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London Ethiopian Artists at their best

April 25, 2010

By Mentesnot Mengesha

Recently I have attended a music and drama show presented by household names in London Ethiopian Artists’ community including Behailu Nekatebebe and Yagersew Yayehyirad in collaboration with St Mary Debre Tsion Orthodox church. The show was not the usual concert one would expect. It was a church musical and drama show organized by musicians and dramatists residing in London and its environs. The purpose was to raise funds for the final coffer in settling the purchase of the church building.

After the audience have fully taken their seats, a number of video and still cameras were in position to roll and record the event. The light men were busy in adjusting the right intensity of light to illuminate the stage where the performance was held. The sound men were plugging in and plugging out their connection cables to sound equipment and make the sound arrangement in the right order.

The usher of the day Liqe-Deacon Dawit Wolde-Yohaness appeared on the stage and announced the start of the show and introduced the programme of the whole afternoon. Following the blessing from the church leader Qomos Aba Girma Kebede, then Behailu Nekeatebe, one of the coordinators of the event, came to the podium and delivered a short speech about the background and purpose of the event. Then a Sunday school choir named after the late and much loved Bishop of London Abune Yohaness, dressed in colorful costumes opened the event with their songs. The songs and their movements were well orchestrated and loved by the audience. I saw the added value of having such a group in delivering their performance in Amharic where many children are deprived from speaking and reading in its unique scripts.

After the children left the stage with a round applause the musician and dancers took their positions to perform the most extraordinary performance that have performed in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church setting for the first time ever. Those known women vocalists including Marta Hailu, Hirut Bekele, Yezina Negash, Melat G/Michael, Genet Assefa and Tsion Assefa took the stage one after the other with their graceful performance. The men vocalist including Girma Tefera Kassa, Kesintu Dejenie, Dagi G/Egziabheir, Belay Melese and Temesgen Zeleke together with traditional music instrument players Yared Afework, Temesgen Melese, Girum Begashaw and Fekret Getnet brought the quality of the event to the higher standard.

The other part of the show that made the event colourful was the drama written and directed by Behailu Nekatebeb. The act was staged by three characters that reflect different generation of the Diaspora who lost their hope and future due to uprooted circumstance from their supporting society.

The message of the drama was to confirm that there is a light at the end of the tunnel when people rest their hope on God. Obviously, one can not expect a less quality show from Behailu Nekatebeb a graduate in Theatre Arts and one of the main character in the Big Battalion Film that was on British screens in 1990’s. His commanding voice echoing the hall like a thunderstorm. The multi-talented Genet Kebede and the young and upcoming actor Tewodros Bezuneh have shown the high level of their respective talents.

Generally, what makes the event interesting as well as different is not the name of these artists whom we knew them for many years on public stages and night clubs. This performance was unique at least in three areas. Firstly, all the performers have been dressed with traditional church attire to reflect the purpose of the day. Secondly, the dance movement was meticulously choreographed to fit with the gracefulness, calmness and cultural values of the church. Thirdly, the lyrics and songs were kept their purpose and messages without losing their artistic appeal to the audience.

I think, this is an extraordinary attempt by a group of artists to keep their artistic license and the church rule, culture and guidance intact and yet make it more entertaining and appealing to all across age and gender divide. The coordinators have to be praised together with their close technical advisers about the Church’s traditions. The concerted efforts of all the people involved produced the best show that everybody has positively talked about. I think this was the beauty of the day that proves partnership work is the answer to success in community works. The event has proven that when artistic talents and creativities are pulled together for a purpose they could produce a miracle. On the other hand there are many untapped talents among the Diaspora community that require continuity to flourish further. There is no doubt that the pool of these talents could be transformed into a significant force if the gathering of such a group constituted to be an organised group with a purpose to serve their communities and benefits from it as well. Without being optimist, I would argue that there are potential talents currently much under-used within the Diaspora Ethiopian community. There is much to be done. One can clearly see that such a talented personalities together with all those actively participated on such an event could come up with other creative endeavours in the future. Well done.

(The writer can be reached at mentesnot@aol.com)

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