Asnaqetch Werqu

Ethiopiques, Vol. 16: Asnaqetch Werqu -- The Lady With the Krar

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Asnaqetch Werqu first found fame as an actress and dancer, and became the first female actress in her country to be acknowledged as a star in the 1950s. However, she was also very much a musician, and her music -- which was always very distinctive -- was associated with a specifically Ethiopian tradition, that of Azmaris, or the artist caste, who improvised songs with their instrument, the krar. Perhaps unsurprisingly, artists (especially female ones) were looked down upon, making Werqu's life a very hard one -- and this she put into song. Her recordings are literally a record of her struggles against the prevailing establishment, to be seen as a moral person claiming a just place in society (which makes the whining of most Western singer/songwriters seem very irrelevant in comparison). She could be poignant or sarcastic, but every piece is from personal experience -- and she finally did achieve recognition.

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