot by a Verizon fraud department worker, who called to tell us that a couple of those guys were trying to take out two new cell phones using our name.”

The AESAONE PR Officer disagrees, while admitting that the group was forced to re-brand itself after facing a trademark infringement lawsuit in April for its previous name, ESFNAONE. “We’ve changed the name as required by law,” Elias responded.

“It took the judge less than fifteen minutes to approve a temporary restraining order against them, which has since been extended,” Johnny remarked regarding the lawsuit. “They can never, ever be able to use our name and confuse the public again.”

And the soccer teams? “There is no shortage of Ethiopian soccer players in the Diaspora,” answered Elias. “In fact, there are way too many.” He added: “People forget that there is more than one Ethiopian team in every major city. We already have 28 teams registered from the U.S., as well as one from Australia and one from England.” According to Elias, the D.C. tournament is sponsored by MIDROC, the company owned by Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi. “They are covering the entire tournament for three years, whatever the cost, no strings attached,” he said.

“The man has given them 2 million dollars and they are going around trying to buy players, offering them up to $10,000 in some cases,” Johnny charged. “I personally know someone in Canada who rejected their bribe.”

“That’s hearsay,” Elias objected. He points out that AESAONE was a sponsor and actively recruiting teams during the traditional Memorial Day weekend regional tournaments in the West coast, the Midwest and the South. “There were ten California teams participating in Sacramento, for example,” he said. “Nine in Atlanta and another ten quality ones in Minnesota.” He added: “For the first time, there will be teams coming from Florida, Arizona, South Dakota and the city of Cincinnati, Ohio.”

Elias continued: “In terms of money, we are covering transportation costs, including airfare, for 20 players of each team that are participating in our tournament. We are also providing each team with five hotel rooms. In addition, all teams receive one full jersey. And in case of emergency, each players gets up to $100,000 insurance coverage for injury which they can use throughout the year. Furthermore, for the first time we have arranged coach bus service, back and forth, between the stadium and the hotel.”

Addressing the ongoing lawsuit, Elias declined from sharing details except to state, “We are in settlement negotiations at the moment.”

But Johnny is willing to talk. “ESFNA is asking to recover court expenses and other damages from them,” Johnny said. “So far we have spent about $13,000 in lawyers fees and could go up to $20,000.” He continued: “There is business loss and related issues when they used the ESFNAONE name to promote their event causing serious confusion in the community. As part of the final settlement, we are asking that at a minimum they change their tournament date.”

“That’s logistically impossible,” Elias declared. “There is a reason why we chose the week of July 4th.” He continued: “Most of the players are students and the only major summer holiday where we can attract the players is the 4th of July. The next holiday is Labor Day weekend in September, which is too late.”

“Don’t you think they can do this in August and attract more people?” Johnny asked. “Ultimately, I want you to look for the motive.”

“Our motive is to create an organization that stands for one community, regardless of religion and politics,” Elias responded. “Sports being the pillar, to celebrate our culture.”

“Let me tell you something,” Johnny answered. “I am a volunteer and democratically elected member of ESFNA’s board. After two years if people don’t like what I am doing, they can vote me out.” He added: I am not going to go on a vendetta against the organization that I willingly serve. I am not saying they don’t have the right to start a business. This is the United States of America, they can do whatever they want. I am saying be lawful in your actions and be truthful to the public about your intentions.”

Johnny is using his three week vacation to travel from Canada to volunteer his time working on the Dallas soccer tournament logistics. Ironically, Elias who is working on the D.C. tournament resides in Texas. “Yep! I live right in the heart of Dallas,” he said.

Competition and choices are not bad for any community, but we hope the two sides can find a way to let vendors and the public enjoy both events without forcing them to take sides or choose one over another.


Related Links:
The 29th Annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament in Dallas
Ethiopian Soccer Tournament in D.C.

East African Diaspora New Media Orgs in U.S. Receive Attention

Flourishing New media organizations run by the East African Diaspora in the United States are getting broader coverage. (Photo credit: Alpha Abebe/Focus on the Horn)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, May 28, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The growing and vibrant African Diaspora media in the United States is helping to disseminate the ‘hopeful’ and in some ways more nuanced stories about Africa. The new trend is receiving steadily increasing coverage. In a recent article entitled Ethiopian Diaspora Media Compete Over Message, VOA featured radio and satellite TV shows based in Washington, D.C. metro area including The Nunu Wako Show on EBS and Abebe Belew’s Addis Dimts radio. Nico Colombant at VOA noted that during the much publicized G8 meeting at Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland last week, several media crew including “citizen-journalists” taking photos and videos of demonstrations in nearby towns were members of the Ethiopian Diaspora.

A post entitled Generations of East African Diasporas in Cyberspace on Focus on the Horn — a website run by graduate students at Oxford University — also highlights the growing Africa-focused new-media organizations.

“As a new generation emerges from the offspring of East African migrants, they too have created online spaces to negotiate their relationships to their countries of heritage,” writes Alpha Abebe, a PhD student at Oxford. “In many respects, they have entered into this scene far more equipped –- more access to resources, more tech savvy, and more platforms.” She adds: “However, their social, political and economic ties to these countries would appear to be less direct, begging the question –- what does their web presence look like?”

“As you would imagine, it is quite diverse,” Alpha says. “There is Bernos.com, where one can buy a stylish Horn-of-Afro-centric tshirt and share dating advice on the same website.” She continues: “Then there is OPride.com, an aggregator of Oromo and regionally related news stories. Tadias.com is an online magazine often profiling the stories of Ethiopian-Americans who have found mainstream success. Abesha.com (currently on hiatus) was a pioneer in many respects, and created platforms for political debate, showcasing of art, and building community among young Ethiopians and Eritreans in the diaspora. Add to this the vast number of virtual spaces, including websites, facebook pages, twitter feeds, etc. that mobilized a rapid humanitarian response to the recent famine in Somalia, among a generation of people in the Somali diaspora – many of whom have never stepped foot on the continent. Finally, there is HornLight.org, a new player on scene, created to challenge mainstream narratives about the Horn through the stories and contributions from people in the diaspora.”

Social media networks are also playing an important role. The Twitter handle @afritwit with over 3,700 followers, for example, publishes stories that portray the complexities of the African continent by “pooling African Twitter users.” This trend in ‘tweeting from an African perspective’ and curating a pool of African Twitters has also caught the attention of international news agencies such as France 24, which claimed to have published the first Twitter map of Africa. The technology news site, Siliconafrica.com, also published its research online focusing on how Africans are utilizing Twitter, and found that “60% of the continent’s most active Twitter users are aged 21 to 29.”

Diaspora Africans are adopting the idea of press freedom and have developed organizations for African journalists. The Association of African Journalists and Writers (AAJW) on Facebook is one such organization that is newly minted in New York. AAJW describes its role as developing “a unified platform for African media and writers to connect, network, collaborate, and promote better reporting and understanding of Africa and African communities.”

It seems that the old post-colonial tinged discourse on Africa is on its way out as mass media embraces the diversity of voices from the African continent and among Diaspora Africans.

Related:
Ethiopian Diaspora Media Compete Over Message (VOA)
Generations of East African diasporas in cyberspace (Focus on the Horn)
Alexandria News Outlet Loosens Shackles of Censorship for Ethiopians (The Alexandria Times)
Less Emphasis on Digital, More Emphasis on People for D.C. Ethio­pians (The Washington Post)
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Interview with Juniority TV Show Producer Philmona Tessema

Philmona Tessema, Creator/Producer of Juniority - a TV show project in Los Angeles. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
Art Talk

Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Wouldn’t it be fun to have the news interpreted by children as opposed to gray-haired pundits? That’s what Philmona Tessema, producer of the TV pilot Juniority, wants to do if she succeeds in raising enough funds for her upcoming youth-led show.

The plan is to feature a weekly guest panel of youngsters who would offer “no-spin commentary” on current affairs ranging from politics, YouTube videos, celebrity gossip and other topics hosted by comedian Brian Moote. In the long term the show will include correspondents from overseas reporting events in other countries.

“As adults, I think we condition ourselves to speak and think a certain way, but deep down inside, we all want to see the straight picture, plain and simple,” Philmona said in an interview with TADIAS. “I wanted to make a show where people can get a fresh take on the issues our world faces today, regardless of race, creed, or religion. Kids, to me, were the answer.” She added: “Not only are they not afraid to speak about what’s on their mind, but they are funny too!”


A Film & Video project in Los Angeles, California by Philmona Tessema.

Will kids also be involved in developing the content for Juniority? “Yes, Philmona answers. “Our host, comedian Brian Moote, guides the discussions, and makes sure things never get too serious, but the show is largely unscripted and kids are presented a variety of topics and are allowed to say whatever they want,” she adds. “We’ve heard some pretty interesting responses from kids, some funny, some cute, and some that are actually quite eye-opening and inspiring.”

Philmona, who holds a double-degree in Cinema & Television Arts and Theater from California State University, Northridge, was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia before moving to the States in 2005. “My greatest role model is my mother who is a very hardworking woman,” she said. “In Ethiopia, she was well-known for the successful sewing school she ran on Bole Road in Addis called MOMECU. She started it on her own, turning part of our home into a classroom where my siblings and I saw first-hand the fruits of her labor.”

Regarding the show, “We’re planning on holding more auditions very soon so anyone interested can contact us to audition,” she said. “We’re looking for anyone who has an opinion and isn’t afraid to speak up.” She added: “We currently have yet to cast an Ethiopian, but would love to get them involved.”
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You can learn more about Juniority at Kickstarter.com.

Video: A New Film on Bob Marley Offers Rare Insight into a Legend’s Life

A new documentary on Bob Marley takes an intimate look into a short but productive life of the first reggae superstar. (Magnolia Pictures)

Tadias Magazine
Art Talk

Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Few have popularized Ethiopia and the banner of green, yellow and red on the global stage as much as Bob Marley, and we are always happy to see the legend being celebrated. A new film entitled Marley, directed by Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald, is the first documentary approved by the music star’s family. According to Marley, the following day after his historic concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City in September 1980, Bob Marley was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. He died eight months later at the age of 36. Marley’s funeral service was held on May 21st, 1981 at Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Kingston, Jamaica and at The National Arena. It was officiated by the late Abuna Yesehaq Mandefro, the Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere at the time.

“Three years earlier Marley had chosen to ignore the danger signs when a malignant melanoma was discovered in one of his toes,” writes NYT movie critic Stephen Holden. “He refused to have it treated — it probably would have meant an amputation — because he would no longer be able to dance onstage.” Holden added: “That stubbornness says a lot about Marley, whose obsessive drive seems only to have accelerated the more famous he became. He was so immersed in writing that he was said to sleep only four hours a night. Even when gravely ill he displayed a superhuman energy and willpower. Two of his children — David, aka Ziggy, now 43, and Cedella, now 44 — remember him as a disciplinarian who was hyper-competitive when they played games. All together he had 11 children from 7 relationships.”

The fascinating two-and-a-half-hour biographical documentary gives us insight into Marley’s entire life, featuring rare interviews with his family, friends, and others, including Bunny Wailer and Lee “Scratch” Perry.

Marley’s timeless songs are still used as anthems for global social movements. “His music has only grown in importance since his death,” noted The New York Times review. “His music and image proliferated at Arab Spring demonstrations.”

“You have only to listen to him or see a filmed performance to understand the potency of a voice synonymous with fervent hope.”

Read more at The New York Times.

Watch: Bob Marley | M A R L E Y trailer | Extended version

Conversations With Filmmakers of ‘Town of Runners’

Narrated by the athletes' friend Biruk - pictured above - the movie follows two girls over three years as they try to become professional runners. (Photo credit: Townofrunners.com)

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Updated: Friday, April 20, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – As the countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games in London gets underway, a remote town in the Arsi region of Ethiopia called Bekoji is receiving international attention as the world’s capital of long-distance running. During the Beijing Olympics four years ago, runners from Bekoji won all four gold medals in the long-distance track events. The highland Arsi region is home to many of Ethiopia’s Olympic Champions, including Haile Gebrselassie, Tirunesh Dibaba, Kenenisa Bekele and Derartu Tulu.

A new film co-produced by British-Ethiopian Dan Demissie and directed by notable filmmaker Jerry Rothwell introduces us to the town of Bekoji through the eyes of two teenage female athletes as they progress from school track to national competitions. The 86 minute documentary is also part of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, which is currently underway in New York.

In a recent interview with Tadias Magazine, the film’s award-wining director said the movie was inspired by Dan Demissie’s interest in the Ethiopian town and its legendary coach. “Dan came across the coach’s work in Bekoji when doing research and we knew that’s where we wanted to focus,” Rothwell said. “The coach used to be a school teacher, he has an incredible passion for what he does and all the athletes trust him.”

The story centres on Mr. Sentayehu Eshetu, a former elementary school Physical Education instructor, who discovered and trained several of the country’s top runners, most significantly Derartu Tulu, the first African woman to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Narrated by their friend Biruk who runs a kiosk on the main road into town, the documentary follows two girls, Alemi and Hawii, over a three-year period from 2008 to 2011, as they strive to become professional runners. Through their struggle, the film gives a unique insight into the ambitions of young Ethiopians balancing their lives between the traditional and modern world.

Demissie proposed the idea of Town of Runners to Met Film Production back in 2008, while still a student at Met Film School. During his three years there he worked on the Bekoji project while fulfilling graduation requirements, and has now started graduate studies at the National Film and Television School in the U.K.

Demissie said working on the movie was personally rewarding for him. “It was my first time going to Ethiopia and I got to know the place where I was from,” Demissie told Tadias. “It sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s true I fell in love with Ethiopia.” He said: “It was the best experience of my life.”


Dan Demissie (left) and Jerry Rothwell. (Photo credit: Townofrunners.com)


The coach Mr. Sentayehu Eshetu. (Photo credit: Townofrunners.com)

“I always saw how Ethiopia was portrayed in the media,” Demissie continued. “It’s always famine and war and all of these kinds of negative stereotypes that wasn’t a fair representation.” He added: “I wanted to make a film that countered that image, give it more of a balance. It was my dream to make a film about Ethiopia. I read about this small town and I thought that it was a good story. It’s about people creating their own destiny. That’s what attracted to me it. Later on I found out that I had distant relatives in the region.”

For Rothwell, neither Africa nor running is new. “I’d spent 5 years of my childhood in Kenya and my hero at that age was Kip Keino [the retired Kenyan track and field athlete and two-time Olympic gold medalist] and then much later my daughter had taken up the sport seriously and so I was spending a lot of time by athletics tracks in the U.K.,” Rothwell said. “And Ethiopia is just such a beautiful place to shoot, it is such a rich country.”

“It was almost a coming-of-age film,” Rothwell added. “It was wonderful to see a teenager grow from being 14 years old grow to 17, and to have shared so much time with them.”

But Demissie pointed out that language was a problem for the mostly European film crew. “Back in England, I listened to my parents speak Amharic at home and I would respond in English. In Ethiopia, however, we were in a place where they talked Oromiffa and Amharic, so that was pretty challenging at times,” he said.

Rothwell quipped: “It was great to see Dan getting better at his Amharic.”

“Sometimes there is just so much bureaucracy,” Demissie added, speaking about other challenges of making a film in Ethiopia. Rothwell agreed: “Because there is control of the media, it was difficult at times to get permission to shoot.”

And where are Alemi and Hawii today? “Hawii is on her way back to the running club and she is building herself up there after her injuries,” Demissie said. “Alemi left her running club, but we are not so sure why. It just recently happened.” Rothwell shared: “When we first started to ask the coach about runners, we were interested in how achievement would affect the subjects. It wasn’t about who were the best runners. We followed the coach to one of his competitions and we saw how strong their friendship was.”

The Town Of Runners soundtrack features legendary band leader and father of Ethio Jazz, Mulatu Astatke, and additional recordings from Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou, as well as a score by the British composer Vincent Watts.

“It’s a great score and the pre-recorded music is amazing,” Demissie said. “I want to thank the project manager Samuel Tesfaye who was key on the ground. We couldn’t have done it without him.”

Town of Runners will screen at Tribeca Online Film Festival on Thursday, April 19, at 6:45 PM.

Watch: Extended trailer – Town of Runners

Watch the trailer – Town of Runners


Related:
Town of Runners – review (Guardian)
The Ethiopian town that’s home to the world’s greatest runners (Guardian)

Photos: DC’s Historic Howard Theatre Reopens After 30-Year Hiatus

The historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. reopened on Monday, April 9th, 2012. (Photo: By Matt Andrea / For Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Sunday, April 15, 2012

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) – After three decades of being out-of-use, the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. reopened on Monday, April 9th following a $29 million renovation. The ribbon cutting and community day event was attended by local residents and officials, including Mayor Vincent Gray, Rep. Eleanor Norton, Councilmember Jim Graham and former DC Mayor and current councilman Marion Barry.

During its heyday the Howard Theatre, which opened in 1910 a few blocks away from Howard University, was one of the most prominent symbols of African-American culture in the United States. The music legends that graced its stage include Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, the Supremes, and many others.

The restored venue also attracted celebrities to the opening gala on Thursday, April 12th. The star-studded guest list included Bill Cosby, Dick Gregory, Dionne Warwick, Smokey Robinson, and Motown records founder Berry Gordy.

“I remember seeing a show here once with James Brown,” Mayor Gray said, speaking at the April 9th ceremony. “In the middle of his show, James Brown stopped, put everybody out of the band, and went through the band and played every instrument, that was the caliber person he was.”

New York chef and restauranter Marcus Samuelsson, who attended the event, is in charge of the menu for the newly refurbished music hall.

Below is a slide show of photos from the opening by Matt Andrea for Tadias Magazine.

WordPress plugin


Less Emphasis on Digital, More Emphasis on People for D.C. Ethio­pians

Dereje Desta is the founder of the Fairfax, Virginia based Zethiopia Newspaper. (Photo: New America Media)

The Washington Post
By Erica Morrison

Tuesday, April 10, 12:12 PM

When Dereje Desta came to the D.C. area in August 2001, he discovered two things: It was home to the largest population of people from his home country of Ethiopia, and they did not have a newspaper.

With 20 years of journalism and newspaper reporting experience from his home country, he decided to start his own paper, Zethiopia. The paper is produced from his office in Fairfax, Va., where there is also a large and growing Ethiopian community.

Read more at the The Washington Post.

Marcus Samuelsson Opens Ginny’s Reminiscent of Harlem Speakeasys

Ginny’s Supper Club is located downstairs inside the Red Rooster Restaurant at 310 Lenox Avenue (125th Street), in New York. Phone: (212) 792-9001.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Last night we listened to live Cuban jazz and salsa at Ginny’s Supper Club — the new speakeasy lounge below Red Rooster, and enjoyed the cocktail menu of shrimp & walnut along with drink classics such as Harlem Mule and Rooster Colada — names hailing from Harlem’s renaissance in the 30′s.

Following Red Rooster’s success in Harlem, Chef, Author and Owner Marcus Samuelsson launched Ginny’s Supper Club this past Monday, March 19th. Grub Street profile of Ginny’s proclaims: “Harlem just keeps getting buzzier” and highlighted the cocktail & relishes menu. New York Times describes Ginny’s as “rich with mellow evening atmosphere that evokes the Cotton Club and other uptown hotspots of yore.” The bar and 120-seat lounge has the vibe from Harlem’s Golden Age, and Ginny’s customers are as culturally diverse and elegantly stylish. We thoroughly enjoyed the live music.
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Related:
Ginny’s Supper Club Looks Back in Harlem (The New York Times)
Harlem’s Red Rooster: A rare diversity in dining (AP via Seattle PI)
What to Eat at Ginny’s Supper Club (New York Grub Street)

Cover image: Photo by Tadias Magazine.

Tomas Doncker’s New CD Blends Ethiopian with R&B and Urban Sounds

Tomas Doncker (center) with Selam Woldemariam (left) performing during Doncker's tour launch party on December 1, 2011 in New York. (Photo by Kidane Mariam for Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
Art Talk | Review

Updated: Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Tomas Doncker’s new album entitled Power of the Trinity blends Jazz, R&B, Ethiopian beats, reggae and urban sounds, reflecting the diverse borough where he grew up in Brooklyn, New York. The CD, produced in collaboration with some of the best known Ethiopian musicians, is also a traveling musical featuring dance performers from the United States and Africa.

“The CD is what I like to call a global soul meditation and how I feel that we are all connected,” Doncker said in an interview. “I grew up in Brooklyn NY, in Crown Heights and I attended St. Ann’s school from 1st grade until the 12th grade.” He added: “Crown Heights at that time was a very dangerous neighborhood. Lots of gangs and violence, but we still managed to maintain a sense of community, at least among the families on my block.”

Receiving a scholarship to attend St. Ann’s made it possible for Doncker to meet people from diverse backgrounds and learn about other cultures. “It changed my life and helped to mold me into the artist that I am today,” he said. “My mother was my first role model, and she was a musician as well.”

Doncker said his latest album is inspired by a play named for Emperor Haile Selassie. “I was asked to score a play called Power of the Trinity by NYC Playwright Roland Wolf and in my research I realized that collaborations with this particular group of artists would really capture and enhance the feeling that I was looking for,” Doncker said. “The process of producing this CD and working so closely with these artists was one of the most rewarding artistic experiences of my life.”

Among others, the CD features guitarist Selam Woldermariam, whom Doncker dubs “The Jimi Hendrix of Ethiopia.”

“I call him the Jimi Hendrix of Ethiopia because Americans understand what I am talking about that he’s got some unique guitar talent,” Doncker said.

The following interview was taped follwing his CD release and tour launch party last December.

Watch:

Click here to join the conversation on Facebook.

Video: Things “Habesha Girls” Say & Do

Tadias Magazine
New Media | Art Talk & Review

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – A recent video created by Beshou Gedamu offers a comedic perspective on everyday conversation and activities among Ethiopian and Eritrean youth in the Diaspora. “Shit Habesha Girls Say is inspired by the Shit Girls Say video,” Beshou said in a brief interview. “I caught on pretty late and decided to take upon myself to do one about Habesha girls.”

“I wanted to do it from a different angle and actually cast women who would play those parts,” Beshou said regarding her production. “I have no experience in film-making so I had to get help and content.” She added: “I decided to use crowdsourcing to gather content and the help I needed. I owe it all to social media like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and my network. The hardest part was actually coordinating and finding time to accommodate everyone’s schedule.”

A video released earlier than Beshou’s, featuring a mostly male cast with the same title, also portrayed “habesha girls.” That video was directed by Aynalem Geremew.

Here are both videos:

Video by Beshou Gedamu

Video created and directed by Aynalem Geremew featuring actor Yonathan Elias

Young Amanuael Rocks the Stage at Australian Talent Show

Amanuael sings Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" on Young Talent Time 2012 - an Australian television variety program, wowing the audience and the judges. "I just want to rock the stage and I want everybody to remember the name Amanuael," says the young talent.

Watch:

Special Screening of Ethiopian-Israeli Film ’400 Miles to Freedom’

The screening will take place in New York on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, followed by a discussion with Director Avishai Mekonen

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Friday, January 27, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Special screening of the new film 400 Miles to Freedom that is produced by Ethiopian-Israeli filmmakers Avishai and Shari Mekonen will be held at the Museum of Tolerance in New York on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012.

The film documents Avishai’s life story beginning in 1984 when he was ten years old. On an arduous journey with his family from Gondar to Israel he is kidnapped from a refugee camp by child traffickers in Sudan and temporarily separated from his mother.

“The film is about identity, diversity, human rights, and sends a message about child trafficking,” Avishai said in a recent interview. “What happened to me is a small thing compared to what’s happening all over Africa today.”

“For Ethiopians, it’s important to know that this happened during the war in the 1980s, during the Mengistu era,” Avishai told TADIAS. “Mengistu was not targeting Jews specifically; everyone was a target.” He added: “In the refugee camp in Sudan, there were christians, muslims, Somalis. The film is based on my experince. It’s telling our history from our own perspective.”

400 Miles is also the director’s lifelong search for spiritual and religious identity. “At times heart-wrenching and at others educational, [the film] moves you to take a long look at your own sense of identity as Avishai navigates both his past and his present, a world where the legitimacy of his Jewish faith seems to be constantly challenged,” noted the Jewish online portal Jspace. “As I started working on the film, the story became a little bit personal. It took me back to ask about myself, about my identity,” Avishai Mekonen said. “When I was in Ethiopia, being Jewish, it was not easy. I actually went back and asked myself about that, because when we went to Israel, our identity was being questioned by the rabbis and I couldn’t understand why.” Eventually the husband and wife team end-up in the United States where they discover a diverse racial and cultural community practicing Judaism.

The special screening will take place on Thursday, February 23rd. Q&A with the director will follow the screening.

If You Go:
Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
Museum of Tolerance New York
226 East 42nd Street, New York City
7:00PM
Admission:$12
Order your ticket here.

Watch the trailer:

The Nile Project: Connecting Nations Through Music

The Nile Project by singer Meklit Hadero (above) and Ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis is a traveling music show that brings together modern and traditional musicians from the Nile countries. (Credits: Facebook)

Tadias Magazine
Art Talk

Updated: Monday, January 9, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The last time we spoke to Meklit Hadero, she was in Addis Ababa, inaugurating UN Women’s campaign for gender equity with a free concert at the UN compound. A week earlier she had been named a 2012 TED Senior Fellow.

