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Ethiopian six string Iyre
ethiopian highlands: music

Traditional Ethiopian music is renowned for its other-worldly feel, shaped by its isolated setting in the craggy peaks of the Ethiopian highlands. The driving rhythm common to other African cultures is replaced by the plaintive sounds of harps, lyres, reed flutes or single voices. The music borrows much from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, including hand-clapping and solo rattles and drums.

drum / drum stick
Amhara National Song (Amhara)
This song praises the Amhara emperors and warriors who fought to keep Ethiopia free of outside invasions. Ethiopia is one of only two African countries which were never colonized.
Listen to the song.

Music credit: "Amhara National Song" from the recording entitled Folk Music and Ceremonies of Ethiopia, Folkways 04354, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings © 1974. Used by Permission.

Shepherd Flute Song (Waito)
This song, sung by the Waito people of Gondar, is a traditional herder's call to his sheep. It is a spontaneous song played on a six-hole hand-made bamboo flute.
Listen to the song.

Music credit: "Shepherd Flute Song" from the recording entitled Folk Music and Ceremonies of Ethiopia, Folkways 04354, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings © 1974. Used by Permission.

Song to the Emperor (Amhara)
This song praises Emperor Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia who was deposed in 1975. Songs praising political leaders are common in Africa but in Ethiopia they take on a special significance. The Ethiopian emperor was believed to be a direct descendant of the biblical King Solomon and was seen as the embodiment of Ethiopia's ancient history.
Listen to the song.

Music credit: "Song to the Emperor" from the recording entitled Folk Music of Ethiopia, Folkways 04405, provided courtesy of Folkways Recordings © 1951. Used by Permission.

Siyawe: Wedding Song (Burgi)
This wedding song, performed by the pastoral Burgi from southwestern Ethiopia, uses sticks, drums, bells, flutes and horns. During the song, the bride remains in the center, while the dancers and singers form a circle around her.
Listen to the song.

Music credit: "Siyawe" from the recording entitled Ritual Music of Ethiopia, Folkways 04353, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings © 1973. Used by Permission.


Photo and Object Credit:
American Museum of Natural History
Drum, 1988 - Lute, 1974



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