Yared contra Mulatu

Thirteen years ago the renowned Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke told “Muyachin” magazine that his impending plan was to make a 12-string kirar and that he had been researching on it for fourteen years. And recently he told The Reporter newspaper that he had finalized 50 to 60 percent of the work but that he couldn’t keep on the project due to financial problems. On the other hand, Yared Zer’u says that he has made an 18-string kirar by upgrading his former 12-string kirar made nine years ago when he was a first-year student at Yared Music School. In the June 17, 1997 issue of “Ifoyta” newspaper, Yared explained the significance of the 12-string kirar as, “an upgrading of the pentatonic scale of the 6-string kirar to a chromatic scale of a 12-string one.” Now Yared has come up with an 18-string kirar. “My former kirar was a springboard for me to produce this 18-string kirar, which would enable us to make more successful music by using the combined melody and harmony it offers,” Yared says. The kirar has 18 tuner pegs on its three horizontal bars. The tuners are grouped into three, each having six tuner pegs. 18 strings from each tuner descend to the sound box. The kirar is made to be wide enough to accommodate 18 strings, thus comprising three parallel bands of strings. Each of the three bands of strings lay on three different bridges on the sound box. According to Yared, most of traditional music instruments, including kirar, are incapable of producing music with a variety of harmony. Hence, a composer can’t produce music with a variety of harmony that musicology offers. Against all odds, the 18-string kirar plays a significant role in solving this problem. “The kirar comprises 3 bands of strings, each having six strings. In this case, if we obtain 3 different harmonies, using one of the bands, then we could obtain not less than 9 harmonies by using the 18 string kirar,” Yared explains. “I’m explaining this in a simple manner so that everyone could understand. In a broader sense, we could obtain a number of harmonies by combining the sounds of the different strings found in the parallel bands.” Mulatu told The Amharic Reporter that only 50 to 60 percent of his 12-string kirar was finalized, and justifies the delay with the financial constraints he incurred. And in the 1993 September issue of “Muyachin” magazine Mulatu laid an emphasis on modern music composing studio and wood testing device as an essential requirement to produce the kirar of his plan. Yared defies Mulatu’s assertions. “Basically, if wood testing device is a fundamental instrument to make kirar, it shouldn’t be only for the 12-string one. It is also preferable to make the usual 6-string kirar with the device. However, the traditional Ethiopian kirar has been made for centuries not supported by modern wood testing device while retaining its natural sound quality,” he argues. “Thus, this can prove to us that wood testing device is a preferable and not fundamental requirement. The requirements Mulatu put forward to realize his project like the device, studio, and electronics professionals demand a huge sum of money. Relative to his requirements, it is true that an individual couldn’t cover the expense and he consequently faced a financial constraint.” Yared notes the worldwide success of the guitar when there was no computer technology to argue that modern computerized studio shouldn’t be put as a determining component to promote kirar to achieve an international recognition and standard. “The time Fernando Sor, the famous composer, achieved great acclaim in promoting guitar technically by touring Europe was around 1820. And the time the first generation ENIAC computer was operational was between 1952 and 1962. Then, the time interval between the time of guitar’s success and ENIAC is about 132 years. When we consider the time Fernando Sor showed guitar’s musical stature, there was no computerized studio, according to Yared.“When there was no computerized studio and modern wood testing device, Western musicians of the time were successful in making guitar a musical instrument that could fit international musical standards. Then how could we conclude that we can’t promote our kirar, in the absence of such as instruments?” With the support his families, Yared has realized his 18-string kirar. He had no extra financial sources. “My lowest financial capacity wasn’t a trying condition in my career. To make the kirar, one needn’t go into further quest beyond the fundamental materials that make up the traditional kirar. It is one’s creativity that counts,” he says. Yared calls upon interested bodies to support his achievement and to make use of the invention.

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