Meklit’s collaborative research as a TED Fellow is entitled The Nile Project — an ambitious undertaking to create a multicultural musical platform for artists residing in the Nile basin countries. The Nile is the longest river in the world running through ten countries including Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt; the Nile countries also share a complex history of hydropolitics.

The Nile Project takes inspiration from The Silk Road Project, founded by Cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 1998, with the vision to form international and interdisciplinary collaborations among artists and musicians worldwide.

Meklit’s partner in The Nile Project, Mina Girgis, was born in Egypt and is an ethnomusicologist who serves as Director of a community music center in northern California. “I grew up in Cairo and as a young kid I used to cross the Nile everyday to go to school,” he said in a fundraising video released on kickstarter.com. “As a kid you just take the Nile for granted and you think about it as a barrier than a river that connects Egypt to a lot of other cultures.”

Meklit’s connnection to the Nile grew out of her trip to Ethiopia in 2001. “My mom took me to the city of Bahir Dar in Northern Ethiopia to the shores of Lake Tana, which is the source of the Blue Nile,” she shares.

Meklit and Mina met last summer and came up with the idea to assemble a band composed of musicians from the various Nile basin nations. They plan to play and record music while touring the river on a boat made of recycled water bottles. In addition, they would like to bring along historians, scientists and other experts interested in the Nile Project to share information about the river through TED talks.

“Our floating caravan is going to include more than just musicians,” says Meklit. “We’re bringing together hydrologists, anthropologists, climate scientists, fishermen, all people whose life and work centers around the river.”

In the long term, they hope to lanuch an international tour with the new musical ensemble. The first step is to promote their kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their trip on the Nile as they audition and select local musicians to join the project.
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For more information, read about the kickstarter campaign here.

WATCH:


Related:
The Irresistible Meklit Hadero Blends Ethiopia and San Francisco

Ten Arts and Entertainment Stories of 2011

21-year-old Abel Tesfaye, a Toronto-based R&B singer, better known by his stage name "The Weeknd," is one of the most talked about international musicians of 2011. He gained popularity last March after releasing his first album, House of Balloons. He is an artist to watch out for in 2012. Watch his video below.

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Updated: Monday, January 2, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – As we enter the new year and review last year’s contributions in the area of arts and entertainment, 2011 was a year of new beginnings from comedy, to music and fine arts, which should bode well for 2012.

Below are 10 favorite highlights. Happy New Year!

The Simpsons Eat in Little Ethiopia

I almost fell out of my chair when I watched the Simpsons episode in Little Ethiopia last November. Like many Ethiopians who tweeted and posted the video in social media, I was excited to share something funny that recognized Ethiopian culture – albeit in a respectful way. I laughed at every moment of the segment. Little did we know that the Simpsons (and Hollywood) would make 2011 the year of Gursha. My favorite part is when Bart and Lisa feed each other leftover injera at home and Homer Simpson telling his wife: “Marge, the kids are acting ethnic!” Hilarious! Watch it here, if you haven’t already.

Ethiopia Habtemariam: The New Boss at Motown

In 2011, a young Ethiopian American music executive was appointed as the new head of the legendary Motown label now owned by the Universal Music Group. The company named Ethiopia Habtemariam, 31, Senior Vice President of Universal Motown Records. The promotion makes Ms. Habtemariam one of the most prominent women, as well as one of the most influential blacks in the music industry.

Abel Tesfaye’s Rapid Rise to Fame

My 17-year old cousin introduced me to the new R&B/rapper sensation Abel Tesfaye, a 21-year old Ethiopian artist born in Canada who has taken the music industry by surprise. He exploded into the music scene in spring 2011 after releasing his first nine-song free album, House of Balloons, via the internet. Abel, who goes by his stage name The Weeknd, has already been highlighted by Rolling Stone magazine, MTV News, BET and more. John Norris of MTV has dubbed him “the best musical talent since Michael Jackson.” And his first album, House of Balloons, has been named one of The Best Albums of 2011. But The Guardian wasn’t so enthusiastic. “The singing and songwriting on House of Balloons aren’t especially strong by R&B standards,” noted the UK newspaper. “What’s getting the Weeknd so much attention is [his] command of mood.” While a review by the Frontier Psychiatrist declared that the songs are “brilliant, disturbing, and not safe for work.” As to the lyrics: “So unsafe it should come with a child-proof cap.” Nonetheless, TIME magazine says: “Tesfaye has explored some of the dankest, darkest corners of our world, and thus has crafted some of the most compelling and captivating music for its genre.” There could be no doubt that Abel is a gifted musician and endowed with a soulful voice. He is an artist to watch out for in 2012. The following video is entitled The Knowing, the last track from the House of Balloons album. The mysterious meanings in this futuristic video is open to interpretation but its Ethiopian influence is obvious.

Debo Band & The Fendika Dancers Rock New York

The event held on Thursday, August 11th, 2011 was attended by thousands of people. It was described by The New York Times as “generous, warm, high-spirited real entertainment for a big audience.” The Debo/Fendika collective was the second Ethiopian music ensemble to ever perform at the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors event, following in the footsteps of Ethiopia’s leading musicians Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete, and legendary saxophonist Getachew Mekuria, who made a historic appearance here in 2008. Watch TADIAS’ video coverage of the 2011 Lincoln Center Out of Doors concert at the Damrosch Park Bandshell in New York.

Yemane Demissie’s Film on Haile Selassie

The 8th Annual Sheba Film Festival in 2011 featured the New York premiere of Yemane Demissie’s film Twilight Revelations: Episodes in the Life & Times of Emperor Haile Selassie. The screening took place at the Schomburg Center on Thursday, May 26th. The documentary, which features rare archival footage coupled with exclusive interviews and firsthand accounts, takes a fresh look at the mixed legacy of one of the most controversial African leaders in modern history. Check out the trailer here.

Zelalem Woldemariam Wins Focus Features’s Award for Short Films

I am a huge fan of NBC Universal’s Focus Features program and last year they named Ethiopian Filmmaker, Zelalem Woldemariam, as one of the recipients of its 2011 grant for short films from Africa. His upcoming film entitled Adamet (Listen) is about preserving culture. “My film is about an Ethiopian drummer who learns about his identity and traditional music in an unexpected way,” Zelalem said during an interview with Tadias Magazine. “I have always been fascinated by our music and I have wanted to do a film that showcases this rich and colorful part of our culture for a long time.” You can learn more about the self-taught filmmaker at www.zelemanproduction.com.

Music Video: Bole Bole directed by Liya Kebede

Like hip hop, house music is fast becoming a universal language among youth worldwide and so too among Ethiopians. A new music video called Bole Bole, which was staged at Studio 21 in New York and directed by Supermodel Liya Kebede, is getting a lot of buzz online. The lyrics are entertaining.
Click here to watch Bole Bole.

Singer/Songwriter Rachel Brown

Ethiopian-American Singer/Songwriter Rachel Brown is another artist to watch for in 2012. After graduating from Harvard, the up-and-coming musician has been carving a niche for herself both in New York and around the country. With her effortless style, self-confidence and beautiful voice, she is mesmerizing. We look forward to hearing more of her in 2012. Listen to Rachel at rachelbrownmusic.com.

Ezra Wube’s Hisab: The Hustle and Bustle of Addis

I’ve followed Ezra Wube’s work since 2004. I simply can’t take my eyes off some of his paintings. I continue to giggle at his recent short animation film Hisab (stop action animation painted on a single surface canvas). The video tells an urban folklore by bringing to life the sights and sounds inside Addis Ababa’s popular blue-and-white minibus (a cross between a bus and a taxi). The short film’s main characters are the city’s four-legged residents – donkeys, dogs and goats. Watch the video below.

Point Four: New Film Features Rarely Seen White House Photos

Some rarely seen historical images from the Kennedy White House years, with the President and First Lady hosting Emperor Haile Selassie, are part of an upcoming film entitled Point Four — a documentary about Haramaya University (previously known as Alemaya College). Haramaya University is an agricultural technical college that was established in 1956 in Ethiopia as a joint project between the two nations. Watch the trailer here.


The list was updated on Sunday, January 1, 2012 to include Ethiopia Habtemariam.

Charity Focus: Ten Projects in Ethiopia

Eden Projects, a California based non-profit, works on reforestation programs in Ethiopia (photo courtesy: One Day's Wages)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Friday, December 30, 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, let’s end it on a high note by donating to any of these ten charities with high-impact projects in Ethiopia:

Eden Reforestation Projects

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) East Africa has the second highest rate of deforestation on the African continent. It is estimated that if this rate is not curbed Ethiopia will lose its remaining forests within the next 27 years. Eden Reforestation Projects is a California-based non-profit that has been operating in Ethiopia for the past six years and planting seedlings to promote reforestation programs around the country. The organization’s mission notes that “environmental destruction, through radical deforestation is a major cause of extreme poverty and oppression in impoverished nations.” Eden Reforestation Projects has planted thousands of hectares of seedlings in Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Haiti. Your $10 donation can help plant at least 100 trees while at the same time providing employment for a worker in Ethiopia.

Truth Aid

Founded by Dr. Mehret Mandefro, Truth Aid is a nonprofit social venture that produces media to raise awareness about important social issues. The organization is currently fundraising for a new film entitled Oblivion, a feature length narrative movie based on a true story about the legal precedent-setting court case that outlawed the practice of abduction for marriage in Ethiopia – also referred to as telefa. It tells the story of a 14-year old girl named Aberash Bekele who was accused of murder after killing the 29-year old man who raped, beat, and abducted her in an attempt to marry her by force. Tadias has featured Lawyer Meaza Ashenafi whose organization, Ethiopian Women’s Lawyers Association, was defending Aberash Bekele during the trial.

Watch:

Population Media Center

Imagine listening to community-developed soap opera on radio and learning about significant health issues such as HIV/AIDS and ending violence against women. This innovative project was developed by Population Media Center, which was founded in 1998 by Bill Ryerson, with the mission of using entertainment for social change. The projects target audiences by developing content using local producers and writers. The project also includes a radio talk show component for youth.

Worldwide Orphans Foundation

This New Jersey-based non-profit was founded in 1997 by Dr. Jane Aronson, a pediatric infectious disease and adoption medicine specialist, and now operates in five countries including Ethiopia. Worldwide Orphans Foundation focuses on providing community and capacity building programs including access to health clinics, HIV/AIDS treatment and training centers, and education and enrichment programs for orphans in Ethiopia. Dr. Sophie Mengistu, Country Director in Ethiopia, helps lead the WWO’s Family Health Clinic equipped with an on-site laboratory and pharmacy. Worldwide Orphans Foundation also runs the WWO Academy, which is a private school for orphans and vulnerable community children as well as WWO Camp Addis — a residential program providing athletic, academic, and nutrition resources for teens and children from the academy.

A Glimmer of Hope

In 2010 Tadias interviewed Eric Schmidhauser at A Glimmer of Hope and learned about the organization’s comprehensive method of community development. A Glimmer of Hope focuses on lifting families out of extreme poverty by providing clean water, building schools and health clinics, and providing microfinance loans. 100% of your donation goes directly to the projects in Ethiopia. Since its inception, the organization has constructed more than 4,000 water projects, 335 school buildings, 170 local health facilities, and provided more than 17,000 micro-finance loans. Net result: 2.5 million lives changed for the better.

Artists for Charity

Abezash Tamerat founded Artists for Charity after traveling to Ethiopia in 2003 and “saw first-hand the devasting effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa.” Since then she has opened the Artists for Charity Children’s Home in Addis Ababa to provide shelter, education, and medical assistance for HIV positive orphans. In addition, AFC runs the Desta Project, which brings international volunteers to live as artists-in-residence and collaborate with the children to create artistic products for income generation for the AFC home. Their Art Pen Pal program also encourages the AFC children to exchange art, ideas, and stories with students in other countries.

Mobility without Barriers Foundation

This international organization is one of the few operating in Ethiopia that focuses exclusively on providing support for children with physical disabilities. Mobility without Barriers designs and develops all-terrain mobility cycles to significantly improve the range and ease of travel for individuals with disabilities. The organization also addresses issues of social isolation, literacy, and poverty and helps to advance the quality of life of marginalized children. In addition to the mobility cycle program, the foundation also provides training for supplemental income-generating projects such as beekeeping and honey production and fabrication of components for mobility cycles.
  
Ethiopia Reads

Author Jane Kurtz, chairs this Denver-based non-profit that encourages children throughout Ethiopia to read by jumpstarting Ethiopian Children’s Book Week, building school libraries, and publishing high-quality, multi-lingual books for children in English and several Ethiopian languages. Ethiopia Reads has built libraries in both public elementary and junior secondary schools. Mobile library unit initiatives have also been developed for children in rural areas. With just $2 you can help provide funding for one language story book for a child. Ethiopia Reads is currently raising funds to complete the building of a library in the town of Awassa.

Girls Gotta Run Foundation

Founded in 2006, Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF) is an organization run completely by volunteers who are enthusiastic about providing resources and support to Ethiopian girls training to be professional runners and world champions. The funding provided by GGRF helps to empower the young girls to remain in school, avoid early marriage and childbirth, and cover their sports training expenses. Currently GGRF runs three teams with more than 30 female runners.

Gemini Health Care Group (GHCG)

Gemini Health Care Group (GHCG) is an Ethiopian-American organization based in Jacksonville Alabama, that focuses on providing medical services to children in Ethiopia. “We may not change the world,” says Founder Dr. Ebba K. Ebba. “But we can save a child.” GHCG is currently raising funds to build a children’s hospital in Addis Ababa.
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Related:
Ten Arts and Entertainment Stories of 2011

Dallas 2012: Fresh Start for ESFNA, Hopes to Reunite After Dispute

ESFNA has announced that the 2012 Ethiopian Soccer Tournament will be held in Dallas, Texas. (Photo: Chicago 2009 / Tadias File)

Tadias Magazine
By Jason Jett

Updated: Saturday, December 24, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – After near dissolution, the 28 year-old non-profit, Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA), recently held elections for new leadership. The organization was steeped in disputes for the past 15 months prior to the current resolution.

On December 11th a newly elected board announced that the organization’s annual summer soccer tournament and cultural festival would be held in Dallas, and noted that the upcoming guest of honor will be a sports figure from Ethiopia.

ESFNA’s executive board decision to rescind an invitation to former Ethiopian Judge and opposition leader, Birtukan Mideksa, in October 2010 initiated the disputes. Judge Mideksa had been chosen by the ESFNA board as a guest of honor for its July 2011 event, but internal strife ensued over whether the invitation was appropriate or not. The controversy escalated as resignations followed amid public criticism, including accusations of corruption and malfeasance. Ultimately an invitation was extended to Judge Mideksa and the tournament went on as scheduled in Atlanta albeit under a cloud of threats of boycott by several groups as well as calls for new elections.

“As most that follow ESFNA know, 2011 was a difficult year for the organization because of some decisions that it took or did not take during and following its annual October meeting in 2010 regarding a guest-of-honor selection,” read an official statement from the organization. “All in attendance knew this was a special meeting where all differences were going to be placed on the table and discussed so that the organization could identify mistakes it committed, learn from its mistakes and place safeguards not to repeat it. It was understood that after the discussion we will be united, and go forward even stronger than before.”

The tournament, and the ESFNA itself, was salvaged during a three-day meeting of the organization’s board in Northern Virginia. The board elected Getachew Tesfaye of the St. Michael football club in Maryland as the new president of ESFNA, and likewise installed a new treasurer and business manager.

“There have been questions about our political views,” Tesfaye said when the tournament-site selection was announced after months of delay. “This is a soccer federation. We do not discriminate based on political party, religion or tribe. If you serve the interests of Ethiopia, you are welcome to our tournament.”

Dallas was selected as the 2012 host over Seattle, Las Vegas and Denver, which also submitted bids to host the event. The new president told Tadias Magazine that Denver’s hosting proposal was nearly as persuasive as the one selected, but a down economy influenced the decision to return to Dallas a fourth time.

“We have not held a tournament in Denver yet, and did not want to take a chance amid the current financial situation,” he explained. “All tournaments held in Dallas have been well-attended by the Ethiopian community. Also it is central, and many teams and people can drive to Dallas. We took all that into consideration.”

Also in acknowledgement of the weak economy, the 2012 venue — a stadium in Addison, a suburb of Dallas — is significantly smaller than the 2011 site, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Regarding the guest of honor, Tesfaye said two prominent sports figures are being considered and an announcement is expected early in the new year.

Yohannes Berhanu, the new Public Relations Officer of ESFNA, said there is hope that internal divisions are now laid to rest, and that the organization will be viewed as a sports and cultural entity moving forward.

“The ESFNA was never into politics,” he said, while acknowledging the appearance of influence by big money. “The problem is interest groups or sponsors give some tendencies that goes this way or that way — like the big donors, or when we rally against what happens in Ethiopia.”

“In Atlanta there was a tribute to people who had been massacred,” he said. “That was human rights, something any human would do. We were with the people, but not on any side. We are not political, we have to accommodate everyone.”

Addressing guest-of-honor selections, Berhanu added, ” It could be anybody who does something big, like donate $240,000 [Sheikh Al Amoudi, who has donated to ESFNA, was a 2002 tournament guest of honor] or Judge Birtukan Mideksa. We wanted to recognize her for standing up for herself.”

“We are all Ethiopians. We came here and started the federation with four teams, and now there are 29 teams. People with political ties want to bring their own identity and go forward with that. That has nothing to do with ESFNA.”

The sport federation was formed in 1984, and the first annual tournament was held that year in Houston. Berhanu likened the federation’s inclusiveness to that of community groups.

“When they started this thing, they never thought it was going to become this big,” Berhanu said. “But wherever Ethiopians are, they love the sport, culture and getting together.” He added: Like a church or a community organization, we open our doors to everybody. Everybody comes with their own agenda.”

Of the athletes, he noted some are former members of the Ethiopian national team and are well-known and highly regarded.

“They are known not only for what they do in the soccer field, but in bringing people’s spirits up,” he said. “They are like Haile Gebrselassie. The players do a lot for us. People feel homesick, and the players are getting them together and giving them sports. It keeps them going.”

“We should be all working for the same goal,” continued Berhanu. “We have a country that needs our help and a community which needs our support. Otherwise, we will not grow as quickly as other communities.”

Related:
The New York Abay Team: Soccer With an Empire State of Mind

The Simpsons Episode Well-Received by Ethiopians On Social Media

Last month's episode of "The Simpsons" experiencing delicious Ethiopian cuisine at an imaginary restaurant in Los Angeles was popular among Ethiopians on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and elsewhere. (Above image: From The Simpsons "The Food Wife" episode)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, December 2, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – It is not everyday that we encounter a positive portrayal of Ethiopian culture in Western comedy and literature. So it was refreshing to see the recent episode of The Simpsons, one of America’s favorite animated-cartoon family sharing a meal at a fictional restaurant in L.A’s Little Ethiopia. The segment, which aired in November, was a hit among Ethiopians who tweeted and posted a portion of the episode in social media circles.

“It was tastefully and respectfully done,” said Woizero Negest Legesse, Director of the Little Ethiopia Cultural and Resource Center in Los Angeles. “Who knew gursha would become so popular?”

“I saw the clips on YouTube and it was great,” said Leelai Demoz, an Ethiopian-American Academy Award-nominated television and film producer. Mr. Demoz said he was impressed by the due diligence that went into creating the neighborhood and cultural scenes. “I thought it was a very well done clip by someone who has obviously spent a lot of time in Little Ethiopia,” he enthused.

“We are so happy because The Simpsons put on the map not only this neighborhood, but also our food and culture in general,” Woizero Negest said. “As a matter of fact we are writing a thank you letter to the them.” She added. “We want to invite them back for a coffee ceremony.”

Chef Marcus Samuelsson blogged: “We love it when we see Ethiopian culture injected into pop culture.” He added, “The episode was accurate in finding traditional Ethiopian music and also highlighting the custom of gursha where Ethiopians lovingly offer food to one another.”

The Simpsons’ adventure starts when their car breaks down in Little Ethiopia, the stretch of Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles between Olympic and Pico Boulevards. The area is lined with Ethiopian businesses and restaurants. Luckily for them, their car malfunctions right across from an eatery. Initially Marge (the mother) is visibly concerned. But she has no choice but to follow her hungry kids (Bart and Lisa) into a restaurant. The reluctant mom was still uncomfortable with the milieu of the Ethiopian restaurant such as its display of CDs for sale. The humor does not stop there. Soon enough her taste buds will be dancing eskista while eating some delicious-looking traditional Ethiopian food served on a large platter. “Holy casserole-y!” says Marge. “That’s good gloop!” Bart agrees with his mother: “I wish I lived in Ethiopia.” But Lisa is the most descriptive. “Exotic, vegetarian, I can mention it in a college essay,” she says. “Mom, this is amazing!”

Mr. Demoz said when done right animated shows are powerful tools for creative and entertaining expression of social messages, but they are also hard work. “With animation you have so much freedom to express oneself, that the taste buds dancing seems like a logical and normal thing to see,” Mr. Demoz said. “I have never worked in that form so I am in awe of their talents. I have spent time with animators on a TV show and I can tell you that what seemed like a short three minute clip, took months and months to execute.”

“Who knew their car would break down right in Little Ethiopia?” said Woizero Negest. “We are delighted it did.”

Related:
Photos: LA’s Little Ethiopia Street Festival (2011)
In Pictures: The Street Named Little Ethiopia in L.A. (2008)

Watch: Victory Dinner for NYC Marathon Champions

Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba, the top-two finishers at the 2011 New York City Marathon, share a toast with friends and fans at the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba were greeted like homecoming queens with cheers and applause as they arrived for dinner at the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant in Manhattan on Sunday evening, following their stunning victory at the 2011 ING New York City Marathon.

Firehiwot Dado, 27, won her debut NYC Marathon in 2:23:15, followed by her childhood friend, New Yorker Buzunesh Deba, four seconds later. It was one of the closest women’s finish in the race history.

“This is my first time coming to New York,” Firehiwot said. “It’s one of the top five [international] competitions. That I won prepares me and gives me hope for the next Olympics.” She added: “My goal is to win gold at the Olympics.”

The New York media had shown up at the midtown eatery after learning that the local hero would be dining there. Buzunesh Deba was visibly emotional as fans, friends, and strangers waited for a chance to hug and kiss her.

Buzunesh, 24, who led Firehiwot until the two overtook Mary Keitany of Kenya, said running in her Bronx neighborhood had inspired her to pick up the pace and added that she was pleased with the result because “my friend won.”

“We lived in the same town, and ran on the same team,” Buzunesh told Tadias earlier in the day.

“I want to thank the people of New York and the people of my country and everyone that supported us,” Buzunesh said. “Frehiwot and I showed good competition and with God’s grace we were victorious.”

Watch: Homecoming Reception For New York Marathon Winners at Queen of Sheba Restaurant

Watch: Firehiwot Dado & Buzunesh Deba take the top-two spots at 2011 NYC Marathon

Watch: Geoffrey Mutai Wins 2011 Men’s NYC Marathon – From Universal Sports

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Photo credit: Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba, 1-2 in New York. (Getty Images)

Harlem to Horn: Fundraiser for Famine Relief

The benefit event was held in September at the Harlem residence of Chef Marcus Samuelsson and his wife model Maya Haile.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Friday, October 7, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – The following is a video coverage of “Brunch for the Horn of Africa,” the fundraiser for famine relief held last month at Marcus Samuelsson and Maya Haile’s home in Harlem. The sold-out event was attended by a diverse crowd from New York and nearby states.

“The big part of this event is to inspire people to do it in their homes” said Marcus. “A brunch like this can raise awareness about a part of the world that is very troubled right now.” He adds: “This is something that as Ethiopians we can’t avoid…12 million people whether it’s on the Somali side or Ethiopian side it doesn’t matter.”

“It sends a signal that it’s very possible for all of us to do something to organize small groups to work within our mahber, book clubs, schools and organizations and set something up to help those who are in our home and our country,” said the author Maaza Mengiste, who attended the event. “I am very proud that as Abehsa we are helping each other, whether we live in Ethiopia or we are in the Diaspora, we can still reach out to those in need.”

“Famine is terrible because it’s something that is preventable,” said Robert Kayinamura, a Harlem resident who also attened the brunch. “I think it’s important not only to create awareness about this event but to continue to be aware of things in Africa.”

Watch: Harlem to Horn: Fundraiser for Famine Relief (Taped on 9/18/2011)

The New York Abay Team: Soccer With an Empire State of Mind

The New York Abay soccer team, which finished fourth at the 2011 Ethiopian soccer tournament in Atlanta, is hoping to beef up the team with new generation of New Yorkers and New Jersey residents. (Photo: Bemnet Tekleheimanot makes a sliding tackle during practice on the rain-soaked synthetic turf at the Van Cortland Park Stadium on Sunday, August 21, 2011. By Jason Jett for Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Jason Jett

Thursday, August 25, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – Perhaps it comes with the turf — given the city’s many success stories — that the New York Abay soccer team believes it should dominate the competition.

So a loss last month in the semifinals of the annual Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) soccer tournament, this year held in Atlanta, has leaders of the New York squad assessing how to better represent their world-capital city.

“We also finished in fourth-place in the Africa Cup last spring,” said Coach Binyam Tsehaye, referring to a March tournament in Macombs Dam Park at the New Yankee Stadium that fielded local teams representing 12 nations. “We seem to be always finishing fourth. We need to be finishing first. We want to represent our community better.”

Towards that goal the team has launched a recruitment drive focusing on New York and New Jersey youths unaware of the opportunity to continue participating at a highly competitive level in the sport they or their fathers grew up playing in Ethiopia.

