Last week saw one of the rare open
jazz concerts in Ethiopia, named Acacia Jazz and
World Music Festival 2012, held at an old garden
located off Africa Avenue.
A buzz filled the wining and dining
circles of this fair city, in the weeks before,
which could have eventually prompted every curious
individual not to want to wait to go there. The case
was even stronger if one had foreigner friends who
had the habit of spending their days under the
auspices of gossiping, drinking, and smoking.
Such was the case for me, which made
my decision to go to the festival plausible. Having
grown up in a climate of musical approbation,
wherein no specific tune outshined to dominate
perspectives, I had no particular expectations of
For my foreigner friends, however,
jazz refers to the rare musical statue of absolute
freedom. It echoes the harmony, peacefulness,
stability, and calmness of free souls. It leaves the
mind open for positive thoughts in a world full of
Their perspective can be explainedas
as just an exaggeration of emotions. Though music
has such a natural power to get individuals into a
rhythm of emotional rumination, it does not have
that much authority. It is just one spice of life
that facilitates improvisation, self-reflection, and
Hence, I did not have much to expect
from the festival. Thanks to the foreign community
living in this fair city, I got what I expected,
even ignoring the issue of the 150 Br entrance fee
that organisers fixed for permits to the garden of
As the garden was located at the end
of a rather dusty connecting road, one had to
struggle through several minutes of sailing through
swaths of dust to reach the entrance. Sitting at the
gate were four impolite ladies who stared at people
with scepticism, jealously, and particular airs.
Sure, no politeness could be reserved for a lone
Ethiopian guy with three white ladies who spoke
loudly as if they were deaf.
The former group acted rude like
Roman taxmen. They hurriedly collected the fees,
issued receipts, and got back to their banal gossip.
What a cheap feminine culture, yes?
Closer to the gossiping girls stood
big, muscular guys with mediocre looks. They paid
more attention to the exposed parts of female
entrants than their job of checking tickets. To
their benefit, most women dressed cheaply at the
Not familiar with such a collective
wilderness, I was shocked by the mayhem that could
be seen in front of me, which could have been called
jazzy beauty by many. But, there was nothing that
had harmony at the event.
Everything was muddled to rip into
my comfort. It was like sitting amid a demolished
zoo with the animals running free, after their
Half-naked ladies, sleepy guys,
shouting kids, wittily dressed organisers, and
indecent exhibitors made the event a place of chaos
rather than entertainment. To add insult to injury,
the band incessantly spoiled the environment with a
meaningless noise of musical fusion, as they called
For a young guy who grew up coached
about the beauty of personal and communal
orderliness, the place was indeed a rare event of
collective psychosis. It was inaptly suffocating and
No wonder that it got gloomier with
the addition of loads of complaints from three women
in their mid-20s living under the vicious cycle of
long-distance love. It made the climate acidic,
depriving one of integrity and reason.
What would be more irritating for a
guy than listening to an uninterrupted, womanised
love story to the tune of worthless music?
Noise aside, the festival saw
unjustified prices for commodities. A small beaker
of draft beer sold for 20 Br, while a vegetable roll
cost the same. A scoop of French fries was also 20
Br, while varying makes of drinks like wine and
vodka were sold at 50pc margins compared to their
normal prices. It was indeed a day of light robbery.
Dominated by members of the
expanding foreign community of the city, the event
was less Ethiopian. Even the few Ethiopians present
were seen trying to pretend as if they were
foreigners. They dressed weird, acted strange, and
The whole situation reminded me of a
refugee camp that I worked in for two months as a
research assistant for a renowned British
sociologist. Regardless of the effort by the
organisation administering the camp to put things in
order, it got more chaotic with each service time of
each passing day.
The mental instability of the
refugees ruined the orderliness at each of the
service points, such that several guards were
recruited to keep things under control. It was as
chaotic as the festival, but not jazzily so.
Upon leaving the festival, I was
pretty occupied with the thoughts about the source
of individual comfort.
Could there even be a standard
measure for it, or is it as cultural as it is
individual? Why would some people opt to spoil their
liberty with moments of noise and disorder?
I wonder whether I can get the
answers to these questions before the organisers of
the Acacia Festival manage to come up with yet
another event promoting