In Ethiopia and for Ethiopians, the very concept of contemporary music is intertwined with the name Tilahun Gessesse.
He was a singer like no other with tremendously charismatic appearance, holding his rightful place in Ethiopia as the country’s one and only king of pop.
From love, family and friendship to liberty, unity and justice, there isn’t an aspect of life that Tilahun didn’t sing about.
Music has a special place in the everyday lives of Ethiopians and no singer has been able to win the sentiments of the people the way Tilahun did over the years.
The veteran singer was not just a renowned artist – he was also a national treasure of highest standards.
He was born on 27 September 1940 to his mother Gete Gurmu and his father Gessesse Wolde Kidan.
He was first hired by the Hager Fikir Theatre to subsequently join the Imperial Body Guard Band where he became a leading singer.
He then quickly became a household name all over Ethiopia, which literally made him synonymous with the very concept of contemporary music in the country.
A shocking attempt to kill the legendary singer by stabbing was made on 18 April 1993, which fell on Ethiopian Easter Sunday.
He sustained a life-threatening slash on his neck and had to be flown to Europe for treatment.
Tilahun was the only person to have known the identity of his attacker and the circumstances surrounding the attempted murder, but he consistently refused to reveal his knowledge of the matter.
After battling diabetes for more than three years, Tilahun had his right leg amputated on 3 February 2005, which came as another sad news to the Ethiopian people.
The Ethiopian king of pop who entertained generations of Ethiopians with his unparalleled talent had a heart attack on 19 April 2009 in Addis Ababa and died shortly after.
It was reported that Tilahun and his wife, Roman Bezu, had arrived in Addis Ababa from the United States on the same day to spend the Ethiopian Easter holidays with family and friends.
The death of Tilahun marked end of an era in Ethiopia and a huge sense of loss was felt across the country.
Tilahun was farewelled on 23 April 2009 in an unprecedented state funeral ceremony in Addis Ababa.
The state funeral ceremony was a fitting finale to the extraordinary life of Tilahun Gesesse, who served his people and country as a supreme entertainer, a patriot and a preacher of peace and love.
In so many ways, Tilahun Gesesse was larger than life. But it is his passion for music and his love for his country that will ensure he will not be forgotten.
His funeral proved that Tilahun can be even larger in death than in life – his state funeral was the first such event witnessed in modern Ethiopia.