The music: Anyone who’s been lucky enough to stumble across the Ethiopiques series of records will know just how many fantastic jazz and funk musicians came out of Ethiopia in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Just listen to this:
So you’d expect the Ethiopian government to have taken advantage of them when it needed a new national anthem in 1992. Unfortunately, it commissioned this:
The lyrics: You could easily criticize March Forward, Dear Mother Ethiopia’s lyrics for sounding like a government press release. “Respect for citizenship is strong in our Ethiopia,” it starts. But they’re a big improvement on Ethiopia’s past anthems.
The anthem during Emperor Haile Selassie’s time literally ordered Ethiopians to “be happy”, before telling them that among the reasons they had to be happy was Haile himself. (Yes, that is a picture of Haile with a lion at the top of this post).
The anthem under the country’s old Communist regime was just as bad. “Ethiopia, be fertile,” it said, a line which must have particularly stung during the famines of the ’80s.
What does it say about the country? That its government should talk to the country’s musicians more.
Will you hear it at the Games? Probably, it’s just a question of whether Ethiopia’s long distance runners hold off Kenya’s. Kenenisa Bekele is the men’s 10,000m world record holder, and had the fastest time in the world last year. He had some injury problems this spring, but you wouldn’t bet against him pulling something special out of the bag in London.