New York Abay was formed in the late 1980s. Some of the original members now provide management and mentoring services, while the active players have participated for a decade or less.

Aman Tsehaye, like his brother Binyam a resident of West Orange, N.J., has lived in the area since 1989 but did not learn about the local Ethiopian soccer team until 2002. He joined immediately.

Aman Tsehaye noted the team has lost membership as older players started their own families and found they no longer had time for the sport. Several members were lost when their jobs were relocated to Virginia, he added.


Coach Binyam Tsehaye views the action, interjecting instruction, advice and reminders to be prepared for physical play during a New York Abay training at the Van Cortland Park Stadium on Sunday, August 21, 2011. (Photo by Jason Jett for Tadias Magazine)

In addition to the new youth movement the Tsehayes stressed that New York Abay, named for the Blue Nile River originating at Lake Tana near the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, seeks veteran, experienced players.

“There are a lot of former stars in Ethiopia now living in the New York area,” said Binyam Tsehaye. “We see them occasionally, at restaurants or events. It would be good to have them on the team. They don’t have to play every game, just two or three times a year.

“With all the pros in the area we should have one of the best teams,” he added “But you have to understand the pressure they are under to support family here and back home.”

Of course some of those same pressures are felt by current team members, several who work odd jobs or attend school and find it taxing to participate in the team’s Sunday- morning practices at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

Samuel Tesfaye, a defenseman who resides in Manhattan, noted New York City itself is a challenge for a soccer squad.

“Competition is a way of life in New York,” he said. “It is not easy to play soccer in city parks, every place is so crowded. It’s difficult to find a spot you don’t have to pay to use, so we end up having to go to the Bronx. Other teams have an easier time in their communities, but in New York you have to apply and pay a lot of money to get a good field.”

And it can get less hospitable when the team leaves the city for a competition.

Tesfaye said New York Abay typically finds itself in an hostile environment while playing at so-called neutral sites.

When it lost 0-2 to Virginia in the July 6 ESFNA semifinal game at the Georgia Dome, most of the crowd was cheering for the opposition.

“You know how it is,” he said. “In other cities everyone loves to hate New York.”

Tesfaye and other team members said they suspect it was not only the fans in the stands who were against the New York team during the tourney in Atlanta.

“In the Virginia game the referee was a teenager, who had been a linesman in previous games,” said Tesfaye “At most he was 18 or 19 years old, and we thought that was an issue. The referee was very young, had no experience and was afraid to make tough calls.”

Tesfaye said the referee failed to whistle two hand-ball violations by the opposition, one as Virginia scored a goal on a header and the second after New York Abay moved the ball into the penalty box threatening to score a goal of its own.

“In Atlanta, unfortunately it did not turn out our way,” Binyam Tsehaye said. However, he is upbeat about the team’s chances in a regional soccer tournament to be held at Pier 40 in New York City on Sept. 4.


During a break in activity Fitsum Kahsay, one of the youngest members of the team, leaves practice early to accommodate his school schedule. (Photo: At the Van Cortland Park Stadium on Sunday, August 21, 2011. By Jason Jett for Tadias Magazine)

“We have a lot of young kids who have been playing together for a few years now and are jelling,” he said. “I think we can do well in this tournament. We are going to go out there and do our best. We want to represent our community better.”

Coincidentally, Sept. 4th is the final day of the World Championships in Athletics in Daegu, South Korea, with Ethiopian legends Kenenisa Bekele, Sileshi Sihine, Imane Merga, Gebregziabher Gebremariam and Sofia Assefa expected to compete that morning.

Binyam Tsehaye and Tesfaye do not see soccer, or football as it is known universally and among Ethiopian fans who crowd in living rooms and taverns for every broadcast of the national team or the English Premier League, taking a backseat to running.

“Football is the No. 1 sport in Ethiopia,” said Tsehaye. “Runners are more famous, but we all say that football is our national sport. We just are better at running compared to the rest of the world.”

“This is a team sport,” he said of football. “There is always more satisfaction winning as a team than as an individual.”

For New York Abay members the rewards are chiefly measured in personal satisfaction and camaraderie.

“It’s about bragging rights,” said Tesfaye. ” There is some money. The winner of the tournaments gets a monetary prize and trophy.”

Teams members did not hesitate to say they see no reason why they should not be the ones claiming the awards at the end of the upcoming Pier 40 tournament.

Prospective members are welcome to attend a team practice 11 a.m. Sundays at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, N.Y. The sessions are held in the Van Cortlandt Park Stadium at Broadway and West 240th Street, or in soccer fields north of the stadium.

More photos of the New York Abay team on our new Facebook Page. (Click Here)
Learn more about the Sept. 4th games hosted by Downtown United Soccer Club.

Related:
Arsenal takes look at Gedion Zelalem, a 14-year-old Ethiopian-German living in DC – The Washington Post

Ethiopia’s Global Shoe Brand Goes Online

SoleRebels officially introduced its state of the art e-commerce website, where its line of environmentally-sensible footwear products are made available to worldwide consumers. (Photo courtesy of SoleRebels).

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Sunday, August 7, 2011

New York (Tadias) – SoleRebels, one of Africa’s leading green-footwear brands, has announced the launch of its new e-commerce website. The Ethiopia-based company’s eco-fashion shoes – nicknamed the ‘Nike of Africa‘ – are produced using indigenous practices such as hand-spun organic cotton and artisan hand-loomed fabric. Recycled tires are also incorporated for soles. The end result is environmental-friendly and top quality, vegan footwear.

SoleRebels founder and managing director Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, who recently became the first Ethiopian to win the annual African Business Awards, says her company intends to grab a share of the growing online shoe industry.

“We are very excited about the launch of this new site as it will allow global consumers to buy direct from the soleRebels source using multiple online payment formats from credit cards to PayPal,” Bethlehem said. “We strongly believe that consumers want to touch, feel and interact with the soleRebels brand and the soleRebels site is the place for them to do that.”

SoleRebels footwear is also available for purchase on several online shopping sites including Amazon and Endless.com.

You can visit the SoleRebels e-commerce website at www.solerebelsfootwear.co/

Related:
2011 African Business Awards: Ethiopian Named Outstanding Businesswoman
CNN’s African Voices Highlights SoleRebels & Founder Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

Ethiopian Fashion on Display at Africa Fashion-Week New York (Photos)

Above: A diverse group of models showcased Fikirte's designs made solely from handmade Ethiopian traditional fabrics at the 2011 Africa Fashion Week New York.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Friday, July 22, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Ethiopian Designer Fikirte Addis was one of 21 individuals from Africa and the African diaspora whose work was highlighted at Africa Fashion Week New York, which took place from July 14th to 16th in the Broad Street Ballroom in New York City’s Financial District.

The runway show, produced by young African social entrepreneurs from the Diaspora, is an effort to introduce clothing products made in Africa to high-end U.S. markets.

“The event underscores how eager this generation of young, upwardly mobile Africans in the U.S. is to redefine the continent’s image,” The Washington Post noted in its pre-event coverage. “They have come of age during the Obama presidency – an era when first lady Michelle Obama rocked a bright pink Mali-inspired top designed by Nigerian-born designer Duro Olowu.”

Per WaPo: “If fashion is a guidepost to cultural change, then the expanding scope of African fashion indicates a new momentum among Africans in this country. Many of them are sons and daughters of immigrants who are now in the middle and upper classes, and they have more freedom to choose creative professions.”

“It’s our moment, and it’s just beginning. Young African designers are becoming real players now. People have been taking resources from Africa for generations. But our generation, raised in both worlds, is changing that,” said Adiat Disu, 24, the Nigerian-American producer of the fashion week.

Fikirte Addis, who was also the winner of the Origin Africa Fiber to Fashion 2011 in Mauritius, was sponsored by USAID to participate in the New York event.

Below are photos of Fikirte’s designs presented at the 2011 Africa Fashion Week New York.

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Photos courtesy of New York based Emma C. Photography via laprincessaworld.

You can learn more about Africa Fashion Week New York at www.afwny.com.

Click here to read Fikirte Addis’ Press Release.

Related:
African Fashion Week spotlights emerging designers (The Washington Post)
Tadias TV Interview With Couture Bridal-Fashion Designer Amsale Aberra

$30,000 Raised for First Ethiopian Church in New Jersey (Photos)

Above: Fundraising Dinner at Mesob restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey generated $30,000 towards new church project.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Sunday, July 3, 2011

New York (Tadias) – At a fundraiser on Monday, June 27, a sold-out crowd donated $30,000 to a campaign aiming to raise funds to help renovate a recently purchased building in West Orange, New Jersey to house Amanuel Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the state’s first Ethiopian owned church property, organizers said.

The event held at Mesob Restaurant in nearby Montclair was an intimate dinner, which brought together a diverse group of people that gave at least $100 per person.

“The kick-off fundraising event is one of many efforts to raise funds to convert the building we are buying into a church,” Tezeta Roro, a member of the Church’s Fundraising Committee and the event’s Master of Ceremonies, said via email. “As you may know, renovating funds are not usually granted for non-residential properties along with a mortgage so we are tasked with raising enough funds for the renovation for which this event is one of many to come.”

The Debre Genet Amanuel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church was founded in West Orange, New Jersey, in 2006. “Before that a few of us used to go to Church in New York…I went to Church in New York for about 18 years,” said Mr. Tekeste Ghebremicael, Vice Chairman of the Church’s Board of Directors. “Yes, this is the first Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the state of New Jersey. We are making history. We hope to open several other Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Churches in New Jersey in the future.”

Mr. Tekeste adds: “During the [previous] 18 years the Ethiopian and Eritrean community in New Jersey grew big enough that it is now able to establish and sustain its own local church.”

Regarding the Kicking off dinner, Tezeta stated: “Our goal was to raise $30,000 at the event. Tickets were sold out. The event went very well. The fundraising committee worked diligently by holding late night conference calls and working with our networks to make the final product fruitful. We are more than satisfied with the turnout. It shows how Ethiopians, non-Ethiopians…can come together to make a difference.”

The building is located at 15-19 Meeker Street in West Orange, New Jersey.

Video: Slideshow of Photographs – The kick-off Fundraising Dinner at Mesob on June 27, 2011

Speaking about the property, Mr. Tekeste said the following in an emailed statement:

“The new Church will be located at 15-19 Meeker Street West Orange, New Jersey. It is only about 8 houses from where we are now worshiping. The new Church will have 3 different buildings. In the front there is a building that has two three bedroom apartments on the second floor and an office with a warehouse on the first floor. This building is fully rented. In the back there is this huge two floor building that stores 14 to 17 antique cars in the first floor and the second floor is rented for now, however it will be converted to a church and an assembly hall with a full kitchen and male and female bathrooms. On the side there are 5 bays and one small office that are rented to different contractors. There is space to park about 45 to 50 cars. We have completed negotiations to purchase the building with the sellers. However, we are awaiting approval from the West Orange Township Zoning Department for Zoning Variance approval. We have hired Zoning expert Lawyers, Architects, Traffic experts, and Structural Engineers to help us process this application. It will take about 3 months from now for the whole process to be completed. Our experts do not expect any complications during the approval process. It is just a formality that is required to legally change the use of the building from a warehouse to an assembly hall (Church). The remaining part of the building will generate an income of $7,000.00 per month excluding the 2nd floor we are going to use as a church and assembly hall. We are buying these 3 buildings for $725,000.00 and we are borrowing $500,000.00. We do have a written Mortgage Commitment and our monthly mortgage payment including Insurance and Property Taxes will be less than $7,000.00. This means once we conclude the purchase of these buildings they will generate enough income to support the monthly mortgage payment while we are using the Church and Assembly Hall for free.”

Publisher’s Note: This story was updated on Sunday, July 3, 2011 with additional comments from Mr. Tekeste Ghebremicael, Vice Chairman of the Church’s Board of Directors.

You can learn more about the renovation project of the newly purchased building and/or donate online at www.aeotc.org.

Cover image: Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant – Montclair, NJ. (Photo by Charlene n Kevin)

Ethiopians Handle the Heat and the Cool of End-of-Spring American Races

Above: Ethiopians triumphed in a range of weather conditions claiming victories in weekend races from New York-Minnesota.

Tadias Magazine
By Jason Jett

Updated: Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New York (Tadias) – A common misconception among U.S. runners and running enthusiasts is that Ethiopians are accustomed to hot weather and enjoy competing in it.

That association doubtlessly stems from the running prominence of Kenyans, their neighbors and athletic rivals to the South. However it is not necessarily true of Ethiopian runners, who develop their talent over high-altitude training grounds in and around the temperate capital of Addis Ababa.

Over the weekend Ethiopians triumphed in a range of weather conditions, claiming victories both in 80-degree heat at the Shelter Island 10K Run on Long Island, New York, and 48-degree chill at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota.

Ethiopians won both the men’s and women’s divisions of the Saturday evening race in the Hamptons, where runners benefitted from a cloud cover but had to endure high humidity.

Kumsa Adugna, 25, the runner-up a year ago, this time won the race in 29:44. Ethiopians finishing in the top 10 were Girma Tolla, fourth, 30:04; Abiyot Endale, sixth, 30:49; Birhanu Feysa, seventh, 31:18 and Demesse Tefera, eighth, 32:50.

Tezeta Dengersa, 30, won the women’s race in 34:17, with Muliye Gurma, also of Washington, DC, finishing seventh in 38:57.

Saturday morning in the 35th Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota, Yihunlish Delelecha Bekele, 29, won the female division in 2:30:38 while Teklu Deneke, 31, was the overall runner-up in a time of 2:12:17.

The runners set out on the course amid light rain and a temperature of 54 degrees that dropped to the high 40s as the race progressed. Many runners wore gloves, and their breath would fog as they exhaled.

It was Bekele’s second marathon victory in five weeks; she won the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on May 15. Finishing under 2:31 on Sunday earned her a $2,500 bonus on top of the $10,000 winner’s prize money. The time also reset her personal best from the 2:35:36 run last month in Pittsburgh.

“This victory was even sweeter because the time was so much better,” she told The Forum of Fargo Moorhead, MN, after the race in which runners were aided by a tailwind. “The weather was helpful.”

Bekele is enjoying her best season as a professional runner, having quit her job at a 7Eleven convenience store in Washington, DC, after deciding in order to be a successful athlete she had to devote more time to running.

Aziza Aliyu finished eighth among women in 2:36:55 at the Grandma’s Marathon. In the overall results, Asnake Fekadu was eighth in 2:14:20 and Tesfaye Duba finished 19th in 2:18:22

Derese Deniboba captured the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, a component of the marathon event in Duluth, by outsprinting fellow Ethiopian Tesfaye Alemayehu to finish in 1:02:19 and win by three seconds. Atalalech Asfaw was third in the women’s field, finishing in 1:16:49.

Deniboba broke the half-marathon course record, set in 2002, by two minutes.

“The weather was perfect,” said the Bronx, NY, resident. “It was not really that cold. The rain was not in your face, and there was a lot of downhill.”

The difference in weather was diametric on Long Island, where there was a 5:30 p.m. start for the 32nd Shelter Island 10K.

“I was very hot and humid,” said Endale, who added he pushed the pace early but was disappointed in his finish.

It did not take Endale long to begin feeling better. Sunday morning, 14 hours later, he finished runner-up to Adugna in the Portugal Day 5 Mile Run in New York City’s Central Park.

Ketema Nigusse was third, Girma Tolla was fourth, Fikadu Lemma was fifth and Girma Segni was sixth at that event, which started with a pleasant 71 degrees, 63 percent humidity and fair skies.

A week earlier in Central Park, women had started the NYRR New York Mini 10K with the mercury at 69 degrees but with 96 percent humidity and cloudy skies.

That world-class competition was won by Linet Masai of Kenya in 31:40, with Ethiopians Aheza Kiros (32:09) and Belainish Gebre (32:10) finishing second and third.

Aliyu was 20th in 34:25, Hirut Mandefro was 24th in 34:35, Gurma was 31st in 37:29 and Alem Ashebir was 32nd in 37:50

About the Author:
Jason Jett is a New York based freelance journalist.

Cover image: Kumsa Adugna of Ethiopia posted a winning time of 29 minutes 44 seconds at the
Shelter Island 10K Run on Long Island, New York. (Garret Meade/Riverhead News)

Video: Shelter Island 10K Run (New York)

Related stories by Jason Jett:
Ethiopian Runners in the U.S. Vying for a Level Field With Athletes From Ethiopia
Ethiopian Stars in Canada: Three Wins, One in a Sweep, and a Runner-Up
Ethiopian Runners Shine on Both Coasts
Sign of Spring: Ethiopian Runners Renew Domination of U.S. Road Races

Amsale Girls: Ethiopian Bridal Designer Amsale Aberra’s New Reality Show

Above: Amsale Aberra (center) and cast members during the screening party for the WETV show Amsale Girls in New York. Photograph by Jennifer Graylock – Graylock.com, courtesy of WE TV

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, June 16, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Couture bridal-fashion designer Amsale Aberra’s new reality show, Amsale Girls, is currently airing on the women’s network WE TV.

Amsale, who is originally from Ethiopia and whose elegant designs are favorites among celebrities, has dressed everyone, including Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Heidi Klum, Selma Blair, Lucy Liu and Katherine Heigl, among others.

The hunt for the perfect dress at her Upper East Side New York boutique begins with her employees who work endlessly to meet their boss’s high expectations in search of the right dress for each unique bride.

The reality show, a six-hour episode series, goes behind-the-scenes of this luxury bridal salon that caters to high-maintenance clientele, with gowns donning price tags of $4,000 to $75,000, revealing Amsale’s sales consultants as the best in the business.

“For these ladies, it’s more than just finding a bride her dream dress…being a bridal consultant at Amsale means navigating family disagreements, stroking egos and bending over backwards to move the merchandise,” WE TV said an emailed statement. “Inside the shop, these ladies are often pitted against each other as they work to make their monthly sales numbers, yet outside, they’re girlfriends, helping each other in their personal lives.”

WE TV describes Amsale Girls as a show that “goes inside the high-pressure world of the bridal industry and reveals what it’s really like to work at a premier high-end dress salon.”

“The ladies may have fun and love what they do, but it’s not a profession for those easily deterred,” the company said. “Challenging, stressful and, at times, an emotional rollercoaster, being an Amsale girl means constantly managing differing personalities, drama, personal issues and career aspirations, all with grace, composure and a smile.”

Learn more about the show at www.wetv.com.

Video: Clip from Amsale Girls

Video: Clip from Amsale Girls – Kori steps up

Cover Image:
Amsale Aberra (C) and cast members during the private screening party for the
WETV show Amsale Girls, held at the Amsale Showroom in New York City,
Wednesday, June 8, 2011. Photo by Jennifer Graylock – Graylock.com.

ArifLife: Iphone Application for Ethiopian News and Events

Above: ArifLife Iphone App offers listings of events, eateries, and more for the U.S. Ethiopian and Eritrean communities.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, June 10, 2011

New York (Tadias) – ArifSoft, the Bay Area based developer of Ethiopian mobile apps, has announced the launching of ArifLife – a free application for the iPhone and iPod that helps users easily access business directories, news, and Ethiopian American events all over the United States and beyond.

The new app is developed by the same group that created ArifZefen, an app that enables Ethiopian artists to share their music. The organization is also behind ArifQuas and EriSoccer, both aptly named to provide soccer enthusiasts with real-time scores and festival information. ArifQuas was released during the 2010 Ethiopian Soccer Tournament, while EriSoccer makes its debut at the annual Eritrean sports gathering this year.

Bef Ayenew, a software engineer and one of the two former MIT classmates who conceived the idea for ArifSoft, says their latest offering is an information bank that can be tapped by everyone with an iPhone, iPod, iTouch or iPad . “ArifLife is a one-stop reference app for events, places and news in the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities,” Bef said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “Not only does it help you stay informed about all the activities in your community, the app will even map your events for you, and give you the directions to each location.”

“Suppose you need directions to the closest church or the phone number and operating hours of a local restaurant. Or maybe you need to know what time the hottest party in town is starting and how to dress up and get in for free. These are the kind of things that will be at your fingertips with ArifLife. It’s an international app that is designed to work everywhere including in Europe and Africa,” adds Bef.

The application, which is integrated with popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, offers a number of activity categories including dining, nightlife, film screenings, art shows, cultural gatherings and religious services.

“ArifLife app has three major components: events, businesses and news,” says co-founder Ephraim Tekle. “The events section includes concerts, parties, movies and several other events within the community and the business section serves as mobile yellow pages with a variety of business listings ranging from restaurants and coffee shops to barbers and travel agencies.” He points out that the application relies on a largely self service model– allowing the end user such as a business owner or promoter to manually add and update information in the database.

Ephraim notes: “iPhone remains the platform of choice for developers worldwide. Now that Verizon also offers the iPhone, the user base of iPhone users has and will continue to grow significantly. This offers a great opportunity for app developers to tap into an ever expanding customer base.”

And why is the application free and how does ArifSoft plan to make money? “We are currently focused on getting the word out, introducing the technology and platform to businesses, and incorporating more and more regions in our goal to go global over the next few months,” says Bef Ayenew. “We believe in the long term profitability of the app as more and more users on both ends of the spectrum, businesses and end users alike, realize the value it adds, but ultimately our revenue will come primarily from advertisement and listing fees.”

You can download ArifLife at the app store and learn more about ArifSoft at www.arifsoft.com.

Sean John on Spur Tree And His Affinity for Ethiopia

Above: Sean John, owner of the New York restaurant and lounge Spur Tree, talks with us about his love for Ethiopia.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, April 2, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Jamaican-born entrepreneur Sean John is the owner of Spur Tree Lounge, located in Lower East Side Manhattan. The hip and popular eatery, which was recently selected by MACY’s Culinary Council as one of NYC’s hottest restaurants, is frequented by tourists and New Yorkers alike, including Ethiopians whose country inspired the establishment’s logo. The menu combines Jamaican and Asian cuisine. But, the moment you walk into the restaurant, there is no mistaking Spur Tree’s subtle connection to Ethiopia.

In the following video Sean John discusses the success of his business, the story behind his logo, his affinity for Ethiopia and his extensive travels throughout the African nation.

WATCH:

Liya Kebede: A Woman Apart

Above: She’s no ordinary model. In the upcoming Desert Flower
the designer & WHO Goodwill Ambassador tells a tale of triumph
the world won’t soon forget. (Photograph Credit: David Roemer)

Desert Flower opens in New York and L.A. on March 18, 2011.

Marieclaire.com
By Katie L. Connor

There’s a gravitational pull toward Liya Kebede. The slight frame, the uncertain smile … these are obvious attractions. But it’s her eyes from which there is no escape. Deep, dark, and soulful, they command the attention of all in her orbit. Among her biggest supporters: Tom Ford, whom she credits with her first big break in 2000; Dolce & Gabbana; and Proenza Schouler. In 2003, the Ethiopian native became the first woman of color to represent Estée Lauder. Having walked countless runways and shot a slew of ad campaigns (and had two children), the world-famous model turns her focus toward the big screen. The film Desert Flower—based on the book of the same name—is the true story of Waris Dirie’s journey from tribal Somalia to top model. In the lead role, Kebede takes on Dirie’s every anguish. The most excruciating: Dirie’s crude female circumcision as a child. As Dirie’s confidante, Golden Globe Award winner Sally Hawkins serves as comic relief Marilyn, much needed when Kebede’s eyes, welling with tears, shoot straight into your soul. It’s a tale for all women—and those who love them. Here, Kebede discusses her life’s story thus far.

Read the interview at marieclaire.com.

Video: Desert Flower Movie Trailer – English

Meet Arkan Haile: A Candidate for DC City Council Seat

Above: Arkan Haile, a candidate for the vacant at-large D.C.
City Council seat. The special election is set for Tue., Apr 26.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New York (Tadias) – We were recently contacted by the campaign of Arkan Haile, a candidate for the vacant at-large D.C. City Council seat, which will be decided through a special election on April 26. He is among at least 17 candidates running for the seat, which became vacant Jan. 2 when Council member Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) was sworn in as the new City Council Chair. The Eritrean-born attorney is seeking the support of the Ethiopian-American community, one of the largest African immigrant populations in Washington D.C.

“I know my personal story is not ordinary for a local politician. Frankly, I hope nothing about me is ordinary where politics is concerned,” he says. “We can’t afford the usual politics – not in our schools, not in our neighborhoods and not in our elected officials. That’s why I’m running as an independent, beholden to no one but the people, ready to find creative solutions and prepared to make hard choices.”

Arkan is a successful lawyer and father of two children. He immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1981 when he was 10 years old, and became the Co-Founder of Gray Haile LLP, a corporate law firm which specializes in mergers, acquisitions, and securities with offices in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York.

He was born in Eritrea in 1971. In 1975, his parents came to the US on his father’s graduate school scholarship to study Economics at Colorado State University. But they left behind their three young children, including Haile (the oldest at four) as insurance against defection. In 1978 his mother returned to Ethiopia and three years later, in December 1981, after a difficult journey that included a trek through Sudan on foot and mostly at night, the family was reunited in Ft. Collins, Colorado — the state where Haile grew up and attained his education. He says: “I was born in Asmara and spent three years in Addis before our family settled in Colorado in the early 1980s when I was ten years old.”

Haile currently lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Nazrawit (Naz) Medhanie, and their son and daughter, ages four and one. His wife is a performance monitoring specialist with an international development firm. She graduated from Duke University, where she was a shooting guard on the basketball team and member of the school’s first women’s Final Four team in 1999.

