Both musical and artistic expressions have a way of entwining themselves with the stories, rituals, and customs that make up people’s daily lives. Music has a powerful ability to transport us back in time, bringing back vivid memories of times and places long forgotten.
Music has also become an integral part of many holidays, with particular songs serving as harbingers of upcoming celebrations. Holidays like Easter are marked by the ubiquitous playing of recognizable songs, the sound of which conjures up specific associations with time spent with loved ones over a celebratory meal featuring traditional dishes like doro wot, dulet, tibs, and so on.
Manalemosh Dibo’s “Awdamet” is one of many holiday songs that has become a cherished tradition for many. The words are so memorable that everyone joins in whenever they are broadcast during the holiday season.
However, Awdamet isn’t the only tune with a catchy melody around the holidays. A plethora of artists have also issued alternate renditions of songs that have become favorites at Easter celebrations across Ethiopia.
Songs like “Enkwan Aderesen” by Tadese Mekete and “Awdamet” by Amsal Mitike are just two examples of many that have been released around the holidays by various artists. Songs by the late Tadesse Alemu, like “Misha Misho,” are traditionally played during the Easter season.
On Good Friday, also known as Segdet, a day when people spend the entire day praying and bowing down at the church, children go around saying “Misha Misho” over and over again and collect flour to bake with and eat with Awaze.
Many of the classic Easter songs take inspiration from the religious significance of the holiday. This also holds true for the music played during the Semone Himamat of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which is the final week of the Easter Lenten period. Religious songs featuring the distinctive sound of the begena are played in the homes of many Orthodox Ethiopians during that time, as the playing or singing of upbeat songs and music is forbidden.
Songs played at this time often feature the distinctive and robust sound of the begena. Commercials and holiday greetings on TV and radio also feature this tune.
“I love Manalemosh’s Awdamet song so much that every time I hear it play, I am immediately overcome with joy because I am hit with the memories of my childhood when I spent the holidays with my family. Because I live alone now, it is a reminder that I get to go home and spend the holiday with my family. Plus, it means that the time to eat Doro Wot has come, and that makes me so happy,” 27-year-old Nahom Alemu said.
Nahom also believes that the traditional holiday songs have a bittersweet quality because they remind him of the people he loves who are no longer in his life and whom he cannot celebrate the holidays with.
Arsema Tadesse, a 22-year-old woman who adores Easter, has also assimilated certain songs to the occasion.
“When I think of Easter songs, the first one that comes to mind is Misha Misho. I genuinely don’t feel like I celebrated Easter if I don’t hear that song during the day, to be honest. It also just reminds me of memories from my Easter celebrations as a child, and I love that very much,” she explained.
Arsema also enjoys the Easter season because she gets to hear the begena. She says that the religious and traditional songs featuring the begena sound are one of the things she most looks forward to every Easter.
Another young woman, 29-year-old newlywed Selam Alemu, is looking forward to her first Easter with her husband because the music and sounds she has heard over the past few days have brought back fond memories of past holidays that she hopes to carry on with her husband and future family.
“Every time I hear any song that is related to the holidays, I just want to get up and dance and have fun with my husband and my family. It also reminds me of the smell of Doro Wot that my mother used to make, and I hope that I can share these memories with my future children as well,” Selam explained.