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Teddy Afro: The story so far

 

Teddy Afro

The latest major release from Teddy Afro is his 2012 album Tikur Sew and it was his first album release since he was freed from jail.

 

 


Teddy Afro at a 2011 concert in the Australian city of Melbourne.  PHOTO: Befekir KebedeTeddy Afro at a 2011 concert in the Australian city of Melbourne. PHOTO: Befekir Kebede

 

Teddy Afro or Tewodros Kassahun was born on 14 July 1976 to parents of artistic talents and fame. While his mother, Tilaye Arage, was well known in Ethiopia for her professional dancing in her younger days, his late father, Kassahun Germamo, was a renowned and highly-regarded Ethiopian songwriter.


Since musical talent runs in the family, one can safely assume that Teddy Afro was predisposed to have admirable musical talents too.


As evidently stated by Teddy Afro himself in his tribute song to his late father called Music - My Life, Teddy's father always resisted the idea of his son becoming a musician. Regardless of his father's wishes, however, Teddy trusted his own instincts and saw himself doing anything but singing as a career to arguably become the single most popular pop-star Ethiopia has produced in many years.


Not only is he a vocalist that countless Ethiopians have come to adore, he also writes his own lyrics, which many say are filled with meanings, enabling him to sing songs that mean something.


His father did not live long enough see the effects of his son's music on the lives of countless Ethiopians all over the world. But Teddy tells his deceased father in Music - My Life, that he will continue to exist through the musical abilities passed on to his son.


In Music - My Life, Teddy also confesses that his life is intrinsically intertwined with music that he cannot live outside of it, and that he was destined to be what he has become.


Teddy and his band, Abogida, toured the world bringing many of his sensational songs that have made him famous live to his fans.


From South Africa to North America, the Middle East and Australia, he criss-crossed the world to entertain and convey messages of peace, love, hope and unity in a language almost anyone can understand.


About ten years ago, the name Teddy Afro was almost non-existent as a celebrity and it wasn't until 2001 that he really stepped into the limelight. What Teddy has become since is something beyond what he would have ever contemplated for himself.


Besides becoming a household name among Ethiopians almost like no other Ethiopian musician his age, through his music, Teddy Afro has also become such a powerful and patriotic public figure that the regime felt it needed to detain him, whatever the reason.


So whatever the reason, Teddy Afro was thrown into jail, charged with killing a homeless man while driving, tried in a court that is hardly known for its independence and credibility, convicted of the charges made against him, sentenced to six years in jail and ordered to pay 18,000 Ethiopian Birr. Again whatever the reason, his jail term of six years was reduced to two years and he was finally released on 13 August 2009 - 482 days after his initial arrest.


He was imprisoned at a place where the regime's high-profile political prisoners are incarcerated and many believe that during the time of his arrest, Teddy Afro was the regime's most famous political prisoner.


Here is a timeline


2001:
Teddy Afro releases his second album named Abogida. In this Album, he dedicates one track to the late Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, referring to him as the Father of Africa. Another hit song that is very popular in this album is a song that pays tribute to Ethiopia's greatest long-distance runner athlete Haile Gebreselassie.

25 May 2003:
Thousands of Ethiopians attend a charity concert held at Meskel Square in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The concert was organised by local Ethiopian artists including Teddy Afro. Although he was in his very early stages of his exceedingly popular singing career, it was reported that many of the attendees of the concert turned out to see Teddy Afro, helping raise thousands of dollars for the millions that were affected by the drought of 2003.

September 2004:
Following athlete Kenenissa Bekele's extraordinary performance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Teddy releases a sensational single named "Anbessa". In the single the veteran Haile Gebreselassie and the relatively new Kenenissa Bekele are praised for their remarkably memorable and history-making run of the 10,000m race which was eventually won by Kenenissa Bekele. This hero-praising song raised Teddy Afro's profile enormously and he begun to be seen as a hero himself among Ethiopians.

6 February 2005:
Teddy Afro leads stage performances at an unprecedented international music concert to celebrate what would have been the 60th birthday of Bob Marley on 6 February at Maskal Square in Addis Ababa. A number of local and international artists performed on stage before thousands of local and international audiences. The Marley sisters and brothers, the American hip hop singer Lauren Hill, the renowned reggae singer Angelique kidjo and the Florida A&M Choir were among the artists entertaining the crowed. The new Ethiopian pop star Teddy Afro was literally the "star" of the show and the event dubbed "Africa Unite" gave him a rare opportunity to connect directly with his fans and to further raise his profile as a unique upcoming entertainer.

May 2005:
Teddy Afro releases his third album, Yasteseryal - meaning redemption- and it becomes the single best selling album of 2005 in Ethiopia and among Ethiopians around the world. The song Yasteseryal became controversial within days. The lyrics say, despite the change of governments since the late Emperor of Ethiopia was deposed in 1974, change was still a long way off in Ethiopia and that the current so-called leaders were no better than their predecessors. The song also attributes Ethiopia's current woes largely to the focus on recurring retribution and lack of forgiveness that it says was rampant in today's Ethiopia. Even the problems of hunger in Ethiopia – the song says – is attributable to "our lack of compassion for one another and that needs to change if things are to turn around in our favor". It also calls for a return to Ethiopia's core values - a return to faith - and it repeatedly highlights the need for forgiveness and the ability to move on.

