ETHIOPIA, the oldest independent nation in Africa, is a land of stunning natural beauty, covering an area twice the size of Kenya, France or Texas. A rich diversity of culture and geography that will captivate the visitor.
Ethiopia is situated on the eastern "horn" of the African continent. Total area of Ethiopia 1,127,127 sq k, land: 1,119,683 sq km and water : 7,444 sq km . It is bounded by the Red Sea to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan to the west. A great geological split, or rift, in the African continental plate runs south from the Red Sea all the way into the Indian Ocean. This major geological formation is known as the Great Rift Valley. In Ethiopia, the Great Rift Escarpment (a long cliff) forms one of the more spectacular regions on earth. At 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) one can look straight down into a space of fog and clouds and hear the eagles, hawks, antelope, ibex, monkeys, and hyenas calling in the distance below. In the valley's lowlands, when the winds have blown the morning fog and clouds away and before the rains come in the late afternoon, one can see the desert with vast, steep-walled mountains rising from the valley floorsome 3,000 to 6,000 feet (914 to 1,830 meters). These are called amba and are the remains of extinct volcanoes that built up gradually over thousands of years.
To the south in the Great Rift Valley, there are steaming lakes where underground water broke free and came to the surface. The lush forests of southern Ethiopia, its rich alluvial (left by running water) river and lake soils, and the great numbers of fish, land animals, and birds provided ample food for numerous tribal peoples. They still inhabit this region and maintain cultural traditions that reach back 3000 years. Today within the national boundaries of Ethiopia, there are roughly over 85 million people, of more than 83 separate cultures and languages with up to 200 different dialects spoken. The largest ethnic and linguistic groups are Oromos, Amharas and Tigraians. The Ethiopian languages are divided into four major language groups. These are Semitic, Cushitic, omotic and Nilo Saharan.
Debre Damo is the name of a flat-topped mountain, or amba, and a 6th century monastery in northe
rThe music of the highlands uses a unique modal system called qenet, of which there are four main modes: tezeta, bati, ambassel, andanchihoy.Three additional modes are variations on the above: tezeta minor, bati major, and bati minor.Some songs take the name of their qenet, such as tizita, a song of reminiscence.When played on traditional instruments, these modes are generally not tempered (that is, the pitches may deviate slightly from the Western-tempered tuning system), but when played on Western instruments such as pianos and guitars, they are played using the Western-tempered tuning system.
Ethiopia is a musically traditional country. Of course, popular music is played, recorded and listened to, but most musicians also sing traditional songs, and most audiences choose to listen to both popular and traditional styles. A long-standing popular musical tradition in Ethiopia was that of brass bands, imported from Jerusalem in the form of forty Armenian orphans (Arba Lijoch) during the reign of Haile Selassie. This band, which arrived in Addis Ababa on September 6, 1924, became the first official orchestra of Ethiopia. By the end of World War II, large orchestras accompanied singers; the most prominent orchestras were the Army Band, Police Band, and Imperial Bodyguard Band.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, Ethiopian popular musicians included Bizunesh Bekele, Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete, Hirut Bekele,Ali Birra, Ayalew Mesfin, Kiros Alemayehu, Muluken Melesse and Tilahun Gessesse, while popular folk musicians included Alemu Aga,Kassa Tessema, Ketema Makonnen, Asnaketch Worku, and Mary Armede. Perhaps the most influential musician of the period, however, was Ethio-jazz innovator Mulatu Astatke. Amha Records, Kaifa Records, and Philips-Ethiopia were prominent Ethiopian record labels during this era. Since 1997, Buda Musique's Ethiopiques series has compiled many of these singles and albums on compact disc.
During the 1980s, the Derg controlled Ethiopia, and emigration became almost impossible. Musicians during this period included Ethio Stars,Wallias Band and Roha Band, though the singer Neway Debebe was most popular. He helped to popularize the use of seminna-werq (wax and gold, a poetic form of double entendre) in music (previously only used in qiné, or poetry) that often enabled singers to criticize the government without upsetting the censors.