The Alliance ethio-francise opened its doors to curious people looking to be educated, inspired and entertained through an exceptionally made documentary about the legendary artist, singer, composer and lyricist, Girma Beyene.
The documentary labeled Ethiopiques: revolt of the soul, tells of the underrated musician’s lifelong achievements, struggles, success and life in general. The film had a public viewing in the presence of Girma himself, accompanied by adoring fans and family.
“Even though he isn’t from my generation, I have been a huge fan for years, I was a bit late arriving here but I was welcomed in and luckily enough, I had a sit next to the legend himself. Watching the documentary made me realize how genuine of a person he is, made me feel like I knew him as more than someone I idolized. The love he had, lost and gave is truly inspirational,” said Abel Engida, a longtime fan who got to enjoy the documentary.
Born in Addis Ababa, Girma completed his primary education at the Nativity Catholic Cathedral School. Talented from such a young age, he started his career as a musician when he received rave reviews for his performance with Girma Bogale on acoustic guitar, at the Haile Selassie I Theatre.
Never having had any formal musical training, the artist, even though he was merely a teenager at the time, was revered for his talents. The critical acclaim he received led him to practice with the Haile Selassie I Theatre Orchestra during his school breaks.
In 1961, Girma and Bahta Gebrehiwot were picked to join the Ras Band at the Ras Hotel from a pool of about 70. According to Bahta, in an interview with Addis Live Radio, he and Girma were a lot younger than the rest of the band members. When the first Ras Hotel Band was rebranded as, The Ghion Band and moved to the Ghion Hotel, the self-taught Girma stayed and formed the second Ras Band. He maned the piano while Tesfamariam Kidane was on sax, Feleqe Kidane on trumpet, Hailu “Zehon” Kebede on bass guitar and Girma Zemariam on drums.
Seyfu Yohannes and Menelik Wossenachew joined the Ras Band as vocalists.
After founding and leading bands, Girma found the love of his life in his late wife. Losing his wife shattered his world into pieces, learning to maneuver his painful pasts and love story into a beautiful, gut wrenching masterpieces. Girma learned to give his otherwise shy voice, a beautiful melody through which his pain found beauty.
Most speak of Girma as a humble and talented man, who is clearly underrated and not as appreciated as he should be. Considering the things he has achieved in his life time, he chose to stay rather oblivion to the public, preferring a quiet and fulfilling life with his family instead of the fame and fortune.
“I knew he was underrated but having had witnessed his life story, I now know how much he has given and how little recognition he gets. He is a musical genius but apart from that he is human through and through,” added Abel. Many people know and love his masterful lyricism, be it through modern covers or his original work, but few know him by name and look.
The Ethiopian musical giant, who is credited for arranging over 60 songs in the 1960s and 70s during the Golden Era of Ethiopian music, took a long hiatus from music. He was convinced to go back to performing by his musical disciples, French band, Akalé Wubé, a group deeply influenced by Ethiopian music. Returning to the spotlight after 25 years of silence, he made his comeback back in 2016 along with his band.
The trilingual documentary was received well by the audience, even though it was about three prominent voices from the golden era of Ethiopian music that the audience found.
“His story was very human; his lyricism is unmatched and he truly made the documentary relatable and beautiful. I was disappointed he didn’t give the speech at the end of the viewing, but like they said he was not feeling well. I do hope he gets better and that we get more gems from him,” Abel concluded.