By Leenjiso Horo* | October 2013
Throughout history, music has been used as a means of struggle. It is a form of language, a type of communication, and a revolutionary force in the time of national struggle. Popular music conveys messages. It conveys messages of patriotism and highlights popular sentiments. It inspires passion, pride, nationalism, and action in citizens to take. It encourages citizens to take up weapons and fight for the cause they believe in. For this, it taps into everything from historical memories of past conflicts to present injustices. It is a useful tool for changing the way people think and feel. It is for these reasons, revolutionaries and nationalists take music very seriously. Through music, musical artists shame and humiliate those who betray their nation and their country, and those who do not support the national liberation struggle. Revolutionary music vilifies the traitors, the vacillators, the cowards, the enemy loyalists and the neutralists at the time of national liberation struggle. For these, music can be used as a propaganda tool in a war of national liberation.
Again, throughout history, music has had an important role in military, revolutions, wars of national liberation and social history. It tells the stories of heroes and heroines resisting oppressors and colonizers. It tells the crimes of injustices, the crimes committed by the colonizer against the colonized people. It tells about the people’s struggle for independence, and their wishes and aspirations for freedom, peace, justice and dignity.
Through music, political artists promote love of their people, love of their country, culture, system of government, and pride in its institutions. Patriotic music inspires actions. Musical instruments and voices can invoke rage, fears, or love. It plays an important part in political and military battleground in the national liberation struggle. No liberation front, as history proves, can afford to ignore the patriotic force that is capable of being brought into struggle through the power of music, either in songs, or poems or in instrumental form – all of which perform their inciting to action. In general, music, songs and poems propagate the messages of patriotism and nationalism. It was in this spirit, Abraham Lincoln, the President of U.S., had to compliment Composer-lyricist George F. Root for his composing of “The Battle Cry of Freedom” during American Civil War – in these words, “You have done more than a hundred generals and a thousand orators.” Today, these words are equally applicable to Abdii Qophee, the patriotic Oromo nationalist, the prominent composer, and to those Oromo artists who have been and are using their patriotic music, songs and poems in promoting the Oromo struggle for independence of Oromiyaa. The Oromo popular vocalists have been and are performing songs at rallies, displaying patriotism, and hatred for the enemy of their people with determination and without fear. In politics, music, war songs, and poems project the power of involvement in one’s cause, the respect for the courage and the determination the nation has for its nationalists who fought or are fighting for freedom. The emotion and body language of the artists add another element of patriotism and nationalism to the message. Music encourages action and support for a cause. The famous Oromo musical artist, among many others, who have inspired the Oromo nation – were and are: Usmayyoo Musaa, Eebbisaa Addunyaa, Kuulanii Boruu, Daraartuu Boonaa, Nuhoo Goobanaa, Kadiir Said, Umar Suleyman, Ilfinesh Qannoo, Adnan Mohammed, Hirphaa Ganfuree, Adam Harun, Zarihun Wodajoo, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, Muktar Usman, Mohammad Sheekaa, Aman Gobana, Elemo Ali, Adam Ahmed, Hamdiya Ibrahim, Gaaddisee Shamsadiin, Fayyisaa Furii, and Kumaa Irkoo, etc.
Since the start of the Oromo national liberation struggle, the marshaling of patriotic Oromo popular music has propelled the nationalist movement. Patriotic music always forges national unity and cohesion during the liberation struggle, and after it. The armed nationalists’ struggle significantly lightens up by the liberation music and songs of Oromo nationalist artists both inside and outside of Oromiyaa as the war of liberation continues. The basic importance of national unity and national cohesion in supporting the liberation struggle to win independence compels the freedom fighters and the people to constantly manipulate popular patriotic music and songs to harness those cultural traditions vital in rallying the people behind the national cause – independence. The Oromo national liberation struggle gave birth to patriotic Oromo music, songs and poems homogeneity of musical styles bound together by their use as a medium for the articulation of an anti-colonial sensibility.
Music, songs and poems have played a significant role in wars and in revolutions throughout history. Music and songs have been used in marches and in rallies to mobilize soldiers and revolutionaries. Again, throughout history, music formed part of State ceremonies, victory celebrations, and funerals; it provides an important language to communicate revolutionary ideas and ideals even in politically oppressive environments and serve to communicate and reflect upon war and revolution. All in all, music is a cultural product. It reflects ideas about war and revolution with various cultural contexts. It is for this, revolutionary music, patriotic songs, and poems have to reflect cultural values and aspects of a particular society. Music, songs, poems, and dance can only have meaning in one’s own cultural setting because they are part of culture and history of a society. Outside of one’s culture and history, they lose their meanings, their audience and appreciations. At the time of national liberation struggle, music is the first of the fine arts by which every mind is moved in a society. It speaks to every human heart. Patriotic music makes nationalists to embrace death in a national liberation struggle cheerfully for the cause of their people. It is in this way, the Oromo artists have been playing and still are playing a significant role in the war of national liberation struggle against colonial occupation.
