The Missing Links and Hidden Talents in Our Music
September 18, 2007

One definition of music is that it is an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color. Its history is noted to predate “the written word and is tied to the development of each unique human culture,” according to Wikipedia.

Music may have developed from mimicking the backdrop of natural sounds to the use of simple cultural to sophisticated manmade instruments. It has now reached where it has its own ways for communications among its experts across various languages and cultures.

Similar to an engineer preparing a blue print for his planned building structures, or a cartographer preparing geographic reference maps, music artists use their own language called notations. Any trained engineer is able to read a blue print that another engineer has prepared, without the two engineers having to meet each other. Similarly, any trained cartographer is able to read a map prepared by another cartographer, again without the two having to meet each other.

Similarly, musical art is an admirable profession in its own right and its professionalism evolved over time. There are various training schools in different parts of the world for this profession. In other parts of the world, music seems to be an outgrowth of culture that hasn’t seen the light of musical notations. When such cultural outgrowth is mixed with the beets of musical instruments developed for a different culture, it becomes a sort difficult to understand.

One of the songs in Afan Oromo that can be taken as an example is Ilfinash Qanno’s “Baqattummaa yaa baqattummaa.” Ilfinash is an accomplished vocalist. However, in this particular song, the melody expresses sadness, as it narrates about refuge life. When one listens to the beat of the instrument in the background, it tempts the body to a joyous dance.

Afan Oromo songs backed with modern music instruments is a recent phenomenon. In the past, Oromo language and culture were suppressed by the successive Ethiopian governments. Afan Oromo songs became an expression of these repressions. Therefore, many of these songs are driven for political ends. There are also economically and culturally driven music releases. The volume of music released in Afan Oromo in the last several years is immense. The qualities of these releases may not have seen sufficient critical reviews. Perhaps, it is way over due to do this and encourage our artists to get enough formal training as well as establish Afan Oromo musical notations.

In addition, Oromo cultural movements need to be studied in depth and preserved. Some talents in Oromo cultural dances are sometimes observed in the background of musical video productions portraying young Oromo artists. These young artists are well dressed in cultural outfits. Nevertheless, their body movements to the cultural tunes leave a lot of room for improvement. The talents in body movements are sometimes seen as performed by older people who have lived among Oromo culture their entire life. What is disappointing many times is that the recorders show these people for an instant of time. Such video clips leave the watcher eager for more, which can only be satisfied by bringing such talents out for a sufficient amount of time.

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