ISSUE #12: berhana and Gonder
"Ethiopian girl, Ethiopian girl/With yo' long curly hair and yo' big ass bootay"
Selam my shikorinas!
I generally try to avoid all cable news, but last night I somehow found myself watching Laura Ingraham moderate a debate between Candace Owens and Cornell West. In my own home. Right in front of my salad.
To cleanse my spirit of this absolutely bonkerooni “event,” I am dedicating this week’s issue to my gorgeous people and our gorgeous country: Ethiopia.
You may know us from inventing coffee. You may know us from our food (attn food writers: call injera a “spongy pancake” one more time and I’ll slap you with the cross). You may know us from our famous change-agents, such as Haile Selassie and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye. You may even know us from Drake being absolutely obsessed with us.
What you may not know, is that we practically invented (and if not invented, then definitely perfected) the music video.
(Before we jump into it, I just want to give a quick shoutout to my personal Ethiopian hero: this kid and his trap cover of Hey, Jude).
It’s a visually-dense send-up of performative hip-hop culture, while still acknowledging the insidious roots of conspicuous consumption (Gold chains as handcuffs??? Do you get it?????). The video also has one of the most hypnotic booty-shaking scenes I have ever come across.
The themes and visual language are very reminiscent of FX’s first season of Atlanta, but its shorter form helps it pack a stronger punch. Plus, berhana’s just a straight up cutie?? Someone in his YouTube comments called him a Black Bart Simpson. And to me, that’s a vibe.
You can watch the video for Wildin’ here, but due to the aforementioned booty-shaking, it is likely NSFW.
Now, I’d like to talk about my peeps back in the Motherland, my bruddaz and seestaz absolutely holding it down, cranking out the bops, going tf OFF. Let me introduce you to the music of Gonder.
To make a Gonder music video you need the following: a team of masc dancers, a team of femme dancers, a playful approach to blocking and perspective, a reference to the battle of Adwa (in which Ethiopians pwned the Italians), an expansive agricultural backdrop, bright white smiles, and shoulders that defy the laws of our physical world.
Sure, the production value isn’t crème de la crème — that’s the only reason I’ve put these innovative artists in the LOWBROW category — but you’d be surprised by what one can make with a miniDV camera, a couple cows, and the world’s most beautiful highlands.
I am a bad habesha and don’t speak Amharic or any of the other languages spoken across Ethiopia (don’t worry, I do make sure to hate myself deeply for it). Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what these people are singing about. However, I do suspect that this dude in particular is singing about booty.
Thanks for reading!
One last thing before I go: If you are in the NYC area, let me quickly plug a show that I am involved with. It’s called Drug Test and it’s a comedy show about drugs and drug education. I took a (legal) drug and will be talking about what I hallucinated and why I think it made me better at math. It’s this Saturday 5/25 at 6:30pm @ Caveat. Come!
See you next week, shikorinas <3