By Professor Alemayehu G Mariam
Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” opens with the Duke of Orsino declaring to the assembled musicians, “If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it…
The Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) has pulled out all the stops to stop Teddy Afro (Tewodros Kassahun) from playing on his music of love; his music of joy and celebration that has been soul food for millions of Ethiopians for so long.
The T-TPLF is making Teddy’s life as miserable as their own. “Misery loves company.”
But Teddy is not about misery. He is about joy and cheerfulness.
He is of no use to the T-TPLF. He does not sing songs of misery.
Teddy is incapable of singing T-TPLF songs: songs of hate, songs of revenge, songs of injustice and songs of bitterness and acrimony.
He sings happy songs, love songs, songs of peace, songs of unity, songs of love of country and continent, songs of Ethiopianity, songs of Africanity and songs of humanity. That’s all he can sing as a musician. Love.
There is an old saying that some people are born to hate, others destined to love.
Teddy was born and destined to spread the gospel of victory in love.
Why do they want to drive Teddy out of his beloved Ethiopia?
According to recent online reports (in Amharic), the T-TPLF is determined to drive Teddy into exile or worse.
For years, the T-TPLF has been waging psychological, legal and economic warfare against Teddy in the hope of forcing to leave the country he loves.
They have tried to vilify, demoralize and humiliate him.
In 2008, the T-TPLF arrested Teddy on a trumped up charge of hit-and-run resulting in a fatality.
He was brought before a T-TPLF kangaroo/monkey kriminal kourt and railroaded to prison for six years.
His sentence was commuted to two years and released early for good behavior.
I wrote a commentary entitled “The Artist as Hero: The Ballad of Teddy Afro”, examining the alleged evidence against him in the hit-and-run case and enumerating the real reasons for his imprisonment by the T-TPLF.
When Teddy released his album “Tikur Sew” in 2012, the T-TPLF got its vilification campaign in high gear.
Using faceless drones hiding behind Facebook and other social media, the T-TPLF unleashed a clever social media smear campaign.
The T-TPLF trolls took to cyberspace claiming Teddy musically glorified Ethiopia’s 19th century Emperor Menelik II as a champion of African dignity and liberation when he was allegedly a ruthless conqueror.
Of course, that was all a load of crap since Teddy lionized other prominent Ethiopian heroes from all ethnic groups who shed their blood to defend Ethiopia’s sovereignty and dignity in his album.
In December 2013, the T-TPLF orchestrated another campaign behind the scenes to demonize, smear, tar and feather Teddy.
They hatched out a propaganda campaign around a single statement he allegedly made: “For me, Menelik’s unification campaign was a Holy War”.
The T-TPLF distorted and twisted the alleged phrase “Holy War” as genocide. They sought to imply Teddy in his music glorifies those who have committed genocide in Ethiopian history.
The overt purpose of the campaign was to demonize Emperor Menelik by demonizing Teddy.
Of course, that was total bull.
The hidden and real purpose in the campaign was to mask the record of the T-TPLF’s late genocidal leader Meles Zenawi, who personally ordered the shooting and killing of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators following the 2005 elections.
As a result of the T-TPLF fabricated controversy, Teddy lost his concert tour contract with Bedele Beer, then freshly acquired by the Dutch company Heineken.
In 2014, the T-TPLF tried to jail Teddy again on “tax evasion charges.” It was alleged that he had not paid tariff when he imported a vehicle 7 or 8 years earlier.
In an act of extraordinary courage, the “court refused to grant police more days to investigate the (tax) case and the judge said there was no need to keep him in jail to conduct the investigation.” (A judge with balls standing up to the T-TPLF?!)
In 2015, T-TPLF goons are tailing Teddy everywhere he goes.
When he goes to visit his mother, a platoon of hound dog goons follows him.
When he goes about town, he is tracked by a motorcade of brutes.
Plainclothes thugs are breathing down his neck. They stop him randomly in the streets and harass him.
His phones are tapped.
His house is under continuous surveillance.
