Music Death Watch: Synthesizers the Cancer of Ethiopian Music


“What’s to blame for the creative collapse of Ethiopian music?”, you ask.


According to an article in Haaretz, the synthesizer, turned the wind instruments, the source of the vitality of modern Ethiopian music, into superfluous objects, and enabled untrained musicians, who were often untalented as well, to issue discs at one-tenth the price demanded previously.

Abate Barihon calls the synthesizer “the cancer of Ethiopian music,” thus expressing the feelings of many. “At a certain point, a few years before I left Addis, the entire city suddenly became filled with the cancers,” he says.

A visit to the nightclubs in Addis Ababa makes it clear that the synthesizer continues to rule unchallenged. It is placed in the center of every stage and fires its programmed synthetic drums into the air of the club. All the other instruments are optional: Who needs a bass or a saxophone or a guitar when the synthesizer can imitate their sound and avoid the need to pay another player?

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