Category Archives: Afaan Oromoo

Ali Birra – the Universal Ambassador of the Oromo Language and Culture

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Ali Birra – the Universal Ambassador of the Oromo Language and Culture
Written by: Mekkonen Taddese Mekonnen
Part One
—————–
Ali Birra is a virtuous creative singer. His melodies are rooted in Oromo culture. His lyrics are deeply philosophic. His vocal talent is amazing. He is rich in words. That is why Ali Birra’s songs are liked by many. Be it those who speak the Oromifa language/Afaan Oromoo/ or those who don’t. He has a good command of the different dialects of Afaan Oromo. His songs are rooted in the Oromo culture. He uses the language, melody and beat of Oromo music to convey his message.

The virtues of Ali Birra’s songs are many. Among them are the following: .

  1. Likeable Vocal – He has a likeable vocal.
  2. He writes philosophic lyrics for his songs.
  3. He authors most of his own melodies.

Ali Birra writes great lyrics and composes melodies liked by many without losing their identity. His songs raise questions about many issues such as love, hatred, politics, and life in general. The lyrics convey vital meanings to listeners. They have philosophic virtues. The themes of his lyrics focus on various issues ranging from love to separation, friendship to education. Take, for example, ‘hinyaadini ‘meaning “don’t worry.” He touches on hot issues of politics and segregation. Ali Birra’s songs have very interesting virtues among which are the following:

He is an ambassador of the Oromo people. He lends his mouth to his people. He speaks on their behalf on many topics.He communicates the socio-economic and political problems of his people. As a result, he is a popular figure. He follows the public interest and expresses it very well. The contents of his lyrics show that he is wise and of high intellect in his culture.

As a member of his society, he has a courageous and confident character to speak his mind. He has passed through many ups and downs because of his views.

As a person, he has also a likeable character. He lives a simple life. May be this is the result of the way he grew up.

He speaks of great ideas fluently in many languages. Among them are Oromifa, Somali, Harari, Arabic, Amharic, and English languages fluently. He has sung in different languages at different times. Ali Birra is a singer known for his songs in Oromifa. But his fans come from diverse cultures and languages. His fans may not speak Oromifa. But they like his vocal and the way he sings. One Tigrigna speaker who used to listen to his songs in Axum, Tigray in the 60s and 70s expresses how he likes his songs as follows.

“Since we liked Ali Birra but couldn’t hear his lyrics, we changed the lyrics that goes as ‘Eshurururu yaa burtukaane woo
Dayme walalaa be’an sifudheen gala’ Into: ‘Eshurururu yaa burtukaane woo Endabagabir tsubuk suwa neyru.’

I remember a graduate of Unity University describing how he enjoyed with his Oromo friends at a party with Ali Birra’s songs, especially, ‘Sin barbaada hoggu’. His friends told him “Only if he spoke the language and understood the meanings of the lyrics, he would have liked him even more”. They said so because when one listens to his songs, they teach a lot about life, friendship, family, etc.

Ali Birra is not selfish. He sings for the grand causes he believes in. He doesn’t crave or work for money. He lives and works for his passion. If one has many of his songs, s/he must be fortunate to have most of his songs. But no one can confidently say s/he has all of his songs. This is because of his nature. He is not a man that worries about money and benefits or fame and whatever. He could have produced so many albums and sold them to capitalize on the financial gain from being likeable and famous. But he never did that. The people who lived and know him closely witness that he doesn’t worry about money. He is so generous. One can say that he is a man of his peoplethrough his music. He is close to humans with humane feelings. He is empathetic in singing about the issue for others.

As an Ambassador of the Oromo Culture through his songs, he integrates the vast culture of the Oromo people. He uses varying dialects of the Oromo spoken in different areas. Let’s see how he does this. In so doing, I find a virtue which I rarely find in most of the contemporary singers of ours nowadays. Ali Birra uses new words in different localities to widen the vocabulary and knowledge of his audiences. Take for example Rabbi and Waaqaa, Bikka and Eddo, baredaa and Midhagaa, Hiriba = handhura (Efi refa bulta hiriba, handhurami’awa) . Often, at least one is a new word to most listeners who didn’t have the chance to visit other areas. He sings using words like Nin gagabe’e, Nindhufaa – Harar. He also uses Nangagabe’e , Nandhufaa as spoken in Shewa, Arsi and Wellega.

