Ethiopia has a very rich and diverse music history. The various tribes and ethnic groups of Ethiopia have their own distinct music culture and tradition. The Tigrayans to the north have this smooth, circular dance routine culminated with shoulder and neck movement. The Amharas at the center have dance style dominated by upper body and neck movement. The Oromos to the center and south have this jumping style and full body dance routine. The Gurages have an acrobatic dance that requires high level of arm, leg and body coordination.

Traditional Ethiopian music instruments include the masingo, a one-stringed violin like instrument that is played with a bow; the krar, a six-stringed lyre, played with fingers or a plectrum; the washint, a flute made from bamboo; and various drums. There are three types of drums that are used in different occasions: the negarit (kettledrum), played with sticks, the kebero, played with hands, and the atamo, tapped with the fingers or palm. Other instruments include the begena, a huge, multi-stringed lyre often referred to as the Harp of David; the tsinatsil or sistrum, which is used in churches; the meleket, a long trumpet without fingerholes, and the embilta, a large, one-note flute used on ceremonial occasions.

Welcome to Meqalih Yared Bahili Tigrai
Kiros Alemayohu

This section is dedicated to the legend Tigraigna artist, composer, and song writer - Kiros Alemayohu.

Kiros Alemayohu was one the most talented artists in Ethiopia. He was the most original and visionary Tigraigna artist and highly appreciated by his many fans.

    The Mission of this website is:
  • To promote and encourage Tigraian artists and their work
  • To promote Tigrai Art, Music and Culture
  • To encourage and inspire Ethiopian music in general

WHO WAS YARED

St. Yared - is the father of Ethiopian religious music with its notation which is still valid to this day. He tried his hand at writing and composed a book of hymns. He traveled to Europe and shared his experience with his fellow Ethiopians.

The contribution of St. Yared to Ethiopian civilization was not limited only to education and music. He played an important role in enhancing literature, theology, philosophy and history. In his Digwa, a book of hymns and prose, he demonstrates his knowledge of verification and provides the fundamentals of theology, philosophy as well as history by explaining the nature of God, the importance of the love for wisdom and by laying the corner-stone for early Ethiopian church history.

The peoples of Tigray have enriched Ethiopian music and dance. They have unique dance, melody and drumming system. Their language is rich in vocabulary, proverbs, sayings, idioms, riddles and folk tales which have broadened Amharic language and folklore. Tigreyan writers who compose their works in both Tigregna and Amharic languages have contributed immensely to the development of Ethiopian literature.

In the past two thousand years Tigreyans have played a vital role in Ethiopian history, government, politics, military, economy, commerce, religion, social life, architecture, culture, education, art, music, linguistics, literature and philosophy.

an excerpt from Fikre Tolossa (Ph.D) article

Ethiopia is a musically traditional country. Of course, popular music is played, recorded and listened to, but most musicians also sing traditional songs, and most audiences choose to listen to both popular and traditional styles. A long-standing popular musical tradition in Ethiopia was that of brass bands, imported from Jerusalem in the form of forty Armenian orphans (Arba Lijoch) during the reign of Haile Selassie. This band, which arrived in Addis Ababa on September 6, 1924, became the first official orchestra of Ethiopia. By the end of World War II, large orchestras accompanied singers; the most prominent orchestras were the Army Band, Police Band, and Imperial Bodyguard Band. Most of these bands were trained by Europeans or Armenians.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, Ethiopian popular musicians included Bizunesh Bekele, Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete, Hirut Bekele, Ali Birra, Ayalew Mesfin, Kiros Alemayehu, Muluken Melesse and Tilahun Gessesse, while popular folk musicians included Alemu Aga, Kassa Tessema, Ketema Makonnen, Asnaketch Worku, and Mary Armede. Perhaps the most influential musician of the period, however, was Ethio-jazz innovator Mulatu Astatke. Amha Records, Kaifa Records, and Philips-Ethiopia were prominent Ethiopian record labels during this era. Since 1997, Buda Musique's Ethiopiques series has compiled many of these singles and albums on compact disc.

During the 1980s, the Derg controlled Ethiopia, and emigration became almost impossible. Musicians during this period included Ethio Stars, Wallias Band and Roha Band, though the singer Neway Debebe was most popular. He helped to popularize the use of seminna-werq (wax and gold, a poetic form of double entendre) in music (previously only used in qiné, or poetry) that often enabled singers to criticize the government without upsetting the censors.

