Home | News    Tuesday 21 April 2009

Ethiopia’s "Father of modern music" dies at 69

By Tesfa-alem Tekle

April 20, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) — Ethiopia’s leading Singer ,the legendary Tilahun Gessesse passed away on Sunday midnight at the age of 69 due to accidental heart complication.

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Tilahun Gessesse (ST)

Tilahun, also called "Father, king of Ethiopian music" died at around 1pm (local time) last night, few hours after he arrived Addis Ababa from the United States to celebrate the Ethiopian Easter.

Though Tilahun was immediately taken to 3 different health centers nearby it was difficult to save his life as the health specialists were not available at that moment being off work for the Holiday, family sources indicated.

Tilahun was a role model for new generation singers in Ethiopia. He received an honorary Doctorate Degree from Addis Ababa University and also from the Ethiopia fine art and mass media prize trust for his life time achievement.

Tilahun was born in1940 from his ethnic Oromo mother Gete Gurmu, and his father Gessesse Negusse, who was an Amhara.

When he was fourteen years old, Tilahun was taken by his grandfather to Waliso town where he began attending Ras Gobena Elementary School.

As time went by, his interest in music became increasingly clear, although his grandfather urged him to concentrate on his academic studies. The Ras Gobena School Principal Mr. Shedad who was from Sudan, encouraged his interest in music and urged him to go to Sudan to pursue his music career. Although he did not go to Sudan, he took Mr. Shedad’s advice very seriously and moves forward.

The majority of Tilahun Gessesse’s recordings are in Amharic, though he has recorded a number of songs in Oromo.