Harari Cultural Music

Music is one of the vital artistic inventions in the history of mankind and a value that functions as an integral aspect of the everyday life of people. Thus, it is one of the foremost cultural manifestations. As mankind is the only creation that has language so it is also the only creation that plays music vocally and with instruments. Linguistic skills and the height of aesthetic needs of man enabled him to invent arts such as music. In religious and ritual ceremonies, in basic events of the cycle of life, in social functions and cultural activities, music plays extensive social and economic role in terms of accompanying ritual ceremonies. It creates aesthetic joy and happiness narrating events, recording history and solidifying social relations.

As music is essentially an artistic and cultural activity that is founded on sound, it is represented by rhythmic arrangements of vocal and instrumental sound. This nature of music and its sociality enable it to have rhythms which are based on the aspects and attitudes of the performing society; hence, its intricate bond with the feelings and emotions of human beings is strong. Thus, melodies that are connected to the social events are crafted to express sadness or happiness, success or challenge. Every society has its own music culture hence, it formulates its own melodies in accord with its own culture and tradition. Therefore, it enables to explore the philosophy, world outlook, social relationships, history, culture and overall identity of a society.

The Harari people are one of the ancient Semitic peoples and have a long history of preserving their language, culture and identity. Therefore, the people have a deep-rooted tradition and history of music, musical instruments, melodies and dances. In general, Harari music can be categorized as cultural and modern. The cultural music which is the base for the modern one can portray the untainted culture of the people.

The Harari people refer to their music as “music of the city” (Gey feker). The inseparable tie of the spirit of the Harari with music is best illustrated with a saying which goes: “Wali Zalhana wali yuhunumel”, which can literally be translated as: “one who has never been a singer will never become a saint”. As the people of Harar are entirely Muslims, the impact of their religion on their songs, musical instruments, and their overall music tradition has been considerable. As a result, most of their songs are closely related to religious rituals while the remaining ones are about social events which take place. Among the major occasions in which music is performed are religious festivals such as “Eid” and “Arafa”, “Tunses gar”, “Anker Mahiteb”, and similar wedding ceremonies and educa tional festivals like “Kelem” mesber.17 In Harari culture, there are musical performances in which both sexes can take part and, also there are cultural music performances that are linked to gender and age category.18 In particular, as a result of the religious teachings which do not encourage Harari men to take part in worldly music after they get married, the responsibility of maintaining the asset of cultural music and passing on to the next generation is entrusted to women. Thus, Harari mothers laid the foundation for today’s generation by passing on the history, culture, tradition and norms with their songs.

Ethiopian music in northern central and southern parts can be analyzed in terms of its melodic and rhythmic arrangement indicated as pentatonic scale and Homophonic texture. However, the musical presentation of eastern Ethiopia, particularly the Harari’s, is different.

The melodies of Harari music are Harmonic Minor Scale. This scale of melody becomes Polyphonic Texture when they are translated into rhythmic performance and it can be said that this is a unique feature of Harari music. The fact that it is a harmonic minor scale implies the Islamic religious background of the community and makes it akin to the music culture of Middle East.

The presentation of the scale of melodies in musical notes is as follows:

Among the Harari people, cultural songs are performed following certain seasons and occasions, and based on their types and styles, the songs can be sung in solo, or in duo or in group. The Harari people have cultural music repertoire that are known as “Salley”, “Kotankot”/”Jaliye”, “Mihras Faqar”, “Dersi”, “Guti Halas”, “Maslah” and “Dabal”, and they have musical instruments to accompany these songs whenever deemed necessary - such as “Kabal” which is made of a pair of wooden blocks or clappers and varieties of drum (Daf and Karabu).19 Due to the prevalence of varieties of drums with different size, shape and materials used to manufacture them, Ethnomusicologists who analyze African music state that “Africa is land of drum”. This continental reality is applicable to Harari music as well.

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City of Hareri

In the last two and half decades of self-administration, Harari People’s Regional State has exerted every effort to maintain, develop and promote the culture, language and heritage of its people.

H.E. Ato Murad Abdulhadi  

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