It is no coincidence that Ethiopian artist Munit Mesfin’s new single 'Adwa' was released on 2 March, a day after the commemoration of the 1 March 1896 Battle of Adwa. Here is a fitting tribute to the freedom fighters who resisted colonialism and a battle cry for the new generation to “make new history”, “lead in peace and justice” and “uplift ourselves and our nations”.
She sings in the chorus: Do you remember Adwa? Do you remember that day? When our forefathers and mothers they marched for months and stood in the way of colonisation and slavery with unity and with bravery They sacrificed for our dignity in this African victory.
Mesfin’s conviction is infectious, making this the kind of song every African should listen to. It is the story of a battle where Ethiopian forces under the leadership of Emperor Menelik II surprised the world by defeating the Italian army, triggering the decline of European colonialism in Africa. But it is also the story of every African resistance – from Herero in Namibia to Maji Maji in Tanganyika and the Kitawala movement in Congo.
This Ethio-soul song starts deceptively, with a smooth saxophone opening by Jorga Mesfin, and steadily crescendos to the aggressive and heroic qererto (warriors' chants) and fukkera (patriotic recitals) done by Terufat Mamuye and Gashaw Abatene.
The artist’s pan-African leaning colours her songs. Take for instance ‘Transafrica Highway’, another chest-thumping declaration of unity and freedom for Africans. She sings in Amharic and English.
Mesfin returned to Ethiopia in 2011 after 20 years abroad. She has been part of the guitar-voice duet Munit & Jörg with German guitarist Jӧrg Pfeil since 2007, with whom she has produced two albums. They have toured Ethiopia, the US and Europe.
This song marks her as a powerful solo artist, with masterful layers of voice, sax, guitar and percussion. Mesfin has done justice to a grand theme with this artful single.