I know, I know, transcribing has become rather passé in some ethnomusicology circles lately, but, as a visual learner and a classical pianist, I find transcriptions to be an incredibly useful supplement to the recordings. So, at the risk of appearing gauche, I’ve been working on notating out some melodies and presenting them here for all my fellow visual learners and classically-trained musicians. (Note that these are not really prescriptive for performance, but just a visual aid; everyone has their own interpretation of a song, especially in Ethiopia where improvising and embellishing a melody is standard practice. I decided to notate these from memory – the “average” of all my hearings in Addis, if you will –  rather than notate any one specific version, so you’ll hear probably hear some variations on and deviations from the recordings that I link to).


First, name that kignit! Did you say bati? If you did, you are correct. You probably remember this song from the Music in Amhara page. I’ve noticed that older versions of this song tend to use straight eighth notes rather than the dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm. Anyway, here’s Dub Colossus’s modern version, which you can compare with Orchestra Ethiopia’s version (which was circa 40 or 50 years ago).


Tew semagn hagere

I hope you immediately said, “Hey, that’s the anchihoye kignit!” upon taking a gander at the above transcription. According to one of my acquaintances in Addis, this song approximately translates, “Please hear, my country, about my feeling, I’m leaving with sadness,” and has been used by students as a critique of the government. You can hear Alemu Aga singing this on begena.

Anchi Lij

This is a very old Amharic song, and I haven’t been able to find a recording of it yet either online or on CD, and I unfortunately failed to make a recording of it myself while in Ethiopia (sorry). So, use your imagination for now. And, yes, that is, in fact, the tizita kignit. Good job.

I’m still working on more transcriptions, but I don’t have Finale on my computer, so it might be a while. Sit tight.