In the throes of love, music is eternal. Every sound is a strum, every clang a drum beat. Two become one and all seems perfect in the world. Love is the apex of human evolution; sad is the one who lost it, cursed is the one who never felt it. But in time, love morphs to stasis as complacency replaces romance and resentment ousts forbearance. All the sudden, a committed heart starts to wander to unfamiliar loins and the mind starts to wonder about foreign pleasures. If fear is a love killer, instant gratification is the accomplice.
Through it all, music is the stenographer that captures our emotions and documents our life experiences. I write this in pensive reflection of the road I have traveled and the journeys I have sojourned. Out of all the rocky roads I have trekked, love is the one street that I thought led me to a cul-de-sac. I look back in wonderment at the times I reacted out of hurt and the endless toils I put on my shoulders for fear of losing love and shake my head in amazement. I see now what I was not able to comprehend in the past; love is not a business process nor an equation—we can’t control for the outcome, we just have to live in the moment.
Like a lot of my articles, this prose was inspired by music. Last evening, while sipping some coffee, a song came on that used to have the most profound hold on my heart. YouTube was set on continuous play; by sheer serendipity, a song by Jano Band came on that perked my ears. The song started off slow with cymbals chiming in the background and guitars plucking softly as the lead sing Dibekulu Tafesse took to the microphone to announce the next set. Something told me initially to fast forward a new selection, but where my mind prodded my fingers resisted. My patience was rewarded as Dibekulu announced that the next song he was going to sing was Ayenema Wedajish by Muluken Melesse.
Let me give a bit of a background to this. Muluken Melesse is one of my all time favorite singers and a man who is a giant in the Ethiopian music industry. In all honesty, when it comes to Ethiopian music, my top three are Mahmoud Ahmed, Kuku Sebsebe and Muluken Melesse. You see, I left Ethiopia when I was seven years old; outside of random moments and flashbacks, Ethiopian music is the one thing that connects me to my birth land and serves as a reminder of my once home. How apropos, this article is about a ballad sang by a band that is no longer together who speak on love lost—Ethiopia was my first love that I lost in exodus.
Ayenema Wedajish is a song about the repercussions of love that is no more. Dibekulu, echoing Muluken, was singing about the billows that sweep love away and the heartache that gnashes at the remnants. Ayenema Wedajish was my favorite Muluken song before I was old enough to understand what love was. This song in time became my anthem as the quest to keep love always found me marooned in loneliness. Ayenema Wedajish is the most poetic of songs for this reason; it is the most heart rending music I can think of. Anyone who has felt the strain of heartbreak can nod their head in empathetic contemplation even if they can't understand the words—pain is a universal language. Click To Tweet
“My eyes, my love, won’t see without you; my teeth, my love, can’t smile without you”, these are the words Dibekulu was crooning and the audience understood him [check out the Jano video and more at the bottom of this article]. This is the gift and the curse of love; the same way it bathes us in the warmest of rays, when love leaves cocoons us in the darkest of sadness. When the latter comes for us, it seems the world stopped spinning and all spring in our steps has been taken. There is no hurt in the world as distressing as the void left in the heart and the memories of lost love. How can something so nourishing become so toxic in an instant?
If heartbreak is an education, I have a PhD in it [see the podcast “What is Love” at the bottom of this article]. If only I knew then what I know now. Love is not to be held for that is codependency. Love is trust and patience and above all compromise. You can’t will someone to love you anymore than you can will peace on earth. What’s more, you can’t live life in fear of losing love. If the worst comes, let it come for there is tomorrow when today ends. I did not know these things when I once ran into a stranger at an Ethiopian restaurant drinking by himself when I myself had just exited a relationship. This man was staring into the distance as he was sipping cognac. I did not ask but I did not have to; I’ve seen the face of men hurt by love enough times to realize a victim of it. It was at that moment I made a tragic mistake; I decided to never become that guy only to become him by proxy.
That decision haunted me for most of my 30’s as I chased flesh in order to escape tears. Time after time I tried to be a player for the sake of numbing my heart to the memory of a love who decided to vacate. Alas, we become that which we run from; not even Usain Bolt can outpace love’s twin named anguish. It was a conversation with a veteran while I was in Wellington, Colorado that made me see the folly of my ways. Don’t be in a rush to mend for wounds take time to heal. When I told Lieutenant Colonel Rick Belt about my past hurts and how we just have to fast forward through injury, he told me that I was mistaken. He told me that life is an experience and that we have to enjoy the good along with the bad—we have to take in the love and the loss.
I finally have the wisdom to understand; love is not a sad song at all and neither is love a ditty. Love is music and there are different tunes for different seasons. If the music stops, perhaps it is to remind us to reflect within. If all about us are clangs, enjoy those moments too so we can be thankful even more when the music returns. Music in this way never ends; where I once thought I reached a cul-de-sac I now find myself walking on roads strewn with abebas (daisies). Once cocooned and smooched by solitude, an angel emerged and chased away tizita (memories). My eyes they see again, my teeth they smile anew; love doesn’t die—it just takes patience to emerge. #AyenemaWedajish
“A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.” ~ Stendhal
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Check out the music of Jano Band, who sadly disbanded a few weeks ago but their music lives for an eternity. Once sang, music lives forever.
Check out the original version of Ayenema Wedajish sang by the great Muluken Melesse
Check out the Ghion Cast below where I discuss my own experiences with love and my journey to this point.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.