Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ethiopian Singer Teddy Afro Should Have An Afro

There's a great tradition of musicians who have named themselves after their own hairstyles. Afroman, Blondie, and the Nappy Roots are a few that I can think of (wait for it!) off the top of my head. (Pow!)

But then there's this guy, Teddy Afro. I don't expect you to know who he is, unless you're Ethiopian - in which case you're probably sick of him. As you can see by the photo inset, Teddy’s last name – which by the way is not his government – is a misnomer. On his head, no afro to speak of. I think this is an injustice. Teddy Afro should have an afro on top of his head. A huge one. One that would make Tego Calderon shudder in envy.

Otherwise, the dude’s gotta change his name to something more appropriate. Teddy Hair Gel. Teddy Finger Waves. Teddy S-Curl. Can we agree that this makes sense? I await your response, Teddy [Blank].

Soft-n-cuddly first name aside, Teddy's a beast in Ethiopian pop music. He's been the bestselling act for the past few years and his reign at the top doesn't look like it'll let up any time soon. Ethiopian pop music has very limited appeal outside of Ethiopian audiences. The instruments are synthesized. The lyrics are in Ethiopia's national language, Amharic (which is not its most spoken). The rhythms are redundant, awkward, and derivative. All of these things are true of Teddy Afro – he just does them better.

His lyrics, personality, and voice all radiate a certain smiling, boyish charm. Unlike many Ethiopian musicians, who are at home in slow, brooding songs of love and loss, Teddy sings about childhood, Ethiopian history, and (most of all) his undying, resilient love for Ethiopia. When placed side by side with the bitter realities of contemporary Ethiopian life – AIDS, floods, droughts, rampant government corruption – Teddy’s tunes might strike a casual listener as a bit incongruous.

Ethiopians love Teddy because he belongs to Ethiopia. He’s traveled the world and has fans wherever there are Ethiopians (D.C., Stockholm, Sydney, Beirut), and yet he still dresses with the awkward, ill-fitting swagger of a kid fresh of the boat. Though fluent in English, he sings everything in Amharic. Of course, there are moments when he'll drop the odd - and I do mean odd - English word or two.

For instance, take the chorus of his recent song dedicated to Bob Marley. In it, Teddy rekindles the debate over moving Bob Marley's remains from Jamaica, to the reggae legend's self-proclaimed spiritual home, Ethiopia:

Bring him! Ziggy Marley./
Bring him! His body./
Bring him! Because he wants it.

Hearing a foreigner speak words in another language is painful enough. Hearing him try to rhyme words in a song is like, well...like this.

11 comments:

teetee said...

i bet someone gave him that nickname as it is customary in addis, as i can only speak of addis. hardly anyone there gets a very complimentary or endearing nicknames because they're meant to keep your out-of-line-black-ass in check and remind you who you 'really' are. e.g. abebe melataw, aster kito, dawit ewuru, yemane baria etc (you can translate mik). you have to be extremely humble (in that case you won't dare pick a tight name for yourlself) and be loved by everyone to get a barely flattering nickname in our neck of the woods. e.g. danny habtamu, petros kesu, alem kei-yua etc...what can one say. can't live with it and can't live without it...
p.s. i guess you can guess who this is mik, i mean God.

Anonymous said...

you should have said that he should call his name teddy freeze.
Also afro means "because of he is ashamed" in Ethiopian language (Amharic).

M.S

Anonymous said...

Its funny anytime someone mentions Ethiopians name, it follow by how poor we are, AIDS, starvation and flood. I ve never experienced this with any other country. For example When someone mentions U.S.A, they always talk about how rich and good america is. Other example is euopean coutries, I ve never heard anything bad about them even though there are alot of things going on there. When I was young I use to be embaressed for being Ethiopian because of things like that. Now I got older I figured out Ethiopia is THE PROMISE LAND one day the people there will be happier and richer. Which they are, I lived there for quite a while. Ethiopia is rich in a different way, not money but happiness and loving one another. You have to be there to understand. But I was saying this because You said something about "Ethiopia known for the AIDS...bla bla bal what ever" you said.

Anonymous said...

I think u dont really understand teddys nickname. he is named as TEDDY AFRO because of his band not his hair stayl. so u better check out things befor u write on them!!!!

Anonymous said...

u have absolutly no idea what you are talking about especially the thing about teddy afros name why are you conserned about that when you should be looking at his music not his name his name could have bein tedy dread head and it still wouldn't matter b/c guess what his music is what speaks for him i think you are just hateing no offence but u really need to think twice about what u say b/c if you were in the situation that teddys in right now you would not survive.

Anonymous said...

ur a stupid fucker mik

Ethiopian said...

A very rediculous post from a person named 'Mik Awake' What in the world is mik? Why not add an L, and make it milk. And were you born asleep or are you named after the tazo-chai flavor. Anyway, just to let you know the 'Afro' means African, and not really a hair do. The whole post actually shows how tiny your brain is. Actually Teddy Afro's words that you just picked on are a lot better that most of the Rap music that the born English speakers sing. Please do your research before you write, so you won't look as stupid as you just did.

Anonymous said...

dumb ass....get a fuckin life...teddy is da bomb and u know it

Agent said...

Hey yo

know what,Teddy Afro is Ethiopian, and for ethiopian either his name or his English pronouciation is cool and thats all u need to know ,

and dud watch ur word....

Naeem A Rahman (facebook) said...

I know it's pretty stupid. Just because he has afro in his name does not mean he has to have an afro. Like someone commented afro means something else in amharic.
Anonymous you are right people in the world have a wrong image of Ethiopia. I recently visited Ethiopia and I am not an ethiopian by the way. I loved it. Like you said they are culturally rich happy people. People were so nice to me I felt at home. I made ethiopian friends everywhere I went and they showed me around and I hang out with them. Bless you Ethiopia. And big up Teddy Afro. he is a bad man for real. FREE FREE TEDDY. FREE TEDDY NOW!!!

Anonymous said...

Afro means African...