Note: When I first reviewed this book in early 2017 (the review stands), it was very difficult to find a copy of this book in any format. We have come a long way since. Now the book is available below to download in PDF format. About a year ago, one of the authors, Dr. Tilahun, and myself – with the help of Stefan Ritter (a good friend of the Hadiya people) – were able to obtain over 50 hard copies (soft cover) of the book from Germany’s Frobenius-Institut, thanks to Sophia Thubauville and the institute. These copies are still in possession of Dr. Tilahun who has agreed to send you a copy depending on your intended use. Please contact us in the comment section below or use Contact Us page to send us your request.
The Genesis of the Book is the Audio Recordings
First came the 1970-1974 pioneering undertaking to record audio tapes of poetic songs of Hadiya by social anthropologists Prof. Ulrich Braukämper and Dr. Siegfried Seyfarth. They did so as part of their larger study of ethnic groups that originated from the ancient Hadiya kingdom in the south and central Ethiopia. Their work in the four years combined with subsequent trips to Ethiopia has also produced other books and publications about Hadiya and other ethnic groups such as A History of the Hadiya in Southern Ethiopia (English version 2012), and Fandaanano: The Traditional Socio-Religious System of the Hadiyya in Southern Ethiopia (English version 2014), (These books are both by Prof. Braukämper.)
Transcription, Translation, German and English Versions of the Book
The second project would not be launched for couple of decades. Until 1999 the audio of the songs has been sitting in the archives of Germany’s Frobenius-Institut. (I think the audio of original magnetic tape recordings are now digitized by the institute. Preservation of these audio chants and songs is very important as the art is no longer vibrant in Hadiyaland. ) Then in the same year the Hadiyissa audio tapes of the songs were meticulously transcribed into Hadiyyisa by Dr. Tilahun Mishago, a native speaker of the Hadiyyisa language in addition to speaking German and English, and Prof. Braukämper. The funder of the project, Frobenius-Institut, then published the book in English in 1999 with Braukämper and Mishago as co-authors.
In translations, it is very difficult to capture the essence of artistic expressions such as poetry, but as native speakers ourselves we think Dr. Mishago and Prof. Braukämper have done the best translation job possible, especially considering that there was no settled Latin script convention for Hadiyya language around the time of publication of this book. (There now Hadiyyisa orthography, the primer of which you can find here.) It is clear that these scholars have spared no effort in their attempt to capture as full an experience as possible of the poetry and the songs to reflect the intellectual creativity, social-cultural values, ethical concepts, and other contextually important dimensions using annotations in English column the pages and in footnotes. In this regard, Dr. Tilahun’s role was obviously paramount.
The Work is a Gem for the Vanishing Beautiful Art
For Hadiya readers who grew up in Hadiyyaland and have experienced the art firsthand, this book is sure to evoke nostalgic memories. For other readers (whether or not they are of Hadiya background) it would trigger sense of discovery of this great tradition that is dying out, if not already dead, unfortunately. But all is not doom and gloom for this art form in Hadiyyalind. Recent developments such as the establishment Wachamo University in Hadiyyaland might create intellectual energy needed to retrieve and revive this and other Hadiya cultural assets back to the people. However, we have yet to see any observable results from this university.
The significance of this book cannot be overstated for it documents and attempts to preserve (at least partly) the vanishing art of essential Hadiya verbal folkloric poetry, metrical and melodious songs (in the audio archives of the work), and the messages contained within the lyrics along the cultural elements embedded in the poetry. To understand how this art form is vanishing, one only needs to observe how today’s Hadiyyisa language lyrics of evangelical gospel songs are written.
Knowingly or unknowingly the evangelical artists at present force the lyrical poem composition structure and form mimicking that of the hegemonic Amharic language leaving behind Hadiya’s own beautiful and unique structure, form, and rules. (Here the term unique is not used in absolute sense. We suspect other languages, especially Cushitic ones, could have the same structures, rules, and format.) Would it not make sense to use Hadiya’s ancient structure and rules for poetry written in Hadiyya language?
The poetic lyrics of these evangelical gospel songs neglect the most significant rule of the art: the way Hadiyya verses rhyme at the beginning and not at the end of the verse. To the speakers of the language, the rhythmicality at the beginning of verses is profoundly pleasing and intense. Why anyone would want to lose this function of the art is beyond our understanding. We should mention that this book includes a few narrative prose songs that do not rhyme but they are not without rules either.
This book has a potential to remind Hadiya artists (both religious & secular) and intellectuals that Hadiyyisa has a rich tradition in this art from worthy of preserving. It will be up to the Hadiya people themselves, especially the intellectuals and artists to retrieve and revive it back into common use and we hope that they do so starting now.
Otherwise, this old Hadiya cultural heritage falls into disuse and extinction. Then the utility of this book will be merely to serve us as partial historic archive of what has once been a living art form for scholarly studies in the future. Let us hope not. We also hope that this book triggers research and preservation ideas in the minds of Ethiopian scholars about Hadiya verbal and musical art forms that are in peril of being lost.
Content Organization of the Book by Chapter (from the book)
- Chapter 1: HADIYYA PHONOLOGY AND ORTHOGRAPHY
- Chapter 2: THE HADDIYA: INTRODUCTION TO THEIR HISTORY AND CULTURE
- Chapter 3: FOLK SONGS
- Sub Chapter 3.1: Types of Epic and Poetic Songs
- Sub Chapter 3.2: Draancha
- Sub Chapter 3.3: Arajja
- Sub Chapter 3.4: Wi’llishimma
- Sub Chapter 3.5: Moora
- Chapter 4: SHARIMMA (SONGS OF TEASING)
- Chapter 5: GIXO’UWWA (POETRY)
- Chapter 6: SELECTED BIBLIORAPHY ON HADIYYA
- Chapter 7: ILLUSTRUATIONS
- Chapter 8: MAP: HADIYYA IN SOUTHERN ETHIOPIA
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Updated on 20-Feb-2021 to remove a small section about the difficulty of obtaining this book to reflect its wide availability. The featured image is also changed.