Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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ABINET Shiferaw, Lecturer in Wolkite University, Ethiopia and Social Anthropology Ph.D student at Addis Ababa Universty

This research is about Shaato's folk traditions, roles, and dynamics in Kaffa. It explored the roles of indigenous music and its practitioners in preserving and promoting the history, aesthetic values, culture and identity of the mainstream culture of Kaffa. The research used a qualitative approach such as in-depth interview, key informant interview and observation sources from practitioners and mainstream culture members of Kaffa. Shaato traced their history and folk identity along with Menelik I, the son of King Solomon of Israel. Their narration shows that they came from Israel by accompanying the arc of covenants as musical performers. They scattered within four clans from more than 240 Kaffa clans. Shaatos have been officially identified in the mainstream culture since the period of Kaffa Kingdom by their folk tradition in the king's palace and political structure. In the past, folk music was their major career and livelihood though they were involved in different economic activities. Deep knowledge about the fabrics of mainstream cultures is displayed in their living tradition. They are considered as a living heritage of Kaffa culture, history, and guardians of moral values and natural resources with their own folk peculiarity and diversity. But social enforcements and socio-cultural changes at villages together with modernity and globalization influences have made young shaato withdraw from their tradition. Audiences of their long tradition have also been influenced by modernity and contemporary music traditions, which are accessible in every corner of towns and villages. Today, the tradition remains with few elders just for fulfilling their ancestral promises and expectations with the collapse of diverse wisdom that preserve and promote total identity of the mainstream culture and the practitioners.