Ethiopia: Unanswered question of censorshiip at Teddy Afro’s first concert

14 October 2009
Was it self-censorship or restrictions that held Teddy Afro back from playing his two most controversial songs at his triumphant ‘back-in-freedom concert’ which gathered 30,000 of his fans on 11 October 2009?By Tsigue Shiferaw
— Freemuse’s correspondent in Addis Ababa

An estimated 30,000 people came on 11 October 2009 to see Teddy Afro perform at the National Stadium in Addis Ababa — .the first concert since his release from prison two months ago

The 31-year-old Ethiopian reggae star performed most of his repertoire — except those two songs which are considered the most controversial of his. They both were published on his 2005-album ‘Yastesarial’:

‘Dahlak’ — the name of an archipelago located off the Eritrean shores in the Red Sea. According to official circles the song has a political motive, as it talks about Ethiopia and Eritrea. Both countries went to war from 1998 to 2000, and close to 100.000 people died during the conflict.

The other controversial song Teddy Afro didn’t perform was the title song ‘Yastersarial’, which talks about his own political views, supporting opposing voices to that of the government.

Was it censorship?
Going backstage and meeting the promoters, it was difficult to get a full understand of whether the censorship of these two specific songs was imposed on the singer or self-imposed to avoid further problems. None of the persons interviewed by Freemuse felt free to tell us what the exact situation was, and who made the decision.

In addition it was noticed that the concert wasn’t transmitted live on the only television network in Ethiopia: ETV — a government channel. However, the channel was present and produced a short feature for the news programme.

The concert went on peacefully, with thousands of youths present, all singing Teddy Afro’s lyrics by heart. With ticket prices ranging from 0,85 US dollars up to 15, many youths came to attend the live concert which was organised as a benefit show for to two charities.

Anti-riot police
At the end of the concert, at around 11:30 PM reports spread that anti-riot police force had gathered around the stadium area, intimidating the youth, who according to witnesses felt angry about their presence.

Singer Teddy Afro was arrested in April 2008 after being accused of a car hit and run accident, back in November 2006. Many people believe that he was imprisoned due to his political position in his Yasterial album. Released the same year as the national elections in Ethiopia, the singer’s political views were resented by the authorities. The elections were followed by riots where approximately 200 people were killed.



Teddy Afro at press conference about the concert

Photo by Tsigue Shiferaw

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