Ali Birra intentionally uses different words of the same meaning interchangeably. For example, in Kobaa koo nadhiftee, he integrates the language and culture:
Maalin sit-dhaamadhaa yeroon sigaggeessu Maalin sit-dhaamadhaa ogaan sigaggeessu He also uses Rabbi (Harar, Shewa…) = Waaqaa (Wellega, Shewa and other areas) to mean God. One could see through the timeline of his songs that as he grows in knowledge andgets exposed to the other Oromo dialects and areas, he does the integration more effectively and efficiently. If you compare what he sang while he was only in Dire Dhawa and how he did it after visiting other places, you see his effort to bring those dialects and cultures closer to each other. He keeps key aspect of the song but changes the lyrics and other things. A good example is the song Awash.

He sings about ‘Rigaa’ in his early songs. Rigaa is a culture of the Harar Oromos. It means a natural toothbrush from a healthy tree. Giving it to someone symbolizes expression of love. He uses ‘rigaa’ in his early songs about Awash. But he changes the lyrics in his late songs of Awash for the more integrative lyrics like bishaan addis ababbaa, but retains the typical hindunee nangagabe (Shewa, Wellega and other localities). He sings ‘Yaa magaalee shaashin nahafarsi’ (Harar and Arsi) – typical to the Muslim culture. He opts for and also takes the horse culture of Salalaee Oromos and asks ‘Salaalattin gulufa Jimmatti nabaasa karaan kuni – nulachuu alagumaa maa walitti nubooya garaan kunii?’. He keeps the Shegoyea beat and words “Ajabaa, Olgodhu, Akkana….’.
Let’s see how he does all these in his songs:

1. Awash

Awash is an ideal for its multi-faceted virtues – for not only it crosses so many areas of differing cultures (Just listen to Tsegaye Gebremedhin’s poem – Awash) but also is one of the rivers to pass through so many places and serve people for different purposes like irrigation, fishing, and day to day uses like washing,grazing etc. May be, it is the only river in the region that is useful to all around it while others take the rich soil to neibouring countries. He names Wellega, Jimma and other places in Awash. He praises the good seasons. He sings for a beauty from Wellega that is so beautiful as follows:

‘Harageassa Wallaggaa, Wallaggaara teesse sindarbaduu

Ati bareedu taanan namu sidaawata sinabdadhuu.

He says this to mean he couldn’t be confident on the loyality of his lover for so many people gaze at her for her beauty and that he can’t afford the tender.

He sings of Dire Dhawa in the same song:

Alaatin Dire Dhawaa fon malee lafee hinnyaatina jeti

Magaleen Dire Dhawaa na malee hindubbisinaa jeti

Mind you, he used harageessa and Alaati for Wellega and Dire Dhawaa respectively. In so doing he brings the two dialects of Oromifa together. He usesthe local words (eg. nindhufa vs nandhufa) to express the same thing.

In Awash, he also sings about the temptation of beauty – singing for betraying his wife preferring a more beautiful lady:

‘Kalee manni gubatee

Utubaa warqii shantu gubatee

Anaan mal ja’ee nanjataa

Kasirra bareedutu nafudhatee.

He maintains the ‘Shegoyea’ beat of Harar through Awash

Awaash nama shookkisaa,

Yanni hiriyaa nama boochisaa,

Awaash nama hinshookkisuu,

Yanni hiryaa nama hinrafisuu,

Silaa Shaggarin bahaa

Shaggaritti koora fannisani (X2),

Silaa Sibiraan dhufaa,

Sibiratti jolee lakkisani

ijooleen hindubbattu

Shurubbaa lash gotee nandhunggatuu?

The whole lyrics of the Awash song have the following translation:

Awash

The Awash River never threatens flowing low,
Missing a loved one takes one’s sleep with a yearning blow.
Come here, come here to the river my lover,
The harvest is good, the time is brighter.
The Awash River threatens flowing high,
Missing a loved companion makes one cry.
………
Flood of Addis Ababa – the Water of Addis,
Come and take me with you…take me with you please,
Oh my beauty…
Oh my beauty… I have lost my consciousness,
But I am not dead yet,
Ventilate me with your veil…
Kindly help me regain my thought.
………..
Let me gallop to Salaale,
This route will take me to Jimma too,
We have no relation… so different,
Why do our hearts beguile…beguileto each other yet.
…….
The crow of Wellega…
You being there my beauty….
Never will I give you my trust?
For your beauty attracts too many,
And endow you with insincere lovers a lot.
Won’t help to find you with effort,
……
The eagles of Dire Dawa …
The eagles of Dire Dawa will advise,
Advise all to eat flesh,
Never to eat bone,
The beauty of Dire gets angry…
When one visits another girl and is gone.
….
I wish to go to ‘Sheger’,
In Sheger they hang the saddles,
I would have liked to come to your place,
Kids are playing not disturbing us and don’t notice,
Not sayin a word in spite of their presence,
Come show off your long hair…
And get me lost with your kiss.

