Getayawkal Girmay and his wife Biruktawit Assefa are from Addis Ababa. Getayawkal grew up singing and playing the mandolin with the family choir run by his father, renowned musician Girmay Hadgu, and his mother, Tirunesh Yimer, whose songs were included in the hymnal of the Mekane Yesus Church.
Biruktawit and Getayawkal sang in the Sunday School Choir of Addis Ababa Mekane Yesus congregation since their childhood and learned to play musical instruments and to harmonize their songs. Getayawkal also played music for the “A” Choir of the congregation. At that time, Addis Ababa Mekane Yesus congregation had several organists and musicians, and many church members knew to sing the Scandinavian music from notes.
Getayawkal and Biruktawit began singing as a duet early in the 1980s. Duet singing had been introduced to the evangelicals of Ethiopia by Endalkachew Kidanewold and Meseret Tsige from Gore Mekane Yesus Church (Illubabor Bethel Synod, Oromia) in the 1970s. Eventually, the opportunity for ministry widened for Getayawkal and Biruktawit, and they went on to present gospel songs in other congregations that were not closed by the atheist regime, such as Entotto, Urael, Gullale Bethel and Lideta Mekane Yesus congregation. They also sang in various underground churches and at mournings. Tents were pitched in the neighbourhood for people who came to comfort the bereaved. Believers used the occasion to organize gatherings for spiritual edification during the mourning (which could be from three to seven days). They often invited Biruktawit and Getayawkal to sing during the evening program.
The couple continued to be the most memorable duets in the Ethiopian evangelical churches. Their unique way of singing has inspired many young singers who followed suit ever since. Biruktawit and Getayawkal started a fellowship of solo singers and also gathered other Christian musicians for group consultation. For many years the couple served the evangelical community in Addis Ababa and various other cities in the country. They even travelled to India to minister to Ethiopian students there for half a year. Other countries where they served as gospel singers include Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Great Britain, the Scandinavian countries, Australia and the USA.
Biruktawit and Getayawkal have been known for their giftedness in composing thematic songs and albums. Children, young people and newlywed couples are especially close to their hearts. The duo released about ten own albums, five of them before the turn of the millennium. They also provided musical accompaniment and background singing to many solo singers and choirs before 2010. At present, Getayawkal and Biruktawit serve the Ethiopian diaspora globally through their media ministry based in Shaumburg, Illinois.
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Songs in hymn book
Mekane Yesus Book of Liturgy and Worship
Getayawkal composed together with other musicians liturgical canticles for the 3rd edition of the Amharic EECMY Book of Liturgy and Worship (2008).
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