Taye Gebremariam (Aleqa)

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Simeneh Betreyohannes writes:

Aleqa Taye, having been ordained by Atse Menelik II, was initially interested in studying the Holy Scriptures and history from the Ge’ez collection of parchments found in Germany. Around 1906, Aleqa Taye collected Ethiopian folk songs, which Dr. Eugen Mittwoch helped to published in 1907 in Germany; these included Amharic proverbs, puns, riddles, stanzas, tales and anecdotes, and fables and parables. After Aleqa Taye’s return to Ethiopia, his collections Abyssinian Children Songs and Games and Abyssinian Stories and Fables were published by Dr. Eugen Mittwoch in 1910 and 1911, respectively (Arén, 1999: 38). From this remarkable collaboration, Aleqa Taye is considered by some to be the fi rst Ethiopian ethnomusicologist

Simeneh Betreyohannes (2010). “Scholarship on Ethiopian Music: Past, Present and Future Prospects”, African Study Monographs. Supplementary Issue 41:
19-34 [read online; quote: p. 21]


Mazmura Krestos (‘Hymns about Christ’). Asmara, N.N.: 1920/21 (1913 AM).

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Arén writes (1999, p. 55f):

Aleqa Taye never ceased to draw attention to the supreme importance of Jesus Christ for the salvation of all mankind. His concern in this respect is apparent from a set of poems in Ge’ez which he composed in 1919 (1911 EC). Mezmure Kristos (Hymns about Christ) were patterned on the Psalms and were equal in number. Another poem [p. 56] called to mind the Old Testament prophesies about the coming Messiah and his work while a third poem elucidated the imagery of the Song of Songs. The role of Christ as Lord and Saviour was further illuminated in another two poems. All five were publsihed together with Malke Iyesus and Mekha Meimenan in a single volume in 1921 (1913 EC).

Aleqa Taye’s hymns about Christ have been compared to Wudase Mariam (Laudations of Mary) devotions in honour of the Virgin Mary, which are the main spiritual resource of her devotees. The beauty of his mode of presentation was much appreciated. His friends regarded him on par with Qiddus Yared, the celebrated composter of liturgical poetry. [FN 180: Rodén 1936, 106]

Question: Have some of poems been put to music?

E.g., by B.C.M.S. / in Mazmura berhan (‘Songs of Light’). Addis Ababa: Sarawita Kristos Maheber, 1955/56 (1948 AM).

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Arén (1999), p. 32:
Aleqa Taye in Berlin, 1906.

For further reading

Selected Sources

Mittwoch, Eugen (1907). “Proben aus amharischem Volksmunde”, Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen zu Berlin 10: 185-241. [Amharic proverbs, puns, riddles, songs, stanzas, tales, anectotes, fables and parables]

Mittwoch, Eugen [based on Taye’s lectures] (1910). “Abessinische Kinderspiele”, Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen zu Berlin 13: 107-140. [Children songs and games]

Secondary Literature

Alemé Esheté (1971-72). “Alaqa Taye Gabra Mariam (1861-1924)”. Rassegna di Studi Etiopici 25: 14-30. [Read online; subscription barrier]

Arén, Gustav (1999). Envoys of the Gospel in Ethiopia: In the Steps of the Evangelical Pioneers 1898-1936 (Studia Missionalia Upsaliensis, 75). Stockholm: EFS förlaget; Addis Ababa: The [Ethiopian] Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. [p. 19–58: “Aleqa Taye: Scholar and Evangelist”]

Ezra Gebremedhin (2010). “Tayyä Gäbrä Maryam”, in S. Uhlig in coop. with A. Bausi (eds.), Encyclopaedia Aethiopica; vol. 4, p. 880-881, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Rodén (1936). _ _ _ [Not listed in the bibliography. -> Typo? = 1930: Abessiniens historia. Stockholm]