Music in Gamo Gofa

Gamo Gofa zone is situated in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region of Ethiopia.



SNNPR is one of the most diverse regions in Ethiopia, with more than 45 recognized ethnic groups. Gamo Gofa zone is named after the Gamo and Gofa peoples who primarily inhabit this region. Arba Minch (also spelled Arba Mintch, the name meaning “forty springs” in Amharic) is the capital of this zone.

Gamo Gofa zone is rich in cultural songs, and many of these songs have functional purposes and are used for certain activities or events.

Song Recordings from 2015

The following is a playlist of songs I recorded while in Arba Minch on July 21 2015, sung by Gamo musician Buju Star. The first song is sung by the Gamo people during Meskel, a holiday celebrated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on September 26 to commemorate the finding of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. The next two are songs for working, by the Gamo and the Dirashe people, respectively. The Dirashe work song is sung by men who are appreciating a working girl nearby. The Basketo song is about working together, family, and unity. The Dorze song is sung during mourning time, which expresses the singers’ feelings and begs God for the dead one. The Gamo wedding song is sung by women, who are appreciating the bride. The Sidama song, “Kaya Kambale,” is about coming together, socializing, and having fun.

Buju Star (the singer on these recordings) also composes his own music, mixing traditional music from SNNPR and modern music. He recently put out a music video featuring a collaboration between himself, singer Tesfaye Taye, and Dirashe dancers.

Nebiyu Mulu, another Gamo musician residing in Addis Ababa, is also composing his own music that mixes traditional and modern, including this song about Gamo Gofa that was aired on ETV.

Dorze Polyphony

One of the more distinct musical traditions in the Gamo Gofa zone is the polyphony of the Dorze people, who use a hocketing technique in which different people sing different pitches to create a collective melody. The Dorze call this type of singing edho.

These are three different tracks from the CD Éthiopie: Polyphonies des Dorzé, recorded in the mid-1970s. All these songs are sung at festivals, and the first recording may also be sung while working.

Filmmaker Vincent Moon also made some more recent recordings of Dorze music:

For more recordings of music from Gamo Gofa and other zones in SNNPR, I recommend visiting Festival of a Thousand Stars, which has video and audio recordings of several different cultural groups from the southern regions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s