Songs of Ethiopia's Tesfaye Gabbiso: Singing with Understanding in Babylon, the Meantime and Zion

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Doctor of Missiology

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King, Roberta R.


This dissertation explores the song career and lyrics of a prominent contemporary Ethiopian soloist, Tesfaye Gabbiso. From the middle of the 20th century until the present, thousands of indigenous “spiritual songs” have emanated from an emerging generation of musicians in the evangelical churches of Ethiopia. Approximately twenty percent of Tesfaye’s total output of songs was produced during a seven-year period of acute suffering while he was incarcerated for his stand in the faith during the Marxist revolution from 1974-1991. A diglot publication, now available in English and Amharic, is the basis of this dissertation. The book includes 104 songs, comprising all the songs on his cassettes numbers 1-7 and represents approximately half of his total song output. This case study presents a socio-historical and religious context of the singer’s life narrative. A content analysis of the lyric poems and is conducted through various analytical lenses, including word and theme coding and a Matrix for Studies in Global Church Music. Tesfaye’s own commentary through writing and speaking contributes grounding to the study. Inquiry is made into the meaning and significance of his songs as they represent a position of suffering and endurance as well as a challenge to discipleship in the arts.

Mentor: Roberta R. King


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