Ethiopians show there’s more than one way to celebrate Christmas

ethopianxmas

Not feeling the commercialization of Christmas in America? Take a trip to Ethopia. The country’s large Orthodox Christian community traditionally observes the day with fasting and processions, not gift-giving.

They also have a different calendar, so they celebrate on January 7, when the rest of us are well into our post-holiday doldrums.

Last Saturday’s Ethopian Xmas Party, at Club Sur in SODO, was one Christmas celebration that was well and truly free of hokey references to Santa and religious tributes.

The night proved to be a classy showcase of two up-and-coming hip hop artists from the Ethopian community: rapper Young Sim and singer Zewdy.

But the guy who stole the show was Habte Awalom, Zewdy’s father. Without any warning, he took the stage early on and delivered a deep-throated rendition of Endebirabiro, or “Like A Butterfly,” in Amharic.

He explained to me later that it’s a love song, telling a girl not to be like a butterfly and go from man to man. “I wrote and published it in 1985. And one of the most popular Ethopian singers re-did it without asking me!” he said.

As he spoke to me over the din of the music, the pride he has in his daughter was unmistakable. “She has 14 million views on YouTube. I really didn’t go after it like she did. She’s very determined and I support her 100%.”

He says Zewdy’s first album comes out early this year and that she’s a mainstream American artist, not an ethnic one.

To be frank, however, the night left me more intrigued to hear what a 1985 interviewer called the “Ethio-American sound, a blend of traditional Ethopian music with a funky American beat” pioneered by Awalom, Zewdy’s father.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to next year’s Ethiopian Christmas.

Here’s Awalom’s rendition of Bruno Mars’ “Billionaire.” The top-ranked YouTube comment on the page: “HE’S SUCH ABOUT THE GREATEST DAD IN THE WORLD,,,EVER.”

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