Sədät, Migration, and Refugeeism as Portrayed in Ethiopian Song Lyrics


This essay explores the history of the concepts of sədät (migration) and sədätäññannät (refugeeism), tracking the changing Ethiopian perspectives on separation from homeland as conceived and conveyed through song lyrics. After detailing traditional Ethiopian notions of sədätäññannät, the author surveys song lyrics about Ethiopians living abroad, first in military service in Libya (1911–1930) and in Korea and Japan (1950s), then for educational purposes in Europe and the United States (1945–1974). In contrast to either silence or negativity about sədätäññannät in songs about these earlier periods, lyrics dating from after the emergence of the Ethiopian diaspora (1974–present) invoke the concept as an integral part of Ethiopian life, moving it from a term of shame to a desirable status with connotations of success and initiative. (5 April 2009)