Hachalu Hundessa

Hachalu Hundessa – Ethiopia’s murdered musician who sang for freedom

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More than 80 people have been killed in two days of unrest in Ethiopia following the killing of prominent singer Hachalu Hundessa.

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The 34-year-old had emerged as a powerful political voice of the Oromo ethnic group, and had made many enemies during his musical career.

Two suspects were arrested after Hachalu Hundessa was shot dead while driving in the capital, Addis Ababa on Monday evening. However, police have not yet revealed a motive for the killing and no charges have been brought against the suspects.

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Hachalu Hundessa’s funeral is taking place in his hometown of Ambo.

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BBC Afaan Oromoo’s Bekele Atoma writes about the musician who was a thorn in the flesh of successive governments.

Hachalu Hundessa
Hachalu Hundessa is survived by his wife and two daughters/bbc.com

A former political prisoner who grew up looking after cattle, Hachalu Hundessa rose to become one of Ethiopia’s biggest music stars, mesmerising fans with his songs about romance and political freedom – topics that he easily blended into his lyrics.

Hachalu Hundessa’s father, who used to work in the electricity department in the city of Ambo, aspired for his son to become a doctor, but he showed little interest in medicine.

However, from an infant, Hachalu Hundessa showed a passion for music and singing, with the encouragement of his mother, while he looked after cows on the family’s farmland on the outskirts of Ambo in the Oromia region, the heartland of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo.

I used to sing whatever came to my head,” he recalled in a BBC Afaan Oromoo interview in 2017.

Hachalu Hundessa jailed for five years

One of eight children, Hachalu was born in 1986 in Ambo – a city about 100km (60 miles) west of the capital, Addis Ababa.

It was at the forefront of the campaign by Oromos for self-rule in a nation where they felt repressed under a government that had banned opposition groups and jailed critics.

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Hachalu went to school in Ambo, and joined student groups campaigning for freedom.

At the age of 17 in 2003, Hachalu was imprisoned for five years for his political activities.

Hachalu Hundessa - Ethiopia's murdered musician who sang for freedom 3
Source bbc.com

His father kept his morale high in prison, telling him during visits that “prison makes a man stronger”.

Hachalu became increasingly politicised in prison, as he increased his knowledge about Ethiopia’s history, including its rule by emperors and autocrats.

Whilst incarcerated in Ambo prison he also developed his music skills.

I did not know how to write lyrics and melodies until I was put behind bars. It is there that I learned,” he said in the 2017 interview.

During his time in jail, he wrote nine songs and released his first album Sanyii Mootii (Race of the King) in 2009, a year after walking free.

More on bbc.com

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Hachalu Hundessa - Ethiopia's murdered musician who sang for freedom 4

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