In Memory of Legesse Abddii

Published by Ayele Gelan on

I am deeply saddened to hear Legesse Abddii passed away!

During those days, never mind a TV set, even a radio used to be a rarity in most parts of Ethiopia, especially in the countryside. My father was among the very early “adopters” of the new “innovation” called radio.

That was my preschool age, and we understood none of what was broadcast in that radio. At the time, we never thought about it that way, but now looking back what we were doing was nothing less than listening to an utterly gibberish noise. I suppose we persisted with listening perhaps in the hope we would hear something sensible at some point along the way.

As always, it would pay to be patient and persistent. Sure enough, we would hear something sensible once in a blue month. And that sensible thing would be the precious songs of Legesse Abdi, Wesenu Diidoo or Abebe Tesema.

In those days, listening to Oromo music on Ethiopian radio was something like a traveller passing through a vast desert, and then suddenly discovering an oasis and quenching his/her thrust.

The day an Oromo song happened on Ethiopian radio, it would be a talk of the day at coffee ceremonies, even elders recounting the sweet and beautiful lines.

I have a vivid memory of Adana, a boy who looked after cattle in the field. As he approached the homestead area in the evening, he would call me from distance, still 50 or so meters away; often asking “Legesse Abddii ar’a wayi sirbee?” (was Legesse Abddii on the radio today?) You see he would not wait till he arrived!

So when I heard the sad story that Legesse Abdi passed away, I was overwhelmed not just by a deep sense of sorrow, but also with a painful flashback to those days of “drought” in Oromo art and culture, those dark days when we were robbed of our nationhood. We are indebted to heroes like Legesse Abdi who so successfully nourished our souls, kept our spirits up, revived our hopes and carried us through those difficult years.

Now looking after Oromo art and culture would amount to developing seedlings and planting trees so that the terrible drought would not get a chance to advance to Oromo land once again.

No doubt Legesse Abdi will be sorely missed for many years to come.

May his soul rest in peace!

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