Ethiopian music exponent

Muluken Melese was born in 1954 to his priest father Tamer Tiruneh and to his mother Enatenesh Getahun at Eneded Wereda Kidanemeheret village in the then Gojam province during a time when the abode, vicinity and home were serene.

A handsome kid, he was a favorite for all. Often, his father went to church carrying a book bearing the psalm of David in his right hand and dragging Muluken on the left hand. He did so out of his interest to instill religiosity in the latter’s mind. That is why Muluken somewhat acquired the skill of beating a drum as well as the art of possessing podium in style and standing before the target audience as befitting a melody staged.

As he had four sisters and three brothers, his world was foregrounded by considerateness and love.

About his name, it is just like the famous singer GG put it “I have no name at home!” Here the logic is if someone is given many names s/he becomes nameless as the mathematicians refer to this thing as undefined supplying the example that when one divides a number by zero the quotient could assume many numbers making the division process indefinite or unspecified. His sister called him Muluken(a full/bright day) a name which became the one he introduced himself to his music fans. His mother used to call him Mulusew (Faculties intact person), for she suffered a miscarriage before she gave birth to him and faced complications when delivering his four eldest siblings. To his mother’s relief, he was born with lesser labor in the ward room.

His father, who was involved in a court case related to a land feud, preferred to call his chubby and light skinned son Semachew, which literary means listen to them/the accusers. Gradually, among all the names the one by which his sister referred to him got the upper hand.

Following the death of Muluken’s much-beloved mother at his early age, life could not be rosy for him as before in that cozy house. In this period of bereavement his maternal uncle Melese Gesese who used to live in Addis came to their home to visit them.

During those days it was a fad taking a provincial child as a foster child to look after for his/her better upkeep such as education and town’s life. Among the 8 children, Melese chose Muluken to bring him up under his wings.

Muluken began to live in Addis at a village called Kolfe. Just like his friends, he was sent to a local school. His uncle wrote the name Muluken Melese on the latter’s exercise book. From that day on that name became Muluken’s legitimate name.

Though he grew up at his uncle’s house, life could not be less unbearable for him as he could not come to terms with his aunt-in-law. While harboring resentment, he heard about a non-governmental organization in his vicinity that took care of orphans and helpless senior citizens. Without hesitancy he went there and got registered outright. He became the favorite kid of the organization especially to the manager. He was given the nickname Elvis. Staffers, who went out of the compound for some duties, used to gift him with clothes. Many promised to him that they would send him abroad for education when he came of age.

Following the opening of a music department in the NGO, he began to take musical lesson parallel to the educational ones. After a six-month stay at the NGO, he went to his hometown upon hearing the sickness of his sister.

Up on return to Addis, he didn’t resume his education at the NGO. Rather, hired in pastries, he began fending for himself. At sundown, as it was a custom, he used to hang out with peers. One day, before they knew it members of the circle stayed late into the night engrossed in chitchatting to their hearts’ content. To see off a member of their circle they went out into the street up to Webe Bereha, a village heavily populated by bars with dazzling lights that illumine the night accentuated by jazz beats. The strange thing he saw impressed him. Among the bars that hosted magnetizing night clubs, one bar stood out. Getting closer they checked out what is going on in that bar. Soon, they realized its being a bar where an orchestra called Patries Lumumba often staged a fast orchestra.

Shortly, they learnt Asegedech Alamerew was the owner of the hot bar. When Muluken asked a shop owner nearby, “If I ask the lady for a job, will she respond in the affirmative?” offering him a pen and a paper, the shopper responded, “Why don’t you ask her in black and white?” Getting into the bar Muluken handed over the paper to the organizer of the orchestra, who laughed to his heart’s content upon receiving an application letter from the little boy. The organizer downplayed the case. But Asegedech was observing what was going on from afar. She asked an explanation to the strange situation. With unzipped lips, the organizer told her that the kid wanted us to hire him if he qualified taking exam.

“Give him an exam; if he qualifies, I will hire him. Otherwise, I will offer him another job,” said Asegedech. It was a time when Muluken was imitating Tilahun so he perfectly reenacted Tilahun’s songs with barefoot and short. A ventriloquist, he sang “Le Ewenet Emotalehu Alsasame lenefse (I will day for the sake of the truth; I will not bat an eye to take my own life) and Enkerdad Enkerdad(Weed,weed)

Occupants of the bar who were stunned by his astounding talent contributed money to him that night organizing an impromptu fundraiser. On the morrow, occupants of the bar that night bought to him a khaki cloth. Suit followed suit. He also put on a new pair of shoes. A contract agreement was signed between the owner of the bar and the little boy Muluken. According to the contract, Muluken had to sing every night in the bar and Asegedech had to pay him a monthly salary of 90 birr. At that time 90 birr was too much.