He has been summoned and threatened with prosecution in T-TPLF kangaroo kriminal kourts (KKK).
The T-TPLF continues to use its FM stations to spread propaganda to destroy Teddy financially and soil his popular image.
They continue to scandalize his name. They defame and slander him with impunity.
They have blackballed him making it extraordinarily difficult to earn a living inside or outside the country.
When Teddy’s wife was travelling to Kenya for medical treatment recently, the T-TPLF recalled the plane, manhandled Teddy out and dragged him around like a stowaway in full public view.
Time and again, the T-TPLF has acted to humiliate and demoralize Teddy and show him they are his masters.
Love Supreme is the only master Teddy has!
The T-TPLF constantly harasses Teddy because he is not playing and dancing to their music and drumbeats of hate.
That’s why they want him driven into exile.
But Teddy has stayed. He ain’t going nowhere.
He chooses to live in chains under tyranny than live in freedom in a foreign land. That is the true mark of the patriot!
As they say, when the _ _ _ _ hits the fan, some people run, and some people stay.
Teddy stayed to face the T-TPLF fire.
The T-TPLF really hates Teddy for lionizing Ethiopia’s Emperors Menelik and Haile Selassie.
The T-TPLF leaders and members believe Menelik’s (and Haile Selassie’s) unsurpassed accomplishments dwarf their late master’s contrived accomplishments as I demonstrated in my commentary, “Demonizing Ethiopian History.”
If Teddy had sung songs about the late Meles Zenawi and his henchmen, would the T-TPLF have orchestrated vicious and relentless attacks and persecutions on him?
If Teddy had lionized hyenas, as it were, would the hyenas have complained of being lionized?
If Teddy had sung a song which exalted Meles Zenawi as the “father of modern Africa”, would he have been smeared, tarred and feathered?
I don’t want to insult Teddy but if he had worn a T-shirt bearing the image of Meles Zenawi at his concerts, would he have been harassed by the T-TPLF?
Despite relentless persecution and harassment, Teddy Afro has never complained. He just says, “Love conquers all.”
Sitting in the saddles of power for nearly 25 years, the T-TPLF gloats, “Hate conquers all”.
It seems hate has won out, temporarily.
The only thing T-TPLF leaders love is to hate.
But Teddy is unconcerned. He seems to live out Dr. Martin L. King’s maxim, “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
In other words, “Love conquers all.”
Why is the T-TPLF afraid of Teddy Afro? Why do they hate Teddy so much!?
Let’s settle indisputable facts about Teddy.
As a musician, Teddy Afro is peerless! He is incomparable!
He is one of a kind: He is original. His lyrics are sublime and uplifting. His melodies are pure ecstasy.
Teddy Afro is a musical genius. Straight up! No questions! None!
Teddy Afro is also a thoughtful, caring, compassionate and insightful human being.
He teaches his life’s philosophy in all of his songs. That philosophy could be summarized in three words: “Love conquers all.” That is it! Nothing more.
Teddy sings about forgiveness and reconciliation.
He sings of love of country and continent.
He sings of ethnic and religious tolerance.
He sings of the glory days of Ethiopia.
He sings of Ethiopian heroes who gave up their lives to keep Ethiopia free; free from colonialism; free from foreign domination and free as a sovereign nation.
He sings freedom songs.
Teddy, like Bob Marley, sings songs of redemption:
Won’t you help to sing/ These songs of freedom?/ ‘Cause all I ever had:/ Redemption songs/ All I ever had: / Redemption songs:/ These songs of freedom,/Songs of freedom.
Redemption songs are all Teddy has.
Teddy calls it, “Ethiopia’s Tensae” (“Ethiopia’s redemption”).
I confess I have no idea why the T-TPLF continues to relentlessly persecute Teddy today.
Could it be because Teddy sings the truth?
I can understand how he can make enemies among those who hate the truth.
Could it be because Teddy sings about love.
I can understand how he can make mortal enemies among those in whose veins courses hate.
Could it be because Teddy sings about forgiveness?
