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Territoires musicaux mis en scène

Monique Desroches
Marie-Hélène Pichette
Claude Dauphin
et al.

I. Mise en spectacle et mise en exposition

Staged public music performances of the Oromo of Ethiopia

Leila Qashu


Based on the author’s field research and other documentation, this paper explores the transformation of traditional Ethiopian Oromo ethnic music into a national and public scene. It traces the history of domination to which the Oromo were subjected, and describes how music and other arts were used as a means to reclaim their voices. Through this process, some very local repertoires began to appear on highly politicized and publicized stages. In the 1990s, some music and dance troupes emerged with the goal of promoting Oromo heritage, reflecting the aims of the Oromia government culture offices. These “cultural troupes” constitute a complex phenomenon on many levels: they may be a type of “folk revival,” they aim to represent the larger cultural group, they are used to promote Oromo culture and tourism, and they have become a symbol of Oromo cultural identity to Ethiopians all over the country.

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Extrait du texte

The Oromo constitute the largest ethnic population in Ethiopia, at about a third of the total population. Their region spans like a piece of puzzle from the west, over to central Ethiopia surrounding the capital, Addis Ababa, and down to the Kenyan border (see Map 1).1 In present-day Ethiopia, if you would like to see or listen to performances of the Oromo ethnic group’s “cultural” music, there are a number of options (e. g. television, radio, Websites, and performing groups such as Biftu Oromia, a government sponsored performing group in the capital city).2

map 1. Oromo Region in Ethiopia


The tumultuous Oromo history includes colonization and cultural control by politically dominant ethnic groups, and resulted in a ban on the Oromo language and cultural practices (Baxter 1978, Kumsa 1998). Overt representations and performances of the Oromo culture have only begun to have a strong presence in society over the last ten years, and providing positive images of O...


Leila Qashu is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland and a Trudeau Foundation Doctoral Scholar. She has been working on Arsi Oromo music in Ethiopia and conducting fieldwork since 2002, independently and in conjunction with a French research team and the unesco – Norway funds-in-trust project on Ethiopian instruments, music and dance.

© Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2011

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