and here is song

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“Little Oromia” celebrates all week long in Minneapolis By Michele St. Martin

By Michele St. Martin, TC Daily

July 03, 2013

Every year on the Fourth of July, Minneapolis’ Riverside Park turns into party central for the Twin Cities Oromo community. They’ve gathered there for about 18 years, said Hassen Hussein, executive director of the Oromo Community of Minnesota. The St. Paul-based nonprofit provides social services to ease the transition of Oromo refugees from the Horn of Africa, and also works to educate the Twin Cities about the Oromo culture.
Because you can’t reserve space at Riverside Park, Hussein and a group of volunteers start setting up tents, grills, and sports equipment at 4 a.m. The party goes on till 10 p.m. “How many people come depends on the weather,” said Hussein. He estimates that there are more than 30,000 Oromo in the Twin Cities, which some say makes it the largest Oromo population outside of Africa, earning the nickname “Little Oromia.” According to Hussein, sometimes nearly 5,000 people show up for the Fourth of July event.

“There are women in hijabs and women in shorts,” said Hussein. “We celebrate our differences.” Hussein said that many families have come from refugee camps and the yearly celebration of freedom is particularly meaningful to them. “It’s a hybrid celebration,” he said. Along with traditional food, “We grill American food – hamburgers, hot dogs. We have adapted.” This year the picnic will occur near the end of a week-long celebration that kicked off on June 29 with the Oromo Youth Summit, an annual event that brings together Oromo youth from around the world, and ends on July 6 with two concerts and a closing ceremony. In between there are concerts, the Miss Oromo beauty pageant, and perhaps the biggest draw: the week-long soccer tournament held on the fields of Washburn High School. Sixteen teams will compete, including the defending champion, Oromia 11 Stars, a Twin Cities team. (For a schedule of the week’s events, go to gadaa.com)

“This is the largest gathering of Oromo outside of Africa,” said Mohammed Ademo, a former Twin Cities resident who is co-founder of OPride.com. “It’s not political. We share food, laugh, talk about back home. The kids run around and have fun in an open park. Adults run into friends they haven’t seen for years.”

The soccer tournament may be the biggest draw, but Hussein and Ademo agree that one of the concerts may be the most unforgettable of the week’s events. Dr. Ali Birra, the “Michael Jackson of Oromo music,” is celebrating 50 years of performing with a concert at the Ramada Plaza on July 4 at 8:00. Dr. Birra is expected to retire from performing soon, and so the concert is especially meaningful.

c 2013, Michele St. Martin

Oromo Democratic Front (ODF / ADO) First Meeting in EU Attracted a Large crowed

The oromo democratic front first meeting in Europe conducted in München, Germany has attracted a large crowd. surprisingly the attendant were both supporters and opponents. Even though the passionate debate sometimes created unnecessary and undemocratic back and forth, the meeting was conducted in a very informative way. Here is the video link as posted by the oromo democratic front website.

The Stream – Oromos seek justice in Ethiopia

Oromos didn’t single out themeselves from Ethiopia but they were singled out by successive Ethiopian Empire regime. They were targeted as a group, therefore the only way to fight back is as a group.

I loved what Femi Oke said “Ethiopian people are mean towards Oromo” after reading the anti-oromo comments flowing to AJstream website

and then Jawar brought the Oromophobia qoute
I loved this show. Propably because this piece is the best the stream had produced