“As a parent of a public school child, Co-Founder of a district-based law firm and a home owner, I’m fully committed to our city,” he says. “As a lawyer and former financial analyst, I have the skills and work experiences ideally suited for the job of a City Council member.”

On his campaign web site, the candidate also acknowledges the uphill battle he faces in the upcoming poll: “My background is not typical of a city council candidate. I’m not backed by a particular party, power broker or interest group. I’m running as an independent because that is how I make decisions. I know that makes me an underdog in this race, but that’s ok. I’ve been an underdog my whole life and it hasn’t stopped me yet.”


Young Arkan Haile with his siblings. (Photo courtesy of arkanfordccouncil.com)


The candidate with his family. (Photo by IWANPHOTO.COM)

But he also notes that his professional experience in finance and law, coupled with his experiences as an immigrant, will help him bring a fresh perspective to solving the District’s budget woes, as well as ability to focus on matters confronting the city’s struggling communities.

“There are several issues but on top of the list are education and fiscal responsibility; education because it is so central and fundamentally important to our existence as a city, and fiscal responsibility because it is the biggest and most immediate challenge facing the city and the City Council,” Haile said in a recent Q & A with Tadias Magazine. “As a parent of a public school child I’ve got a little more “skin in the game” than most…we’ve made great strides in education over the past several years and I want to ensure to my best abilities as a member of the Council that we don’t lose momentum.”

And how is his professional skills suited to solving D.C.’s economic problems? “Fiscally, my skills and professional experiences are especially well suited to tacking it in the most efficient and responsible manner. I’ve either worked in or studied law and finance over the course of my entire 20-year, adult life. Before law school, I earned an MBA and worked as a financial analyst for a large corporation.”

“What separates you from the other candidates?” we asked. “Why should people vote for you?” “I see the two questions as being virtually the same,” he said. “In other words people should vote for me, at least in large part, for the reasons that separate me from the field.” He adds: “First, I will bring 20 years of technical financial and legal expertise that I can apply from day one. It is all the more important now given our city’s financial mess. Second, I’m fully invested in our city. As a home owner, parent of a public school child (with another set to enroll next year), owner of a District-based law firm and DC Bar licensed attorney, there is little that goes on in the city that doesn’t directly affect me. Third, as an immigrant and somebody with a relatively unique personal history, I’ll add diversity to the City Council and serve as a sympathetic ear to immigrants in our city.”

If you have additional questions or want to get involved in Arkan Haile’s campaign, please contact the candidate via his website at www.arkanfordccouncil.com

Related:
Click here to watch Arkan Haile’s interview with Washington Post’s American Mosaic

Interview With E/O Bandleader Russ Gershon

Above: Russ Gershon, Charlie Kohlhase, Alemayehu Eshete, Mahmoud Ahmed at Stonehendge, June 2008. (Courtesy, RG)

Tadias Magazine
By Liben Eabisa

Published: Monday, January 24th, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Saxophonist and Composer Russ Gershon is the founder and bandleader of Either/Orchestra (E/O), the large American jazz ensemble also known for its Ethiopian song selections and notable collaborations with musicians such as Mulatu Astatke, Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete, Teshome Mitiku, Getatchew Mekurya, Tsedenia Markos, Bahta Hewet, Michael Belayneh, and Hana Shenkute.

As Gershon tells it, his first introduction to Ethiopian music came in 1988 when he heard Mahmoud’s Ere Mela Mela. But he did not fall in love with Ethio-jazz until his encounter in 1993 with a compilation album entitled Ethiopian Groove: the Golden 70′s – produced by Francis Falceto as part of the Ethiopiques CD series on the French label Buda Musique.

Later, as a graduate student at Tufts University, Gershon named his masters thesis The Oldest Place, a string quartet inspired by the music and instruments of Ethiopia. His team eventually traveled to the country at Francis Falceto’s invitation to perform at the 2004 Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis Ababa. Either/Orchestra became the first U.S. big band to appear in Ethiopia since Duke Ellington’s Orchestra in 1973. The 2004 concert resulted in a remarkable double-disc set called Ethiopiques 20: The Either/Orchestra Live in Addis, which was described by critics at the time as “the best live album of the year—in any genre—and one of the E/O’s finest albums.”

Ethiopian music is just one of the many international sounds that E/O is known for. The band members are an eclectic bunch hailing from several countries, including the U.S., the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Mexico. The ensemble experiments with various grooves, often mixed with Afro-Caribbean and African influences.

Gershon, who was born in New York in 1959 and grew up in Westport, Connecticut, credits his global taste in his youth to the time that he spent summers working for his grandfather in New York’s Garment District, not far from the record stores and concert venues of Manhattan.

Either/Orchestra celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and will mark the event with a reunion show at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on February 11th, 2011.

We recently interviewed Russ Gershon.


Above: Mahmoud Ahmed, Francis Falceto and Russ Gershon, Paris 2006.

Tadias: Please tell us a bit about how Either/Orchestra was first formed and
what kind of music you wanted to create/play.

Russ Gershon: I started the E/O in 1985 as a rehearsal band, never expecting to tour and make records, to have the fantastic adventure we’ve had. I was coming off of a year at Berklee College of Music, following several years of playing in fairly successful original pop bands, and I was just getting a handle on writing arrangements and understanding the techniques of jazz. I was a big admirer of Sun Ra’s Arkestra, Gil Evans, and other unconventional large jazz groups, and wanted to do something like that. I should also add that I had been a radio DJ for many years, and was used to having all the recorded music in the world at my fingertips, trying to put together interesting combinations of music from all over the map.

So I invited a motley mob of musicians to come to my house and play music I was writing. Everybody had a good time, liked the music, and within a couple of months we had our first gig, in the children’s room of the Cambridge MA public library. We were immediately semi-popular and just went from there, making albums and touring. I think my experience in pop and dance bands made me more aware than most jazz musicians of connecting with audiences.

Tadias: Your music infuses Caribbean, Latin American and East African beats, tunes, and rhythms with the free-flow of jazz. Would you consider yourself an international jazz band?

RG: The E/O is indeed an international jazz band in several ways: we have members from the US, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico; we play music with many Afro-Caribbean and African influences, and of course we’ve gotten thoroughly involved with Ethiopian music. All American music has such a huge African component, through [African-Americans], so that the music of three continents flows naturally and easily together. I’ve also been a big fan of African music, starting with Fela Kuti, South African jazz and field recordings of traditional music.

Tadias: Over the years, you have worked with some of the best-known Ethiopian musicians. Who/what was the catalyst? How did you discover Ethiopian music?

RG: In 1988 I heard Mahmoud’s “Ere Mela Mela” LP and it made an impression, and I heard Aster Aweke live in about 1990, but I really fell in love with Ethiopian music in 1993 when a friend brought back the compilation “Ethiopian Groove: the Golden 70′s” from France, where Francis Falceto had assembled it from some of the best tracks recorded in Addis at the end of the imperial period. I loved the horns, the passionate singing, the modes, the way it took American influences and spiced them with musical berbere, making something familiar and new at the same time.

After a couple of years I started arranging Ethiopian songs as instrumentals for the E/O, and both the band and the audiences loved it immediately. Teshome Mitiku heard our recording of his song Yezamed Yebada, and called me up, we became friends. Soon after that, Francis contacted me and began telling me about the history of music in Ethiopia and playing rare recordings for me — material that he has been releasing on the Ethiopiques series. In 2003, he and Heruy Arefe-Aiene invited us to play in the 2004 Ethiopian Music Festival, and we got deeper into the music to prepare for the trip. While we were in Addis in January 2004, we met Mulatu, Alemayehu, Getachew, Tsedenia Markos, Bahta Hewet, Michael Belayneh and others and invited them to play on our concert, which was eventually turned into Ethiopiques #20. This led to collaborations with Mulatu in the States, Mahmoud in Paris in 2006, Hana Shenkute, Setegn Atanaw and Minale Dagnew, and on and on. Most recently we finally started working with Teshome, debuting at the Chicago Jazz Festival. He’ll be featured in our upcoming 25th Anniversary Concert in New York on February 11, and we’ll be playing with Mahmoud in Cambridge, MA on March 24 and Amherst, MA on March 25.


Mulatu Astatke and Vicente Lebron of Either/Orchestra, Addis Ababa, 2004


Teshome Mitiku and Either/Orchestra at the Chicago Jazz Festival, September 2010


Setegn Atanaw, Minale Dagnew, Hana Shenkute, Joel Yennior, Colin Fisher, MA 2006

Tadias: You are also credited for helping to popularizing Ethio–Jazz in the U.S., especially through the Ethiopiques CD release as well as subsequent tours and performances. What would you says is your most memorable concert featuring Ethiopian artists?

RG: There have been so many amazing concerts with our Ethiopian friends that I can hardly pick one. The concert in London with Mahmoud, Alemayehu, Getachew and Mulatu was pretty great, one in Milan with Mulatu and Mahmoud was off the charts, Chicago with Teshome….

Tadias: What’s your favorite Ethiopian tune?

RG: More than a favorite Ethiopian tune, I’ll say that anchi hoye is my favorite mode. We jazzers love dissonant harmonies, and we can find them in anchi hoye. I even wrote string quartet – violins, viola, cello – based on it, thinking about masinko and with a section called Azmari. I also arrange Altchalkum (bati minor) for the Boston Pops Orchestra, and they played it beautifully.

Tadias: Regarding your trip to Ethiopia, what was that experience like?

RG: The visit to Ethiopia in 2004 was a wonderful, life-changing experience for me and the band. We were concerned that people wouldn’t approve of how we were playing Ethiopian songs, but instead they were very interested and enthusiastic. Also, hearing Ethiopian music at the source – and seeing the dancing – really helped us to understand the rhythms and melody. And finally, it is an important experience for Americans, with our wasteful, materialistic culture, to have a chance to see an African city, where so many people have so few things and get by on little. It reminds us that the most important things in our lives are our relationships with friends, family, everybody – and that music is a beautiful way to develop and expand these relationships, across borders, languages, generations. In the U.S. it’s easy for people to hide in their own space, to play with their toys, to NOT relate to other people. Of course it’s great to have the comfort, safety, conveniences that we have here – but it’s not nearly enough.

Tadias: In a recent article Boston Globe noted that your “wide-open sensibility” is rooted in your exposure to the New York Music scene in 1970s. Can you describe your time in New York and how it influenced you?

RG: NY in the 70′s was an exciting place to hear jazz. The spirit of Coltrane was still very much alive, Miles and his former sidemen and others were bringing electric instruments and grooves into jazz, the Midwestern avant-garde was arriving in town. There were concerts at Carnegie Hall, traditional clubs, and artists were taking advantage of the decline in the city’s economy to find cheap space and open performance lofts. Every generation of jazz, from Count Basie and Benny Carter to Lester Bowie and Woody Shaw, was alive and playing. I was an avid concert and club goer from about 1975 on, and I feel fortunate to have heard just about every living legend and the rising generations.


The Either/Orchestra at the Yared School of Music in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 2004


E/O trombonist Joel Yennior with the Yared School Trombonists, Addis Ababa, 2004

Tadias: Please tell us about your upcoming 25th Anniversary concert in New York.
What should your fans expect?

RG: The 25th Anniversary Concert will be an amazing collection of players who have all contributed to the E/O over the years. We’ll have the ten current members of the band plus 16 former members, plus Teshome. Four drummers, seven saxophones, five trombones, and so many more. The alums include jazz stars like John Medeski, Matt Wilson and Josh Roseman, and great hard working sidemen. We’ll touch on all the eras and styles of our music, and sometimes have 25 musicians on stage. It will be spectacular, Teshome is representing our Ethiopian connection, and we’ll play Yezamed Yebada and a new Ambassel that we wrote together last summer. We may even play an instrumental version of Muluquen Mellesse’s Keset Eswa Bicha.

Tadias: Is there anything else, you would like to share with our readers?

RG: Le Poisson Rouge is not a really big place, so I recommend buying tickets in advance and showing up on time. The show is 7 to 10 pm, very early, then we’re done. We can all go out for injera!

Tadias: Thank you Russ and see you on February 11th.

You can learn more about the band at: http://either-orchestra.org

Photo credit: All images are courtesy of Russ Gershon.

Video: Mulatu Astatke and the Either/Orchestra play Munaye

Video: Mahmoud Ahmed and the Either/Orchestra: Bemen Sebab Letlash

Video: Either/Orchestra w/ Tsedenia Markos live in Ethiopia

Video: Alèmayèhu Eshèté with the Either Orchestra, Aug 2008

In the Woods: Liya Kebede Stars Alongside Yoko Ono

Supermodel Liya Kebede (pictured in “Desert Flower”) acts in a new online video directed by Jennifer Elster. (NY Mag)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Per New York Magazine: “After starring in 2009′s Desert Flower, model Liya Kebede continues her crossover into film. Her latest oeuvre is an arty online video directed by Jennifer Elster, which features Debra Winger, Terrence Howard, Rufus Wainwright, Yoko Ono, and other actors and artists trudging through empty woodlands and wondering aloud things like, “What do we want? And what are we willing to sacrifice to get it?” Titled In the Woods, the film will be released in small segments on Elsner’s website, ITWPathway.com.” You can watch the clip here.


.

10 Arts and Culture Stories of 2010

Highlights from the most popular Ethiopian Diaspora arts and popular culture stories of 2010 via Tadias Magazine.

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Updated: Monday, December 27, 2010

New York (Tadias) – As we wrap up the year and review the contributions in the area of literature, fine arts, film, music and enterprunership, I can’t help but notice that it has been a year of rejuvenation for arts and popular culture among the Ethiopian Diaspora — from the publication of Dinaw Mengestu’s How To Read The Air, to Julie Mehretu’s Grey Area, and from Kenna’s Summit on the Summit to Dawit Kebede’s Press Freedom Award, this year was packed with big achievements and new beginnings. As you may notice, there are many other great stories that are not noted here. It was a tough list to choose from. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Here are 10 favorite highlights:

1. Dinaw Mengestu’s ‘How To Read The Air’


Dinaw Mengestu (ExpressNightout.com)

The award-winning Ethiopian American novelist and writer Dinaw Mengestu, whose work has become a voice for his generation, has given us a new gem by way of his book entitled How To Read The Air. As The New York Times notes, the young writer – who was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – populates his novels “by exiles, refugees, émigrés and children of the African diaspora…” This book, of course, goes far beyond the Ethiopian American experience, even though Dinaw does extremely well in this regard as well. As he put it succinctly during a recent interview, “It’s less about trying to figure out how you occupy these two cultural or racial boundaries and more about what it’s like when you are not particularly attached to either of these two communities.” The new book follows the author’s highly successful début novel The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, described by Bethonie Butler in the Washingtonian magazine as “a poignant novel set in DC about immigration, gentrification, and assimilating to the new amid memories of the past.” The reason why I love this New York Times bestseller is because the substance of the book mirrors my own feelings and reflection about my own generation.

2. Julie Mehretu’s ‘Grey Area’


Artist Julie Mehretu

I couldn’t help but lose and find myself in each of Julie’s Mehretu’s paintings at the Guggenheim Museum earlier this year. She is not only one of the most admired American female artists, but also the most high-priced Ethiopian born artists of all time. Her work ‘Untitled 1’ sold for $US1,0022,500 at Sotheby’s in 2010. Her collection of semiabstract works displayed at the Guggenheim was inspired by “a multitude of sources, including historical photographs, urban planning grids, modern art, and graffiti, and explores the intersections of power, history, dystopia, and the built environment, along with their impact on the formation of personal and communal identities.”

3. Davey and Rasselas’ Atletu (The Athlete)


Abebe Bikila (SBCC Film Reviews)

I have my fingers crossed this will be the first Ethiopian film that will win the Oscars. But either way, the story of Abebe Bekila – the barefooted Ethiopian man who stunned the world by winning Olympic gold in Marathon at the 1960 games in Rome – is one to be told and in this regard the movie is doing a superb job. I really hope it will get the recognition it deserves in the coming year.

4. Meklit Hadero’s ‘On A Day Like This’


(Meklit, Tsehai Poetry Jam – L.A.’s Little Ethiopia)

This sweet and amazingly talented singer/song-writer takes me on a musical journey to the heart of the Bay Area and Brooklyn, as well as to the countryside of Ethiopia. I have never heard such a sincere, poetic and soulful blend of American and Ethiopian music. Reviewers have compared Meklit’s voice to that of the legendary singer Nina Simone. “Once you hear her smooth and silky voice it will be hard to forget it,” NPR’s Allison Keyes reported. Meklit obtained a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Yale University before moving to San Francisco to pursue her true love – music. NPR’s guest host described Hadero’s sound as “a unique blend of jazz, Ethiopia, the San Francisco art scene and visceral poetry…It paints pictures in your head as you listen,” she said. I can’t agree more.

5. Haile Gerima’s Film ‘Teza’


Mypheduh Films

Haile Gerima’s award winning film ‘Teza’ continues to draw crowds at special screenings around the country. The most notable in 2010 was the film’s premiere in Los Angeles on Monday, September 13th, honoring the late Teshome H. Gabriel, a long serving Professor at UCLA and a leading international figure on third world and post-colonial cinema. The director himself is a professor of film studies in the East Coast. Per NYT: “Among the courses Haile Gerima teaches at Howard University is one called ‘Film and Social Change.’ But for Mr. Gerima, an Ethiopian director and screenwriter who has lived here since the 1970s in what he calls self-exile, that subject is not just an academic concern: it is also what motivates him to make films with African and African-American themes.” Personally for me though, there has never been such an accurate, honest, insightful and simply well-made film about the Ethiopian experience abroad and in the homeland. This film continues to influence my professional, but more importantly, personal life.

6. Marcus Samuelsson’s ‘Red Rooster’


Marcus Samuelsson at the Red Rooster Harlem

I hope Marcus’ long awaited restaurant brings together artists, musicians, writers, and alike from the Ethiopian Diaspora and beyond right into the heart of Harlem. From the menu to the décor, I am certain that I won’t have to drag my downtown friends to hangout uptown. But for Marcus, it is clear that the aim is much bigger than fine dining. In a way, it is a contribution to the revitalization of this historic neighbourhood and we salute him for that.

7. Mulatu Astatke Still on The Move


Mulatu Astatke (Source:Telegraph)

The father of Ethiopian Jazz doesn’t seem to stop. As Peter Culshaw wrote of him on the UK paper Telegraph earlier this year, “At the age of 66, Mulatu Astatke is having the time of his life. The jazz composer and performer from Ethiopia is in the midst of a full-blown Indian summer in his career. He received a huge boost when influential film-maker Jim Jarmusch used his music for his 2005 film Broken Flowers, and was also a key figure in the 2007 The Very Best of Ethiopiques compilation, one of the most unlikely best-sellers of the last decade. Once heard, Astatke’s music is not easily forgotten. His signature vibraphone playing style uses the distinctive five-note Ethiopian scale and is like jazz from a parallel universe, by turns haunting, romantic and a touch sleazy, as though the soundtrack to some seductive espionage B-movie.” Enjoy the following video.

8. First Addis Foto Fest


The Addis Foto Fest took place Dec. 7 to Dec. 11.

Curated by the exceptionally talented and award-winning photographer Aida Muluneh, this festival showcased works by notable visual artists from around the world at venues throughout Addis Ababa for the very first time. My hope is that, with events such as Addis Foto Fest, local artists continue to network with international artists from all disciplines. Here is an interview with Aida Muluneh about photography.

9. Dawit Kebede’s ‘Press Freedom Award


Dawit Kebede at CPJ Awards 2010, NYC

As the editor of Awramba Times, an independent and local Ethiopian newspaper, he spent almost two years in prison after reporting on the Ethiopian election in 2005. Five years later he receives an international award, encouraging others to write without fear. He is an inspiration to many around the world, particularly to those in our profession.

10. Kenna’s ‘Summit on the Summit’


Grammy-nominated musician Kenna

Inspired by his father’s water-borne disease, Ethiopian born Academy Award-nominated Hip Hop artist Kenna climbed the Kilimanjaro to raise awareness about the global water crisis. He was followed by an MTV crew. I salute Kenna on his artistry, as well as dedication to educate the youth on global issues affecting all of us. Watch Kenna talk about the project.


About the Author:
Tigist Selam is host of Tadias TV. She is a writer and actress based in New York and Germany.

(Tigist’s photograph by Ingrid Hertfelder).

Related:
Tadias.com’s Top 10 Most Viewed Stories of 2010

Top 10 Most Viewed Stories of 2010

Above: Images from the most popular stories of 2010 posted
on Tadias.com b/n January 1, 2010 and December 15, 2010.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, December 16, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Some of the top stories featured on Tadias.com this year include, among others, the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409, a violent arrest inside an Ethiopian church in Texas (caught on tape), the appointment of Captain Amsale Gualu as the first female captain at Ethiopian Airlines, as well as our exclusive interviews with rising music star Meklit Hadero, international model Maya Gate Haile and Ethiopian legend Teshome Mitiku.

The stories are displayed in the order in which they were ranked by Google Analytics. We have included links to each article as well as videos when available.

Here’s a look at the 10 most-read stories of the year.

1. Names of Passengers Aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409

Above: Ethiopian women mourn the death of a relative killed aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409, which crashed into the Mediterranean sea minutes after taking off from Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport in the early hours of Monday, January 25, 2010. The 90 passengers and crew that perished hail from nine countries: Ethiopia, Lebanon, Britain, Canada, Russia, France, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. (Photo: Getty Images).

 

2. Tadias TV Interview with Meklit Hadero

Above: We caught up with rising music star Meklit Hadero during her summer concert at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on June 1st. The Manhattan appearance was a homecoming of sorts for Hadero, who spent part of her childhood in Brooklyn. She graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Political Science before settling in San Francisco where she launched her music career in 2004. Her debut album, On A Day Like This, has garnered national attention with repeated highlights on NPR. Reviewers have compared her sound to that of Music legends Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell. Watch the video below.

 

3. Exclusive Interview With Model Maya Haile

Above: Earlier this year we also highlighted international model Maya Gate Haile. The Ethiopian-born model grew up in Holland before relocating to New York where her fashion modeling career has flourished. She is represented by the world’s top modeling agencies including IMG, Elite and Ford. Maya also works closely with UNICEF’s New Generation program. Her husband, Chef Entrepreneur and Author Marcus Samuelsson, introduced her to UNICEF and currently serves as Ambassador for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Here is Tigist Selam’s conversation with Model Maya Haile at home in Harlem.

4. Violent Arrest Inside Ethiopian Church Caught on Tape

Above: The incident happened at the Dallas Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Garland, Texas, on Sunday, May 2nd when a female congregate, Yeshi Zerihun, interrupted morning announcements to ask questions about church business, including about the presence of the unusually large number of police officers outside the church that day. She was told her questions were out of order, but other worshipers began shouting for answers. An amateur video shows the cops entering the church following a man in a suit and hysteria breaking out. Watch here the local news report.

5. Ethiopia Election Marred by Charges of Voter Intimidation

Above: Ethiopia's 2010 national election was marred by charges of fraud and voter Intimidation. The country's two largest opposition parties were crushed in parliamentary elections held on May 23, 2010. The nation's 31.9 million registered voters went to the polls to select 547 members of parliament and representatives to regional councils. The results showed the ruling party sweeping 99 percent of announced seats. Opposition leaders contested the results through the court system which they eventually lost. The election process was roundly criticized by international observers. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi dismissed outside criticism as foreign interference – violating the sovereignty of Ethiopia. (Photo credit: AP)

6. Ethiopian Airlines Appoints First Female Captain

Above: She may not be the first Ethiopian woman pilot, but Captain Amsale Gualu Endegnanew (right) is just as pioneering. She is the first female to become captain in the history of Ethiopian Airlines. “Captain Amsale proudly took off her first flight from the left hand seat of the flight deck of a Q-400 aircraft from Addis Ababa to Gondar then to Axum and finally returned back to Addis Ababa after a total of 3.6 flight hours,” the airline said following her historic flight on October 14, 2010. We don't have a video of Captain Amsale, but take a look below for a tour inside Ethiopian Airlines' latest Boeing jet. (Photo: Ethiopian Airlines via Nazret.com.)

7. Ethiopian Community Mourns 5 Dead in Seattle Fire

Above: Nisreen Shamam (left), Yaseen Shamam (C) and Joseph Gebregiorgis (R). They were among those killed in an apartment fire in Seattle on Saturday, June 12, 2010. Thousands attended a public memorial service held on Saturday, June 19 at Seattle Center’s KeyArena. The service included an emotional visual tribute: One by one, the lives lost were celebrated on screen, a series of snapshots taken in happier times. The boy who dreamed of playing point guard for the Boston Celtics. The siblings who adored their older brother. The girl who liked to jump rope. And the young woman who could win any argument she set her mind to. Killed in the swift-moving fire at Helen Gebregiorgis’ apartment were three of her children — Joseph Gebregiorgis, 13, Nisreen Shamam, 6, and Yaseen Shamam, 5; her sister, Eyerusalem Gebregiorgis, 22; and a niece, 7-year-old Nyella Smith, daughter of a third sister, Yordanos Gebregiorgis. (Seattle Times)

8. Simon Bahta Arrested in New York City

Above: New York City police arrested Simon Bahta Asfeha, the man wanted for the Virginia killings of his girlfriend – 27-year old Seble Tessema – and their 3-year-old daughter. Investigators in Alexandria had initially thought that Asfeha “may have sought refuge in the large Washington, D.C., area Ethiopian community or in a homeless shelter, ” according to America’s Most Wanted TV show. But he apparently had run away to New York City, where a witness alerted authorities on his location. He was captured without incident on Thursday, April 29 2010 in a coordinated effort between NYPD, the U.S. marshals, and Alexandria police. Watch below local media report of the crime.

