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Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, an Ethiopian nun, composer and pianist, has died at the age of 99.

Emahoy Tsegue Maryam Guebrou Photograph: Gali Tibbon
Emahoy Tsegue Maryam Guebrou Photograph: Gali Tibbon

According to the country’s state-run news outlet Fana Broadcasting Corporate, she died in Jerusalem. Guèbrou had been living at the Ethiopian Monastery there for almost 40 years.

As a child, she spent time as a prisoner of war and went on to study under the Polish violinist Alexander Kontorowicz in Cairo.

Guèbrou released her first album in 1967, donating proceeds to those in need, and continued to use money made from her music to help raise aid for Ethiopian children orphaned by war. The Emahoy Tsege Mariam Music Foundation was also established to help children in need to study music.

After her mother’s death in 1984, Guèbrou moved to the Ethiopian Monastery in Jerusalem.

Her music has been used in the Oscar-nominated 2020 documentary Time and in Rebecca Hall’s Netflix drama Passing. Over her life, Guèbrou composed more than 150 original works of music for piano, organ, opera and chamber ensembles.

Journalist and author Kate Molleson made a documentary about her for BBC Radio Four called The Honky Tonk Nun. She described Guèbrou as “a woman whose choices were determined by religious self-exile, maverick gender struggles and Ethiopia’s dramatic 20th-century political history – and who became a singular artist in the process”.

Guèbrou once said to Molleson: “We can’t always choose what life brings. But we can choose how to respond.”

  • This article was amended on 27 March 2023 to correct the name of the film The Honky Tonk Nun from The Honky Tonk Man

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2 thoughts on “Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, an Ethiopian nun, composer and pianist, has died at the age of 99.”

  1. I share the sentiment of TOMY.
    MAY I ADD these words >>>> ‘AND PRIDE TO ETHIOPIA’ ?

    (*) but, very sadly, the current ETHIOPIA seems to be completely confused of the CURRENT TIMES, and sadly ‘flying’ in the WRONG DIRECTION. Various Admirable ETHIOPIAN GIANTS of the past HISTORY may now be twisting in their graves. Indeed, as the old saying goes, it is all “GONE WITH THE WIND” >>>leaving almost nothing for current Ethiopians to be proud of their ancestors!!!! WOW! What a SAD CLASSICAL TRAGEDY.

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