Obbo Bulchaa interview with sendek newspaper

today polls

Few Points from Sendek newspaper- June 20, 2013

ሰንደቅ፡- አፄ ቴዎድሮስ ለኢትዮጵያ አንድነት መድከማቸው በታሪክ ይነገራል። እርስዎ ይሄንን እንዴት ነው የሚረዱት?
ቡልቻ ደመቅሳ፡- አፄ ቴዎድሮስ እኔ የምረዳበት መንገድ የተለየ ነው። አፄ ቴዎድሮስ ለእንግሊዟ ንግስት የሚፅፉትን ደብዳቤ ብታይ ለኢትዮጵያ አንድነት መቆማቸውን እንድትጠራጠር ያደርግሃል። አፄ ቴዎድሮስ የዛሬውን ምስራቅ፣ ደቡብና ምዕራብ ኢትዮጵያ የሚያውቁት አይመስለኝም። በእኔ እምነት በኢትዮጵያ ታሪክ እስከዛሬም ቢሆን ኢትዮጵያን አንድ አደርጋለሁ ብሎ የተነሳ ፓርቲ አለ ብዬ አላምንም። ኢትዮጵያ አማራ፣ ኦሮሞ፣ ሲዳማ፣ ጉራጌ፣ ኮንታ፣ ሀድያ፣ አፋር ፣ ሶማሌ፣ ትግሬ እያለ ኢትዮጵያ እስላም፣ ኢትዮጵያ ክርስቲያን ነች ካላለ ኢትዮጵያ አንድናት ማለት አይቻልም። አፄ ቴዎድሮስም ቢሆን በጀግንነቱና ወንድነቱ እኛ ኢትዮያውያን ብቻ ሳይሆን መላ አፍሪካ ሊኮራ ይችላል። ነገር ግን እንደ ኦሮሞና ደቡብ ከእሳቸው ጋር አንተዋወቅም። አቢሲኒያ ማለት ቀርቶ ደቡብን አጠቃሎ ኢትዮጵያ ከተባለች በኋላ ነው መተዋወቅ የጀመርነው።
ሰንደቅ፡- እንደ አንድ የፖለቲካ ልሂቅ “ኢትዮጵያ የሶስት ሺህ ታሪክ አላት” መባሉን አይቀበሉትም ማለት ነው?
ቡልቻ ደመቅሳ፡- አቢሲኒያ የሚባል ሀገር ነበር። ምናልባት ሶስት ሺው ከዚያ ጋር ተያይዞ ሊገለፅ ይችላል። የዛሬው ደቡብ፣ ምስራቅ ምዕራብ አቢሲኒያ አልነበረም። እርግጥ እንደ ሕዝብ የሚጋራው ነገር ሊኖር ይችላል። አመጋገብ፣ ባህል፣ ኪነጥበብ፣ ወንዝ ይጋራል። ነገር ግን አገር ማለት ምን ማለት እንደሆነ አናውቅም። እኛ የምናውቀው ጎሳ ነበር። ሰሜኖቹ አፄ ቴዎድሮስ ታላቅ መሪ ነበሩ፤ ከአፍሪካም ለመጀመሪያ ጊዜ ፈረንጅን የተቋቋሙ ስለሆኑ በታሪካቸው እንኩራ ቢሉ ደስ ይለኛል። ነገር ግን አፄ ቴዎድሮስ እንኳንስ ከሰሜን አልፈው ቦረና ድረስ ሊደርሱ ቀርቶ ከጎንደርም አልፈው ሰሜን ሸዋም አይታወቁም ነበር። ይህ ሲባል ግን ሸዋን ለማስገበር ጥረት አላደረጉም ማለት አይደለም። ከአፄ ቴዎድሮስ በኋላ የመጡት አፄ ምኒልክ ከሸዋ ተነስተው ሀረር ድረስ ሄደዋል። ከዚያም በኋላ ጅማና ወለጋ ድረስ እሳቸውም ባይሄዱ ወኪሎቻቸውን፣ እነ እራስ ጎበናን በመላክ ዛሬ የምናውቃትን ኢትዮጵያን ፈጥረዋል። እና ከዚያ ጊዜ በኋላ ነው ኢትዮጵያ የተፈጠረችው። በዚያም ጊዜ ቢሆን ሁሉም ኢትዮጵያውያን በፍቅርና በደስታ ኢትዮጵያን ተቀላቀሉ ማለት አይደለም። ነገሩ ሁሉ የሆነው በጉልበት ነው።….
ሰንደቅ፡– አንድነት ፓርቲ ኢትዮጵያን በብሔር፣ በጎሳ መከፋፈል ለሀገሪቱ አንድነት አደጋ ነው በማለት በብሔር መደራጀት ዲሞክራሲያዊ መብት ቢሆንም አደረጃጀቱ ግን አይጠቅምም የሚል አቋም አለው እና. . . .?
