• Danica Johnson

Compositions & Coffee Presents: "Creative Soul Digest"


Beast Coast Wednesday!



Hey Hey friends, and bring it in for BEAST COAST WEDNESDAY! We’ve got a lot to get into today because, my goodness, my quest for knowledge has just led me down so amazing avenues and I feel as though it’s my duty to share this with our people. So, to continue our journey through The Horn of Africa with our Ethiopian brothers and sisters I wanted to bless you with their MUSIC!!

For starters, music from western countries may not be introduced or fully accepted and made popular in other parts of the world for some time. This is the case in Ethiopia with genres such as hip hop being introduced in the mid 2000s mixing to make Ethiopian hip hop and rhymed in native Amharic language. Ethiopia music is traditional noted by its five-note, pentatonic scale with large intervals between some of the notes that give an almost “pause” like feel. It’s intensity is similar to soul music (we will discuss this on Friday hang tight). Back to music being fully accepted, in Ethiopia part of this is due to its civil war and being under the rule of Mengistu Haile Mariam. In fact, Ethiopia has seen its own share of unrest living under a 17 year Stalinist dictatorship, war with Eritrea, border conflicts, and an ongoing opposition movement over government persecution and federal military control. With all the unrest in this beautiful strong country music became its voice. Resistances songs have been present in different forms dating back to the 1980s. Neway Debebe, of the Roha Band, became an idol from 1985 on for his vocal prowess and his renewed interest in the poetic style of sem-enna-werq (wax and gold). This is an old tradtion of double entendre meant to fool the censorship of the government while letting them vocalize their criticism and discontent.

More recently, protests over various political issues have led to resistance songs being uploaded via YouTube and shared with the world. Oromos, the country’s largest ethnic group has been using resistance songs for political movements for a long time. The songs now have just grown louder and angrier with more intensity (no need for censorship anymore). Yehune Belay released a popular song in 2016 where he pleaded with Ethiopian soldiers to stop killing people.

Music and musicians calling for justice, using music as a voice for the people, music to vent and call for action…sounding familiar?

NAME DROP:


Tupac, Public Enemy, Nas, Roots, Queen Latifah, KRS-One, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and so many more. And that friends is just mainstream artist so I know there’s many more. I wanted to highlight music as a tool to fight oppression and resistance because THAT’S OUR PEOPLE’S WAY AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN! It began in the motherland! WE ARE WARRIORS! We will use every gift the creator has given us to fight injustice and stand tall! Never forget WHO WE ARE MY KINGS AND QUEENS! Continue the fight by voting before or on November 3rd. It is one of the tools in your toolbox you can use NOW!

Okay I’m backing away from my megaphone.

I was also digging into how we might find traces of Ethiopian music in today’s music or even East African music in America. BOOM! Rastafarianism. So I’ll save the full discussion about Rastafarianism for another day but I want to share that Rastafarianism upholds the core belief in a strong lineage from Ethiopia (there you are) and other African societies, to the contemporary Black Caribbean.In the 1930s, the Black Caribbean looked to the Empire of Ethiopia as a symbol of freedom. In a sociological context, Rastafarianism is one of many Black American traditions that looked to build a stronger connect with Africa and an identity that does not begin with the trauma of enslavement. This is all via Marcus Garveys belief in leading blacks out of the suffering brought to them in the Americas and facilitate their return to Africa and freedom from White Supremacy.

The music:

Reggae music was born via Rastafarianism and is spiritually expressed via Jamaican continuations of West African drumming and singing traditions. We are all familiar with Bob Marley & the Wailers perhaps also other proto-reggae groups. Their style merged with elements of R&B and Country harmonies, chord progressions, and song arrangements.

Now the migration of black music to the United States was notable in the 1970s. The military coup and brutal dictatorship in Ethiopia led to a migration from Ethiopia and the entire Horn of Africa. Due to the U.S. Immigration Act of 1965 many East African migrants came as refugees to the US. Reggae music was popular amongst the early groups of Ethiopian immigrants. For generations of these immigrants, this is the music they enjoyed first in their home county and when they migrated to the United States reggae became a mythological, and sometimes, truly positive, keepsake from their homeland. The musical and global identity rich in reggae became part of the collective Ethiopian immigrant experience.

Now I have no doubt this music became a true coping mechanism for Ethiopian and other African immigrants to deal with the experience of racism in America and their new global black identity. Reggae has a powerful way of uniting our people by promoting black excellence and liberation. Today you can find Reggae nights as a regular social function for Ethiopian and other African immigrants via traditional music concerts.

For me, my first exposure to traditional East African music and reggae was during a 3-day music festival. Back then the biggest part for me was the dancing because I LOVE TO DANCE but thinking back I remember the feeling of community, history, and instant connection.

Well folks that’s been my journey into Ethiopia’s musical history and leading up to its involvement in the movements for justice. Today they have expanded their music due to exposure to other African and European music and its effect on their own. However, they don't exactly want to be westernized and instead are just trying to produce music of equal quality to the rest of the world. LOVE IT! I’ll share a few artist below for you to check out and bump throughout the rest of your Wednesday. Please share, in the comments section, any artist you may also want us to listen to I’d love to learn and hear more. Lastly, check out the book recommendations and coffee pairing for today. On that note you are released to BEAST through the rest of your day! Until tomorrow friends…


--Be Free

Your family at Eclectuals

"Where we mind your mental diet!"



Artists to bump:


Haacaaluu Hundeessaa

Roha Band

Neway Debebe

Teddy Afro

Lucky Dube

Shegye Shegitu

Peter Tosh

Burning Spears

Gregory Isaacs

Stephen Marley



Book Recommendations:


The Bass Culture: When Reggae was King


The Gift of Black Folk


Coffee Recommendation:

Eclectic Blue

Brazil, medium roast, creamy dark chocolate, balanced in flavor, and gives a clean finish.




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