The song paints a remarkably candid picture of the unpopular regime in Ethiopia which many say has overseen a decline in tangible progress and respect for human rights. Some in the regime are said to have been offended by a reference used in the song to identify them.

08 June 2005:
Heavily armed government forces deployed in the streets of Addis Ababa massacre at least 42 innocent civilians for taking part in a demonstration demanding the respect of the outcome of the elections held a month earlier. Most of the dead had gun shots to the head and hundreds were wounded while thousands were literally abducted and sent to remote military prison camps.

The killings followed elections held in May in what was promoted as the country's "first democratic elections ever". An estimated 26 million Ethiopians cast ballots at 35 thousand polling stations across the country. The EPRDF government lost the election as the opposition emerged victorious including a landslide win in the capital. However, the ruling party shut down the ballot counting, kicked out some election observers and announced that it had won.

Three weeks later Ethiopians took to the streets to protest when it was announced that official election results would be delayed. Subsequently, more than one hundred Ethiopians protesting against the government's anti-democratic ways were shot dead in Addis Ababa; between 30-45 thousand Ethiopian citizens were arrested in a period of two weeks; the entire leadership of the opposition were detained facing treason charges, and widespread and recurring violations of human rights were recorded.

If the political unrest that made international headlines during that period was a movie, then Teddy Afro's songs were the soundtracks to it. Even the BBC described his songs as "the anthem of the anti-government protesters" of 2005. His songs about Ethiopia have been able to reinvigorate Ethiopians' love and admiration towards their country and have caused an upsurge of patriotism particularly among the youth, and particularly during this turbulent period.

8 September 2005:
Two days before he was due to perform at Sheraton Addis during Ethiopia's New Year's Eve celebrations on 11 September 2005, Teddy is told not to sing the song Yasterseryal supposedly by the owner of Sheraton Addis - the infamous Mohammed Hussein Ali Al Amoudi - a Saudi Arabian /Ethiopian business magnate – who has attracted widespread condemnation among Ethiopians for using his money-power to silence or suppress voices of political dissent through activities of untold bribery.

Upon supposedly receiving the orders from Al Amoudi, Teddy cancels his show altogether, walking away from a contract worth over 130,000 Ethiopian Birr for an overnight performance.

12 September 2005:
Teddy Afro embarks on an international tour starting from Dubai after he voluntarily cancelled his promoted show at the Sheraton Addis.

November 2005:
The government orders that Teddy Afro's songs dubbed "political" be banned from playing on the government-controlled National Radio and on FM 97.1 in the clearest confirmation that freedom of speech was seriously under threat.

21 July 2006:
Teddy Afro returns to Ethiopia after touring the world for 10 months. He performed live in Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Jose, Washington DC, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Toronto, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Paris, Perth, Melbourne and Jerusalem. In the 10 months period, Teddy held about 33 concerts around the world; released DVDs of his concerts and also released another sensational single named Wode Hager Bet – meaning back to Ethiopia.

4 November 2006:
Teddy Afro is arrested and released on bail (50,000 Ethiopian Birr), on the same day, after police charged him of a hit and run accident. The detention followed an alleged death of an 18-year-old so-called street-dweller on the night of 2 November 2006 - on Taitu Street that leads from the Grand Palace to the Sheraton Hotel.

07 June 2007:
America's National Public Radio (NPR) broadcasts a short radio feature on Teddy Afro on its popular show called "All Things Considered".

The show named "Teddy Afro, the New Reggae God of Ethiopia", said: "though the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was considered a god by Rastafarians, in Bob Marley's day, reggae music wasn't popular in Ethiopia. Now, though, reggae is huge in the East African nation, and there's no bigger star than Teddy Afro."

10 September 2007:
Teddy Afro releases an energizing single for the New Millennium proposing "reconciliation" among Ethiopians as the theme of the first year of the new millennium. The song also pleads with Ethiopians abroad to return to Ethiopia for good.

12 September 2007:
On the day Ethiopia welcomes its New Millennium, Teddy chooses to perform in the southern Ethiopian province of Jimma to promote reconciliation among residents of a town called Beshasha - 80km away from Jimma. The town was the scene of a religiously triggered sectarian violence in 2006. Many Ethiopians expressed their admiration for Teddy and his thoughtful actions which in turn helped raise his profile even higher.

18 November 2007:
Teddy Afro holds his first live music concert in almost three years in Addis Ababa at the city's Ghion Hotlel.

18 April 2008:
In a move that upsets many Ethiopians, the government puts Teddy Afro in jail – merely a week after he released a new single for Easter celebrations. Although he was sent to jail accused of killing a homeless person in Addis Ababa in a hit-and-run accident that allegedly took place more than a year prior to his arrest, many Ethiopians believe Teddy was imprisoned for his criticism of the regime in some of his songs. Given his popularity and his dissenting voice, many say it was only a matter of time before Teddy – like thousands of Ethiopians before him – was put to jail.

