Having trouble keeping your terms straight? Luckily for you, I have compiled a list of important words to know when learning about Ethiopian music and culture. You’re welcome! (under construction, more words are still being added.)

Bahilawi muzika: Amharic for “traditional music” (although note that there is a lot of mixing between “traditional” and “modern” in Ethiopian music today, especially in the cities)

Begena: A 10-string harp, used for personal religious meditation by Ethiopian Orthodox. It is said to have descended from the harp of King David.

Hager Fikir Theatre: The oldest indigenous theatre on the African continent, meaning “love of country.” It was originally started to cultivate patriotic sentiment during the Italian invasion, and this theatre has continued to survive throughout the various governmental regimes even until today. Hager Fikir Theatre still has a cultural band that performs at various events.

Kebero: The traditional drum, a two-headed membranophone played with the hands. You especially see this in the Orthodox Church.

Krar: a 5-6 string plucked lyre.

Masinqo: A 1-stringed fiddle especially common in the northern regions and central regions.

Mezmur: This is an Amharic word referring specifically to religious song. Can be used for Ethiopian Orthodox music or Protestant music.

Washint: A bamboo flute. Number of holes and tuning vary.

Zefen: This is an Amharic word referring to secular song, including traditional/cultural music.

Zemenawi muzika: Amharic for “modern music”


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