Ashenafi Kebede

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ashenafi Kebede
DiedMay 5, 1998
Alma materEastman School of Music (1962)
Wesleyan University (M.A. 1969; Ph.D. 1971)
Occupationcomposer, ethnomusicologist, professor, musician
Known forNational Composer of Ethiopia

Ashenafi Kebede (Amharic: አሸናፊ ከበደ; 1938 – May 8, 1998) was an Ethiopian composer, conductor, ethnomusicologist, historical musicologist, music educator, novelist, and poet.

Early life[edit]

Kebede was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1938 and was educated in musicology in the United States at the Eastman School of Music (1962), and Wesleyan University (M.A. 1969; Ph.D. 1971).


He founded the National Saint Yared School of Music in Ethiopia, serving as its first director (1963–1968).

He was designated a National Composer by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, in 1967. Shortly after that he began his graduate studies in the United States, and earned the first Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.

Ashenafi was a prolific writer. His works include a novel, Confession (1964), articles in ethnomusicology journals, the book Roots of Black Music, and numerous articles in The Chronicler, the magazine of the Center for African-American Culture.

In his own compositions he combined Ethiopian and Japanese musical ideas. "Koturasia" is one such piece, written for flute, clarinet, violin, and Japanese koto. Among his other musical compositions were "Peace unto Ethiopia" and "The Life of Our Nation". His best-known composition, though rarely heard outside Ethiopia, was "The Shepherds Flute", performed in 1968 with the Bulgarian Symphonic orchestra.

In the United States, he was director of the internationally known Ethiopian Research Council,[1] consisting of a group of Ethiopian and American scholars and professionals. At the time of his death he was director of the Center of African-American Culture at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.


Kebede died in Tallahassee, Florida, May 8, 1998.


Kebede had three daughters and a son; Nina (Nina Ashenafi Richardson, a judge married to Florida State Representative Curtis B. Richardson) and Senait (an actress), Samrawit Ashenafi (Samra), and Yared.[2]


  1. ^ Ethiopian Research Council
  2. ^ Cf. Kimmberlin (1999)
  • Kimberlin, Cynthia Tse, "The Scholarship and Art of Ashenafi Kebede (1938–1998)", Ethnomusicology, Vol. 43, No 2 (Spring-Summer, 1999), pp 322-334.
  • Kimberlin, Cynthia Tse, "Four Contemporary Ethiopian Composers and their Music: Asnakech Worku, Nuria Ahmed Shami Kalid a.k.a. Shamitu, Ezra Abate Iman, and Ashenafi Kebede", Ethiopia in Broader Perspective: Papers of [the] 13th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Vols. I-III, eds. Fukui, K., E. Kurimoto, and M. Shigeta. Kyoto, Japan: Shokado Book Sellers. 1997.
  • Olsen, Dale A., "Ashenafi Kebede is Remembered", Florida State Times, August 1998.
  • Tolossa, Fikre, "Ashenafi Kebede: A Composer with Soul", Ethiopian Review, May: 20-22, 1993.

Selected writings[edit]


  • ""The Krar"". Archived from the original on 2007-08-16. Retrieved 2007-03-25., Ethiopian Observer, 196x. (version archived 2007)
  • "The Bowl-Lyre of Northeast Africa. Krar: The Devil's Instrument", Ethnomusicology, Vol. 21, No 3 (September 1977), pp 379–395.
  • "The Azmari, Poet-musician of Ethiopia", The Musical Quarterly LXI(1), 1975, Oxford University Press.
  • Review of "Ethiopia III: Three Chordophone Traditions by Cynthia Kimberlin, Jerome Kimberlin", Ethnomusicology, Vol. 34, No 1 (Winter, 1990), pp 196–198.
  • ""A History of Music"". Archived from the original on 2006-09-13. Retrieved 2007-02-07.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), article in Addis Ababa University Alumni Association Newsletter. Contains "Saint Yared: Ethiopia's Great Ecclesiastic Composer, Poet and Priest", "Sacred Musical Instruments at the Horn of Africa", and more. (archived 2006)
  • "Zemenawi muzika: modern trends in traditional secular music of Ethiopia", The Black Perspective in Music, Vol 4, No 3., pp 291–301, 1976.
  • "Musical innovation and acculturation in Ethiopian culture", African Urban Studies, vol. 6., pp 77–87, 1979.
  • "Zur Geschichte der Amhara-Musik in Äthiopien" [tr. "On the History of Amhara Music in Ethiopia"], Musikgeschichte in Bildern ("Music History in Pictures") monograph series, Number 1, Ostafrika [East Africa], edited by Gerhard Kubik, Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig, pp 11–14, 1982.
  • "The Sacred Chant of Ethiopian Monotheistic Churches: Music in Black Jewish and Christian Communities", The Black Perspective in Music, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Spring, 1980), pp. 21–34


  • The Music of Ethiopia: Its Development and Cultural Setting. Ph.D. Dissertation, Wesleyan University, 1971.


  • Confession: the most exciting, heart-breaking story of an Ethiopian in the United States, 1960.
  • Roots of Black music: the vocal, instrumental, and dance heritage of Africa and Black America. Prentice-Hall, 1982. ISBN 0-13-783159-5.

Selected musical works[edit]

  • The Shepherd Flutist / Ethiopian Symphony, Musika Ethiopia, 1968.
  • The Music of Ethiopia: Azmari music of the Amharas, 1969.

Selected scores[edit]

  • Koturasia for Koto, Violin and B-Flat Clarinet with Idiophonic Interjection in the Japanese Low Hira-joshi Tonality, composed by Ashenafi Kebede. G. Schirmer, 1974.
  • Minuet for Flutes and Pipes (In the spirit of Ethiopian washints and embiltas) also known as "Fantasy for Aerophones: Ethiopian Washint and Japanese Shakuhachi" [1967].
  • Mot (Death)-Soliloquy II for 2 sopranos, 1 flute, and 2 Kotos, composed by Ashenafi Kebede in Western notation with Amharic text 1974. Unpublished.