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I had demonstrated against him, I used to write articles in U. newspapers about the atrocities and killings at that time, so I was a bit nervous to meet him face-to-face.” Just as Fesseha guessed, after a few hours of waiting, Mengistu strolled right into the room with his entourage heading straight to the demo table to meet Fesseha. Yes, I was very lonely and always longed for my country. I have not seen my mother since I left Ethiopia, yes. I have certain core principals that I cannot compromise. I was still in high school at the time, but I was already playing in different clubs with several settings. For the last two years of the late 60′s, I played with this band, which was the most popular band in Ethiopia. My memories of Soul Ekos band is just full of love. We were very organized, disciplined, we had a manager and each guy in the band loved his instrument.
“So I quickly wrote on the screen his favorite slogan: “Hulum Neger Wede Tor Ginbar,” (“ሁሉም ነገር ወደ ጦር ግንባር”), Fesseha says. I would wake up in the middle of the night when everybody is sleeping and walk to the dorm where there was a piano. I haven’t seen her, we talk on the phone…but I haven’t seen her and she always…her dream is to see me before anything happens. We have to have mutual respect for our cultural diversity. For example, your doesn’t exist in the way I knew it, only Mama. Let’s talk about your daughter Emilia, the Swedish pop singer. Although more such bands have flourished, I don’t think anybody could replace that group. There was no question of when to rehearse or how to rehearse it. Our ideas of bringing about modern ways of playing music was getting popular.
“Growing up mainly in Germany, I always romanticized Harlem for it’s political and cultural significance, and when I moved to New York from London in 2005, I already knew that I wanted to live in Harlem,” says Tigist. We saw too much of each other, but it never felt like that at the time. He lives in Maryland and I live in Virginia, so we meet and we call every now and then.
“What I didn’t know about was the existing and rapidly growing Ethiopian community in Harlem.” She says: “These days, I am happy to claim Harlem as my home. I also keep in touch with Alula Yohannes, the guitarist we call each other on the phone we are even thinking of performing together.
So I applied for language school in Sweden and they accepted me, that’s how I moved to Sweden. She was shocked by my question and said: “Oh I will do that but you also have to promise me something. But I used to get up at 6 o’clock and go to school at 7 to raise the flag, so the entire neighborhood will hear my trumpet. All these songs didn’t come out of the blue, each one of the songs got their own history and their own rhythm.
You have to keep time and come everyday from 4pm to 5 pm and I will teach you piano.” So she used to buy me candy, cookies, there was a Coca Cola and other some soft drinks. That’s how I started playing the piano and went on to learn trumpet, violin, and drums. Then in the afternoon I will blow my trumpet again and put down the flag and return it to the director’s office and go home. Even right now too, writing is based on situations and conditions. Most of the songs that I wrote are really a reflection of the condition that I was in at the time.
“This I did consulting with Ethiopian linguists,” Fesseha explains. It not only permanently codifies the computer reference to the language to be associated with Ethiopia but also correctly credits that the alphabet origination or development belongs to all Ethiopians.” “Necessity is the mother of invention.” For Fesseha it was his passion for writing in Amharic rather than his profession in the tech industry that initially inspired him to design the first known Ethiopic Script Software. Then I went back to Sweden, discussed my idea with Emilia. When I rehearsed with them, it was a great feeling. Yes, I would like to mention that a German production company is currently filming a documentary based on my life and Emilia’s entitled “Father to Daughter.” It’s about the transition of music from one generation to another. Thank you so much Tehsome for your time and good luck. We were not political at all, but we were very popular at the time and people used to come from all corners to watch us. So, at the end what happened was that we did a show at the Haile Selassie University in Addis Ababa.
“I loved writing in Amharic as far back as I remember,” recalls Fesseha in an interview with Tadias. I said “now that you are grown, it is time now for papa to go discover life” (laughter). As soon as I arrived here, I got involved in a lot of Ethiopian activities, including music, fundraising for different causes. Thank you so much to Tadias for giving me this opportunity to tell my story. I really appreciate your magazine and your writers, you guys are great. That was, as I recall, the last major show I did in Ethiopia. Because they made it so, they made it the last time, it wasn’t me. I wish I could work with him more often than I did.
S.” Shortly thereafter in 1986/87 Fesseha gave his first interview to Voice of America’s Amharic service. But she stoped when her teacher moved to another place. The soft-spoken and humorous artist, who sprinkles his answers with sporadic laughter, discussed with us his distinguished career spanning four decades and three continents.
“All of a sudden they cleared out the room and a whole bunch of military people with machine guns came in. She has given me a reason to live ever since she was born. Emilia speaks five languages French, Swedish, English, German and Spanish fluently. We text each other all the time, we communicate often. Even when she was a baby I used to play Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky for her. New ways of thinking and doing things were emerging in singing, playing, and producing.
I kind of sensed that it might be Mengistu and he was not my favorite guy. Does this mean you haven’t seen your mom since you left forty years ago? I used to call her my pearl, my life, my everything. She got the linguistic part form her mom and the music part from me. She is based in Sweden but lives in Germany and Hungary. When she was just two years old, I put her on the piano and told her “This is what you will be doing all your life” (laughter). I clearly remember the night when she won the Swedish Award. She won for best singer, best video, best composer of the year. The big band era was giving-way to small bands including groups such as the Soul Ekos band, the Ras band, etc. Everywhere you went there were groups playing, clubs were packed.
In fact he was barely 15 years old when a high school play that he wrote got the attention of the late Poet Laureate of Ethiopia Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin and was staged at the National Theater garnering him a “thumbs up” review in the Ethiopian Herald and a full page interview on Ethiopia Dimts (የኢትዮጵያ ድምፅ). I came to visit my brother Teddy sometime in the early 90s. I never thought that such a large number of Ethiopians had migrated to this part of the world. Tadias is one of my favorite Ethiopian publications. Her words and lyrics were poetry and they are very touching. My mother loves her life, even today she tells me “as long as you are doing good I am happy.” What I really appreciate about her is she brought me up as a care-free kid. When Soul Ekos band was performing at the University, there were about four to five thousand people there. It was a period when students were engaged in open rebellion against the authorities. – Related: Part Three Exclusive: Teshome Mitiku Plans to Return to Ethiopia Part One: Exclusive Interview With Ethiopian Legend Teshome Mitiku Listen to Gara Sir Nèw Bétesh – song written by Tèshomé Mitiku and played by Soul Ekos Tadias Magazine By Martha Z.
Years later, after Fesseha moved to the United States and became an engineer working for Hewlett-Packard (HP) in the heart of Silicon Valley, he still wanted to continue his writing and had contacted people in Ethiopia to send him an Amharic typewriter. “I discovered that it was a capital crime to smuggle an Amharic typewriter out of Ethiopia,” Fesseha says. Don’t change anything unless you have to, let it change itself. I mean I used to sit and cry as a child when my mother used to sing while she was washing clothes, ironing or cooking. So the army and the police were there keeping an eye on the kids and the situation. Tegegn Published: Thursday, August 5, 2010 Washington, D. (TADIAS) – Teshome Mitiku has not returned to Ethiopia since his abrupt departure in 1970.