Eyob Mekonnen: A model of Existential seriousness (Teodros Kiros, PhD)
By Teodros Kiros
Hope. Principled Love. Honesty. Loyalty. Deference. Humility. This is the stuff of which life is made.Eyob Mekonnen, the very voice of existential seriousness addressed us Ethtiopians with utmost respect for our intelligences and tried to wake us from the slumbers of our sleep. He shunned popularity and refused to thoughtlessly succumb to the vagaries and moods of the music industry.
Tremendous thoughts and vessels of pregnant tears were his companions as he struggled with words to think clearly and honed his voice to sing to the African world and the Ethiopian present. His songs were neither understood nor appreciated by an Ethiopian audience drunk with the dance to numb its pain and to forget its situation.
The thinker- singer was a thorn in the regime of thoughtlessness and the banality of hate.
Through a series of songs mediated through a golden voice, the singer-thinker with a natural existential temperament sought to wake us up, so that we can see; sung to us so that we can hear; touched our consciences so that we can rise and change our individual situation.
He told us that the word was given to us so that we can think (Yekuanka Felasfa); admonished us to keep our promises and be true to our words (Ande Kal), taught us that one could love unconditionally and without monetary enticements and shallow appearances (Ye Ewntewanew); that hope is given to us in the form of a tomorrow, for which we must wait patiently (Negen Layew); that Africa must be united for the sake of the African condition (Ande Africa); and that we must always be honest, no matter how hard it is (Endatefash).
These songs and many others speak directly to the Ethiopian present through harmonious lyrics and the moving vibes of Reggae. One is moved to dance but this time one thinks as he/she dances, that one is engaged with the world and that one does not dance to forget pain but to confront it, if necessary through tears of joy, and the releasment of pain, of pain that enlightens.
Eyob has brilliantly Ethiopianized Bob Marley’s soul and wrapped himself inside the existential envelop of the Rasta world. Pain, hope, action are blended with despair, disappointment and frustration, in a singularly melodic voice that is infectious, moving and full of hope for the human being, who wants to change, who is willing to challenge the stubborn Ego to submit to the silent voice of the Transcendent who chose Eyob to speak to us, so that we can be enlightened and think deeply about our individual situation as Ethiopians, as Africans and most importantly, as thoughtful human beings, who must think before we speak, and speak through and from the depth of our hearts, the human organ, which never lies and is always illuminated.
Eyob was a symbol of the illumined musician, a seeker born to suffer, but also teach through that suffering.
What a loss!
Ethiopia has lost its first thinker-dreamer, a philosophical mind with a natural existential temperament. Handsome, soul full, brilliant, Eyob Mekonnen, the silent superstar has gone to the other zone and become one with the Transcendent.
Teodros Kiros (PhD) is Professor of Philosophy and English (Liberal Arts) Berklee College of Music