Addis Ababa, September 14, 2017- Teddy Afro, the 40 year old singer, has been the leading musical pundit in Ethiopia since the release of his first album “Abugida” in 2001. Abugida, meaning a “Beginning” (in the ancient language of Ge’ez) was quite the kick start not just to his career but also a life style of a figure which won him the hearts of many. In many ways than not no singer in Ethiopia has ever been treated the way Teddy has. He is seen not just as a singer but a story-teller, an activist and the person with maturity written all over his works.
Recent YouTube statistics show that Teddy is the first Ethiopian artist with the highest views. He has garnered a ripping number of close to 83 million views in one year. His recent music video “Mar eske Tuwaf”, a song reciting one of the dearest books for Ethiopians, from his latest album “Ethiopia” has over 523,000 views in just three days and with 125,000 average views per day it will take him only forty days to break Abby Lakew most viewed Ethiopian video clip record. Also from his latest album audio tracks that are uploaded on his official YouTube channel “Mar Eske Tuaf” takes the lion share with 12,903,915 views.
This phenomenon is even after the cancellation of an album launch, three concerts in a row, imprisonment and an interview denied being aired on the state TV; all hanging on as ankle weights. Yet he remains to be the forerunner in the music industry of Ethiopia.
To prove the saying music is a universal language right, his songs are heard not just in Ethiopia but also in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel (5,406,735); Jeddah, Saudi Arabia(4,567,467) and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (3,545,092) more than there are in Addis Ababa (3,210,654) which shows how global he is. Not to forget, his recent album reached briefly the top of Billboard World Albums chart in May 2017. We also need to be considerate the fact that all these views occurred during the State of Emergency were almost all social media channels were blocked for nearly 10 months.
“The album is a call for unity and the rehabilitation of Ethiopia’s glorious past. The younger generation is in a dilemma about their history. I feel responsible to teach them about the good things from their history. They should be proud of their achievements”, Teddy stated on his interview with Tom Gardner of The Guardian.
Before all this glory though, Teddy first appeared with the young and sincere voice behind the songs, “Lijennet Alat”, “Baygermish” and “Birabiro” among others mainly reciting metaphorical young romance that were highly heard. For his sincere entrance to the music scene, people applauded his breakthrough.
In 2004, he released a single “Tarik Tesera/Anbesa” singing about the victorious win of Ethiopian athletes described as ‘lions’. The song describes encouragement, friendship and keeping the legacy of other Ethiopian athletes displayed by Kenenisa Bekele, the man who broke the 10,000metres record held by Haile G.Selassie.
The Ethiopians were in control throughout the distance. A leading group of five runners crystallised. It was a race that Ethiopian flag flew high on the sky of Athens Olympic Stadium. It was one of the proudest moments for Ethiopians. And Tedy with his splendid mind and poetic brilliance wrote and produced the victory song just overnight and released it the next day giving everyone a soundtrack to dance with.
That song by itself took him to another leap as it was a moment captured and turned into a long lasting, generation breaking ballad of a renowned performance. That song created pride within his audiences. After that, it was just a matter of Teddy releasing album or singles, whatever he comes up with was assured to be a re-count of the country’s culture, history, and a narration of what is happening around.
His album “Yasteseriyal”, released in 2005, was like the favourite cradle song of a child, a song that silences while playing loud. Especially the songs, “Yasteseriyal” and “Hab Dahlak” said to have been recites for the hotly disputed election in the country at the time and the controversial split of Ethio-Eritrea that led to a bloody war between the two countries and the separation of families as well as loved ones, respectively. These songs gave him another layer of appreciation and respect to the person that could speak bluntly. His fandom won him many number of people who started looking up to him with much reverence ever since.
The value he holds amongst his fans is bold to a point where it is impossible to criticise his music or some of his historical fails in some of his songs. When he was imprisoned in 2008 for a hit-and-run offence three years after his controversial album, caught the country off guard and his fans were flocking to courts for his hearings and to visit him.
“Teddy Afro is past a singer, he is a man with a soul and an understanding beyond his age. He is an asset”, Tsegaye, a 75 year old man who listens to his songs and have so much respect to the man 30 years younger than him, told Addis Insight.
“These days, most singers focus on silly things, and worse, they copy the foreign ways and try to force fit it to our ways, they want the quick money entertainment gets them. Teddy is not like that, there is so much depth to him, he is not flashy but a genuine gentleman that truly stands and reflects where he came from, his history and roots”
“He is the voice of his ancestors”, Tsegaye states passionately.
Finally, just 8 hours after the release of “Ke Mar Esk Tuaf” video clip we run a sentiment analysis extracting people comments from youtube and we were able to construct one sentence from the three most used words and it reads as follows Teddy Is Love.