R E U P L O A D
Asnakech Worku or Asnaqètch Wèrqu: Krar player and poet
Asnaqetch Werqu was born an orphan who went on to become the first actress to appear on the Ethiopian stage. However, her musical talent garnered her attention that outshone her acting career in the National Theatre. Reportedly, she initially worked as an actress and dancer in the Haile Sellassie I theatre troupe and was actually the first woman to be part of this troupe. At an early age Asnaqetch taught herself to play the krar and eventually went on to become famous as a master of the krar (lyre) and a singer who was considered to be the last great storyteller to engage in the tradition of poetic jousting, following in the traditions of the Azmaris or artist caste.
A five (sometimes six) stringed lyre with a gut resonator, the krar was an ancient Ethiopian instrument frequently used by the Azmari or musician class. It has been said the the Japanese koto has a sound similar to that the krar. Azmari, can be male or female, and are skilled at singing spontaneous verses while playing the krar or masenqo (one-stringed fiddle). They play in drinking establishments known as 'tejbeit' that serve 'tej' (honey mead). They are also often invited to perform at private parties where they would improvise lyrics based on a theme suggested by the host. This poetic jousting not only relies improvisation but the art of poignant verses, wit, imagery and sarcastic puns.
Following Haile Selaissie's removal from office by the Derg in 1974, artists in Ethiopia were often forced underground to perform or had to attempt to create their music in a very hostile environment. This repressive regime slaughtered hundreds of thousands and fuelled subsequent unrest. Nevertheless a brief period of artistic freedom existed in the 70's between Selaissie's imperial rule and the military junta of the Derg.
The French label Buda Musique, was able to select 22 songs to compile an album for Volume 16 of the acclaimed Ethiopiques series - named The Lady With The Krar. These songs were chosen from two LPs recorded in 1974 and 1976. Buda Musique acquired them from their previously-acquired Kaifa Records archive (1973-77). Apparently, the first 12 songs on this album were released during the beginning of the revolutionary disorder and were banned almost immediately afterwards, as many records were simply taken off of store shelves. It didn't help that the krar was often regarded as a 'devil's instrument' by certain segments of the population.
Werqu's verses evoke epic tales and her love ballads are tinged with longing and melancholy. Surprisingly, during her time as an musician and actress, artists in general were frowned upon, and this was especially true for female ones. This contributed to many hardships and suffering in Werqu's life, which she often expressed in her music, as she recorded her struggles against the conventions of established society. Ironically enough, it is from the depths of this emotional angst that we see the emergence of a profound spiritual beauty that resonates with her 'serenely-emotional' vocals as they meld with the hypnotic melodies of the krar.
(born 1950) is an Ethiopian musician and singer, a master of the bèguèna.
Born in Entotta, near Addis Ababa, Alemu became interested in the begena (a ten-stringed member of the lute family, also known as "King David's Harp") at the age of twelve, when a master of the instrument moved in next door to his family, the Aleqa Tessema Welde-Emmanuel. Aleqa Tessema began teaching at Ras Desta school, where Alemu was a pupil. As well as studying the begena at school, Alemu carried his master's instrument to and from school, and thus benefited from more of Tessema's time.
He went on to study geography at Addis Ababa University, and after graduation went to work as a geography teacher at the Yared Music School, where for seven years he also taught begena. Alemu went on to become an acknowledged master of the instrument, first recorded in 1972 by Cynthia Tse Kimberlin for a major UNESCO collection, and performing and broadcasting around the world. In 1974, however, the Derg military junta came to power in Ethiopia; their anti-religious policies also included the banning of the begena from radio broadcasts, and the closing down of the Yared School's teaching of the instrument. As a result, Alemu Aga decided to give up his teaching post in 1980, and opened a souvenir shop in Addis Ababa's Piazza district.
For a time he played only in private, but the collapse of the Derg's régime led eventually to a change in state policy, and Alemu again began to teach and perform in public.
01. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Tizita (7:40)
02. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Arada (5:27)
03. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Ende Jerusalem (6:59)
04. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Mela Mela (6:18)
05. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Wogene (4:31)
06. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Abet Abet (6:30)
07. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Besmeab (12:39)
08. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Wanen (3:52)
09. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Yibelahala (3:04)
10. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Alayenim Belu (3:49)
11. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Girf (0:56)
12. Asnakech Worku/Alemu Aga - Selamta (12:30)