Regarding the ecstatic feeling he experienced, in 1981, in an interview he held with the famous journalist and author Sebhat Gebregziabhere in Tsedey Megazine, Muluken reminisced “Like a millionaire I felt like I was over the moon. “

The handsome boy gifted with a dulcet voice and dexterity quickly adapted the life of the nightclub. Often, he grabbed the attention of entertainers. During his grasshopper years, he turned a sought-after musician. But that too was short-lived, for members of the Police Orchestral set their eyes on him. They spent no time to sweet talk him into joining their club. There too he became the youngest musician cherished by many. The famous song verse writers Solomon Tessema and Tesfaye Abebe(Gashe) tailored for him many verses. Solomon produced the verse Yezelealem Enkilfe (Everlasting sleep),while Tesfaye Yalejenet (That Childhood)Enate Setweldegn Meche Amakerechegn(When my mother gave birth to me, did she consult me?) Embaye Lomi Meslo (My tears trickled down like lemons) He sang them superbly.

Even if he played his original music in the Police Orchestra enjoying the opportunity of going to different places and multiplying over his fans’ base, he quitted his job of his own volition to join private music bands. Though he worked with the Dahelak Band for a longer period he had briefly worked with Ethio Star Band,Equiators Band and Roha Band. He as well had worked with Mulatu Astateke.

After he stopped working with the orchestras above, he had released two Albums called Yezelalem Enkelef (Rverlasting sleep) “Yalayenew Yelem”(There is nothing we haven’t seen).Following this, his fame went far and wide.

The following songs are found among the short list of favorite songs of the listening public Hodenew Telatesh(My stomach is your enemy), Swenetwa(Her elegance), Mewdeden Wededkut( I liked my loving).Yeregem YehLebe(Let this heart of mine be cursed), Webet(pretty),Wetete Mare(My milk and honey), Menew krefede(Why after it is too late?), Nanu Nanu Neye(Come come Nanu), Tenesh Kelebelaye (Get off my heart) Weha welawaye(Water the vacillator).

For him, in musical composition and perfection Swenetwa and Hodenew Telatesh ranks top,while in performance Chebelew (Spur a horse) and Webet he sang accentuated by Dahlak Band Mulatu Astateke as a composer.

His musical talent set aside, the reasons attributable to the popularity of his music to date resides in the caution he exercised in choosing song verses and musical notes, the attention he accorded and his chemistry with professionals in the field.

Muluken perfectly plays many musical instruments including drums. He had foregrounded the works of many singers as a drummer. Though a 37-year time had elapsed ever since he kissed music goodbye, he has still possessed the cherished corner of citizens as one of the prominent singers of Ethiopia. Surprisingly, youngsters born after he ceased singing opt to tune to his music.

As the saying goes haste makes waste, when it comes producing music, Muluken did not let the door ajar for haste. He took time to choose and pick lyrics and musical notes offered to him by professionals in the field. He had sensitive ears. So, he rejected works that did not satisfy him and amended some that begged for improvement. Sometimes, he blended two or more proposed works to come up with best lyric and note compositions. That has rendered his works peculiarly engrossing.

Once, the versatile artist Alemtsehay Wedajo, who gave to Muluken many song verses, did note that Muluken was a singer who contributed a lot for the betterment of the royalty payment of lyric writes and musical note composers. That ice-breaker move has propelled Ethiopian Music forward. That is why many musicians see Muluken as an exponent of Ethiopian music.

Though his name is still on the lips of many, it was only for 17 years he sang secular songs. Turning his back to nonreligious songs he spent 37 years devoted to the religious ones. The time he quitted singing marks a time when he was basking under fame, enjoying handsome financial returns and experiencing an upward trajectory in fans’ big interest in him. As such nobody expected a 180-degree turn. That is why many musical fans were saddened when he gave up worldly music.

According to Muluken, he was inclined to atheism as he didn’t win a lottery ticket after praying to God to bath him with fortune.

Tagging his colloquies he started going to church and listening to preaching. Soon he gave up drinking and smoking.

In the meantime, he went to America to sing for a year and half. As to him, once, hearing a voice from God “Stop earthly music”, he quitted worldly music and resorted to religious ones like “I’m a soldier of God”.

He spent the past 37 years in America Virginia and never retuned back to Ethiopia. Undergoing medical treatment for long, he passed away at the age 70 on 9 April 2024. On 12 April 2024 he was laid to rest in America where he spent the longer portion of his life.

We express condolences to his relatives and fans upon their bereavement.



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