መልካም አዲስ ዓመት (Melkam Addis Amet)!

September 11 marked the Ethiopian New Year (called እንቁጣጣሽ, inqutatash). As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Ethiopian calendar runs about 7-8 years behind the Gregorian calendar, with the first day of the new year falling on September 11 or 12. Inqutatash occurs on the first of መስከረም, meskerem. Ethiopia’s calendar has 13 months: 12 have 30 days, and the last month has 5-6 days (called ጳጉሜ, pagume) , depending on whether or not is a leap year.

Like most cultures, Ethiopians celebrate their holidays with a hefty repertoire of seasonal songs. One of the more common traditional songs is the Amhara song አበባዬ ሆሽ, “Abebayehosh,” (meaning “my flower”). Inqutatash occurs just after the rainy season, when አደይ አበባ, yellow daisies, are in full bloom.

Traditionally, young girls go door-to-door singing this, though it’s also been adapted, quoted, et cetera by various popular artists. I have not been able to find a recording of girls performing this in Amhara region, but here’s a recording that retains a lot of the melodic and textual elements while adding some indigenous instruments:

If you’d like to see a live performance, here is one by a diaspora community in Sioux Falls:

I had a tricky time pinning down the particular kignit of this song, and, when I tried playing it on the piano, I found that it’s because it uses a few pitches outside of any given kignit (though the majority falls within anchi hoye). Perhaps an Ethiopian music theorist could lend some insight into this, though I wonder if we need to look into the possibility that the Ethiopian scales are perhaps not so rigid as we’ve made them out to be.

At any rate, if you are looking for an in-depth explanation of this song as well as a transcription, original text, and translation, look no further than ethnomusicologist Timkehet Teffera’s paper on the subject. She herself is Amhara, so she has some excellent insights drawn from firsthand experience in addition to her scholarly analyses.

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