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Dick Fosbury, an American high jumper, won a gold medal and broke the world record for the high jump in Mexico City during the 1968 Olympics. Medals are out there to be won, as are records to be broken at an Olympic event. Yet, he did it using the unusual head-first-over-the-bar-technique – this was inspirational and innovative. The technique is mimicked far and wide to this day and known as the Fosbury Flop.

Such breakthroughs are wide and apart in sports or athletics but very familiar to music. Every other decade, some sounds take over until they are expanded and built upon before another one comes.

A few decades back, it was traditional instruments that dominated the scene in Ethiopia. This was true of a wedding I attended as a best man to a friend. It was as we arrived at the groom’s family home that an old man close to the family started dominating the show. The depth of his voice, as it came up from his chest, was accompanied by a masinqo.




He was a man of quick wit and infinite jest with a dialect that advertised where he was from; he was an Azmari, which is like a bard. A man of his age, who sat close to me, said that his song is the signature of Bahiru Kegne – as was his name. I then learned of his affective singing style and his jibing with poetry, as is the style of the Azmari.

“He never repeats verses!” the old man next to me concluded.


It was after a futile few decades of searching that I found a collection of Bahiru’s songs, rescued and digitally mastered in Europe – an endeavour affectionately sponsored by an accomplished Dutch jazz band. It was as the euphoria of having some quality pieces from one of my favourite music performers flooded over me that I thought I would try my luck with a DJ in a pub close to our area.




My idea was to continue listening and share the joy of the songs with some of my friends I used to have drinks with at the neghbourhood bar. It was to my dismay, after a few tries, that the DJ declined. The songs were not fit to the pubs' ambience, apparently. But I discovered some new form of music I had not heard that same night.

As the few youngsters who sat nearby were about to leave, one of them approached, opened his laptop and connected his machine with the pub’s audio system using Bluetooth. He began playing his own music. I was inebriated, but I could still figure out that the era of the masinqo would never be the same again. It was electronic music, spinning and mixing microtones on a computer. No instruments needed!

The youngster looked passionate about the music, lost in himself, yet it sounded “strange” to me at the time. Now his songs are all the rage in town. It was a musician of the new age like him that combined electronic music with some traditional sounds to come up with a melody and lyric-writing to define the taste of a generation. His name is Rophnan, and his debut album Netsebrakwas the only thing one could listen to when it came out in 2018.


The impact of what photography brought to painting and what phonographs brought to the performing arts is being replicated by way of computers in the modern age within the music industry. It takes artists that are young and culturally exposed to other forms of music to build on what has come before. The new music may be jarring to older ears, but if they listened with an open heart, there is every reason to be glad of the revolution that never fails to take place in the music scene.



PUBLISHED ON Jul 03,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1105]









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