On the day that Ethiopia celebrated Orthodox Easter, millions around the nation were stunned to learn of the death of their beloved singer, Tilahun Gessesse. To an entire nation, he was known as the King of Ethiopian Song.
Tilahun's professional singing career began in the band of the Emperor Haile Selassie I's military bodyguard. Tilahun, 68, died on Sunday, April 19 of a heart attack, said his wife, Roman Bezu. Ethiopians paid last respects to the singer in the capital's Meskel Square on Thursday, following a church service.
The renowned singer last week had been receiving medical treatment in the United States and wanted to return home in time for the Easter holiday.
In his roughly half-a-century musical career, the singer and performer developed a body of Ethiopian music that included songs in both Amharic and Afan Oromo. His songs were adored by his countrymen and the themes of his music touched on love, nature, politics and patriotism. One of his best-known songs, "Min Ladergcahew," dealt with the tragedy of the 1974 famine. Others popular favorites include "Kifu Ayinkash" and "Ethiopia."
Upon receiving news of his death on Sunday, Ethiopian radio and television broadcasts were interrupted to announce his passing.
Tilahun is survived by his wife and children. Expressions of sympathy have been received from thousands of admirers, including Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and President Girma Woldegiorgis.
A memorial service was held Thursday, April 24 at the cemetery of the Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.
Tune in at 9 p.m. Sunday to the Amharic service's Radio Mag, a special edition of your popular weekend show that will explore the life and career of Tilahun Gessesse.