Arba Minch Festival in Ethiopia

Southern Ethiopia is the cradle of mankind. It is the home of 55 distinct and diverse peoples who travel annually to Arba Minch, the centre of the Rift valley, to meet, celebrate and perform their traditional music and dance at the Festival of a Thousand Stars. This year’s edition wil take place between 16 and 18 December in Arba Minch.

Last year over 500 performers journeyed from desert, lakelands and mountaintops to bring their music and dance to a joyous 15,000 crowd.

The 2006 festival goers will see up to 1000 performing stars under the clear sunny Arba Minch skies, all with wildly different and colorful traditional costumes and customs. They sing and dance to celebrate life and death, birth and marriage, their precious animals and the richness of the land that they love, as they have done for millennia.

Global Music Exchange has worked with the Baka people in South East Cameroon for the last 15 years. They recorded the Baka’s music and have used royalties from CD sales to fund projects chosen by the Baka themselves. After seeing the success of this work, the Christensen Fund invited GME to record an album and help the Department of Culture of the Southern region of Ethiopia to stage the 2005 Arba Minch Festival of Music and Dance. It was a huge success.
“More than four times as good as I could imagine!” said Ato Darut, Governor of Gamo Gofa zone.

The Festival of a Thousand Stars CD the soundscape from three incredible days of performance, the best of the 2005 Festival. Its infectious, spiritual and hypnotic sound intends to make the listener feel like he or she has traveled to some of the deepest parts of Ethiopia. Royalties from sales will create wealth in the communities of these diverse groups and will help ensure the survival of their traditions. It brings the performers financial rewards but more importantly the knowledge that their traditions are valued and respected by their Ethiopian neighbors and the wider world.

Global Music Exchange believes that if traditional musicians get fair returns then they become primary producers, rather than consumers at the bottom of the pile reliant on handouts.

The extremely rich biological and cultural diversity of Southern Ethiopia is under real threat. With increasing pressure to conform to the outside world there is a real danger that traditions will be lost. The Festival of a Thousand Stars keeps these cultures vibrant and very much alive.

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Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central