Classic: Hachalu Hundessa – ‘Jirra’

Hachalu Hundessa - JirRa

The murder of Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundessa on 29th June in Addis Ababa plunged the country into political crisis. Through his songs and political activism Hundessa became a advocate for equality and justice and especially for the civil rights of the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. At age 17 he was jailed for having links to the Oromo Liberation Front. Accusations that were never proven. While staying in prison for five years, he started composing songs in order to contribute to the Oromo cause.

His contribution to Geerarsa, Oromo resistance music, is closely linked to his motivation to have an impact on society: “Well, I think with music you analyze the political, social, economic, and the life of society. I personally feel happy when I sing resistance songs. Singing such songs is inside me since I am part of the society,” he said. (DW)

In 2017, the artist released ‘Jirra‘ (We are here), a track in which he voiced out encouragement and pride to the Oromo community. Speaking about the relevance of this track, Oromo scholar and Keele University lecturer Awol Allo writes: “It celebrated transformations within the Oromo community and fundamental shifts in Ethiopia’s political landscape. It embodied a newfound collective optimism, a feeling that Oromo culture is no longer in jeopardy, and a sense that the Oromo society is finally in the middle of a robust ascendancy.” (African Arguments) According to Allo, Hundessa “used his artistic tools to engage in the most profound and edifying reflections on issues of identity, dispossession, precarity, marginalisation and love” (Al Jazeera).

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