A ‘Sneak- Peak’ into Ethiopian folk music

The Aste Tewodros band, which has members from Italy and Ethiopia, conducted a workshop at Kala Academy, Panaji on February 8. This workshop is a part of the ongoing Sur Jahan – the World Peace Music festival.

The Aste Tewodros project was created by Gabriella Ghermandi, to bring together Ethiopian and Italian musicians to foster mutual dialogue and artistic creation.

Ghermandi explained the various aspects of Ethiopian folk music and the types of instruments used. Ethiopian music is primarily based on a five tone scale system. This is known as a pentatonic scale. While most of the musicians use a pentatonic scale, some melodies may be based on scales with as few notes, which are common in Ethiopian folk music.

Further Ghermandi spoke on the classical Ethiopian instruments used in folk music. The ‘krar’ which is a five- or six-stringed bowl-shaped lyre from Ethiopia is tuned to a pentatonic scale.

The mesenqo is a single-stringed bowed lute commonly found in the musical traditions of Ethiopia, which is played with a bow much like a cello or violin. Along with the krar, this instrument is used by Ethiopian minstrels called azmaris. Although it functions in a purely accompaniment capacity in songs, the masenqo requires considerable virtuosity as azmaris accompany themselves while singing.

In the later part of the workshop the troupe performed various notes from the pentatonic scale such ‘Bati’ and others.

(The Aste Tewodros will be staging their performance on February 9 at Kala Academy, Panaji at 6 pm)