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The role of Oromo music artists in the Oromo national liberation struggle

Posted: Onkoloolessa/October 25, 2013 · Finfinne Tribune | Gadaa.com | Comments (8)

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 tguyyoo@yahoo.com


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  1. I am oromo first

    Oct 26, 13 at 12:45 am

    Jawar summarized it all. Are you oromo first or ethiopian first?
    Jawar: ” I am oromo first, Ethiopia is imposed on me”. So oromos know which to choose if given opportunity. That is excalty what made oromo first so popular among oromo. It’s all inclusive. The fight must intensified until every single oromo is given the chance to answer exactly this question and officially declares independence.

  2. Tola Biyyaa

    Oct 26, 13 at 2:55 am

    Obbo Leenjiso,

    Galatoomi barruu yeroo hundan duubssa jabadhuu!

    Qabsoon itti fufa Bilisummaa ni dhufaa

  3. V&Y

    Oct 26, 13 at 6:54 pm

    Mr Author,
    I appreciate your take on the role of music in national liberation struggle, But I think you are typical V-minded Oromo, who antagonizes, moralizes and emotionalizes the minor differences between the pro-ndepnence and the pro-union Oromo nationalists. I hope you will be transformed to the Y-minded constructive person in due time.

    To understand What I mean, read the following comment I got from other discussions:
    “To make both a genuine national independence of Oromoland (Golden Oromia) and a regionl union of Cushland (Great Oromia) become a reality and to help the struggle for freedom be successful, certain questions must be answered. For instance: despite the fact that the two Oromo groups (the independencists and the unionists) in the Ethiopian empire are under a very dire situation, why did they fail not to foster an alliance of the Oromo liberation forces (alliance of both the independencists and unionists).

    One brilliant Oromo intellectual recently raised a nice question: “how can we overcome the mentality of the 19th century?” http://gadaa.com/oduu/9750/201… The answer to this question can be: the only way for us to overcome this mentality is by embracing the 21st century mentality of democracy. The 19th century mentality of brute force and mischieve, under which few of the Oromo elites and most of the Habesha elites in the Ethiopian empire are suffering, is the backward mentality of the dictators (of the V-minded politicians); whereas the 21st century mentality is that of the democrats (of the Y-minded politicians), who do believe in human and national freedom to self-determination. For what do both the letters V and Y stand here? Who are these V or Y Oromo?

    To understand the V-politicians, let’s just imagine a big letter V and try to visualize that at the bottom junction of the letter are the Tigrean dictators keeping the status quo of Tigrean hegemony; at the left top tip of the letter are the dictatorial independencists; and at the right top tip are the dictatorial unionists. If we look at the way how these three forces deal with each other, they just do want to achieve their respective goals unconditionally: the Tigrean hegemonists want to keep their domination at any cost, the dictatorial Oromo independencists try to achieve Oromian independence at any cost and the dictatorial unionists also want to achieve a union at any cost. Especially, the unconditional positions of the two camps, i.e that of the unconditional independencist Oromo and that of the unconditional unionists, who are antagonizing each other and continiously barking at each other, is a trillion dollar lottery, which the ruling Tigrean elites are enjoying now by further dividing and polarizing these two opposition camps, because of the fact that both the independencist dictators and the unionist dictators (the V-politicians of the two opposition camps) can not forge a challenging alliance against the Woyane!

    To see who the Y-politicians (the democrats in the two opposition camps) are, let’s just try to imagine a very big letter Y and try to distinguish four points on the letter (the bottom tip, the middle junction, the left top tip, and the right top tip). Then let’s imagine that the bottom tip is the status-quo of Ethiopian politics, where both the independencist and the unionist Oromo are under the tyranny of the Woyane; the middle junction is a point for freedom of the Oromo nation from the tyranny (the common goal of both the independencists and the unionists); the left top tip is the point of independence; and the right top tip is the point for union. Then let’s imagine that this letter Y is a route of the liberation journy for both the independencists and the unionists from the tyranny or from their present common situation, towards their short term (common goal of freedom) and long term goals (diverging respective goals of independence or union). Can we imagine that the democrats of these two oppressed nations do have a possibility to move from the bottom tip (point of tyranny) to the middle junction (point of freedom) together? This is our common route for the journey towards this common converging short term goal of freedom. Then after will come, the two diverging routes towards the two different and diverging long term goals of the two nations: the left top tip = independence (the long term goal of the independencists) and right top tip = union (the long term goal of the unionists).

