By Dagem Teferra
The well-known Ethiopian rapper Teddy Yo recently released a song entitled “Wenberish” that landed him in jail within a day from the original drop on YouTube.
The self-proclaimed originator of Ethiopian Hip-Hop, Teddy Yo is seen in his new music video in a prison jumpsuit getting interrogated while his head is dumped underwater by police. His sharp turn into political messaging comes after the war happening within Ethiopia for the past couple of years.
The sharp imagery of police brutality is accompanied by verses explaining the dire situation that people in the capital city of Addis Ababa find themselves in. Speaking from the perspective of a city kid, Teddy Yo explains that his peers in the city do not care about ethnic divides that cause conflict in all other parts of Ethiopia. However, the negative implications that the ethnic division and war have cost people in the city in terms of inflation, anxiety, and poverty. So he explains there is no point in being so accepting of ethnic diversity while they end up being scammed by politicians and starve every day.
Throughout the conflict in Ethiopia, the voices of those in other parts of the country have been amplified while the people in the capital have been expected to stay silent and continue with life as the war has not reached that area. Teddy Yo attempts to finally give these silenced people a voice by emphasizing the struggles of many in Addis Ababa. The cost of living has kept on rising since the start of the war and it is unbearable for most, however, the government’s attention is elsewhere. As a result, in Teddy Yo’s final verse, he invigorates the youth of Addis to step up and question authority. He reminds them of the greatness of where they come from and uses that as a means to implore them to fight for their needs.
The strong message described in the song is exactly why police took Teddy Yo into custody on the same day his song was released. Even though his time in jail only lasted 24 hours, it showed that he had struck a nerve. His arrest was supposed to dissuade others from speaking out, however, it might have just done the opposite. Now the Addis Ababa youth have found the spark that may allow them to influence the change they want to see.