I can understand how he can make enemies among those bristling with revenge and vengeance.
Could it be because Teddy sings about reconciliation?
I can understand how he can make enemies among those whose life’s mission is to divide and misrule.
Could it be because Teddy sings about the resurrection of Ethiopia?
I can understand how he can make enemies among the killers of Ethiopia.
Could it be because Teddy sings about Ethiopian unity?
I can understand how he can make enemies among those who have chopped up Ethiopia and made it an archipelago of tribes, ethnic groups, religions and regions.
Could it be because Teddy sings about a better future for all Ethiopians?
I can understand how he can make enemies among those destined for the dustbin of history.
Could it be because Teddy sings about Ethiopia’s former glory?
I can understand how he can make enemies among inglorious villains, rascals, scoundrels and bush thugs.
Could it be because Teddy sings about the natural beauty of Ethiopia and its people?
I can understand how he can make enemies among crass and benighted boneheads.
But these are not good reasons to hate or fear Teddy.
How is it possible to hate the man whose life’s philosophy and practice is love thy neighbor; love and honor thy country; love thy continent; love and honor thy history; love and honor thy country’s people in their wonderful diversity.
How is it possible to hate the messenger of love?
There is a special word to describe those who hate love itself.
It is called “Schadenfreude” (killjoy), a German word that has found its way into the English language to describe people who get supreme pleasure from witnessing the pain, suffering and misfortunes of others. Only haters derive pleasure from the suffering and humiliation of others.
Schadenfreude is a form of sadism in which perpetrators inflict pain, suffering and misfortunes on others and in doing so find joy and self-affirmation for themselves.
For people possessed by the demons of schadenfreude, the grief, sadness and disappointment of others makes them happy; the pain of others makes them joyous; the suffering of others gives them total ecstasy.
In other words, they get ultimate joy from hate. That is the true portrait of T-TPLF leaders and members!
They love to hate those who love to love and love love itself.
Consorting with the opposition?
The T-TPLF alleges that Teddy “supports the opposition”. What does that even mean?
Of course, they are trying to suggest Teddy is a politician not a musician.
The day Teddy becomes a politician is the day the T-TPLF embraces genuine (not “We won 100 percent” of the 547-seat kangaroo/monkey parliament) democracy and respects human rights.
That will happen exactly on the 12th of Never!
The T-TPLF has made “supporting the opposition” a krime in its kangaroo kriminal kourt!
Is it not one’s constitutional and human right to support the political party of one’s choice?
But Teddy is not a political man. He is THE music man.
The irony is that the T-TPLF wants Teddy to support them politically; to give them money; to idolize them in song, give them publicity and to sing the songs they tell him to sing.
Teddy’s response is, “Thanks but no thanks.”
The fact of the matter is that Teddy has not done any of the things the T-TPLF wants him to do for any other political organization. Why should he start with the T-TPLF?
The T-TPLF bosses have more money than common sense.
They should chill and listen to the Beatles’ song, “(Money) Can’t buy me love”.
“Money can’t buy me love/ Can’t buy me love, everybody tells me so/Can’t buy me love, no no no, no…”
The T-TPLF cannot buy the love of the Ethiopian people or Ethiopia’s voice of love for any amount of money!
I am Teddy Afro’s No. 1 fan!
I have been Teddy Afro’s #1 fan for many years.
I have crooned and danced to his music. I like the way he infuses Reggae beats into traditional Ethiopian melodies.
When he has a concert in my neck of the woods, I join up with all the young people and have a good time.
I have written about Teddy on various occasions.
In my 2010 Huffington Post commentary, the first time I saw Teddy performing live, I wrote:
For those us who had never seen Teddy perform live and witnessed the standing-room only crowd go into semi-conscious trance, it was a walk down memory lane. I recall seeing such deep spiritual connection between an artist and his audience decades ago when Bob Marley came to my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, on May 30, 1978 (Kaya Tour) and November 15, 1979 (Survival Tour). Those fortunate enough to have been present at a Bob Marley concert know exactly what I mean.