    Now if we could imagine this letter Y very well, it is not hard to comprehend that we need the alliance of the two camps to move from the status-quo of tyranny to the point of freedom, not to move together to the right top tip (together to the union goal) or together to the left top tip (together to the independence goal). After achieving our freedom together, it is upto the Oromo public to decide per referendum which direction to move further: to the left top tip of independence or to the right top tip of union. If the Oromo majority will choose to move to the right top tip, then our common long term goal will be similar to that of the unionist democrats. Otherwise, if the Oromo majority will choose to move to the left top tip, no Habesha dictator can hinder the Oromo nation from achieving this Oromian independence.”

  4. Generation

    Oct 26, 13 at 6:56 pm

    Obbo Leenjiso,
    it sounds that you are the 1st generation nationalist, who does have only one post-bilisummaa alternative regarding Oromia’s sovereignity, i.e independence! To your surprise, those whom you try to label as part of the enemy are the 2nd generation nationalists, who do see two post-bilisummaa alternatives: independence and federation, out of which the Oromo people can have a chance to choose. Even nowadays you see very few 3rd generation nationalists emerging, who want to play the cards of three post-bilisummaa alternatives: independence, federation and unity, because of the fact that, if freedom and democracy are the rule of the game in the future politics of that region, the Oromo people are the last to worry about which type of sovereignity we want to foster.

  5. Gumaa Saba

    Oct 26, 13 at 10:20 pm

    Ashammaa Oromoo

    Obbo Leenjiso hayyuu keenya heddu galatoomi for guidelining of Oromiyaa liberation struggle. Mr V and Y why you try to confused the Oromo peoples by saying this generation that generation. There is no nation or generation of nations accept colonialism of any form. All Oromo

  6. Danbal Fayyiso

    Dec 10, 13 at 11:21 pm

    Many thans for former Oromo strangling community!!
    All Oromo musician have great contribution in Oromo strangle towards Liberation and Freedom. In short and strong key, we are still happy that Oromo and Oromia borne the following 21st generations OROMO UNITY FOR SELF DETERMINATION AND LIBERATION STRANGLE

    1. Ali Bira-II (Hacaalu Hundessa) and fellowes, man of renewing straggle; From Oromia for Oromia
    2. Jawar Muhamed, Abidii Fixee, Mohamad Adamo and followers; mans of OROMO FIRST from Oromo-USA
    3. Toltu Tufa and followers; representative of 50% Oromo population; Lady of “Afaan Movement” from Oromo-Australia.
    4. DR. Gamachu and followers from Global.
    5. ???
    6. ???

  7. Debissa Gadda

    Dec 21, 13 at 6:44 pm

    Thanks, friend. i do not understand why this people when heared the name “Oromo” become irritated, nauesa, and allergic to them? my fear is as these allergic subsatances increased more and more they will ended up with “ANAPHYLICTIC SHOCK.” Then will eneded up suffocation and move way to have free air and safe life. As matter of natural deffence when you have no answer for raised issues it makes you stressful and angry. Look when Abyssinians faced with Oromo question their answer is “Tebab- Narrow” and so on. i have one ABESHA FRIEND and i gave him question”why the name Finfine changed to Addis ABABAS, Bishoftu to Dbebirezeit and son ?” You know what he answer for me” this question is from Tebab Oromo.”

  8. Debissa Gadda

    Dec 21, 13 at 7:51 pm

    Sorry, wheris my comment? what is was the mistake?