9. The Nun Pianist: Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru

Above: Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru after performing for the first time in 35 years in Washington, D.C. on July 12, 2008 (File photo by Makeda Amha). The 85-year-old classical pianist and composer, whose music has been popularized in recent years by the Ethiopiques CD series, is attracting younger audiences. “Every time I have put this on at least three new conversions occur, where the listeners go on to permanently install this woman’s music on their stereo,” Meara O’Reilly notes in a recent highlight on Boing Boing. “My neighbor even stalked me once just so she could listen to it more, until I just gave her my extra copy.” Listen to the music here.

10. Exclusive Interview With Ethiopian Legend Teshome Mitiku

Above: Teshome Mitiku (second from right) has not returned to Ethiopia since his abrupt departure in 1970. In a recent exclusive interview with Tadias Magazine, the legendary artist who made a historic appearance accompanying the Either/Orchestra at the prestigious Chicago Jazz Festival in September, talked about his extensive music career, his memories of Ethiopia and his famous daughter, the Swedish pop star Emilia. Teshome burst into Ethiopia’s music scene during a period in the 1960′s known as the “Golden Era.” He was the leader of Soul Ekos Band, the first independent musical ensemble to be recorded in the country. The group is credited for popularizing Amharic classics such as Gara Sir New Betesh, Yezemed Yebada, Mot Adeladlogn and Hasabe – all of which were written by the artist. Prior to settling in the United States in the early 1990′s, Teshome spent over 20 years in Sweden, where he continued to hone his music skills, earn a graduate degree in Sociology, and witness his daughter grow up to become a Swedish ballad and pop music singer. We spoke with Teshome Mitiku over coffee on U street in Washington, D.C. The following sound features one of the artist's favorite songs, Gara Sir New Betesh.

Swedish pop singer Emilia (Teshome Mitiku’s daughter)

Desta Author Getty Ambau Receives Moonbeam Book Award

Above: Getty Ambau's new epic novel Desta narrates a family saga -- spanning three generations and dealing with their dark and mysterious past in a world of monkeys, goats and spirits. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

By Fikre Tolossa, Ph.D.

Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oakland, California, – Ethiopian author, Ato Getty Ambau, was chosen third among many candidtes who participated in an annual literary contest held by the Moonbeam Awards for this year, for his first novel entitled, Desta and King Solomon’s Coin of Magic and Fortune. He was awarded with a medal of achievement for it. The medal cermony and book-signing took place this weekend in Traverse City, Michigan at the City Opera House…

According to the orgnizers, last year they had 1500 participants in all the categories. This year, they said, because they had a lot more good competitors in YA (Young Adult literary fiction) category, they had to chose the top 4 with one of the ranking (of the three) to be a tie, which turned out to be the bronze medal or the third ranking for Getty Ambau.

The participants come from some 45 states, 5 Canadian provinces and 7 other English-speaking countries.

Mr. Getty Ambau’s book-signing was scheduled from 10:00 AM to 3:00PM and reading from his novel from 3-4PM along with others. The award cermonies will take place from 5-7 PM.

Getty Ambau is a graduate of Yale University. Even though he was educated in the natural and social sciences, his inner calling for literature prompted him to explore his hidden talent resulting in his first magical novel. His achievement is a good news for us Ethiopians as this will portray a positive image of Ethiopia and Ethiopian writers.

This event news is submitted by the author.

Learn more about the award at: www.TCChildrensBookFestival.com.

Related:
Interview: Getty Ambau On His Novel Desta

A Novelist’s Voice, Both Exotic and Midwestern

Above: Dinaw Mengestu is a journalist as well as a novelist.
He is pictured here with copies of his “How to Read the Air.”

Books
The New York Times
By LARRY ROHTER

Published: October 15, 2010

Early in Dinaw Mengestu’s new novel, “How to Read the Air,” the main character, a troubled young Ethiopian-American named Jonas Woldemariam, goes to a job interview, only to be asked, “Where’s that accent of yours from?” by a prospective boss baffled by his seemingly alien provenance. “Peoria,” Jonas replies, puzzling his interviewer even further.

Life has sometimes been like that for Mr. Mengestu, too. His name, “so clearly foreign and other,” he admits, and pedigree can make it difficult for some of the people he encounters to see past an ostensibly exotic exterior to the very American core underneath.

But as a novelist, Mr. Mengestu, 32, has made such doubts and confusion about identity and belonging his stock in trade. His work is populated by exiles, refugees, émigrés and children of the African diaspora, all struggling both to find a place in the American landscape and to make sense of their attenuated relationship to the world they left behind.

“It’s less about trying to figure out how you occupy these two cultural or racial boundaries and more about what it’s like when you are not particularly attached to either of these two communities,” he said recently in an interview in Manhattan at the offices of his publisher, Riverhead Books.

Read more at The New York Times.

Listen to NPR’s interview with Dinaw Mengestu:
‘Heaven Bears’ Author Finds Beauty In ‘The Air’

Related:
Dinaw Mengestu’s novel of the Ethiopian conflict’s legacy (The Seattle Times)
Immigrant tales and a fateful road trip (The Miami Herald)
Excerpt: ‘How to Read the Air’ (penguingroup.com)
Book Review: ‘How to Read the Air’ by Dinaw Mengestu (The New York Times)
Book Review: ‘The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears’ by Dinaw Mengestu (NYT)
The Daily Beast speaks to Dinaw Mengestu

Cover Image: Ethiopian American author Dinaw Mengestu (Photo: Ed Ou/The New York Times)

Getty Ambau On His Novel Desta

Getty Ambau's new epic novel Desta narrates a family saga -- spanning three generations and dealing with their dark and mysterious past in a world of monkeys, goats and spirits. (Courtesy photograph)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New York (TADIAS) – After graduating from Yale and working at a cancer research lab at Stanford and as a chemist at SRI and Raychem, Getty Ambau went to graduate school to receive a master’s degree in business. He went on to develop his own venture in the health and nutrition industry. Although he formally started writing his first book of fiction, Desta, three years ago, he worked on a different novel idea prior to that for many years. A course in short story writing inspired him to complete and get Desta published.

Below is our recent conversation with the author.

Tadias: You have written a couple books and several articles on health and nutrition. Is Desta your foray into novel writing?

Yes, I have written books and articles on health because my academic background was partly in the sciences, but I have always felt my inner calling was in writing novels. Yes, I guess, you can say Desta is my entry into the novel-writing profession because I really do enjoy writing.

Tadias: Please tell us a bit more about the book. What prompted you to write it?

The book is about a seven-year-old boy named Desta who dreams of climbing one of the mountains that circle his home to touch the sky and run his fingers through the clouds and his middle-aged father, Abraham, who yearns to find his long lost father and a missing, ancient family gold coin. But this story is also about love, relationships, greed and jealousy and losses and redemption. There is magical aspect to the setting and mystery and adventure to the story.

A few years ago, I took a short story-writing class online. Although what I wrote for this class had little connection to the novel, it served as an impetus to it in that somehow this opportunity set me on the track to engage in what I had long wanted to do.

Tadias: You paint an incredible imagery of Ethiopia’s magical landscape. Is that drawn from your childhood recollection?

Yes, much of the vivid description you find in the novel comes from what I saw and observed as a boy. The Ethiopian landscape has a soul or spirit within it which pulls and holds you every time you gaze at it. I remember whenever I had an opportunity to be on a mountaintop, I would perch on a rock and stare to the distant hazy, terrain for a long time, wondering who lived in there or how far out the earth extended.

Tadias: Where in Ethiopia were you born?

I was born in north western Ethiopia, in Gojjam Kilil. I first left Ethiopia in the seventies to come and study for one year in high school in United States. I went back home at the end of the year, but returned to the states a year later to go to college.

Tadias: What’s your most vivid memory of growing up there?

Geographically, the beautiful, jagged mountains that undulate like ocean waves to the distant horizons and the carpet of wild flowers that adorned them in the spring season; culturally, the holiday festivals—the colorful clothes people wore, their glees and smiles at these events; and spiritually, the doggedly religious, and even fatalistic, community of people I grew up in.

Tadias: When was the last time you visited the country?

The last time I visited Ethiopia was in 2005. I stayed barely a week and didn’t get to see much outside Addis. Before that in 2003, I went with my son and had stayed for 3 weeks and had a wonderful time. We travelled east to Dire Dawa and Harar, south to Awassa and Araba Minch and north-west to Bahar Dar and other towns. I had never been in the southern part of Ethiopia before and we enormously enjoyed driving though the Rift Valley, seeing the acacia covered, park-like places, past grazing cattle and clusters of villages. Awassa was serene and relaxing but the scenery outside of Arba Minch was amazing and enchanting.

Tadias: Are any of the characters in your novel based on people you knew in Ethiopia? Or are they just a creation of your imagination?

Most writers borrow from their life experiences and I certainly won’t be the exception. The setting is a real place but the characters and the story, as told, are fiction.

Tadias: The book is also full of spiritual symbolisms and superstitions. For example, in the first chapter, you highlight the folk belief that an owl sound foretells death. In one scene, the family is sitting around the house waiting for the return of their missing father. “It was at that moment, the too-familiar but unexpected call of an owl from the sycamore sent shivers down the mother’s spine,” you write. “But there is nobody sick in the family the mother said to herself, knowing that the doomsayer usually makes that awful call when someone is about to die.” How have these cultural beliefs changed or influenced you or your writing?

One of the reasons I had wanted to write the novel was to show or share some of these wonderful cultural nuances or “superstitions”, as you call them, with people who may have little familiarity with Ethiopia. I think instinctually, animals know a lot more than we humans do. For example, there are many documented cases that show dogs behaving in a certain way right before an earthquake. In Ethiopian folklore, at least the part I come from, owls are perceived to have abilities to predict or announce the incidence of death. As a kid, at night I used to listen to an owl sometimes hooting in a plaintive, human-like tone. The adults often interpreted this sound as a sign that someone was about to die in the area. So I used that personal observation to indicate those cultural beliefs in the passage you excerpted from Desta. Throughout the book, I enjoyed including these tidbits to show some of our cultural rituals or beliefs.

Tadias: Of course, the father’s fortune is connected to the mystery of the lost coin from the family’s ancient treasure-box. What does the coin represent?

Without giving away too much (in the interest of my future readers), the 2,800-year old Solomonic coin contains a great amount of life-enhancing information. In Desta’s family, it also represents spiritual and financial wealth as well as provide magical power to the individual who possesses it.

Tadias: In what ways have your professional background in natural and social sciences informed your writing?

I am a very visual person. This quality of mine was probably enhanced by the many science courses I took because I often saw atoms, molecules and cells in my mind instead of just names on paper. In writing, I have to see everything in my head first before I can sit down to write it. So I guess, I can give credit to my science background including my studies in economics in helping my ability to see objects in my head instead of just with my eyes.

Tadias: The book cover is very intriguing and we read that you were actively involved in designing it. Can you tell our readers a little bit about it?

To start with, I had wanted the main character, Desta, to be on it. I also wanted the landscape and the sunset, which are important to the story to be an integral part of the scene. Although I am not an artist, I’ve good conceptual skills and can sketch or draw what I want. Even though the landscape and the sunset were very easy to put together, asking or instructing someone to draw the boy the way I had perceived him to be was a completely different matter. After many different attempts and going through so many artists, I found Phil Howe of Phil Howe Studios, who could skillfully and realistically compose and interpret the ideas I gave him. I am happy with the way it eventually came out.

Tadias: What do you hope that American readers will discover about Ethiopia while reading your novel?

This epic novel encompasses so many aspects of human life. There are births, weddings, funerals, and the people in the story face problems, have family feuds, hardships as well as dreams. These are universal events or issues found in all societies but how the Ethiopians deal with them is unique, dictated by their culture and tradition and this, I think, will be very interesting for Americans as well as to readers from other countries.

Tadias: How has the book been received by the Ethiopian community?

The Ethiopian community has been wonderful. Not only they want this book for themselves and their children but also as a gift to their American friends. They have been greatly supportive and encouraging and I appreciate them very much.

Tadias: Where can people buy it?

In few weeks it will be available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, but in the meantime, people can buy the book at: www.gettyambau.com, as well as from bookstores.

Tadias: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

If I said anything more, I would be giving away a lot of the magic and mystery in the novel. I would rather let people read the book and discover them for themselves. Thank you for the opportunity you have given to share Desta’s story.

Tadias: Thank you Getty and good luck.

Ethiopian Soccer Tournament: Delay to announce host city has Toronto organizers fed up

Above: The most recent tournament was held in San Jose, CA
Toronto and Atlanta are the front runners for 2011. (File photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Yeamrot Taddese

Published: Friday, August 13, 2010

Toronto, Canada (Tadias) – The Ethiopian Soccer Federation in North America (ESFNA) was supposed to announce the next soccer tournament host city on July 4 but bidding cities are still waiting for a decision.

Tournament organizers in Toronto said if the delay continues, their city will lose a rate offer from the Royal York Hotel, one of the hotels where discounted reservation has been made to accommodate visitors. “A decision will need to be made very soon to be able to hold the space for [the tournament],” wrote Shelley Crawford, the Account Director of Sports from Tourism Toronto to the organizing committee. “Royal York’s offer will expire late August.”

Samuel Getachew, the communications director of Toronto’s Ethiopian soccer team, Ethio Star, has also been working to complete ESFNA’s criteria of a host city. “It has been six weeks and I am now questioning my confidence in working with the federation,” he said. He added that he personally believes ESFNA is having a hard time choosing between Toronto and its competition Atlanta. “But leadership is about making decisions.”

Getachew, who is running for city councillor in Toronto, said he and his team are still making sure they provide everything ESFNA asks for. If the games don’t come to Ontario’s capital next year, Getachew said he will resign his post as a member of the organizing committee of tournament.

The organizing team and other Torontonian Ethiopians told Tadias in June that it is about time their city hosted the soccer games. ESFNA must include Canada to live up to its name as a North American sports federation, they had said.

This week, the Ethiopian community in Ontario’s capital succeeded in having September officially recognized as Ethiopian Heritage Month by the City of Toronto.

ESFNA spokesperson Fassil Abebe said the delay is a result of some “unfinished business.” He said the federation is still seeking supporting documents from Toronto and Atlanta. He added that decision will be made by August 15. The organizing committee in Toronto has not been made aware of this date.

The last time Toronto hosted the games was in 2000 and Atlanta in 2005.

Support of the community to the sports, availability of a large stadium, closing venue and a member team are some of the criteria ESFNA is looking at. Abebe said he will not say what each city currently lacks.

Abebe also said the criticism that ESFNA excludes Canada despite its name does not hold. “There are cities [in the United States] that have never hosted the games,” he said. “Yes, it has been 10 years but Toronto has at least hosted the tournament twice.” He added that Calgary was one of the four non-member teams which competed to become a member in San Jose this year.

Endale Tufer, Atlanta’s tournament organizer said it is not the first time a delay is happening but he said he could not comment about the implications of the hold-up on Atlanta’s preparations.


Cover Image: At the 2010 San Jose Ethiopian Soccer Tournament by Kal Kassa.

About the Author:
Yeamrot Taddese is a journalism student at the University of Toronto, Canada. She is also a contributing reporter for Tadias Magazine.

Related from Tadias:
Photo Journal: San Jose Ethiopian Soccer Tournament 2010

Toronto Says It Has What It Takes to Host the Tournament

Photos from Chicago: Ethiopian Soccer Tournament 2009 (Tadias)

Spotlight on Photographer Aida Muluneh – Video

Aida Muluneh has been named the winner of the 2010 CRAF International Award of Photography in Italy. (Photo from Tadias video)

Tadias Magazine
Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, July 25, 2010

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh has been named the recipient of the 2010 CRAF’s International Award of Photography at a ceremony in Italy.

The 2010 prize, which was given to Aida by the scientific commission of CRAF, has previously been awarded to notable figures of the international photographic scene, including Charles Henri Favrod, Erich Hartmann, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Peter Galassi, Paolo Gasparini, Josef Koudelka, Joan Fontcuberta, Anne Cartier-Bresson, Naomie Walter Rosenblum, Alain Sayag, Margit Zuckriegl, Erich Lessing and Bernard Plossu.

“Aida Muluneh directs her attention as a photographer in particular towards the women of the African diaspora, concentrating on the bonds and the disagreements between the generations, the joys and the pains of life,” the organization said in explaining its reasons why it chose to honor the Ethiopian photographer. “Her subjects transmit, with a mixture of grace and power, the vicissitudes related to the phenomenon of the dispersion of the African people.”

The prize committee said the accolade is also a recognition of Aida’s continued efforts to establish a photography educational-institution in her native country. “In the year that CRAF has dedicated to Africa with the exhibit ‘Glimpses of Africa’, the International Award of Photography awarded to this young and very accomplished photographer – who is what’s more socially committed to the creation of a school of photography dedicated to young people, in Addis Abeba – is also intended to be in recognition of all of the young and emerging African photographers,” the group said.

In the following interview with Tadias.com, Aida talks about photography, working in Ethiopia, and her new book entitled Ethiopia: Past/Forward.

We note that photos displayed during her discussion of the book are not necessarily included in the book. The film clips and music, which accompany her interview, are part of the artist’s recent documentary movie also entitled Ethiopia: Past/Forward.

WATCH

The interview with Aida Muluneh was taped in New York prior to her most recent award. ( Kidane Films)

Toronto Says It Has What It Takes to Host the Ethiopian Soccer Tournament

Ethiopian community leaders in Toronto say after 10 years of waiting, it is time for Canada to host the annual Ethio Soccer Tournament ------ -- (Photograph by Yohannes Ayalew)

Tadias Magazine
By Yeamrot Taddese

Published: Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Toronto (TADIAS) – Toronto is a member of the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA), but most Ethiopian Torontonians have a fading recollection of the last time their city hosted the soccer tournament. Many others had not yet arrived here when the games came to Toronto in 1992 and later in 2000.

The Ethiopian community, in one of biggest and most diverse cities in North America, says it has what it takes to accommodate the games for the first time in a decade.

“The community has grown ten folds since the last time tournament was hosted here,” said Dr. Retta Alemayehu, the Director of the Ethiopian Association in the GTA during a meeting with ESFNA President Demmissie Mekonnen. “The preparation for the games will reflect this change.”

Samuel Getachew, the communications director of Toronto’s Ethiopian soccer team, Ethio Star, says the games are long overdue. “If we call this organization a North American sports federation, different cities should get an opportunity to host the tournament instead of repeating venues,” he said. He added that the local government and Tourism Toronto have agreed to make financial contribution to host the tournament.

Getachew is running for Toronto City Council representing ward 43. One of the goals on his platform is to officially label a section of the famous Danforth Avenue between Greenwood and Monarch Park as “Little Ethiopia” on the city map. The area is alive with several Ethiopian restaurants, cafes, clubs and other businesses.

Rendezvous restaurant and bar is located in the aspiring Little Ethiopia. Its owner, Banchi Kinde, says the Ethiopian community in Toronto is more prepared than ever to host the soccer tournament. “In ten years, I have witnessed an unbelievable amount of growth in populace and businesses. We have now more than enough restaurants to accommodate everyone,” she said. Kinde also noted that economic booms in cities like Calgary will surely draw people from other parts of Canada.

The Bloor Street and Ossington Avenue area, also located near the downtown core, is known for its Ethiopian cuisine.

Tameru Tesfaye, a member of the organizing committee of Ethio Star, said if Toronto wins the bid this week, the event venue will be set up in downtown Toronto, making it convenient for guests to access attractions and Ethiopian community areas through the city transit system.

Toronto annually attracts visitors to thrill-evoking events such as the Luminato arts festival and Caribana. In March 2010, the Ethiopian Students Association International (ESAi) chose Toronto to host its 10th annual summit and anniversary celebration. Young professionals from several parts of the U.S, Canada and even Ethiopia flocked to Toronto for the ESAi’s first ever summit outside the United States. Ellal Aklilu was one of the attendees of the event from Pennsylvania. After his first visit to Canada’s biggest city, Aklilu says he would come back any day. “I was awed to see such a well-established Ethiopian community in Toronto. The city’s atmosphere was very diverse and welcoming,” he said.

In no other festivity do local Ethiopians’ spirit, talent and culinary skills shine as they do on the annual day-long Ethiopian New Year’s celebration. The event, which is also dubbed “Ethiopian Day,” is the most anticipated gathering in the community that features live music, rising Ethiopian entrepreneurs, social justice advocates and lots of injera. With the kind of fervor Toronto has for hosting the next soccer tournament, the New Year’s extravaganza just might happen twice next year.

About the Author:
Yeamrot Taddese is a journalism student at the University of Toronto, Canada. She is also a contributing reporter for Tadias Magazine.

Related News:
Big dreams for ‘Little Ethiopia’ dashed (The Globe and Mail)
Ethiopian Soccer Tournament 2010 Opens in San Jose (Tadias)
Ethiopians gather in San Jose for soccer, festival and food (San Jose Mercury News)
Ethiopian American organizations assist ESFNA earn recognition in California (EthioMedia.com)
Team Abay, Built New York Tough! (Tsehai.NY.com)
ArifQuas – iPhone Application For The 2010 Ethiopian Soccer Tournament (Tadias)
Photos from Chicago: Ethiopian Soccer Tournament 2009 (Tadias)

ArifQuas – iPhone Application For The 2010 Ethiopian Soccer Tournament

Above: MIT graduates Bef Ayenew (left) and Ephraim Tekle,
have launched a new Iphone application for the 2010 Ethio
Soccer Tournament — scheduled from June 27 to July 3rd.

Tadias Magazine
By Liben Eabisa

Published: Monday, June 21, 2010

New York (Tadias) – The 2010 Ethiopian Soccer Tournament is scheduled to be held in San Jose, California later this month, and two young, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have launched a new I-phone application aptly named ArifQuas to provide soccer enthusiasts with real-time scores and events information. The app includes info such has hotels for stay, parties and other cultural festivals during the tournament. It also features GPS technology, offers listings of most Bay Area Ethiopian restaurants, and is integrated with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. ArifQuas users can receive real-time info on weather and traffic updates, as well as listings of local attractions including California’s scenic beaches and Napa Valley’s historical wine country.

The following is our recent interview with Bef Ayenew and Ephraim Tekle, developers of the ArifQuas mobile app. Both are graduates of MIT and founders of the company ArifSoft.

Tadias: Could you tell us a bit about your company ArifSoft? What do you guys do?

ArifSoft is a software company that specializes in Ethiopian mobile apps. We’re seeing a clear trend that has more and more desktop apps getting ported to mobile platforms, and ArifSoft is our joint effort to continue that trend within our community. ArifSoft has been around unofficially since last year, but it was formally introduced as the entity behind ArifQuas and ArifZefen only recently.

Tadias: You have a cool name. How do you define “Arif”?

Arif is actually a name that was lifted from our first joint project, ArifZefen. AddisZefen was already taken so we figured we would simply call ours ArifZefen. Since then, we’ve gone into an Arif frenzy and started naming everything after Arif. Our definition of Arif covers anything that can capture your imagination and generate excitement. Arif is Amharic slang for cool and our goal is to build cool apps that will add value while providing people with a superior user experience.

Tadias: Tell us about ArifQuas, your new Iphone application for the 2010 Ethiopian Soccer Tournament in California. How does it work?

ArifQuas is an event app for the upcoming soccer tournament in San Jose. We’ve been at the tournament in the past and we are all too familiar with how chaotic things can be, especially for the out-of-towners. ArifQuas is designed to help people manage the chaos a little better and try to get the most they can out of the tournament. ArifQuas will contain live listings of parties, concerts and any other events happening during the week of the tournament. It will also provide users with listings of all the local Ethiopian restaurants and Shisha lounges in the area so people don’t have to scour the web or other aggregation websites looking for options. For both the events and the restaurants, ArifQuas has GPS support and can tell users how far they are and how to get there on a map. ArifQuas is also going to provide users with updates on the tournament scores, information on the local attractions and the local weather.

Tadias: How are you gathering your information? Are you working with ESFNA or the other event promoters?

ArifQuas is fed the listings from a web service that’s hosted at arifquas.com. A lot of the listings are actually entered by the restaurant owners or the event promoters who want to promote on ArifQuas. There is an approval process before listings go live but aside from that, the entire process is fully automated and requires little involvement from us. We contacted ESFNA well before the app was even approved by Apple so they have been aware of it for some time and the response we have received from them has been very positive. We have asked ESFNA to provide the live score updates for the games and we’re in the process of working out the final details.

Tadias: Do you plan to come out with an Android version or something compatible for other mobile users?

Unfortunately, we’re out of time to do an Android app for this tournament but we do have another project in the pipeline and an Android version of this next app is a definite possibility.

Tadias: Is ArifQuas integrated with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter?

We do have a facebook presence and in a short two weeks we have reached some 600 people and we can also be found on Twitter.

Interview continues below…

Tadias: The application is free, how are you sustaining your business?

The application is free because we want every Ethiopian with an iphone to get it without any financial considerations. So far we have been trying to cover some of our expenses by charging a fee to the people who are trying to list and advertise their events and restaurants.