ቡልቻ ደመቅሳ፡– ብሔር የሚለውን ነገር እንተው ማለት እንዴት ሊሆን ይችላል? ሲዳሞ “ሲዳሞ” መባሉን ይተዋል? አማራስ ቢሆን “አማራ” አልባልም ይላል? የሚል አይመስለኝም። ማንም ሰው ታሪኩንና ቋንቋውን ተከትሎ “እኔ እንዲህ ነኝ” ቢል ምን ችግር አለው። ችግር የሚሆነው “እኔ እንዲህ ነኝ” የሚለው ለመለያየትና ለመጣላት በር እንዲከፍት ያደረግነው ሲሆን ነው። መድረክ ቅይጥ ቢሆን ምን ችግር አለው። ልዩነታችንን አምነን በቆየን ቁጥር ጥንካሬአችንም አስተማማኝ ይሆናል። ልዩነታችንን ለወዳጅነት ካልተጠቀምንበት ጠላት እንድንሆን ሊያደርገን ይችላል። ትግሬ፣ ኦሮሞ፣ አማራ ወዘተ የኢትዮጵያ የጀርባ አጥንት ነው። ኢትዮጵያ እንደ አንድ መኪና ብትመስላት መኪና ሊሽከረከር የሚችለው ሁሉም አካላቶቹ ሲሰሩ ነው። ኢትዮጵያም ወደፊት ልትራመድ የምትችለው ሁሉንም ሕዝቦቹን መጠቀም ስትችል ነው። ስለዚህ ቡልቻ “አንድነት አማራ አለ” እያሉ ከማኩረፍ ተቻችለን፤ ለምንስ እንዲህ አለ እያሉ በቅንነት እየፈተሽን ወደፊት መራመድ ይሻላል።
ሰንደቅ፡– በነገሮዎት ላይ አፄ ኃይለስላሴ “የኦሮሞ ተወላጅ ናቸው” ስለሚባለው ነገር የሚያውቁት ነገር አለ?
ቡልቻ ደመቅሳ፡– እንደው በዋዛ የሚነገር እና ቁም ነገር የተለያዩ ነገሮች ናቸው። ኢትዮጵያ ውስጥ የማንንም ደም መርምሮ የሚያውቅ ሰው የለም። ሕዝቡ እንደሚያምነውና እንደሚያውቀው የራስ መኮንን ጉዲሳ ልጅ ናቸው ይባላል። አቶ ጉዲሳ ደግሞ ዶባ ሰሜን ሸዋ ውስጥ የሚነሩ ኦሮሞ ናቸው። እና አፄ ኃይለስላሴ ኦሮሞነት አለባቸው ይባላል። ኦሮሞነት ስላላቸው የኦሮሞን ታሪክና ባህል አላቸው ማለት ግን አይደለም።
ሰንደቅ፡– አፄ ኃይለስላሴ ኦሮሞኛ ቋንቋ ይናገሩ ነበር?
ቡልቻ ደመቅሳ፡– እኔም አነጋግሬአቸው አውቃለሁ። አፄ ኃይለስላሴ ኦሮሞኛ ቋንቋ በደንብ ይችላሉ። ነገር ግን ሀረር እንደኖሩ አማራዎች ነበር ኦሮምኛን የሚናገሩት። ይሄ ደግሞ የጠራ ኦሮምኛ አልነበረም።
ሰንደቅ፡– አንድነት ፓርቲን ዶ/ር ነጋሶ ጊዳዳ እንደሚመሩት እያወቁ፣ በስራ አስፈፃሚ እና በብሔራዊ ምክር ቤት ውስጥ የኦሮሞ ብሔር ተወላጆች መኖራቸውን እያወቁ “አንድነት ፓርቲን የአማራ ፓርቲ ማለትም የእነ ዶ/ር ነጋሶን ሞራል መጉዳት አይሆንም?
ቡልቻ ደመቅሳ፡– የአንድነት ፓርቲ የአማራ ፓርቲ ናቸውና እንጥላቸው ነው ያልኩት? ይሄስ ቢባል ምን አለበት (Identification) ያስፈልጋል። ማንም ሰው ማንነቱ መታወቅ አለበት። ዶ/ር ነጋሶ እኔ በማምነው ሁኔታ ወደ አንድነት የገቡት በእርግጥ እሳቸው የሄዱበትና እኔ የምሄድበት የአንድነት መድረክ የተለየነው። እሳቸው አማራም ቢሆኑ ውስጡ ገብቼ አንድነትን አጠናክራለው የሚል አቋም አላቸው። እኔ ደግሞ በብሔራችን የፈጠርናቸው ፓርቲዎች ስላሉ እነሱን ይዘን እንግባ ያልኩት። እና ዶክተር ነጋሶ በውስጡ ገብቼ ሲሉ እኔ ከውጪ ወደውስጥ በሚል ስለሆነ ሞራላቸው የሚጎዳ አይመስለኝም።