Folk Music

afafafdafsETHIOPIA IS A COUNTRY vibrant with music and a nation where elements of ancient tradition form a natural part of everyday musical and social life. Even in a big city like Addis Abeba, traditional music is very much in evidence.
It is present in Ethiopian church music, which is perhaps among the oldest living traditions of Christian music anywhere in the world. But folk music too is very widespread in a professional, big-city form. It has its appointed place in the big Government Theatres and in the many traditional restaurants, as well as in the small, cosy bars where singer-poets, asmaris, entertain guests with traditional songs accompanied by the performer on a string instrument called the masinko. And in the dance music of hotels and nightclubs, the traditional music of the common people is a cornerstone of the exciting sound mix of modern popular music.

And yet these examples come only from the capital, Addis Abeba. Rural communities in the rest of the country, of course, have a still more motley and active body of popular music—making for both ordinary and festive occasions, and for both joyful and sorrowful moments. This CD presents only a limited selection of Ethiopia’s immense wealth of music and music-making.


 Kebero:  is a double-headed, conical hand drum. A piece of animal hide is stretched over each end, thus forming a membranophone. Almost always a spiritual song in Ethiopoian orthodox church is acompanied by a  liturgical drum. Kebero is alo used in secular celebrations



Begena is one of the oldest musical instruments in Ethiopia.It is made from wood, hide and a special string made from intestinal walls of goat or sheep. Begena produces a loud tone. It has ten strings. It resembles kirar from its physical structure, though Begena is bigger in size. The cords are further tightened from an elevated bar called ‘Birkuma’. The Birkuma has small pieces of cut hide on it, which up on vibration make the begena produce sounds like ‘tizz’ and ‘dizz’.

Begena is used in religious songs. Especially during Easter fasting period it is customary to hear religious song played using Begena



Masinko is a string musical instrument that only has one thick string. It is played by rubbing it with another arch shaped handle, which has a similar size string tightened on its ends.


An artist who plays masinko should carry it on a strap from his/her shoulder. It can also be put vertically on lap. However, it should be positioned enough for the players to easily move the arch across the vertical string while playing a tune with fingers from the other hand.


Masinko is widely used in Ethiopia, because it can adapt to different plays in Ethiopia. Masinko is also used in traditional music.


Kirar has five or six strings. It can be made in different shapes and sizes. The basic structure is to have two bars which hold another horizontal bar from which the strings will be tied up in a way convenient to tune by tightening or loosing. Those strings will also be tied up at the bottom of a sound box which forms the base of the kirar.

Kirar is played by rubbing the strings with a piece of plastic or it can also be played by rubbing the string with fingers. While playing kirar with fingers from one hand, fingers from the other hand will tune the play by holding on the strings at specific distance and controlling the vibration.

Kirar is mostly used in traditional music. Artist Sileshi Demisse is a well know artist, who sings solo music while playing music with his kirar.