by Mohammed Ademo
(OPride) – Oromo singers and songwriters Haacaaluu Hundessa and Abbush Zallaqaa will both release new music albums later this week during their first stop in Little Oromia as part of a multistate North American tour.
Haacaaluu’s new album dubbed Waa’ee Keenya or Our Predicament, which is slated to debut during the first concert of Oromiyaa Tiyya in Minneapolis, Minn. on September 28, promises even more than the first album. It is full of bold revolutionary lyrics each one less subtle in its overarching message of Oromo unity and empowerment.
The socially conscious Haacaaluu rose to national musical prominence with his masterpiece first album Sanyii Mootii in 2009, which he released while still a senior at Ambo High School.
“I was shuttling back and forth between Ambo and Finfinne almost every weekend,” Haacaaluu says of the time he worked on the first album. “There were no record studios in Ambo and as a result I had to sometimes miss classes.”
Haacaaluu is an all-around artist who has a burning zeal to see Oromo music achieve a much-deserved global recognition. In the current album, as with Sanyii Mootii but only more so, Haacaaluu’s incessant message is disarmingly touching. His melancholic melodies in Waa’ee Keenya, including two Geerarsa tracks, send a listener into a deep state of soul searching.
“I finished working on Waa’ee Keenya seven months ago,” Haacaaluu told OPride last week with disappointed tone. “While there was an overwhelming demand for it, I could not find a music shop to purchase the master even for what it had cost me to produce.”
Haacaaluu’s qualms seem informed by the market as well as the place of Oromo music in Ethiopia. A copyright law that exists only on books doesn’t protect intellectual property rights, perhaps even more so for upcoming and critical Oromo artists like Haacaaluu. Worse, Oromo music houses and record producers lack the capacity to promote and help grow the art.
Abbush shares Haacaaluu’s concerns. “Our people love the art and we have witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of support from all corners of Oromia,” Abbush told OPride in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.
“But in my opinion, there is a disconnect between the people’s goodwill and the artists…the problem seems to be that of Oromo music publishing houses or the lack thereof.”
Abbush was born and raised in Borana and Guji zones of Oromia region. The two zones are home to some of the last Oromo groups to still practice the Oromo Gadaa system.
Abbush’s meteoric rise through the Oromo music scene has brought Borana’s distinct melodies to the fore. His highly anticipated third studio album Jaala Jiloo – also expected to debut on Sep. 28 in Minnesota – is a symphonic collage of Borana, Guji, and Garba traditional songs with no skippable tracks. The latest album, Abbush’s most expansive work to date, features 14 new tracks including Heellemmaa– a Gabra traditional song featuring Qaallitti Waachille.
A gifted artist, Abbush has his own unique style, flow, and unmistakably distinct voice. He stands out not only for his cultural songs focusing on Borana and Guji but also for his modernizing influence. He says that the Borana speaks in rhythms and some of their dances are akin to Reggae. In his previous album, Abbush had tried to drive that point home by adding Reggae beats to a few tracks, including our favorite, Itti Herreegee. He tells OPride that some of his work in the Jaala Jiloo album draw from Swahili and Hausa beats.
With their dauntless lyrics, the two albums are every bit fresh and entertaining. We encourage all Oromos to buy and own at least two original copies of the new albums. The two best-selling albums are now available for purchase via iTunes, Google Play, and various online music stories courtesy of Odaa TV’s Roba Geleto.
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In Haacaaluu’s own words: wal malee maal qabna?
Note on Amazon.com via Gadaa.com , if you live outside of the U.S., you may have to visit the country-specific Amazon.com site to be able to download the new music albums. For the list of country-specific Amazon.com sites, click here. Search for “Haacaaluu” and “Abbush” to get the new music.