The Shifting Status of the Gondar azmari in Revolutionary Ethiopia: From Outcasts to Popular Stars

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Ebrahim Damtew

Abstract

This study focuses on the 1974 revolution and its impact on the fate of the azmari and contemporary singers in north Gondar Zone. The research is based on primary and secondary sources, including interviews, archival and relevant secondary sources. Such sources were crosschecked and triangulated for substance and objectivity. During imperial times the azmari were among the despised segment of the Ethiopian society due to their profession. Conversely, they were important components of the Ethiopian nationhood in reflecting and recording feelings such as grievances and happiness of the populace.. Contemporary social and political changes following the revolution of 1974 transformed the azmari’s social and economic life, as the change granted equality among people regardless of occupation and birth. This, coupled with a growing sense of cultural awareness at home and the emergence of an Ethiopian diaspora in various parts of the world, helped the azmari to assume a better status and social acceptance. Consequently, the profession of azmari which was previously marginalized and denoted as the occupation of the lower class was transformed to a socially-dignified sector. So much so a growing number of youngsters from a ‘non-azmari’ ancestry started to join the profession with no qualms.

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