Tewodros Kassahun, a.k.a. Teddy Afro, is a fundamental revolutionary. Of course, for some, he can seem a little ingratiating, with one of his most famous sayings, “love will win”. But love him or hate him, Teddy Afro is the leading influential celebrity of his generation, with millions of adoring fans. And the recent Bahir Dar concert, dubbed ‘Ethiopia Journey to Love’, could be considered as yet another chapter of his glittering biography.
It would be naïve to assert that everybody loves Teddy Afro though. Much like any celebrity, take Michael Jackson, he has fans who love him to death, as well as detractors that detest him greatly. It is equally insincere to assume that his popularity has been gained without dedication or sacrifice.
One cannot enjoy public attention for singing mere politicised songs. A political song does not necessarily mean criticising existing incumbents; it can also include being partisan, or going all in and actively taking part in government propaganda. Thus, there are many reasons for his popularity. One of which is creativity, which demands unrestricted imagination.
But if an artist is not free and can act against his will, his role could degenerate into the status of an echo. Besides, an artist should play a leading role in society.
The primary duty of an artist is being honest to the art and himself. If that person is unable to maintain that integrity, he would be incapable of handling both the criticism and celebrity status that follows.
Understandably, talking about politics is not pleasing for most people, but it sticks its nose in every aspect of our lives. A case in point would be the ongoing crisis in the Ethiopian Premier League. In a country where soccer is dead and buried, it is a pity to witness the fans of local clubs involved in such large-scale squabbling. Thus, leaving aside the political facets of the gig, it is worthy to discuss the artistic, economic, entertainment and tourism merits of such concerts.
In addition to its trademark of being a tourist destination, the home of Lake Tana, Bahir Dar has recently become a centre of attention. The much talked about meetings between the two wings of the coalition party that is the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) held in the city, and the resultant political temperature is still lingering in our minds. It is, thus, another highlight for the city to host the Teddy Afro concert amidst the heat.
The multi-purpose stadium in Bahir Dar, where the concert had taken place could be considered as a blessing in disguise given the status of football in the nation. With the capacity of an estimated 60,000 spectators, currently, the stadium is the largest in the country.
If we look at the other side of the coin, the resurgence of Bahir Dar and other regional cities, such as Adama or Meqelle to name a few, as an alternative metropolitan to the overcrowded Addis Abeba is appreciable. Their contribution as the economic, political, and cultural centre of the country, or the regions themselves, would be immense. They could be an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications.
A significant portion of the Ethiopian population is made up of the youth. This formative year is the most crucial stage of development. It is the bridge where we transform from childhood to adulthood. It is the most exciting period, full of adventure, where entertainment plays a huge part.
Young people need time to relax and entertain themselves. Entertainment, in such a busy time, helps them recharge. Unfortunately, entertainment opportunities for the youth are extremely underdeveloped in Ethiopia. Thus, needless to say, concerts such as the one by Teddy Afro, need protection, not restrictions.
One of the drawbacks of our central planning is the absence of coordination among the different departments of government offices. As a result, there is a considerable gap between the size of the population and the development of entertainment facilities. Consequently, there is a huge shortage of public libraries, sports clubs, village playing grounds, parks and theatre halls. As a result, youngsters are forced to spend their leisure times in places hazardous to their development.
Due to the existence of various obstacles, youngsters may develop the tendency to become hopeless. This dangerous behaviour is quite evident that in most cases the youth opt to associate leisure with drinking. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Unless we make sure and create places that contribute to the proper development of youngsters in accordance with their age, it would be wishful thinking to produce a capable generation that would transform the nation.
That is why we value the entertainment role that the likes of Teddy Afro’s and other similar concerts play. Apart from the economic returns that they generate for the singer, these concerts would also create jobs for music bands, dancers, promoters, musical instrument retailers and hoteliers, just to name a few. And for the traditional tourist sites such as Bahir Dar, the shows could be an added attraction.
As someone born in Addis Abeba, it would be false to claim I did not envy our brothers and sisters in Bahir Dar. But I am always grateful to belong to this generation.
According to friends who travelled all the way to Bahir Dar to attend the concert, Teddy had demonstrated an extraordinary maturity in defusing the tension that surrounded the stadium through his relentless appeal to love. When art and wisdom stand together, love will indeed always win.
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