Tadias: Please tell us briefly about the two of you? How did you become interested in software development? Where did you guys meet? Where did you grow up , school, work, etc?

Bef Ayenew: Both of us grew up in Addis but we didn’t meet until our sophomore year at MIT. We’ve been very close every since and we’ve worked on a number of software related projects together. I’m a software developer/architect in the valley so you could say working on an iphone app is not really a big departure from what I do during business hours. Ephraim, on the other hand, is a research scientist at a national lab so he has found a convenient outlet for channeling his inner engineer.

Tadias: Tell us about ArifZefen, the other ArifSoft application.

ArifZefen is our first joint project as ArifSoft, and it started out as a website that was supposed to serve as a sharing site for Ethiopian music. Unlike our predecessors, we weren’t interested in being responsible for managing the music content so we built a site where people can upload and manage their songs like they do in youtube. We also wanted people to be able to browse and search the collection and create/manage their own playlists. And of course, we couldn’t let you download the music once it was uploaded because that would amount to piracy so we had to develop a custom segment streaming MP3 player in flash. Later, we skinned the entire website and turned it into something that could be deployed on a new URL within minutes. More recently, we have created an iphone app called ArifZefen that provides access to all these features on the go, and we hope to make that app available to users as soon as we have resolved some of the issues around music copyrights. If you really want to test ride this app, it’s available on a limited basis.

Tadias: Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?

Working on ArifQuas has been a lot of fun and we are very encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response we have received from everyone. We’ve had even people not going to the tournament download it and tell us how much they enjoyed it. We are really excited about exploring other opportunities within our community and we are already back working hard on our next project, which we hope will be completed well before the end of the year. If anyone else out there is interested in developing iphone apps, our advice is to grab a mac and start today. There have been many instances of non-developers building iphone apps that went on to become very successful so we want to encourage anyone out there to take a crack at it if they think they have a good idea and the time to work on it.

Tadias: Thank you guys and good luck!

Thank you.

ArifQuas can be downloaded for free at iTunes app store. You can learn more at www.arifquas.com. Also, for more information on the 2010 Ethiopian Soccer Tournament in San Jose, California, please visit ESFNA.net.

About the Author:
Liben Eabisa is Co-Founder & Publisher of Tadias Magazine.

Cover Image: Courtesy of ArifQuas.

Related stories from Tadias Archives:
Photos from Chicago: Ethiopian Soccer Tournament 2009

Former Miss National Teenager El Shaddai Gebreyes talks about poetry

Above: Former Miss National Teenager El Shaddai Gebreyes is
the author of a new poetry book called the “The Last Adam.”
(Courtesy Photo).

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, May 10, 2010

New York (Tadias) – You may remember El Shaddai Gebreyes as the first African-American to earn the Miss National Teenager title in 1997 – one of the longest running pageants and scholarship competitions for young women in the United States.

Since then El Shaddai has gone on to graduate from Yale University with a degree in Film Studies and a concentration in Anthropology. She was also part of the African-American National Biography Project, where she worked as the co-writer on the biography of artistic director Bill T. Jones. And most recently, she is the author of a new poetry book called the The Last Adam. Gebreyes is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Library Science at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

We recently interviewed El Shaddai Gebreyes about her new book.

Tadias: In “The Last Adam”, you mention that your poems are written through inspiration not perspiration. Can you explain?

Gebreyes: I don’t sweat the small stuff in my poetry. I try to look at the big picture. I just focus on the story of my life, which is interwoven with many others who inspire me, challenge me, and often remain distanced from me. When I capture a moment, like a photograph, and translate it into a poem, it brings that moment – and the people involved closer to me. It’s like an embrace. Poetry keeps me honest. It’s truth-telling. I’m learning to love the truth and not to embrace lies.

Tadias: In much of your work there seems to be recurring universal themes focusing on love, hope and spirituality. What is the primary message you seek to convey through your poems?

Gebreyes: Let your imagination go to work! Travel. Fall in love with strangers, but don’t go too far. Experience freedom on the blank page. Let love transform you. Not just romantic love, but love of history, heroism and glimpses of the eternal in the every day. Don’t be afraid to consult a dictionary even when you think you know the meaning of a word. Take advantage of your resources, like libraries, and be rooted in what you hold sacred.

Tadias: When did you know you wanted to be a poet?

Gebreyes: In high school, when I studied Latin I was influenced by Catullus and Ovid. I knew I wanted to be a poet when I realized the work of people who wrote centuries ago was being translated and studied as part of the cultural record. Poetry so often is a conversation with or about God or a lover…with oneself or something/someone more abstract. Often I’m deeply impacted by the most “chance” encounters and only when I’m removed from the situation through time, am I able to memorialize it. I’ve yet to figure out who my audience is, but I feel uplifted when I write poetry, like when things in your life are out of order and you need control or when everything seems fleeting and you want to sing of immortality. Poetry can be sung and I’ve yet to explore this possibility. But, I will, because music speaks to my heart and really whatever the Lord puts on my heart generally gets written and eventually becomes a poem. I find stillness in the written word and tried my hand at spoken word, but I prefer the printed page, bound and sold. However, I like to be in dialogue with people, so when I performed in my first poetry reading earlier this year and I connected with an audience, I knew I had made the right decision to share my life, my thoughts and emotions with people in this way through poetry. Poetry is an art and I have been criticized for not separating my art from my life. For me it is a thin veil.

Tadias: You graduated from Yale University with a degree in Film Studies and a concentration in Anthropology. How has your academic background influenced your writing?

Gebreyes: It has made my tastes more international and less contemporary. My academic background allows me to historicize, contextualize and enter into a discourse. My education has framed everything I see – culture, aesthetics – and the way I approach inquiry.

Tadias: You note in your book that your poems are “a film in verse”. What do you mean by that?

Gebreyes: Some people argue that in writing there could not be two forms more diametrically opposed than film and poetry. A film in verse for me creates a blending, a marriage of the two in form and content. The Last Adam takes the reader through a journey. It’s an adventure and the imagery comes alive in a cinematic form. I don’t write epic verse, instead I wrote a short story, a narrative, that not only contains elements of film like characters and dialogue, genre and pacing, but could easily be translated into a film. I’d like to do a filmic adaptation of my poetry in the future, so it will be easier to visualize.

Tadias: You were the first Ethiopian and the first African-American to be named America’s National Teenager. You write in the introduction to your book that you were conflicted about your identity at the time:

When I won a scholarship pageant in Tennessee in 1997, Miss National Teen-ager, my heart was divided. Was I Ethiopian, American (I dare not hyphenate!), Christian, Jew, Black, White or Asian? …What is worse when I won the pageant in Tennessee, Ethiopians put the news on the nightly news in Ethiopia. Who would claim me? Americans have brought me joy, but Ethiopians have brought me honor.”

Do you still struggle with this issue of cultural identity? If so, how has that affected your feelings on who you are as a poet?

Gebreyes: Well, I’ve tried to resolve the inner conflict by realizing I’ll never be who everyone needs me to be. I’m Ethiopian. I’m American. I hope to write more in Amharic as a poet. I’m not really an American poet. I’m more a religious poet. If you’re a monotheist, you’ll probably appreciate my metaphors. More and more…I write for clarity and understanding. If anyone else experiences a duality of always already both, yet not one or the other, they’ll hopefully be able to relate to me and my vision. My biggest concern is with language. I’m getting more comfortable with Amharic and the idea of competing with myself in the grander scheme. Just trying to be a better person tomorrow than I am today, better today than yesterday.

Tadias: U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins once said that poetry is the oldest form of travel writing, both imaginative travel as well as geographical. Do you agree?

Gebreyes: Yes, many poets are like cultural treasures who do not travel much but who get to know the character of a people in a place that resonates with their soul as home. One example is Anna Akhmatova. She wrote of her life in Russia and she has left a legacy without borders. Poets can define the times and often possess a stillness. But, I believe, there are some words you won’t know, until you know their opposite and other words that are more on the level of essence. Some things you have to compare, so why limit yourself to one location? If you think you know freedom, visit the oppressed. If your idea of essence is placating, maybe it’s time to experience a blessed unrest.

Tadias: One of the first poems in your book is written at a Chinese restaurant in Addis Ababa. Could you please describe the scene to our readers and what inspired you to pen that particular poetry?

Gebreyes: I chose to label the poem as a Chinese restaurant, because when I last visited Addis I craved Chinese food. This is unusual for me and reveals my curiosity. Are there Chinese restaurants in Ethiopia? The initial poem reveals that which is not far from what could have been and is somehow what was. Technically, I did not eat Chinese food in Ethiopia, but I had a nice cheeseburger at the Hilton. I am such a tourist!

Well, when I wrote the poem I was referring to my friend, Richard, who took me to a Vietnamese spot in Virginia. It was American life I was describing: black is night, the color of the noodle is the color of his skin. Both shined that night. The rest of the poem was like swimming in a sea of memories and it evokes many associations. I’d rather my reader embed him or herself into the story and identify with parts of it as a creation myth and other parts religious doctrine – reflecting on what faith allows and does not allow.

Tadias: How do you use poetry in daily life?

Gebreyes: Daily life influences my poetry – people, places, things. Right now I think I’m too heavily reliant on words. I think of myself as hidden in Christ. I let reality unfold and I co-create my art with others. Everyone who’s touched my life has inspired me.

Tadias: What other poetry-related projects are you working on at the moment?

Gebreyes: I’m taking a break from poetry to focus on graduate school. I’m studying Library Science. For one of my finals, I wrote a poem explaining changes in my professional life. It was intense performing that for my class and being supportive of my classmates with the same assignment yet different choices.

Tadias: Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?

Gebreyes: Don’t be afraid to open or close a book. Your story continues. I read a children’s book called A Magical Doll and the Doll Magical School by a young Ethiopian girl, named Berhan Nega Alemayehu. She skillfully told a story at the age of 11 and I admire her gift of prose. I hope that anyone who can relate to this need to tell stories and publish will take advantage of the opportunities today to become an author or an artist.

Tadias: Where can people buy your book?

Xlibris, which is where I self-published. The book is mainly available as print on demand through online stores, like Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. But, if 1 million people or so bought copies of my book after reading this interview, maybe then you would miraculously see my book on bookstore shelves. It’s not too late for me to reach the New York Times bestseller list, but I need your help. Act fast! The Reston Used Book Shop sells new copies but mostly my books are print on demand.

Tadias: Thank you El Shaddai and good luck!
——–

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Tadias TV: Haile Gerima On The Challenges Of Independent Filmmaking

Above: Haile Gerima discusses the difficulties of independent
film production at an event designed to mark TEZA’s New York
debut. (Photo by Kidane Mariam for Tadias.com)

Tadias TV
By Kidane Mariam

Monday, April 12, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Haile Gerima, the internationally acclaimed director of Teza, Adwa, Bush Mama and Sankofa, hosted a discussion on the challenges of independent film-making here in New York.

The public discourse was part of a series of events designed to promote the release of Gerima’s latest film Teza.

The Q & A session, moderated by Tigist Selam, was held on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute.

Teza opened in Manhattan on Friday, April 2, at Lincoln Plaza Cinema.

The award-winning film uses the power of memory and flashbacks to recount the historical circumstances that have framed the context in which contemporary Ethiopia exists.

Tadias TV attended the event. Here are video highlights.

Watch: Haile Gerima On The Challenges of Independent Filmmaking

Video: Watch the Trailer

Related:
Lacking Shelter at Home and Abroad (NYT Movie Review)
A Conversation with Haile Gerima (Tadias Magazine)
For Filmmaker, Ethiopia’s Struggle Is His Own (The New York Times)
Teza, Portrait of an Ethiopian Exile (The Village Voice)

————-
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————–

The Force of Water, the Power of Words

Above: “The plot revolves around Abebe (William J. Harper),
an Ethiopian wanna-be preacher and water conservationist
out to save souls and the planet.” – New York Daily News

The New York Times
THEATER REVIEW | ‘A COOL DIP IN THE BARREN SAHARAN CRICK’
By CHARLES ISHERWOOD
Published: March 29, 2010
If words were water, the drought problems so lengthily discussed in the new play by Kia Corthron, “A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick,” would evaporate pretty quickly. The title alone would suffice for a sponge bath. The subject of water actually consumes a large portion of the dialogue in this venturesome but disjointed drama about a young African man studying theology and ecology, and the American family that harbors him during his college years. Abebe (William Jackson Harper), the idealistic central character, continually spouts dire prophecies and dismaying statistics about abusive water policy the world over, like a spigot that cannot be shut off. He rails against the World Bank’s dam-building ambitions back in his home country, Ethiopia. He reveals that while a person in the United Kingdom uses 31 gallons of water a day, an American splashes through 151. Read more.

New Book Advocates For Education Reform In Ethiopia

Book Cover: Tsehai Publishers released a new book entitled:
“Education, Politics, and Social Change in Ethiopia” – making
a compelling case for education reform in the African nation.

Tadias Magazine
Article contributed by Sean McEvoy

Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Education, Politics, and Social Change in Ethiopia analyzes the historical and cultural events that have shaped modern Ethiopia and displays them through a panoramic view. Edited by Paulos Milkias, Professor of Humanities and Political Science at Marianopolis College in Canada, and Messay Kebede, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Dayton University in Ohio – the book compiles several articles concerning the past, present and future of Ethiopian education. Through the perspectives of philosophers, political scientists, economists, historians, anthropologists, and university researchers, the book displays a multidisciplinary analysis of the complexities influencing the future of Ethiopia.

“I recommend this book to anyone interested to feed their intellectual-soul on education, development, and politics in Ethiopia” says Dr. Worku Negash, Vice President of Administrative Services at Mission College in California.

This book is comprised of articles, including Towards a Critical Ethiopian Theory of Education by Maimire Menasenmay, The Curse of English as a Medium of Instruction in the Ethiopian Education System by Tekeste Negash, and The Challenge of Modernity: Western Education and the Demise of Feudalism in Ethiopia. Each author approaches the issue of Ethiopian education from a different perspective, sharing theories and critiques that span across several academic disciplines. Although the authors speak through different lenses, the need for educational reform echoes as the resounding message in the book. The Christian Relief and Development Association (CRDA) believes that education is the “single most important change needed to hasten the socio-economic development of poor nations like Ethiopia.” But it is not only the availability of education that is needed to better Ethiopia socially and economically; the quality and method of teaching is essential to solving Ethiopia’s problems in the twenty-first century.

The articles included in this book were presented and debated at a workshop on “Education and Social Change in Ethiopia” held at the University of Dayton on May 13th and 14th, 2006. The workshop highlighted features of modernization in many African nations, which did not adequately address the issue of education reform.

Education, Politics, and Social Change in Ethiopia critiques the benefits and drawbacks of a western system of education, emphasizing the correlation between education and politics. In order to educate all Ethiopians, not just the privileged few, on the politics and ideologies of regimes who have governed Ethiopia in the past, a new system of educational goals must be implemented. The current content and guiding principles of Ethiopian education are not conducive to the creation of an educated people capable of promoting economic prosperity, democratic values and national integration. To have these changes occur it is not enough to only change the person in power. It needs to be reflected in the system of education. In essence, the effectiveness of an educational system should be tested and strengthened in order to assist a new generation of citizens to solve global dilemmas.

The multi-disciplinary approach used in this book demonstrates the interpretive nature of reform, and that our best solutions will come from multiple sources. Dr. Damtew Teferra, Director of the International Network for Higher Education in Africa praises this book as “a must read by all those interested and engaged in Ethiopian education.”
—-

You can purchase the book at: TshaiPublishers.com.

A world away and branching out (The Boston Globe)

Above: Front, left to right – Stacey Cordeiro, Danny Mekonnen,
Kaethe Hostetter, Arik Grier; (rear, left to right) P.J. Goodwin,
Keith Waters, Dave Harris, Bruck Tesfaye, Jonah Rapino.
(Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

The Boston Globe
By James Reed
January 10, 2010
CAMBRIDGE – Just before midnight on a brisk night at the Western Front, an unassuming club outside Central Square, a refreshing scene is unfolding. Soon after a handsome man croons a love song in Amharic (Ethiopia’s official language) over the band’s chunky ’70s funk riffs, a rapper gets up on stage and drops fluid rhymes also in his native tongue. Other times the musicians lock into long instrumental grooves solely in service to the party vibe. Read more.

Video: Help Debo Band Return to Africa

Related from Tadias:
Debo Band Wins BMA’s International Music Act of the Year

Above: From left, alto saxophonist Abye Osman, Debo Band
founder Danny Mekonnen, and vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. (Photo
credit: H. Asrat)
Click here to read the story.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze: Maaza Mengiste’s first novel

Above: Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and
graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU. A recent
Pushcart Prize nominee, she was named “New Literary Idol” by
New York Magazine. (Photo © Miriam Berkley)

The New York Times
By LORRAINE ADAMS
Published: December 31, 2009
Maaza Mengiste’s first novel, “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze,” opens in 1974 during the last days of Selassie’s six-decade rule. A young man lies on an operating table with a bullet in his back. A student protester, he is part of a popular tide that, along with a military uprising, will soon sweep Selassie from power. The attending physician wears a watch the emperor gave him upon his graduation from an English medical school. The doctor sees his patient — and his own younger son, who is also a revolutionary college student — as rash and foolish. His older son, a 32-year-old history professor with a small daughter and a wife, shares his father’s contempt for the burning and looting, the increasingly violent rallies. Read more.

Update (Jan 6, 2009)
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: The January 3, 2010 edition of the New York Times Sunday Book Review has a review by Lorraine Adams that states Beneath the Lion’s Gaze depicts Emperor Haile Selassie dying as a result of being shot, and the killer is the doctor’s (Hailu’s) neighbor. This is incorrect. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze depicts the emperor dying at the hands of another fictional character through other means.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze

An epic tale of a father and two sons, of betrayals and loyalties, of a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopia’s revolution.

This memorable heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mother’s prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture to die. And Dawit, Hailu’s youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movement—a choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that has rarely been explored in fiction before. It is a story about the lengths human beings will go in pursuit of freedom and the human price of a national revolution. Emotionally gripping, poetic and indelibly tragic, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is a transcendent and powerful debut.

Publication: W.W. Norton, January 11, 2010

Tadias Interview with Tommy T (Thomas T Gobena)

Thomas “Tommy T” Gobena is the bass player for gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello. (Courtesy photograph)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Friday, October 16, 2009

New York (TADIAS) – Tommy T (Thomas T. Gobena), bass player for the New York-based multi-ethnic gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, has released his first solo album entitled The Prestor John Sessions. The album includes collaborations with Gigi, Tommy T’s brother & bassist Henock Temesgen, members of the Abyssinnia Roots Collective, and a bonus remix including Gogol Bordello bandmates Eugene Hütz and Pedro Erazo. Tommy describes The Prestor John Sessions as “an aural travelogue that rages freely through the music and culture of Ethiopia.” His debut album features the diversity of rhythms and sounds of Ethiopian music – as multi-ethnic as has become the Lower East Side Gypsy band that has taken the world by storm. Who else but Tommy would produce an Oromo dub song featuring Ukranian, Ecuadorian, and Ethiopian musicians? We spoke to Tommy T about life as a Gogol Bordello member, the influences on his music, and the story behind The Prestor John Sessions. Normally Tommy T punctuates everything he says with so much humor that it’s difficult not to be immersed in sporadic moments of pure laughter. His message in this interview, however, remains serious: Are you ready to change the way you listen to and classify music?


Tommy T (Thomas T. Gobena). Photo by Linda Fittante.

TADIAS: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where you grew up, who were the main influences in your life? How you got into music?

Tommy T: I grew up in Addis and moved to the United States when I was 16. I can say that we didn’t have access to a lot of western music at that time except for the work of artists such as Michael Jackson and Madonna. But my brother, Henock was into music and he had an acoustic guitar. I never thought of being a musician then, but I would often play with my brother’s guitar…it was just a toy. But when my brother came to America and became a professional bass musician and sent back an album that he worked on called Admas I started to think about music in a more serious way. I don’t want to say the album was futuristic, but it was quite a forward-looking album. For its time it was unique in combining Ethiopian with Reggae, Samba and various other sounds. It came out as a limited edition and only on vinyl. I was going to school at Saint Joseph’s in Ethiopia at the time and some of my friends played in the school band. I was around them a lot and learned about music from them as well. I never had a formal music education. I just picked up guitar and then switched to bass when I heard my brother play bass guitar on the Admas album.

TADIAS: Any idols?

Tommy: I really don’t have many idols but the closest one is Bob Marley. And it’s not just the music but also his message. Listening to Bob Marley & the Wailers I was introduced to their bassist – Aston “Family Man” Barrett. A lot of the melodies that people love in Bob Marley’s songs wouldn’t mean anything without the bass line. “Waiting in Vain” is one example where the bass line is the melody. Aston is one of my strongest influences. When I came to the United States my brother introduced me to Motown songs. That’s how I discovered bassist James Jamerson, perhaps one of the greatest bassists of all time. He was a legend by any account. I eventually also spent time with Bill Laswell who produced Gigi’s albums. I saw how he produced music and sound in his studio, which has shaped my interpretation of music. I’m into ALL these people (laugh).

TADIAS: Before you joined Gogol Bordello you worked with several other artists and managed an independent label. What was that like?

Tommy: Actually, I had a label with my brother called C-Side Entertainment. The whole idea was to give mainstream access to African artists. Obviously we started with our own people, such as members of Admas band. I then worked with Gigi and Grammy-nominated singer Wayna as a manager, and I was able to broaden my knowledge and my network.

Tadias: Your label C-Side Entertainment. Where does the name come from?

Tommy T: You know music records have an A-side and B-side. We are the C-side – the third dimension. Or should I add the undiscovered dimension. .

TADIAS: What adjectives would you use to describe your tour experience with Gogol Bordello?

Tommy: (laughs) Beautiful Life!

TADIAS: Can you elaborate?

Tommy: Why? I get to play in front of millions of people. In a world where there are so many things going wrong, this is one moment where music makes you feel inclusive, not excluded. We have band members from nine different countries and together we create a universal vibe. We have good people who come to see us play. Yesterday I played in Spain, then today another country. Different people, different language but same energy. It’s beautiful. It’s music without boundaries. We put on one of the best shows and it’s always fun. I also just want to say that in 2007 the BBC Awards for World Music went to Gogol Bordello in the Americas category, and to Ethiopia’s Mahmoud Ahmed in the Africa category. That was a great moment.

TADIAS:: What do you love most about playing music?

Tommy: People. I love people. I love hanging around people. I’m really the worst sort of loner. Music forces me to be with different people – from the fierce to the funny to the philosophical. Music is the best way to be with people – at least for me.

TADIAS:: What do you love least about touring?

Tommy: You know I love everything about touring. Of course there are always advantages and disadvantages, the disadvantage being that you’re away from home a lot and it gets physically tiring. It’s hard work. No time to get sick. No time to bullshit. If you have a 9-5 job you can call in sick sometimes.

TADIAS: Right.

Tommy: You better make sure you’re dying if you decide not to show up and play at a concert. There are thousands of people who buy tickets, and band members who are relying on you. With Gogol Bordello I tour 9 to 10 months out of the year. And being considered one of the best shows you have to come out full force, give 100% every night.

TADIAS: You just released your first solo album. Can you tell us how long you’ve been working on it?

Tommy: I’ve always thought of doing my own album, but I can say that I started sculpting this work about three years ago. I started going into the studio and it basically took us the past two years to finish the whole album.

TADIAS:Where was it recorded?

Tommy: In several studios in D.C.

TADIAS: Who are the some of the artists that you collaborated with and featured on your album?

Tommy: Some of the musicians are old friends, those whom I used to play with while I was living in the D.C. community. My friend Zaki plays with the Abyssinnia Roots Collective for example. I also feature singer Gigi, and Masinko player Setegn. I produced the songs “Brothers” and “East-West Express” with my brother Henock. And the bonus remix of the Oromo dub features my Gogol Bordello bandmates Eugene Hütz (Ukranian) and Pedro Erazo (Ecuadorian).

By the way, all the songs are given titles that help teach something about Ethiopia. For example the track Eighth Wonder has a Wollo beat, which is from the region where Lalibela – the Eighth Wonder of the World is located. I expect people to buy a record and read and learn something new. Music is a way to educate. The Beyond Fasilidas title is in reference to the castles of Emperor Fasilidas of Gondar, which used to be Ethiopia’s capital city in the 17th century. The music on this track uses traditional beats from the Gondar region.

TADIAS: There is also the Ethiopian literary tradition known as Sem Ena Worq (Wax and Gold). The tracks are modern songs carrying the diverse and rich sounds of Ethiopian music, as you say “the nuggets culled from one of the oldest cultures on earth, presented in all their shining beauty.” And so is the album title The Prestor John Sessions.

Tommy: The whole thing came about when I was reading Graham Hancock’s the Sign and the Seal. And in that book Hancock mentions that around the era of the Crusaders there was an unknown king that was sending letters throughout Europe about the might and massiveness of his army and his treasures. Initially Europeans thought this king was from Asia so they went to India to look for him. Eventually they figured out that he was from Ethiopia. They didn’t know his name so they dubbed him Prestor John. There are of course so many other versions of this legend. But once I heard the story I said there is nothing else that I could call this album but The Prestor John Sessions.

TADIAS: So the album cover is Tommy T as Prestor John?

