Tribute to an Ethiopian Cultural Icon – By Lakech Abebe

April 24th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

It was with a great sense of grief and loss that I put pen and paper together to express the sad feelings that came over me when I heard about the passing away of Tilahun Gessesse- the best Ethiopian vocalist and all-round artist who entertained and educated generations of Ethiopians in his long and illustrious career. (more…)

It was with a great sense of grief and loss that I put pen and paper together to express the sad feelings that came over me when I heard about the passing away of Tilahun Gessesse- the best Ethiopian vocalist and all-round artist who entertained and educated generations of Ethiopians in his long and illustrious career. He was a person of great charm, unparalleled artistry, charisma and devotion to his motherland. There cannot be an Ethiopian whose life has not been touched in one way or another by the indisputably superior talent of Tilahun Gessesse. He was not merely a talented vocalist but also an accomplished entertainer and educator. His songs talked about love, manners, social challenges, political satire of significant import, empathy for the downtrodden and marginalized, devotion to motherland and much more. He reflected the rich cultural diversity of Ethiopia by singing songs in Amharic and Oromigna –two of the major languages of Ethiopia. Such unforgettable melodies as “Alchalhum, Mona Lisa, Min largachew, Tizita, Gifa bel and others talked about freedom, love, social responsibility, nostalgia, commitment to motherland and a host of other emotions that define the artifact, mentifact and sociofact of Ethiopian culture. He sang all of them with unparalleled vocal finesse, clarity and conviction that most have already become classics of Ethiopian popular musical culture.

I am glad to note that the great Ethiopian people showed the proprietary respect, tribute and admiration at his funeral. He was and will remain one of the greatest cultural icons of Ethiopian culture for generations to come. I join my countrymen and women to pay my ultimate respect to Tilahun and my condolences to his family and close friends whose loss is understandably most personally and intensely felt. The entire Ethiopian people have lost a talent that was incomparable both in a material and spiritual sense. May God rest his soul in peace and give his family the strength and courage to persevere in this time of great loss and sorrow. We are all sojourners and in time will join him in the after life. Until then, we should cherish the great contributions of this giant of Ethiopian culture. Definitely, the material Tilahun is no longer with us but his spirit lives on in every one of us. As he joins the world of such other Ethiopian cultural icons as Bizunesh Bekele, Minelik Wossenachew, Kassa Teferra, Firew Haile, Engida Worku and many others whose names are inscribed in the cultural history of Ethiopian popular musical culture, we wish his soul to rest in eternal peace.

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