This article is published in Addis Fortune on April 22, 2012 by the paper’s op-ed writer Getachew T. Alemu. With the raised temperature of controversy and hype over Teddy Afros upcoming album “Ethiopia” we hoped it would invite further reflections and discussions and have republished it.
Here comes a new album by Tewodros Kassahun, a.k.a. Teddy Afro, titled Tikur Sew. It has filled the air of this fair nation through virtually all available broadcasting machines. It is heard everywhere.
As an advocate of competitive playing fields in all spheres of life, from politics to the arts, the situation makes me feel like I am living in a musical monarchy embodied by a pitiful leader.
Whatever comes out of Teddy Afro is accepted in this society that we live in. Criticising him is becoming impossible. He is being treated as a sweat leader with no restraint.
It is with such presumptions that I listened to his new album.
To my surprise, what I listened to did not fit the popular hoopla. Neither did it fit the kingly reception that he has in this country that is aspiring to build democracy.
All that he seems to have focused on is money.
Of course, money matters. Especially in a world where markets guide life and money resides at the heart of all political, social, technological, and artistic aspects of life. However, even the fundamental laws of money contradict what the musical mogul is trying to do.
Under competitive market rules, money serves values. It is only in socialism and extractive aristocracy that values serve money.
In the reign of Teddy Afro, values are created to serve money. If they bring money, even historical dots with no linkages can be connected.
The musician seems to care little about what is going on in the very nation that he lives in. No phenomenon, from the wildfire of facebooking to the silent tsunami of enterprise revolution, has caught his attention. He still improvises about the era of the monarchy.
He lacks innovative ideas to inspire a generation of capable youth. His only tool of seducing the generation has remained recalling the good deeds of forefathers.
He preaches social conservatism at a time of economic takeoff. Neither is he impressed by rampant social ills, such as excessive individualism, sexual hyperactivity, increasing monotony, and slumping trust, which are affecting the stability of the social system.
He seems to have found a safe haven in the illusion of love. He has continued to preach about this slippery concept, though the melodies have changed. In so doing, however, his focus has remained on the commercial value of each song rather than its internal integrity.
He seems to have discovered a miraculous equation on the satisfactoriness of mentioning the names of popular people from the biblical era to please Ethiopians. His love songs have remained filled with the mention of these biblical names.
Apparently, he has overlooked the fact that his listener base has varying religious affiliations. There are people with no religious affiliation, such as atheists, who still love music. For people who do not ascribe to the monarchical Christianity that he adores, the lyrics of his songs are meaningless, if not offensive.
No modern individual would like to live under the musical monarchy of Teddy Afro, for the values he preaches are rearward, obsolete, unilateral, and autocratic. His conservative ideology and religious lineage do not fit a multicultural society. His personality can be no more exemplary for a globally competitive youth.
Even then, his stature in the music sphere of the nation is grandiose. His shadow stretches to suppress all competition.
If music has to serve the society well, then, it has to free itself from the slavery of Teddy’s commercialised preaching. Of all of the spheres of life, art has to be left for competition.
The role of presumptions has to be limited to the lowest level possible. Its playing field has to be level so as to allow easy entry and exit. It must measure individuals on the basis of creativity rather than popularity.
As it appears, though, the music industry of our fair nation is infected with an epidemic of bias against creativity.