Traditional Music and Dance



The Ethiopian music root backs to St. Yared’s song styles that are derived in early times, in the 6th century. Saint Yared had a golden voice when he had been playing spiritual songs among of the clergymen and in front of the then king.  Simply to magnify him, he was the Ethiopian Mozart. He had his own notes such as Deret, Yizet, Rikrik, Difat, Kurit, Chiret, Hidet and Kinat, and melodies such as Geeze, Ezil and Araray, and lyrics. At the present time his original works are still kept and practiced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s singers.



As long as Ethiopia has many ethnic groups and languages, the variety of the music is also a lot. Most of them are indigenous, however, it is most probably believed that Wolaytigna (Woliyta) could be the origin music of Afrikaan, and by its dance too. The rest sounds Amharic, Afan Oromo, Tigirigna, Gurageagna, Afarigna, Sidamigna, Gambela, etc. are not still well known in the other world. All of them have their own dances (Eskista and   Chifera)

and rhythms even each one of sounds has its own divisions. For instance Amharic music is divided into four that are Tezeta, Bati, Anchihoye and Ambassel. Amharic tones are grouped under the category of pentatonic style. The instruments are Washint, Kirar, Masinko, Kebero and Begena, locally made.



The folk music in Ethiopia is usually played with folk dancing, in a very attractive and dramatic manner. It is also accompanied by clapping of the hands associated with the beats rhythm. Folk dancing has an overall impressive defect that provides a picture of graceful body movement, facial expression, captivating and enthralling to the extreme. Each of the ethnic groups in Ethiopia has its own distinctive style of dancing. For instance;



The Gurage are famous in their vigorous jumping, thumping of the feet and swaying of the body from side to side.



For most of the Oromos, the head and the neck do most of the movement.



A shoulder and chest dance also called “Eskista” is common for most of Amharas. Both shoulders are moved in a series of motions forwards and backward.





For the Tigrean, there is a more participation of the whole body set against the rhythm of the drum’s beat but it is more of a movement of shoulders.




The Minjars play by utilizing shoulders, footwork, skipping and square dance movements.



For the Wolyita, the movement of hips and legwork is very important.



In general, all kinds of folk dances in Ethiopia are played using all forms and combinations of stamping, jumping, skipping, shaking, turning and twisting.
Various types of traditional instruments are used for folk music and dancing are;

A six-stringed lyre played with the fingers or a plectrum
A diamond-shaped wooden sound box with one horse hair-string and played with a bow
A small flute which is very famous by shepherd

A small drum usually held in the hand, under the arm or between the knees of the player

Tapped with the palm and usually played at weddings and festivals to lead the rhythmic beat of music
A simple one-tone flue mainly used on ceremonial occasions and heralding
A kind of trumpet used on ceremonial occasions