Finally, today, because of the Oromo nationalists’ political and armed struggles, and their sacrifice in this struggles, and because of patriotic music, songs, and poems of Oromo nationalist artists, every Oromo nationals are standing proud; standing tall declaring “I am Oromo, First.” As we have seen, when Ob. Jawar Mohammed was asked the question, “Are you Oromo, First, or Ethiopian First?” by Femi Oke on Al Jazeera, Ob. Jawar responded “I am Oromo, First.” This response of his sent waves after waves of shocks within Ethiopians/Abyssinians across the globe. Without spending time, immediately thereafter, the Abyssinians, from every corner of globe, started character-assassinating, condemning, insulting and threatening him. Here, one must understand that it is not Ob. Jawar Mohammed they hate, but it is his identity they hate. This has to be understood in terms of Oromoness, the Oromo identity. Ob. Jawar simply told his identity. For the Abyssinians, this is a crime, punishable by death. They want to bury Ob. Jawar Mohammed and his Oromo people under the Ethiopian artificial identity. But, the Oromo have already rejected the Ethiopian identity. It is in the rejection of Ethiopian identity, the Oromo nationals stood firmly and convincingly in support of Ob. Jawar Mohammed and their Oromo identity – each declaring “I am Oromo, First.” and collectively declaring, “We are Oromo, First.”
The statement, “I am Oromo First,” however, can also be used by the Ethiopianist Oromo nationals – the Trojan horses within and among the Oromo nationals, to confuse the Oromo public. For this, it has to be qualified further as to what it means and what it does not mean. “I am Oromo, First” is a first step in the national struggle. It is a recognition, acceptance, and re-affirmation of one’s identity. It only indicates the level of national awareness – to be an Oromo, to be born as an Oromo. But, national awareness and pride of one’s culture alone may not generate enough enthusiasm to motive nationals to join the national liberation movement. The reason is simply, at this level, most nationals have extremely little knowledge of political matters involved. It is because of this, some Oromo nationals are attracted to and have found comfort with a political propaganda of “democratization of Ethiopia,” and “federalization of Ethiopia” as preached by Ethiopiawits instead of the struggle for independence of Oromiyaa. It has to reach the level of national political consciousness. National consciousness develops enough enthusiasm to motivate nationals to take active role in the national liberation struggle. If and when the concept of “I am Oromo, first” reaches the level of national consciousness, then the nationals: old and young, will flock in thousands, and in tens of thousands to the Oromo national liberation movement and to the liberation army. In this case, it has to transcend the level of speeches and slogans to the level of practically taking action. National consciousness creates grassroots devotion to national independence. Hence, national awareness and national consciousness are the pre-conditions in the national liberation struggle. “I am Oromo, First” has to be accompanied with “I am a subject of Ethiopia, but I am not Ethiopian; I am Oromo for all the times and forever and I stand for and fight for a free, independent sovereign state of Oromiyaa.” Phrased differently, one has to declare openly and unambiguously one’s identity with and loyalty to the Oromo nation and to Oromiyaa, as one’s country.
All in all, it is important to remind oneself Bob Marley’s timeless revolutionary song that echoes: “Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, Stand up, don’t give up the fight.” This is an important lesson for those Oromo nationals who have chosen to remain neutral, folding their hands, crossing their legs and closing their eyes – refusing to see and refusing to hear their people’s call as Oromiyaa is forcefully taken and undergoing mutilation, and as the Oromo people are slaughtered on mass scale in it – and to those who had left the struggle in despair for lack of courage and failed to stand up to the enemy to fight it. It is time for you to get up, stand up, shake off your fears and join the Oromo people and their nationalists in the fight for freedom, dignity and independence of your people.
Everyone must engage in fighting the enemy as the Oromo artists have been doing. The Oromo artists are revolutionizing musical art in order to effectively carry on the fight against the internal saboteurs, collaborators, and the neutralists through revolutionary musical arts as Haacaaluu Hudeessaa’s revolutionary song “Oromiyaa maaltu gadhiisaa” echoing:
“Allayyaan allayyumaa maaltu allayyaa nuu dhufa jedhee; Alagaan alagumaa maaltu alagaadhaan fira jedhee…. Kobbortaa Ormi namaa baadhatu yoo abbaan ofii baadhate malee; Roorroo Orma irraa dhufte, roorroo diina irraa dhufte, maaltu nama dhooga yoo abbaan dhooggate malee…Jabbiloota koo, jabbilota Odaa jalaa kan nama nyaatu nu keessa jira;…Eemulee yaa garba ciisaa biyyaa ofii maaltu gadhiisaa; Oromiyaa maaltu gadhiisaa…”
Artist Haacaaluu addressed the same issues that Bob Marley addressed some forty years ago in 1973. That is, the message is the same. It is to get up, stand up and fight the enemy. Haacaaluu’s music went on further exposing the internal detractors of the Oromo struggle – those who abandoned the objective of the Oromo struggle -independence. Through his music, Haacaaluu also exposed those who have betrayed their people’s struggle, abandoned their comrades and people for alliance with enemy of their people and country. In his song, “kan nama nyaatu nu keessa jira” is in reference to those Oromo nationals who have been undermining national unity, internal peace and stability of Oromo political, civic, and social organizations, and those who have been undermining the unity, peace, and harmony within and among the nationalists. All in all, we all salute the Oromo musical artists for their courage, dedication and uncompromising stance in fighting against the Abyssinian colonial regime, its empire and its Oromo loyalist lackeys.
Oromiyaa Shall BE Free!
* Leenjiso Horo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org