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.