5 May 2008:
A New York based independent non-profit organization known as Committee to Protect Journalists says "police in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, have detained a journalist and three support staffers of a private entertainment magazine [in relation to] a cover story about the high-profile trial of Ethiopia's most popular pop singer, Tewodros Kassahun".

4 August 2008:
Teddy Afro's lawyer – Mr Million Assefa - and editor-in-chief of the Amharic weekly Addis Neger magazine – Mr Mesfin Negash – are arrested after being accused of contempt of court.

11 August 2008:
The Los Angeles Times publishes a feature article titled: "In Ethiopia, jailed singer Tewodros Kassahun is a political symbol."

Among other things, the article says: "…fear of government intimidation remains strong and many have interpreted the arrest of Kassahun as a warning against speaking out. Two Ethiopian journalists have been arrested for writing sympathetically about the singer's case."

1 December 2008:
Eight months after his arrest, the controversial court in Addis Ababa delivers a guilty verdict against Teddy on his 12th court appearance.

5 December 2008:
Teddy Afro is sentenced to six years in jail and is ordered to pay 18,000 Ethiopian Birr. He was sentenced on his 13th court appearance since his arrest on 18 April.

18 February 2009:
An appeals court in Addis Ababa reduces Teddy's jail term from six years to two years. The guilty verdict however is upheld.

13 August 2009:
After 482 days in prison, Teddy Afro is released. Upon his release, he is briefly shown on the national television answering questions about his time in jail.

14 APRIL 2012:
The album Tikur Sew is released featuring a hit-song about the late Ethiopian Emperor Minilik II and the Battle of Adwa.

27 September 2012:
Teddy Afro marries actress and filmmaker Amleset Muche.

20 December 2013:
At a joint press conference held at Addis Ababa’s Hilton Hotel, Heineken-owned Ethiopian beer company, Bedele, and Teddy Afro announce a sponsorship agreement to primarily fund Teddy’s upcoming national tour.

25 December 2013:
An online group by the name of Oromo Network launches a campaign asking its supporters to #BoycottBedele in opposition to the beer company’s announced sponsorship of Teddy’s concert tour.

29 December 2013:
Teddy Afro issues a statement saying he was misquoted in an Ethiopian magazine article in which he was quoted as saying Emperor Menelik's unification campaign was a “holy war”. In the statement Teddy says the magazine has issued a correction and apologized to him for its error.

02 January 2014:
Heineken-owned Ethiopian beer company, Bedele, drops its sponsorship of Teddy’s national tour. It issues a statement saying: “Heineken Ethiopia regrets that they will disappoint those who were looking forward to the concert tour; however it has been decided not to pursue the sponsorship of the concert tour."

The Aljazeera news network also reports:"Ethiopian Oromos have been campaigning to boycott the beer over controversial statements allegedly made by the entertainer.".... 

"Oromos were outraged after he allegedly praised Emperor Menelik II, a 19th-century ruler who some see as a unifier and who placed territories belonging to Oromo and other groups under centralised rule. The magazine quoted Teddy Afro as saying, "For me, Menelik's unification campaign was a holy war". The artist's most recent album also has a song dedicated to the emperor, among other popular historical leaders."

09 January2014:
Teddy Afro announces that in collaboration with other African artists, he has released a new single called “Togetherness” – a song he says “aims to bring friendship and brotherhood among Africans.”

RELATED LINKS:
Tikur Sew album review
Photo gallery: Teddy Afro in Australia
Teddy Afro on Facebook
Teddy Afro on Twitter
Teddy Afro on Instagram

Comments 

 
# Lami 2014-10-14 17:00
We know that Teddy Afro is a creature without mind to think. He has been loved a group who hope will be benefited from the unification of the so called 'ethiopia' He has no support from about 80% of the population of the empire.
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# ZeAddis 2016-05-22 12:43
Ethiopia is long since it was transformed from an Empire to a modern state. You are just stuck somewhere in the middle ages, blaming ethiopia's past rulers. You need to move on, Oromos paid heavy in keeping the territorial integrity of Ethiopia. Birgadier General Demissie Bulto is a close family of mine, just to give one example.
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# yeshiwas 2014-10-21 18:56
the only man i have seen ever! many blames him. even worse some needs him to kill. however, nothing can hide his art quality and as he is peace promoter every thing before him is for alright and he knows this. unequivocally, he is disclosing as Ethiopia is the country of love and peace and diversity living with tolerance. raising hands for him is promoting the living of Ethiopia! long and healthy life for him!
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# ZeAddis 2016-05-22 12:49
The only thing that I suggest Teddy Afro needs to be careful is to realize the current state of affairs of Ethiopia. Any historical (it is political history, sadly) comments he gives can have a polarizing effect in a substantial section of the Ethiopian people. This is sad, but he should know this is for fact. Even if it is his right to sing / comment on any topic, the public is yet to progress with democracy, and he has to take a little care. I hope he understands what I wanted to say. It is just that we have lots of people who complain over the slightest issues, ánd high jack situations and turn it into their political advantages.
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