February 6, 2005
ARTICLE: Rastafarians celebrate Marley's birthday in Ethiopia
And this one was a joint effort with Associated Press writer Dagnachew Teklu.
Rastafarians celebrate Marley's birthday in Ethiopia
By DAGNACHEW TEKLU
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Thousands of Ethiopians and Rastafarians were jamming on a hot Sunday in the capital's main square as Ethiopia threw a birthday bash for the late reggae star Bob Marley, in what is billed as the country's largest concert.
The bash, part of monthlong celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Marley's birth, marks the first time the event is being held outside the singer's native Jamaica and is organized by the Bob Marley Foundation, the U.N. children's agency, the African Union and others. Marley, who died in 1981, looked to Ethiopia throughout his life as the spiritual home of his Rastafarian faith.
A priest from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church blessed the event and then first on stage was Burundi's Royal Drummers.
Many of those in Meskel Square for today's concert wore T-shirts emblazoned with portraits of Bob Marley, including Minister of State for Information Netsanet Asfaw. Others wore jewelry and T-shirts decorated with the Ethiopian flag and Rastafarian colors of green, yellow and red.
Organizers said they expected as many as 300,000 people to attend the free event, which was dubbed "Africa Unite" after one of Marley's many famous songs. There are only 2,000 seats for guests who will be paying $100 each.
"I think it is incredible that so many years after brother Bob's death, he still inspires such an amazing show," said Yohannes, a Rastafarian, who only goes by a single name. Originally from Crystal Palace, London, he now lives in Addis Ababa and is married to an Ethiopian.
The audience had swelled to about 20,000 people early today when the first set was played. About 2,000 policemen patrolled the venue, a policeman said.
Benin music star Angelique Kidjo sang later today as did well-known Ethiopian artists. Marley's five sons, his widow and former backup singers were expected to perform, along with Senegal's Youssou N'dour and Baaba Maal.
Ethiopia's evangelical churches on Saturday objected to the celebrations, saying that Rastafarians are wrong to consider Ethiopia's last emperor as a living god and that Ethiopian young people would be explosed to marijuana.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the country's main church, has supported the celebrations.
Some Rastafarians smoke marijuana as a sacrament, but others object to its use. Most Rastafarians preach a oneness with nature and grow their hair into long matted strands called dreadlocks.
Meskel Square, which has been undergoing a facelift over the past month with new paving and streetlights, was fluttering with Ethiopian, Jamaican and other flags. Around the main square, bars, hotels and nightclubs were decorated with the red, gold and green colors of Ethiopia and Rastafarianism.
"This is a big day for Bob," said Bisrat Teddesse, an Ethiopian businessman out for a morning walk with his wife. "I like the Jamaicans," he said, using a common Ethiopian term for the country's small Rastafarian community. "And I love Bob. He is Ethiopia's elder son."
The concert was broadcast live on Ethiopian television.
Organizers say that the celebrations have cost about $1 million and would raise money to help poor families in Ethiopia as well as tsunami victims in neighboring Somalia.
Associated Press Writer Andrew Heavens also contributed to this report from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Posted by aheavens at February 6, 2005 3:48 AM