Tommy: You got it. (laughs). Prestor John is the symbol that I use to bring Ethiopian culture to the rest of the world. I’m writing music that incorporates the rhythms of Ethiopia but is also multi-ethnic and global, much like the work that Gogol Bordello creates, taken to the next level. The music is Ethiopian, dub, jazz, reggae – it’s music without boundaries.


The Prestor John Sessions album cover.


Tommy T. Photo by Bossanostra.

TADIAS: What would you like to say to your fans and to Tadias readers?

Tommy: First I would like to say, listen to the music and give it a chance. The music that I put out is sort of representative of my life – starting with the song “Brothers,” which I produced with my brother Henock. The last song is one that I made with Gogol Bordello. I think it’s all great work. I know a lot of people enjoy listening to Ethiopian music, and mostly what they know is the Ethiopiques CD series. I think it’s about time that we include and represent more sounds, and I’m trying to introduce those diverse Ethiopian sounds. I hope it’s a true representation. I hope I won’t let anybody down.

TADIAS: In your spare time…what else besides music keeps you going?

Tommy: I don’t know man. I’m always around music. Whether I’m out at a club or at home. I do read once in a while, but I don’t want to make it sound like I do that all the time. Besides, coming out of a tour you need time to unwind and I spend quite a lot of time at home or visiting friends. But even then, I’m always around music. I’m always working on music. I don’t think that I could be without it.

TADIAS: Are there any upcoming gigs that you’d like to mention?

Tommy: I’m thinking of doing a CD release party possibly in D.C. and New York around Thanksgiving weekend. It’s not confirmed yet, but it may happen on the 27th and 28th since I’m going to be home on break from tour. For Christmas, Gogol Bordello will be playing in New York at Webster Hall for three nights. This is a time to expand your mind and lose your soul (laughs). I’m just making fun. It’s great music and it defies any kind of boundary. It’s one of the best shows that you’ll ever see. The best three nights.

TADIAS: Congratulations on your album Tommy!
—-
The Prestor John Sessions are currently available exclusively on itunes. Purchase and download a copy and leave a comment!

Watch: Gogol Bordello – Wonderlust King (on David Letterman)


Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Liya Kebede Plays Waris Dirie in The Movie “Desert Flower”

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, September 2, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Liya Kebede stars in the new movie Desert Flower, based on the true story of a former African supermodel who rose from a nomadic life to the top of the international modeling business.

The movie is an adaptation of the autobiography of Waris Dirie, who was born in Somalia and moved to London at age of 13 primarily to break loose from an arranged-marriage to a much older man, and a culture that subjected her to female genital mutilation (FGM) when she was only 5-years old. While in London she struggled to make ends meet working at McDonald’s and other odd jobs until she was discovered by photographer Terence Donovan, whose portraits of her would propel her into international stardom. She eventually graced the catwalks of New York, London, Milan and Paris, and was featured on the covers of Vogue, Glamour and Elle magazines. She was depicted in the 1995 BBC documentary entitled A Nomad in New York. In 1997, she ended her modeling work to become a full-time advocate against female circumcision, and subsequently was named a UN ambassador for the abolition of FGM by former Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Kebede, a supermodel herself, appears to be making a smooth transition into the world of acting. Her previous movie stints includes a role in the epic drama The Good Shepherd, directed by Robert De Niro, and the movie Lord of War featuring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Moynahan.

The independent film is scheduled to appear at the Venice Film Festival this month and will be released in Germany on 24 September.

Video: Desert Flower Movie Trailer – English

Haile Gerima’s Teza Set to Premiere in U.S. (Watch the Trailer)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Haile Gerima’s award-winning film Teza is set to make its U.S. premiere at the Avalon Theater in Washington D.C. on Thursday, September 17, 2009.

Teza has scooped several awards at prestigious international film festivals – including the Venice Film Festival, the Carthage Film Festival, and the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Fespaco). The film focuses on the tumultuous years of the Mengistu era told through the gripping story of a German-educated, idealistic Ethiopian doctor.

Teza’s U.S. premiere is sponsored by the European Commission, Positive Productions, and WPFW-FM. Tickets can be purchased at Sankofa.com.

Watch the Trailer:
“Set in Ethiopia and Germany, Teza examines the displacement of African intellectuals, both at home and abroad, through the story of a young, idealistic Ethiopian doctor – Anberber. The film chronicles Anberber’s internal struggle to stay true, both to himself and to his homeland, but above all, Teza explores the possession of memory – a right humanity mandates that each of us have – the right to own our pasts.” (tezathemovie.com)

Cover image courtesy of www.tezathemovie.com.

Teza trailer in Italian

Ethiopian Israeli filmmaker pulls no punches

Above: A scene from Shmuel Beru’s film “Zrubavel,” which
portrays some of the difficulties faced by Ethiopian immigrants.
Even as it tells of discrimination and difficulties, Beru pulls no
punches when portraying his own community’s faults. His
characters often wallow in self-pity, drink and use drugs,
steal and beat their wives. (Transfax Film Productions)

Los Angeles Times
Shmuel Beru, who arrived in Israel in 1984 in the first wave of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, tells his people’s story in the award-winning ‘Zrubavel.’ But not that many white Israelis are listening.

By Edmund Sanders
August 10, 2009

Reporting from Tel Aviv — Growing up, they called him the “chocolate boy” and worse. Shmuel Beru arrived in Israel at age 8 with the first wave of Ethiopian immigrants in 1984. Classmates, who’d never seen a black person before, rubbed his skin to see if the color would come off. Read more.

Related past stories:
The Ethiopian ‘Spike Lee’

Above: The film shows the story of Almaz (above) and her
family. An Ethiopian immigrant dreams of becoming
the Spike Lee of Israel and decides to video document
his community. “Much of the story is told through
the lens of his personal video camera as he travels
his neighborhood filming everyone and everything
from the mundane to the criminal.”
(Amharic and Hebrew w/English subtitles).

Events News
July 2, 2009

New York – Zrubavel, the first domestic film about Ethiopians in Israel, which screened in New York at the 6th Annual Sheba Film Festival in May 2009, will open in theaters today.

Even after three decades, all that most Israelis know about this population of more than 110,000 is what they read in newspaper reports: problems of integration, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence – or, more rarely, one successful Ethiopian immigrant who becomes a doctor, a pilot or a famous singer or actor. But what do we really know about the Ethiopian Jews of Israel – their values, their traditions, their language, their music, their food, their dreams, their problems and how they deal with them, their feelings?.

Read more.

Recording Ethiopia’s Red Terror

BBC

Friday, 7 August 2009

In the late 1970s Ethiopia’s Marxist military rulers tortured and murdered hundreds of thousands in brutal repressions. Now, one survivor is trying to create a permanent online archive of the so-called Red Terror using the documents the Communist regime, known as the Derg, left behind, reports the BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt.

Hirut Abebe-Jiri was in her early teens when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown.

She had had a happy and privileged childhood, part of a well-off and well-connected family.

But the revolution made people like them liable to be viewed as suspicious. Read more.

Related Book Excerpt:
My Rediscovery of Ethiopia by Rebecca Haile

Publisher’s Note

Rebecca Haile was born in Ethiopia in 1965 and lived there until she was eleven years old. When the Emperor was deposed by a military coup, Rebecca’s father, a leading academic in Addis Ababa, was shot while “resisting arrest.” Barely surviving, he escaped with his family and settled in central Minnesota where they struggled with the cultural and financial strain of their drastically changed circumstances.

Rebecca grew up in America harboring her precious childhood memories, but in time saw herself as more American than Ethiopian. She attended Williams College and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School. In 2001, she was the first member of her family to return to Ethiopia.

The following is an excerpt from her book Held at a Distance: My Rediscovery of Ethiopia (Academy Chicago Publishers, Paper, 183pp, $17.95, 0-89733-556-2).

rebecca2.jpg

“I want the two of you to pack some clothes tonight because this weekend we’re going to drive to Nazareth town to visit Ababa Haile and Tye Emete. If we don’t do that, we will probably take a plane to join your mother and father in America.”

With those casual words, my Aunt Mimi tried to prepare my sister Sossina and me to leave Ethiopia even as she downplayed the voyage by equating it with a Sunday drive to my grandparents’ home in the country. Mimi dared not promise us the trip to the United States, much less name a specific date. Those were unpredictable days in Ethiopia—days when people who disagreed with the regime didn’t know whether they would see the sun rise the following morning, days when, my uncle Tadesse swore, you couldn’t trust your own shadow. By then, government soldiers had nearly killed my father, and my parents had fled the country. How could my aunt and uncle assure us that no one would block our family’s reunion?

Now, twenty-five years after those final tense days, I am on an overnight flight back to Addis Ababa. I am sitting next to my husband, Jean, staring restlessly out the window at the inky ground below. As we cross from southern Egypt into northern Ethiopia, an hour or so before we are to land, the horizon finally begins to lighten. Soon, the sky over the vast highland plateau is awash in a deep, clay red. Jetlagged and on edge, uncertain what to expect from the country I am not sure I can still call home, I am grateful for this beautiful prologue to the month that lies ahead.

I left Ethiopia in 1976, two years after the army deposed Emperor Haile Selassie and sent a powerful wave of turmoil and state-sponsored violence crashing across the country. Along with countless others, my parents were swept up in that wave and soon the life they had built together had been completely washed away. In the summer of 1976, my parents, my sisters and I found ourselves abruptly deposited in the United States, stripped of our possessions and expectations and left to start over financially, professionally and emotionally. I was ten when it became clear we could not stay in Addis Ababa and had just turned eleven when my sisters and I reunited with our parents in a small central Minnesota town. That first summer, as we watched our host country celebrate its bicentennial birthday with fireworks and cheers of freedom along the banks of the Mississippi, not one of us imagined how long it would be before we would see Ethiopia again. When I returned in the spring of 2001, I was the first in my family to do so.


From Held at a Distance by Rebecca Haile. Copyright (c) 2007 Rebecca Haile, Published by Academy Chicago Publishers, all rights reserved.

Related Video: Court sentences Mengistu to death

Is This Jazz? The New Mulatu Astatke Album

NPR
By Patrick Jarenwattananon
08- 5-2009

I know, I know. The response to this question is always “does it matter?” And the answer is usually “no.”

Still, it’s occasionally useful to explore. And this year, there seems to be some balking at the inclusion of Ethopian groove music pioneer Mulatu Astatke within the jazz umbrella. I heard it privately from a few people when Bob Boilen, host/creator of NPR Music’s All Songs Considered, called Astatke’s new album Inspiration Information 3 “the best jazz record I’ve heard in 2009.” Recently, the voracious listener known as Free Jazz Stef also expressed some reservations:

This album is OK, but nothing more than that. It is a mixture of stuff, often characterless, but the Ethopian’s music is so compelling, that it even withstands the treatment given here. I hope it will lead listeners to the real music. Read more.
Yekermo Sew: Mulatu Astatke and Heliocentrics Live

Ace to Ace interview with Mulatu Astatke
In the Ethiopian musical world Mulatu Astatke is atypical, totally
unique, a legend unto himself. He was the first Ethiopian musician
educated abroad, object of tribute and admiration. Mulatu is the
the inventor and maybe the only musician of Ethio-Jazz (Jazz
instrumentals with strong brass rhythms and traditional elements
of Ethiopian music).

Young & Hungry Dining Guide: Meaza Ethiopian Cuisine

Above: Meaza Zemedu at her namesake restaurant. Her
Arlington, Virginia, Ethiopian eatery is one of the 50
restaurants featured on this year’s Young & Hungry
Dining Guide on Washington city paper.

Washingtoncitypaper.com
Because the Ethiopian community has historically been tied to the District, whether in Adams Morgan or the U Street corridor, the suburbs typically get overlooked as a source for fine injera-based food. Yet I can’t escape the simple fact that Meaza is often far superior to the restaurants on that strip of 9th Street NW known as Little Ethiopia. Read More.

Nyala – The Ethiopian Way (Restaurant Review)

Above: Nyala Ethiopian restaurant located in L.A.’s Little
Ethiopia neighborhood.

Restaurant Review
Entertainment Today
Written by SHIRLEY FIRESTONE
Friday, July 17, 2009

The area from Olympic Blvd. going South on Fairfax Ave. has become an Ethiopian bistro walk with a slew of eateries. I had dinner at Nyala, forerunner of Ethiopian restaurants in the area who’ve had many fine write‑ups because the food is good and it’s a new experience in dining for many. Interesting artifacts are part of the charm, including a full‑bar, (also Ethiopian wines, coffees & African beers) paintings displaying their unique style of cooking, and scenes of family life. The place is large with booths and tables, but the focal point is a wonderful simulated thatch hut. First-timers are always surprised upon entering, and what a great place to entertain guests, because dining the Ethiopian way is very social. In fact, it all starts with food, beginning with a complimentary community platter of “humus” served with crispy triangles for dipping.
Read More at EntertainmentToday.com.

Related: Ethiopian food in Omaha
Ethiopian Exchange (The Reader)

Family style and spice make
restaurants nice

by Lainey Seyler

In fact, the first time I went to Ethiopian Restaurant, 25th and Leavenworth, at 6:45 p.m. on a Friday night, I expected it to be open, but they had stopped serving food at 6:30 p.m. I could see, from my vantage point in the adjacent African grocery store, a few diners finishing meals and watching the restaurant’s flat screen TV broadcasting news and sports from Ethiopia. I could smell spices throughout the store and was immediately intrigued. The restaurant’s owner Ahmed Mahmed informed my group that they didn’t have enough food remaining — some menu items take all day to roast, so when it’s gone, it’s gone until tomorrow. He apologized and gave my friend’s son a mango juice box from the grocery’s fridge.

Read More.

PBS Documentary Features CEO of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, July 16, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, is being featured in a PBS documentary hosted by Aaron Brown on July 22nd 10pm EST.

Brown recently visited the newly opened exchange, and asserted that if this project, the first of its kind in Africa, succeeds, then it can serve as a model for the rest of the continent.

Dr. Gabre-Madhin completed her undergraduate studies at Cornell University and her doctorate in Economics at Stanford University before embarking on her vision to create Ethiopia’s first commodities exchange. Crop failures and recurrent famines prompted Gabre-Madhin to focus on food security and improving buyer/seller communication in rural agricultural communities in Ethiopia.

Having followed Dr. Gabre-Madhin’s work over the course of the exchange’s first year, Brown notes that despite the global economic downturn, several key milestones have been achieved. “It is really the story of one person’s vision and how tenacious she has been, the sacrifices she has made, the intelligence she has applied, to feed a country,” Brown says.

Tune in to watch the PBS feature on Gabre-Madhin entitled “The Market Maker” on July 22nd.

———-
The film will be screened on Friday, July 24th at the Four Points by Sheraton in Washington DC (12th & K), followed by a brief speech by Aaron Brown and Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin. Attendance is by RSVP. Please contact Hanna Tadesse at: hanna.tadesse@gmail.com.

‘Migration of Beauty’ selected for 2009 African Diaspora Film Festival

Above: Still image from “Migration of Beauty” showing
protesters in D.C. (Courtesy of SandyBeagle Productions).

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, July 16, 2009

New York (Tadias) – In May 2010 Ethiopians will once again be heading to the polls, and Filmmaker Chris Flaherty has released his film, Migration of Beauty, just in time for us to reflect on the aftermath of the 2005 elections.

Flaherty, whom we interviewed last May, has spent time examining how Ethiopian Americans reacted to the violence that erupted following the controversial 2005 national election. Flaherty had originally intended to focus on the achievements of Ethiopian Americans, but later decided to focus on a feature length film that captures the Ethiopian-American experience of political participation in America in comparison to Ethiopia.

Migration of Beauty is scheduled to be shown at the 2009 African Diaspora Film Festival (ADFF) in New York City in August and November. The ADFF is a 17-day festival featuring over a 100 films focusing on the diversity of the global African diaspora experience.

Here are more still images from the film, courtesy of SandyBeagle Productions.

paine_cover.jpg
Congressman Donald Payne persides over a hearing to mark up HR 2003.

kamus.jpg
Abdul Kamus, one of the characters featured in the film.

kamus-with-kids_inside.jpg
Abdul Kamus visits the Statue of Liberty with his children.

Man’s 25 years on film chronicle Ethiopia’s struggles

BBC
Wednesday, 8 July 2009

For 25 years British documentary maker Charles Stewart has filmed Ethiopian man Aklug Adarge. The BBC’s Adam Mynott reports on one man’s life, beset by the challenges of famine and conflict, which is emblematic of the lives of so many Ethiopians.

In 1984 at the height of the worst famine in living memory thousands of people clinging to life in the highlands in the centre and north of Ethiopia were resettled.

Some were forcibly moved, others went voluntarily.

One young man Aklug Adarge was amongst those who decided to leave. He lived with his mother, sister and younger brother near the village of Arb Gebaya. Read more at BBC.

Update: Ethiopia Celebration Honors Michael Jackson

Update: Here is more on the event from Addis Fortune in
Ethiopia: Local NGO Organizes Event to Celebrate Michael’s
Life (Read More).

Tadias Magazine
Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Good Will for Ethiopia, a Virginia based non-profit organization that operates poverty reduction programs in Addis Ababa, is planning a celebration to honor Michael Jackson and his humanitarian contributions to Ethiopia, organizers announced.

“We, the students of Good will for Ethiopia, want to recognize and celebrate his life…he was indeed a humanitarian who raised attention to poverty through his songs: “We Are the World,” and “Man in the Mirror,” and his USA For Africa project,” the group said in a statement.

“We are the World raised awareness towards famine and poverty in Ethiopia. Michael wrote the song and gathered many stars to make it happen. Michael Jackson’s sudden death shocked us all in Ethiopia.”

The event is scheduled for Sunday, July 12th 2009, from 2pm to 7pm at the Exhibition Hall, behind Meskel Square.

For information, contact: Ms. Aster Dawit at adawit@goodwillforethiopia.org. Phone: +09-11-216732 or +09-11-315610

Related: Michael Jackson: What I wish he’d known
Examiner
By Michael McGuire

(With 30 years of experience in journalism, Michael McGuire has been a newspaper and financial editor, entertainment writer and online services coordinator. He can be reached at michaelmcguire@charter.net.)

In 1985, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote a song that was to reach the No. 1 spot in about 21 countries. “We are the World” was intended to raise money for and awareness of famine in a number of African nations, with a particular emphasis placed on Ethiopia. A grand concert was to follow later to raise more money. I believe I was able to part with five bucks and wished there was more I could do but it was not possible, at the time. The song and Live Aid remained in my thoughts for many years and, in 1996, my wife and I adopted two little girls from Ethiopia. I frequently find myself feeling I have learned more about life from them than they have learned from me. They are the fulfillment of our lives.

Read more.
“We Are The World”

Michael Jackson with Slash – Black Or White (Live)

Related:
The Song Michael Jackson Co-wrote to Benefit Ethiopia

Above: To raise money for the 1984-1985 famine in Ethiopia,
45 popular singers collaborated to record the charity single
“We Are the World”, co-written by Michael Jackson and
Lionel Richie. They included Harry Belafonte, Stevie Wonder,
Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, The Pointer Sisters, Kenny Rogers,
Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Paul Simon, Tina Turner and
many more. (Photo: United Support of Artists for Africa)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, June 28, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The painfully wrenching images of hungry children, which invaded living rooms around the world in the mid 80′s, prompted Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to organize the 1985 Live Aid concert and ‘raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia’. The multi-nation event, which showcased some of the biggest names in the music industry, included Michael Jackson, who co-wrote the project’s signature song “We Are the World” along with Lionel Richie.

The song was recorded on the night of January 28, 1985, following the American Music Awards.

Michael Jackson skipped the A&M Studios ceremony in Hollywood, California in order to prepare the song track as a guide for the rest of the singers, whom he helped persuade to participate in the charity concert. The documentary ” We Are the World: The Story Behind the Song” , described by the New York Times as a film “which examines how the song was written, how producer Quincy Jones and songwriters Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie persuaded some of the most popular performers in America to donate their services to the project…,” highlights Michael Jackson’s important contribution to one of the biggest people-to-people humanitarian projects focusing on Africa. Participating artists included: Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, Bob Geldof, and many more.

A quick search in Wiki about the song reveals an intense moment of artistic conflict during rehearsal:

“The dispute started when Stevie Wonder announced that he would like to substitute a line in Swahili. After a few rehearsals, a full-fledged creative conflict broke out. Geldof pointed out that Ethiopians do not speak Swahili. Michael Jackson then proposed to keep his original line “Sha-lim sha-lingay” but after a few rehearsals, it too ran into opposition, because it does not have a meaning. Eventually Al Jarreau cried, “We can make a meaning” and came up with “One World, our word” which was changed one last time in “One world, our children.”

The following two part video gives behind the scenes look at the project.

Nick Page’s Ethiopian band

Above: Dub Colossus in a Town Called Addis was inspired by
meeting, writing and working with Ethiopian singers and
musicians in Addis Ababa in August 2006, including Singer
Sintayehu ‘Mimi’ Zenebe (Pictured above).

Financial Times
By David Honigmann
Published: July 3 2009

One of the certainties of life in Addis Ababa is that the rainy season will knock out the phone network. Tsedenia Gebremarkos-Woldesilassie, one of Ethiopia’s most celebrated and decorated singers, is driving through the city at high speed, yelling into her mobile, intermittently apologising as the line fractures and drops, recalling the encounter that will soon bring her to England. Read More.

The Ethiopian ‘Spike Lee’

Above: The film shows the story of Almaz (above) and her
family. An Ethiopian immigrant dreams of becoming
the Spike Lee of Israel and decides to video document
his community. “Much of the story is told through
the lens of his personal video camera as he travels
his neighborhood filming everyone and everything
from the mundane to the criminal.”
(Amharic and Hebrew w/English subtitles).

Events News
July 2, 2009

New York – Zrubavel, the first domestic film about Ethiopians in Israel, which screened in New York at the 6th Annual Sheba Film Festival in May 2009, will open in theaters today.

Even after three decades, all that most Israelis know about this population of more than 110,000 is what they read in newspaper reports: problems of integration, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence – or, more rarely, one successful Ethiopian immigrant who becomes a doctor, a pilot or a famous singer or actor. But what do we really know about the Ethiopian Jews of Israel – their values, their traditions, their language, their music, their food, their dreams, their problems and how they deal with them, their feelings?.

Read more.

Book Review: Verghese’s ‘Cutting for Stone’ – A Scalpel’s Slice of Life

Physician and author Abraham Verghese was born and raised in Addis Ababa to Indian parents. His well-received debut novel 'Cutting for Stone' tracks the narrator's journey from Ethiopia to America. (SP)

Tadias Magazine
By Chloe Malle

Published: Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I. The Hippocratic Oath

The title of Abraham Verghese’s first novel, Cutting for Stone, is intriguing, perhaps unrewardingly so. In the book’s epilogue, Verghese, a surgeon and professor at Stanford Medical School, closes with the following explanation, “Medicine is a demanding mistress, yet she is faithful, generous, and true […] every year, at commencement, I renew my vows with her: I swear by Apollo and Hygieia and Panaceia to be true to her, for she is the source of all…I shall not cut for stone.

In an interview he clarifies,

There is a line in the Hippocratic Oath that says: ‘I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest.’ It stems from the days when bladder stones were epidemic, a cause of great suffering, probably from bad water and who knows what else. […] There were itinerant stonecutters—lithologists—who could cut either into the bladder or the perineum and get the stone out, but because they cleaned the knife by wiping it on their blood-stiffened surgical aprons, patients usually died of infection the next day. Hence the proscription ‘Thou shall not cut for stone.’ […] It isn’t just that the main characters have the surname Stone; I was hoping the phrase would resonate for the reader just as it does for me, and that it would have several levels of meaning in the context of the narrative.

The lyrical sound of the title and its poetic medical significance are certainly convincing, however, I am not sure to what extent this title pervades multiple layers of the narrative as Verghese intends it to. Certainly the title confirms the intrinsic, if not central, role of medicine in the novel. Stone is the shared name of the three main characters but ‘cutting for stone’ is the name Verghese bestows upon the equally important character that medicine and surgery personify in the novel. But beyond rhetoric the title does not resonate emotionally throughout different levels of meaning in the novel.

The novel is rich and warm like the womb that opens the central conflict of the story, or like quicksand, disabling you from exiting Verghese’s world until the last page of the text.

The essence of Cutting for Stone is divided between Marion’s coming of age and Ethiopia’s. It is also tinged with a desire for the magical to impart its warmth and weakness upon the real. One of the most attractive things about Verghese’s first novel is the emotion the book evokes, the womblike comfort within its pages.

The novel recounts the story of Marion and Shiva Stone, Siamese twins separated at birth by their surgeon father, Thomas Stone. In the realm of magical realism the twins are born attached at the skull and almost as soon as they are separated from each other they are separated from both parents as well. Their mother, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a nun working at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa, dies in childbirth. No one in the hospital was aware of her pregnancy, not even the presumed father, Dr. Thomas Stone. Stone, Mission Hospital’s main surgeon, disappears grief-stricken immediately after Sister Mary’s death. The twins are orphaned before they leave the delivery room only to be swiftly rescued by the Indian Ob-Gyn, Hema, and her soon-to-be husband, Dr. Ghosh. The plot is a rambling coming of age story that tracks Marion and Shiva’s childhood and rise to adulthood set against the background of Ethiopia’s turbulent political climate. The novel crosses three continents, coming to a treacherous climax in New York City.

It is no coincidence that Verghese was born and raised in Addis Ababa to Indian parents around the same time as his protagonist. Verghese’s own biography closely reflects that of the protagonist twins in his novel.