Ethiopia is a musically traditional country. Of course, popular music is played, recorded and listened to, but most musicians also sing traditional songs, and most audiences choose to listen to both popular and traditional styles. A long-standing popular musical tradition in Ethiopia was that of brass bands, imported from Jerusalem in the form of forty Armenian orphans (Arba Lijoch) during the reign of Haile Selassie. This band, which arrived in Addis Ababa on September 6, 1924, became the first official orchestra of Ethiopia. By the end of World War II, large orchestras accompanied singers; the most prominent orchestras were the Army Band, Police Band, and Imperial Bodyguard Band. Most of these bands were trained by Europeans or Armenians.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, Ethiopian popular musicians included Bizunesh Bekele, Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete, Hirut Bekele, Ali Birra, Ayalew Mesfin, Kiros Alemayehu, Muluken Melesse and Tilahun Gessesse, while popular folk musicians included Alemu Aga, Kassa Tessema, Ketema Makonnen, Asnaketch Worku, and Mary Armede. Perhaps the most influential musician of the period, however, was Ethio-jazz innovator Mulatu Astatke. Amha Records, Kaifa Records, and Philips-Ethiopia were prominent Ethiopian record labels during this era. Since 1997, Buda Musique's Ethiopiques series has compiled many of these singles and albums on compact disc.

During the 1980s, the Derg controlled Ethiopia, and emigration became almost impossible. Musicians during this period included Ethio Stars, Wallias Band and Roha Band, though the singer Neway Debebe was most popular. He helped to popularize the use of seminna-werq (wax and gold, a poetic form of double entendre) in music (previously only used in qiné, or poetry) that often enabled singers to criticize the government without upsetting the censors.

Eritrea is a country in the Horn of Africa. Perhaps the most famous Eritrean musicians in history are Eng. Asghedom W.Micheal, Bereket Mengisteab, Yemane Baria, Osman Abderrehim, Alamin Abdeletif & Atowe Birhan Segid, some of whose music were banned by the Ethiopian government in the 1970s. Also of note is Bereket Mengistab, who has had a lengthy career, and 60s legends Haile Ghebru and Tewolde Redda. The latter was one of the first electric guitar players in East Africa, and a singer and writer of the famous 'allegedly' Eritrea's independence song "Shigey habuni" with love theme as coded message for political freedom ( - whether the attribution of a lot of the songs of this period to the desire for political expression/freedom was true or if it was just the wild fancy of a repressed people who zealously wanting expression to their deep secret political desire, were only eagerly extracting secret political meanings from what has to be run-o-the-mill universal love songs/folk ballads and nothing else - is not certain).

Eritrean music has a unique rhythm that sets it apart from the rest of Africa. Modern popular stars include Bereket Mengistab,Teklé Tesfa-Ezighe Tekele Kifle Mariam (Wedi Tukul), Tesfai Mehari (Fihira), Osman Abderrehim, Abrar Osman, Abraham Afwerki, Yemane Ghebremichael, Idris Mohamed Ali, Alamin Abdeletif, Tsehaytu Beraki, Atewebrhan Segid and Berekhet Mengisteab.

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Travel Tigray

Practically unknown to other Ethiopians –let alone the out side world -before 1966 the rock hewn churches of Tigray have been described by Ivy Pearce as “the greatest of the historical cultural heritage of the Ethiopian people”. Most of them are still in active use as center of worship and prayer. Many have paintings and medieval artifacts. These churches primarily don’t function as tourist attractions. Almost half of these churches have gone unseen by foreigners because the Tigraian churches are more scattered and less accessible than their counterparts at Lalibela.

Some of the rock hewn churches of Tigray are easily accessible and lie along the main road between Wukro and Sinkata. This group of rock hewn churches which include Teka Tesfai Cluster (Adi Kesho Medahane Alem) Wukro Cherkos and the magnificent Abreha we Atsebeha on the Hawzien Road can be explored by driving in a private vehicle either from Adigrat or Mekele. Alternatively, diversions can be made to Atsbi Clusters that include the rock churches of Michael Barka, Michael Imba, and Debre Selam or Tembien. For many Tigreans, Tembien is a place from which honey and butter are easily fetched, not in trickles but in abundance. For others, it is the mother of great war-winning heroes like Emperor Yohannes IV and Ras Allula Abba Nega. Yet many others remember it for its unique and fascinating dance, ‘Awris’. However, very few realize that Tembien is also the site of about twenty rock- hewn churches. Gabriel Wukien, Abba Yohanni, Amanuel Mai-Baha, Mariam Hibito, Abba Selama and Mariam Itsewto are some examples.

