Black Sounds of Freedom: HIM’s Birthday at Villa Verde

By Eyasu A. Ashenafi, August 01, 2019

July 23 is a special day for the followers of Ras Tafarianism around the world and all Ethiopians who care enough to look back and celebrate the rich Ethiopian history. On this day in 1892, the originally Lij Teferi Mekonnen, later Haile Selassie I, the first of his name and the last king of the Solomonic dynasty was born in a small village called Ejersa Goro near Harar. He was destined to change Ethiopia’s history once and for all. And we were at Villa Verde, the only venue in Addis smart enough to recognize the value of events to the community, to celebrate and honor his legacy. The event, Black Sounds of Freedom:  Haile Selassie’s 127th birthday.

For many, this wasn’t just another party. It was rather a celebration of life itself, and for the followers of Ras Tafarianism, who by some estimates are as big as 1 million around the globe, it was a ritual. When Trensetthas Sound System, the event organizer, announced the event early in July, there was no mistaking it would be a success. In fact, it was more than a success that Tuesday night.

As one might easily imagine, Reggae ruled the evening. With Edom emceeing with an extraordinary spirit and energy, the night kicked off with Ethiopian Records with his exceptional performance and mastery of stage followed by Zion Rebels, an Ethiopian band specializing in hip hop, reggae and African tunes. The Ethiopian reggae veteran Sydney Salmon also blessed the night with his band Imperial Majestic Band. The Ethiopian artist Pamfalon released his new album 11-11-11 to be followed by the Jamaican star Keida who received huge applaud from the audience for extraordinary performance.

The night was ecstatic and hugely celebratory. And the Framed picture of the emperor high at the wall was where all eyes were set. The organizers did a great job of combining a live band performance with DJ sets keeping the audience enjoyed with the music and the overall vibe. The night wasn’t short of good treats too. Choma Grill, the new hub for BBQ lovers was there with its usual hospitality and excellence. Besides Bake Shop who were selling cupcakes at the event, the organizers were selling T-shirts branded Black Sounds of Freedom.

This was a night that proved once again, for all to see, the uniting power of shared history, and the value of events in creating the opportunity for people to celebrate their history together and march for a brighter future. With an Ethiopia that looks more divided than ever, it’s our shared history and our common future that unites us all. The entire night, one could feel the love, the brotherhood (and, of course, sisterhood) among the over 600 people at the event.

The only one criticism going around was the slightly steep entrance fee, especially for a reggae event which mostly doesn’t go over a couple hundred in Addis. Well, 300 was worth it. When the event ended around 1:00am, it only felt unfair despite the fact that it actually started at 7:00 pm and went on for straight 6 hours.

Kudos to all who were part of the organizing team. Happy birthday to HIM. We look forward to seeing such unity more often everywhere.

Photo by: Abenezer Geleta (Ras Studio)