Part II: The African Bildungsroman

Cutting for Stone, knowingly or not, follows the formula of the German literary genre, the bildungsroman. The German Enlightenment term, coined by German philologist, Johann Morgenstern, refers to a genre of novels that follow a similar plotline mapping the psychological, moral and social development of a, usually young, protagonist. Examples of this range from the revolutionary model, Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship to Harper Lee’s contemporary interpretation in To Kill a Mockingbird. Verghese’s novel follows the bildungsroman formula almost exactly: the protagonist matures from child to adult, this maturation is long and arduous and rife with challenges and conflicts, eventually one or all of these conflicts forces the protagonist to flee their home and begin a personal Odyssey. The independence and demands of this journey are what eventually enable the protagonist to integrate comfortably and successfully into society. I will not map out Marion Stone’s corresponding steps in hope that you will map them yourself whilst reading the book.

In The Situation and the Story, writer Vivian Gornick explains, “there is the story and then there is the situation, the writer must be aware of both.” In Cutting for Stone the story is Marion’s coming of age, the situation is Ethiopia. But it is not that simple. The story is also Ethiopia’s coming of age and these two wide-eyed adolescents—no not the twins, Marion and Shiva—Marion and Ethiopia, must mature in their own individual ways.

Cutting for Stone is by all measures a novel about Africa, but it is more importantly a novel about daily life and about growing up. It just so happens that our protagonist experiences daily life and grows up in Africa. Like the British Romantics, Verghese emphasizes the importance of place as well as plot and character, acknowledging their inherent union. Ethiopia is a central driving force of the narrative. It is the ghost character, like Thomas Stone, omnipresent yet never quite defined. Like the twins who center the story, the setting of the narrative is divided; it is at once the coming of age of Marion and the coming of age of Ethiopia. With creative chronological license Verghese maps the crashing tides of Ethiopia’s political climate throughout the twenty-five years of Marion and Shiva’s youth.

Ethiopia is a character like a magical realist creation, her intrinsic parts are outlined and detailed, but they are detailed in emotion, not in reality. Verghese writes Ethiopia like the regal male peacock adorned with all his iridescent feathered glory, when in fact, she more closely resembles the unplumbed female by his side. As readers, we enter that magical reality, coming to understand a place most of us do not know as if it is our own. Early in the novel Verghese describes Ghosh’s introduction to Ethiopia, “Ghosh didn’t understand any of this till he came to Africa. He hadn’t realized that Menelik’s victory had inspired Marcus Garvey’s Back to Africa Movement, and that it had awakened Pan-African consciousness in Kenya, the Sudan, and the Congo. For such insights, one had to live in Africa.” For such insights one had to live in Africa or in Verghese’s epic novel.

While reading I wonder if there is a sense of guilt involved for Verghese, if this ode to Ethiopia is a tax or homage owed to a fatherland—I use the expression fatherland rather than native land, or birthplace, because of the ambiguity and driving force that very subject ignites throughout the novel. In an interview Verghese reveals,

Even in this era of the visual, I think a novel can bring out the feel of a place better than almost any vehicle. […] I also wanted to convey the loss many felt when the old order gave way to the new. Ethiopia had the blight of being ruled by a man named Mengistu for too many years, a man propped up by Russia and Cuba. My medical school education was actually interrupted when Mengistu came to power and the emperor went to jail. As an expatriate, I had to leave. It was my moment of loss. Many of my medical school classmates became guerilla fighters who tried to unseat the government. Some died in the struggle. One of them fought for more than twenty years, and his forces finally toppled the dictator. Meles Zenawi, now prime minister of Ethiopia, was a year behind me in medical school.

While it is the omnipresence of Ethiopia, coming of age, and personal conflict that drive the novel there is also a very poetic emphasis on what is not present. Absence is a prevalent motif throughout the novel. The theme of things missing from the story is prevalent throughout the novel, things happening offstage like in Greek tragedy, or not at all. Until the end of the novel there is never any confirmation of Marion and Shiva’s conception. Three chapter titles are dedicated to absence: Missing Fingers, Missing People, Missing Letters.

Part III: The Writer’s Writer

There is no doubt about it; Verghese is a lyricist whose way with words rivals his mastery of the scalpel—though I cannot attest to this as I have never had the opportunity to be operated on by him. Indeed, he is a prose poet whose manipulation of words makes every minutia an event of Biblical and lyrical proportions. It is the sanctity of his syntax, the deliberate and precise choice of words and their order in the sentences in which they appear that sets his novel apart, forcing even the least interested reader to continue turning pages, trancelike and mystified. Simple sentences such as the following are rendered at once wholesome and cavernous by the depth and simplicity of his language. Of Ghosh’s barber Verghese writes, “One never doubted for a moment that it was Ferraro’s destiny to be a barber; his instincts were perfect; his baldness was inconsequential.” Many writers are lauded for their attention to detail, Verghese is to be praised for his dedication to detail. To Verghese, life is indeed, in the details.

The Baton Rouge Advocate writes, “Clearly Verghese paid attention in English Lit 101. He begins this entrancing novel with an opening sentence that is so full of implication it’s practically Dickensian.” It is true that Cutting for Stone can be read as a rolodex of mastered literary techniques and signatures. The scent of scribes past is at once foetid and intoxicating across the pages. Their influences and identifying traits mark Verghese’s pages, just as the archive of great writers mark every work of fiction, to its benefit or detriment, depending on the skill of he or she who whittles these influences into something they can use to better illustrate their essence of their own novel.

Most reviews of Cutting for Stone, including this one, cite different authors Verghese has drawn influence from, some as a critique of his writing, some as an accolade. Different historical-literary genres shutter through the critics’ lens like a widening aperture. While I don’t disagree with these comparisons I do believe that they distract from Verghese’s own brand of writing, one that may in turn be imitated in its own right.

Many critics have accused Verghese of foraging unsuccessfully into the realm of magical realism and according to Mexican literary critic Luis Leal they may be correct. Leal argues, “Without thinking of the concept of magical realism, each writer gives expression to a reality he observes in the people. To me, magical realism is an attitude on the part of the characters in the novel toward the world […] If you can explain it, then it’s not magical realism.” But won’t any child’s reaction to the world will be magical tinged by the real or vice versa, otherwise, how would we absorb and understand it all? For me one of the most beautiful qualities about the novel is Verghese’s ability to recount fifty years through the eyes of a child, with wonder, whimsy and heartbreak. This being said, the epic, rambling pace of the novel would be better executed with Verghese giving in to the story’s demand for a magical realist telling. Instead, the novel’s all too realist tone is difficult to swallow alongside its magical and leaping storyline. Imagine Paul Farmer writing Love in the Time of Cholera and you can begin to imagine Verghese’s first foray into fiction.

While literary forefathers stalk like quill-tipped ghosts across Verghese’s pages the real muse is medicine herself. The danger in this is that it risks losing the mystical tone the novel has so successfully created. Verghese’s fault lies in him knowing too much, the over-realism of his medical descriptions blunt the magic of the rest of the novel.

Indeed, too much medicine takes the magical out of realism. During passages such as the following my rapture is dulled completely,

With the colon swollen to Hindenburg proportions it would be all to easy to nick the bowel and spill feces into the abdominal cavity. He made a midline incision, then deepened it carefully, like a sapper defusing a bomb. Just when panic was setting in because he was going nowhere, the glistening surface of the peritoneum—that delicate membrane that lined the abdominal cavity—came into view. When he opened the peritoneum, straw-colored fluid came into view. Inserting his finger into the hole and using it as a backstop, he cut the peritoneum along the length of the incision.

It is as if Verghese believes the only currency he can trade with is his knowledge of medicine. I only wish his confidence in the poetry and lyricism of his writing was enough for him to abandon his crutch of medical vernacular.

There are moments though, when his descriptions leave the kingdom of Gray’s Anatomy and help the non-medical understand medical problems, such as the enigmatic and complex problem of obstetric fistula. Verghese’s haunting and powerful description of the arrival of a young girl with fistula to the mission is one of the most powerful in the book.

An unspeakable scent of decay, putrefaction, and something else for which words remain to be invented reached our nostrils. I saw no point in holding my breath or pinching my nose because the foulness invaded instantly, coloring our insides like a drop of India ink in a cup of water. In a way that children understand their own, we knew her to be innocent of her terrible, overpowering odor. It was of her, but it wasn’t hers. Worse than the odor (since she must have lived with it for more than a few days) was to see her face in the knowledge of how it repulsed and revolted others.

Verghese’s surgical sword is double-edged and while it jars the melodic pace of the rest of the novel, it is for the most part an important addition to the story and soul of the book.

Part IV: The Dueling Careers

A journalist interviewing Verghese asks, “Was there a single idea behind or genesis for Cutting for Stone?”

Verghese’s complex answer was the following, “My ambition as a writer was to tell a great story, an old-fashioned, truth-telling story. But beyond that, my single goal was to portray an aspect of medicine that gets buried in the way television depicts the practice: I wanted the reader to see how entering medicine was a passionate quest, a romantic pursuit, a spiritual calling, a privileged yet hazardous undertaking.” Verghese cares for his characters in the same way an ideal surgeon would, he feels for them. The Economist critiques, “surgery is indeed a wonderful metaphor, but it should be wielded with precision.”

He continues, “I wanted the whole novel to be of medicine, populated by people in medicine, the way Zola’s novels are of Paris.”

Indeed, medicine is the medium through which the tale is propelled forward, the catalyst to characters’ coming of age and falling apart.

Not by coincidence, Verghese’s life parallels that of the twin protagonists in the story. He executes a balancing act between two careers, conjoined unknowingly like Siamese twins, but unlike Thomas Stone, while Verghese fathered these twins, he did not abandon them, he raised and nurtured them to grow into unique but also inherently linked careers.

Cutting for Stone deftly conveys the eerie and perhaps poetic similarity between the seemingly disparate vocations of surgery and writing. As Verghese writes of Ghosh in the novel, “he had a theory that bedroom Amharic and bedside Amharic were really the same thing: Please lie down. Take off your shirt. Open your mouth. Take a deep breath…The language of love was the same as the language of medicine.”

Like medicine, writing is in the details. Describing Thomas Stone during the birth of his Siamese twins, Verghese has the patience to describe, “His hair was parted on the right, a furrow that originated in boyhood with every tamed by the comb to know exactly which direction it was to tilt.” Like medicine, writing is about people, about being interested by people, by humanity. Interviewed Verghese concludes, “The beauty of medicine is that it is proletarian, and its prime prerequisite is that you have an interest in humanity in the rough.” Though Verghese counters,

I think sometimes we make too much of the doctor-writer business—it’s in danger of becoming a cliché. I’ve not put MD behind my name on any books, except one that was called Infections in Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities. Unless I’m writing a diet book or a textbook like the one above, the doctoring seems kind of irrelevant—the writing has to stand on its own, don’t you think? […] I remember hearing the aphorism ‘God is in the details’ both in medical school and at the Writer’s Workshop. When we see a patient we take a ‘history’—the word ‘story’ is in there.

Part V: The Writer is I

In an interview Verghese explains, “To paraphrase Dorothy Allison, fiction is the great lie that tells the truth about how the world really lives. It is why in teaching medical students I use Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych to teach about end-of-life issues […] A textbook rarely gives them the kind of truth or understanding achieved in the best fiction.”

As a child I owned a children’s book called, Lives of the Writers with 19th century Daumier-style caricature drawings of all the great writers in history and a brief but biting one-page biography of each author. Some quirky anecdote or sibling rivalry, information we, ostensibly, could not read from their books. Or could we? Is not every novel a life of the writer? Verghese’s certainly is.

By the end of the novel, the only thing lacking is a comprehensive biography of the man whom we cannot imagine having invented, nor even vicariously living the events detailed in these pages. The voice is too strong, the involvement too deep.

If it is, in fact, fiction then Verghese has achieved a feat indeed, he has made the living narrator out of the page. I don’t believe that is the case, I believe all of Marion Stone is Abraham Verghese, the question is, how much of Abraham Verghese is Marion Stone? Verghese includes a foreword and an afterword, but what I want is a during. I want a detailed autobiography of Verghese, to cross check the fraternal or identical twin-ness of the writer and the written. Though maybe that is too much to ask, similar perhaps to asking a doctor to betray the Hippocratic oath.

About the Author:
Chloe Malle is a freelance journalist currently based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where she teaches English as a Second Language and assists an American physician at the local Mother Theresa Clinic. Chloe studied creative writing and comparative literature at Brown University.

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Exhibition Honoring Helen Suzman

Tadias Events News
Published: Thursday, March 26, 2009

New York, NY: One of the most extraordinary women of our century, Helen Suzman devoted her career to the fight against apartheid in South Africa. As a tribute to her exceptional efforts, the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at the University of Cape Town, under the direction of Dr. Milton Shain, organized a graphic panel exhibition that captures her life work. This moving and inspiring exhibition – which was conceptualized, researched, and written by Millie Pimstone and designed by Linda Bester – will be on view at the Rotunda, Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, from April 27 – May 1, 2009. The exhibition is sponsored through the Office of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY).

On April 27, an opening reception will feature Ann Lewis, Margaret Marshall, the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, and other noted speakers (Program in progress). The viewing of the exhibition and reception begin at 5:30pm in the Russell Caucus Room 385 above the Rotunda. The remarks are scheduled from 6:30pm to 7:30pm in the Caucus Room. The public is invited free of charge.

Helen Suzman: Fighter for Human Rights traces the life and times of a great South African. We are deeply honored and delighted that the role of this extraordinary woman will be recognized in Washington, DC,” said Professor Milton Shain, Director of the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research, University of Cape Town.

From the start of her political career that spanned almost four decades, Helen Suzman opposed the evils of apartheid and used the parliamentary system to challenge these inhumane policies. For thirteen years (1961-1974) she was the only Progressive Party member of Parliament and the sole opposition voice condemning apartheid. Through photographs, personal letters, quotations from speeches and news articles, this exhibition tells of the animosity, anti-Semitism and intimidation Suzman faced throughout her career. It also highlights her enduring friendship with Nelson Mandela which began in early 1967 when she met him at the infamous Robben Island Prison where he was a political prisoner.

Suzman was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Price in recognition of her contribution to the pursuit of justice in South Africa. She received the United Nations Award of the International League for Human Rights in 1978. In 1989, Queen Elizabeth conferred on her an Honorary Dame Commander (Civil Division) of the Order of the British Empire. Suzman died on January 1, 2009, at the age of 91. Flags across South Africa were flown at half-mast while tributes poured in from around the world.

If you go:
Exhibition on View at the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda, Washington, DC
(April 27 – MAY 1, 2009)

The United States tour of the exhibition is sponsored by the Dobkin Family Foundation and the Tolan Family Foundation.

For more information contact Exhibition Manager, Jill Vexler, PhD at 212-505-6427, jill@jillvexler.com or Publicist, Rachel Tarlow Gul at 201-503-1321, Rachel@otrpr.com.

Movie Review: Cadillac Records

Above: In Cadillac Records, Beyoncé Knowles plays Etta James,
the legendary artists of a Chicago music label. (Sony BMG Film/
Eric Liebowitz)

Tadias Magazine
By Playthell Benjamin

Wow! An Instant Classic

Published: Monday, March 9, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Ever so often a movie comes along that captures the spirit of an age, Parkwood Pictures’ Cadillac Records is such a movie. A period piece set in the racially tumultuous era between the end of the great depression and the outbreak of World War II in the early 1940’s, and the turbulent 1960’s when the walls of segregation – which had defined the lives and art of the bluesmen in fundamental ways – came tumbling down, we follow the lives, loves and musical careers of the legendary Mississippi bluesmen who created the “Delta Blues.’ And one of the many achievements of this remarkable movie is the way it shows how their sound was the bedrock upon which a multi-billion dollar industry was built, as the musical styles that became world famous as Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Roll, and Hard Rock all evolved from these blues roots – what the perceptive music critic Robert Palmer calls “Deep Blues” in his authoritative book by that name.

As in any historical movie the sets, costumes, language, etc play a critical role in the ability of the film to transport us back in time. But the ultimate time machine is the music they played back then. The much celebrated Afro-American novelist Ralph Ellison, reflecting on the birth of Be-bop in Harlem’s “Minton’s Play House,” observed that “Music gives resonance to memory.” And as this movie is about the migration of Mississippi country blues musicians to the great city of Chicago, we have a treasure trove of sound portraits that mirror their journey.

As a student and teacher of history I am intensely interested in historical drama and fictions. I am especially thrilled when I see another important slice of black life successfully portrayed on the giant silver screen, where it literally becomes larger than life. And if Woodrow Wilson – a former US President and Princeton history Professor – thought D.W. Griffiths racist propaganda film Birth of a Nation was “history written by lightening,” Cadillac Records is history written with enlightenment.

Cadillac Record’s is remarkably candid in portraying the racist social etiquette and oppressive political system of white supremacy that it supported. And it does so without ever becoming preachy; the play remains the thing, and the imperatives of dramatic art are ever observed. In this film the muses are served in fine fashion; even while the harsh realities of the sharecropper south where hunger, poverty and random white violence were omnipresent, and the dangerous cities of the north with its seductions of vice and the catharsis of violence, are graphically portrayed.

This film however, does not stop at portraying the most obvious aspects of race prejudice and the discriminatory treatment that results from it, but also looks at questions of class and ethnicity and subtly meditates on how they have shaped the contours of American culture. There is a richness here that inevitably results when a film maker – who is, at their best, a celluloid dramatist – takes an honest look at the cultural complexity of the United States of America. For they are sure to find, as our former Mayor David Dinkins elegantly put it: “A gorgeous mosaic.”

In the opening scenes of this movie we are given an inside glimpse of what it was like being the poor son of Polish Jewish immigrants in Chicago in the portrayal of a young Leonard Chess. Convincingly played by Adrien Brody – a talented actor whom I first saw in The Pianist, a movie about the plight of the Polish Jewish community during the German Nazi occupation – Chess is hungry for success in America after the father of the lady he wanted to marry spurned his request for her hand with the pronouncement: “Your father and I are from the same shit hole in Poland. I didn’t travel all this way to have my daughter marry some schmuck from the same village!”

On another occasion when Muddy waters and Leonard chess were traveling the back roads of Mississippi by car Muddy asks Chess why his family traveled across the vast oceans from Poland to come to Chicago, Chess replies by asking him why his “ass left Mississippi” to come to Chicago? This episode alludes to the shared experience of African-Americans and Eastern European Jews who hailed from Poland and the Russian Pale. For both of them Chicago was a city of refuge and hope as they sought to escape racial discrimination and random violence. It is through the use of such representative anecdotes, accompanied by the employment of artful intelligent visuals, that much of the sociological depth and complexity of this story is simplified and given a human dimension. And like all good historical dramas, Darnell Martin, the writer and director of this splendid art film, have shown excellent taste and judgment selected the right issues and episodes to capture the zeitgeist of the era.

**********

From a purely artistic point of view this script was a writer’s delight. The characters that people this flick are the right stuff for the making of legends. Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, the harmonica virtuoso Little Walter ,and the legendary Willie Dixon, composer of blues hits such as “My Babe” and “Hootchie Kootchie Man” are all there These modern day troubadours took the trials and triumphs that comprise the vicissitudes of life universal to the human condition and set them to song – that’s why their music touched and inspired people across racial, ethnic, class, and national boundaries.

This should come as no surprise however, after all, as Albert Murray, the preeminent commentator on the philosophy, esthetics and cultural significance of the blues tells us in his seminal book Stomping the Blues: “The blues as music” is the antidote to “the blues as such.” In other words, while most people who hear the blues outside of its social and cultural context think of the music as sad, Murray argues that the blues sensibility is just the opposite of “sack cloth and ashes.” In fact, as the title of his book suggest, musicians stomp the blues to chase the Blues away.

All of this is captured marvelously in Cadillac Records and gives it the ring of truth. It’s insightfulness into the philosophy and esthetics of the blues is clearly on display in the way they portray the lives and personalities of the bluesmen and the milieu in which they thrived. As Mr. Murray has observed, the blues is more likely to celebrate the joi de vivre of Afro-American life than to wallow in self-pity and sadness. Put differently, the blues is party music, the cure for depression. And the bluesmen in Cadillac Records partied all the time as they created great art that continues to win the hearts of fans all over the world

Jeffrey Wright is as good playing Muddy Waters as Jamie Fox was playing Ray Charles, and Jamie won the Academy Award for his performance!” One can take the measure of an actor’s skill by the way they interpret the subtleties of character, idiosyncratic gestures expressed in body language and nuances of speech. I didn’t know Muddy Waters like I knew Ray Charles, but I feel the same way about Wright’s portrayal of him as Albert Einstein felt when the Rabbi’s demanded to know if the scientist believed his theories explained how god created the universe.

To wit Einstein replied: “No, but I know that he could have done it that way.” Wright is that convincing in the role. Having grown up around southern black musicians I am amazed at the accuracy of the portrait of them the actors render in Cadillac Records. It is a tribute to their diligence in preparing for the roles they sought to play. And anybody who was fortunate enough to hear them interviewed on BET and elsewhere, knows that these great performances were inspired by the actors’ profound respect for their characters.

Cedrick the Entertainer give a solid performance as the level headed Willie Dixon, and Eamonn Walker is sensational as The Howling Wolf, one of the most interesting and original of the Mississippi bluesmen. A man of imposing stature, Eamonn Walker can go from a smiling geniality to a murderous scowl with a twitch of his face muscles and a gesture from his heavily muscled ebony frame. When we consider the fact that he is a British actor, Walker’s amazing rendering of backwoods Mississippi speech through a marvelous control of his voice and an amazing ear for nuance, his performance is a tour de force that stands out in a cast of great performers.

It is a pity that the academy does not give awards for ensemble acting, because great performances are common fare in this film. For instance Columbus Short’s portrayal of the innovative harmonica virtuoso Little Walter would certainly qualify as a great performance by any objective measure. He was like a man possessed by the spirit of a great ancestor and had become one with his subject. Although I thought Moss Def was miscast as Chuck Berry since he looks nothing like him, Will smith would have been perfect for the part, his performance was splendid. After a while the physical disparity seemed trivial.

As any story about great blues musicians must be, the cast of Cadillac Records is male dominated and the narrative is told from the point of view these gun toting, free spirited, libertine song poets. A great part of the achievement of this film is the way in which it shows how the blues man was a symbol of black male freedom and potency in a society where the full power of the armed state was employed to crush any manifestation of it.

Having acknowledged the dominance of male concerns and the outstanding performances of the male actors, let me hasten to acknowledge that Gabriel Union and elegant hot chocolate beauty, revealed the depth of her talents as an actress playing the stoic but earthy wife of the ebullient philanderer Muddy Waters. And it remains true that casting Beyonce Knowles as Etta James was a singular act of genius. Having dominated the pop music charts for several years now, with this moving picture the great singer has come of age as an actress. Abandoning the glamorous persona that is her stock in trade, Beyonce gained over twenty pounds in order to give authenticity to her performance as the young Etta James – a boozy dope fiend who courted tragedy because of a deep inner-pain that she seemed to almost nurture as the source of her tortured, though profoundly beautiful, art.

This role demonstrates Beyonce’s range as an actress, for she is called upon to recreate emotions that cannot come from her well of experience with the ways of a dope fiend and bar fly who appears to have occasionally turned tricks when she was just starting out. In regard to all these tawdry matters, Ms. Knowles’ well is dry. Hence it is all artifice in the truest sense of the word, for interpreting the complex highly neurotic character that was the youthful Etta James, the illegitimate daughter of the legendary white pool hustler “Minnesota Fats,’ and a black prostitute he hooked up with. In the film she is obsessed with gaining the recognition of her father, and that is the deepest source of her pain.

Beyonce’s performance ranks right up there with Diana Ross’ portrayal of Billie Holliday, another tragic vocal genius, in Lady Sings the Blues, Angela Basset’s rendering of Tina Turner in What’s Love go to do with It? And Jennifer Hudson’s portrait of Florence Ballard in Dream Girls must be added to the list of great performances by black actresses in bio-pics. Hudson won the Oscar for her role, and Ms. Ross and Ms. Basset would have won if everybody played fair. However, unlike the other three ladies Ms. Basset cannot sing so she was forced to act her way through it, just as Halle Barry had done in her powerful portrayal of the beautiful and superbly gifted Dorothy Dandridge – a role I always thought would have been better suited for Vanessa Williams who, like Dorothy, is a triple threat. She can sing, dance, and act with seemingly equal facility – and she is brilliant at all three.

However the three singers all gave inspired performances in their roles, buoyed by the wonderful repertoire of American song that the role provided. While I do not intend to make invidious comparisons because I believe that both Ms Hudson and Ms Knowles are great singers – Prima Donna Absoluta’s of the dynamic Gospel/Soul style –I must nevertheless confess that I found Beyonce’s rendition of the Etta James hits ‘At Last” and “I’d Rather Go Blind Baby, Than Watch You Walk Away From Me,” to be without equal. When she sang “At Last” our spirits were buoyed by thoughts of past loves that now seem perfect, or we reveled in a newly found love; it was a joy. And when she sang I’d Rather Go Blind” there wasn’t a dry eye in the house…this writers eyes included. It was a bravura performance …Bravo!


About the Author:

Playthell Benjamin, former columnist for The New York Daily News, is a Harlem based critic, novelist and an award-winning journalist. His articles have been published in major publications and websites, including the The Guardian, The New York Daily News, BlackElectorate.com, and many more.

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