However the most extensive cluster is found in the Gheralta region which lies to the south of Hawzien. Gheralta is the home of a quarter of the rock churches, some famous for their stone workmanship, ancient paintings and manuscripts, and others known for their magnificent view and difficult ascent. Such great churches as Abuna Yemata, Mariam Korkor, Debresion, Yohannes Maequddi, Abraha Atseha, Abune Gebre Michael, and Silasse Degum are in the very heart of this cliff. This group includes some of the most stunningly situated churches anywhere in Ethiopia. This cluster of churches can be explored best from Hawzien using a private vehicle and a few days walk and hiking to reach some inaccessible churches.

Tigrai Tourism

Best of Tigray

Wukro & Its Nearby Attractions

The Rock hewn churches of Tigray

Practically unknown to other Ethiopians –let alone the out side world -before 1966 the rock hewn churches of Tigray have been described by Ivy Pearce as “the greatest of the historical cultural heritage of the Ethiopian people”. Most of them are still in active use as center of worship and prayer. Many have paintings and medieval artifacts. These churches primarily don’t function as tourist attractions. Almost half of these churches have gone unseen by foreigners because the Tigraian churches are more scattered and less accessible than their counterparts at Lalibela.

Some of the rock hewn churches of Tigray are easily accessible and lie along the main road between Wukro and Sinkata. This group of rock hewn churches which include Teka Tesfai Cluster (Adi Kesho Medahane Alem) Wukro Cherkos and the magnificent Abreha we Atsebeha on the Hawzien Road can be explored by driving in a private vehicle either from Adigrat or Mekele. Alternatively, diversions can be made to Atsbi Clusters that include the rock churches of Michael Barka, Michael Imba, and Debre Selam or Tembien. For many Tigreans, Tembien is a place from which honey and butter are easily fetched, not in trickles but in abundance. For others, it is the mother of great war-winning heroes like Emperor Yohannes IV and Ras Allula Abba Nega. Yet many others remember it for its unique and fascinating dance, ‘Awris’. However, very few realize that Tembien is also the site of about twenty rock- hewn churches. Gabriel Wukien, Abba Yohanni, Amanuel Mai-Baha, Mariam Hibito, Abba Selama and Mariam Itsewto are some examples.

However the most extensive cluster is found in the Gheralta region which lies to the south of Hawzien. Gheralta is the home of a quarter of the rock churches, some famous for their stone workmanship, ancient paintings and manuscripts, and others known for their magnificent view and difficult ascent. Such great churches as Abuna Yemata, Mariam Korkor, Debresion, Yohannes Maequddi, Abraha Atseha, Abune Gebre Michael, and Silasse Degum are in the very heart of this cliff. This group includes some of the most stunningly situated churches anywhere in Ethiopia. This cluster of churches can be explored best from Hawzien using a private vehicle and a few days walk and hiking to reach some inaccessible churches.

Mekelle area:

  • Explore the city and choose from over 120 rock hewn churches.
  • See valuable historical collections that used to belong to Emperor Yohannes IV.
  • A local market has been held every Monday since at least 1890.

Ethiopia Travel News

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Kiros Alemayohu

Kiros Alemayohu was one the most talented artists in Ethiopia. He was the most original and visionary Tigraigna artist and highly appreciated by his many fans.


Kiros was born to his father Girazmach Alemayehu Meles and Mrs. Qeleb Gebre mesqel in the eastern part of Tigray region, in a village known as Saesi Tsaedaemba in 1948 (1940 E.C). He went to school in the nearby city of Wukro and then joined Atse Yohannes High School in Mekelle.

Kiros was a prolific song writer and singer. He popularized Tigrigna songs through his albums to the non-Tigrinya speaking Ethiopians. Before joining Ras Theatre in 1975E.C (circa 1982-1983) where he published his first Album, Kiros had worked as assistant trainer of Tigray Musical Troupe. Some of his songs include "Anguay fisis", "Fililiy" ,"Selam Hawa", "Suwur Fikri" "Adey Mekele". Kiros along with other musicians had played in Libya and other middle eastern countries.[1] A memorial library is under construction in Wukro near his birthplace.

Kiros died from intestinal complications in 1994.

Meqalih Yared