In June 2014, I called on Ethiopians to boycott Coca Cola for discriminating against Teddy.
Coca Cola commissioned 32 local versions of the 2014 Brazil FIFA World Cup “anthem”.
Coca Cola officially released all versions except Teddy Afro’s version. Of course, Coca Cola was ordered by the T-TPLF bosses to drop Teddy’s version.
“That ain’t right but is OK,” as Whitney might have sang it.
(I have not (and will never) touched a Coca Cola product to this day! I’d rather go thirsty than drink a Coca Cola product. It is a simple matter of principle for me. I cannot support a global company that practices censorship and discrimination. In my commentary I told Coca Cola to “GO TO HELL!” I hope they have arrived there by now.)
Teddy does not sing much in English, but if he had, he would rightly have been recognized the world over as the spiritual reincarnation of Bob Marley, the “King of Reggae”, in Africa. That’s how good Teddy Afro is with his musical craftsmanship, passion and excellence.
(I wonder how many people know the word “reggae” is derived from the Latin “regi” meaning “to the king”. “Reggae” music is the “king’s music”.)
I hope the T-TPLF ignoramuses will not drag Teddy into kangaroo kriminal kourt for singing “the king’s” music because he has mentioned Emperors Menelik and Haile Selassie in his lyrics. (For the Rastafari of Jamaica, that would indeed be true.)
I know Teddy Afro through his music, through his videos, through his concerts, through his interviews online and most of all through his message of love, understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation.
That’s how I became his #1 fan.
In my personal evaluation of Teddy Afro’s work as a musician, I regard him to be more than a pop music star. In my view, he is indeed a musical evangelist for the values and principles of Dr. King, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
Teddy has my utmost respect, appreciation and admiration. He is truly a beacon of hope, faith, optimism and endurance to his generation.
(You know, it just occurred to me!!! Could it be that the T-TPLF is persecuting Teddy Afro because he is a beacon of hope, faith, optimism and endurance to his generation?)
The young Ethiopian poet Henok Yeshitela penned a few moving words recently in Teddy’s honor in Amharic.
I wish I could translate it all. Here are just three lines:
Teddy like (King) David
Anointed with oil from a horn
God has blessed him to be a shining light (on darkness)
Please, leave Teddy the hell alone!
I have said on numerous occasions that preaching the rule of law to the T-TPLF is like preaching Scripture to a gathering of heathen. It is like pouring water on a slab of granite.
Let me now say that preaching love, forgiveness and reconciliation to the T-TPLF is like preaching love, forgiveness and reconciliation to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
I am not asking the T-TPLF to listen to me. They get an earful from me every week.
All I am asking of the T-TPLF is to listen to Teddy Afro’s music, really listen to his music, the lyrics and melodies and feel the passion and love.
I will guarantee that they will be conquered by the love that gushes out of his music; his every note will strike a chord of harmony in their distraught minds; his every beat will beat the hate out of their hearts.
William Congreve, the English playwright and poet wrote, “Music has charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”
I have no doubts the T-TPLF will be charmed, their rock-hard hearts softened, their savage spirits calmed and comforted and their hate knotted hearts unchained if only they really listened to Teddy Afro’s music.
Join us, T-TPLF, and partake of Teddy’s sweet soul (food) music with us.
It is unlikely we can talk to the T-TPLF in the language of politics, of law or of human rights.
But if it is true that music is a universal language, then we may finally be able to talk to the T-TPLF through Teddy Afro’s music.
I can imagine myself talking to the T-TPLF in Teddy’s language: “Jah! Yasteseryal!” (God forgives through atonement.)
T-TPLF brothers! Try and listen, really listen, to Teddy’s songs of love!
You got nothing to lose, but your hate!
If music be the food of love, play on Teddy. Give me excess of it.
“Love conquers all.” Tewodros Kassahun (Teddy Afro)
Teddy, we love you. We respect you. We appreciate you!!!
By Professor Alemayehu G Mariam