The Pulse

‘Water Music’ and of the first African to write musical notes

Ashenafi Zedebub

” ..One could hear the shriek of sea-birds, the peaceful rushes and then a very strange occurrence takes place…” When I first read this paper, I really thought that the writer was rather joking. But that wasn’t at all a joke. He meant business! He went further and wrote: “The listener with his microphone would gradually dive in the surf and go a long way down.”

According to the scholar, the sound of the wave is no more the same after the said “long way down.” It has become evident that “sound in the deep sea” is entirely different from that of the coastal water. A low vibrating sound would come from everywhere continuously expressing pleasure. One could hear the waves with bubbling sound like that of water flowing from a narrow-necked bottle. And then all the living and nonliving gurgle with delight.

And from somewhere out of this “Aqua-All” spherical tones would come an “under-water” loudspeaker – and that is of course “water music.”

This spectacular innovation was introduced and produced by the French electronic-musician, Michel Redolfi.

“Water Music” is the first of its kind. A book with the title “Sonic Waters” has also been published. The first experiment took place at the California coast near La Jolla some thirty years ago. The “Sonic Waters Expert” Michel Redolfi would recommend “the optimum under-water stimulation.”

As several authorities noted, the art of making pleasant combinations of sound in rhythm and harmony is not at all of recent origin. The said artistic method has existed since time immemorial. However, Michel Redolfi, as “Sonic Waters Expert” happens to be the first to come out publicly and make his research material appear globally.  We have heard much about the great composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and so on and so forth. So much has also been said about pop, rock and of  reggae – the West Indian style of music with a strongly accented subsidiary beat, etc, etc, the latest being indeed the story of “water music.” We will be hearing a lot in the future too.

But, have you heard about the first African who wrote “signs” representing sounds? This question might rather seem funny to some of us. But mind you, as a writer interested in this particular subject, I had the opportunity to discuss the issue with several people and, much to my regret, have learnt that far too many people were not able to tell who this prominent African was.

The innovator is Yared. The history goes back to some one thousand four hundred years. The said Ethiopian scholar  – canonized by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church –  with his notations known as “Geez, Ezel, Ararray” is not only the” father of hymn” as some people might have assumed, but also the first African to write musical notes. This, no doubt, is a history of great significance. Yared, who is regarded as a saint, has done a lot and his notes have contributed to the development of secular music in Ethiopia.

It may also be worth noting that the first Music School in Ethiopia, established by Emperor Haile Selassie, has been named after this most celebrated person. As, we Ethiopians have to be proud of our language, literature and culture, the naming of a higher learning institution after him is, indeed, significant.  Yet, to make scholars very well acquainted with Yared, universally and nationally, much research has to be made and publications must appear frequently and widely. This is my opinion and several others share the same. What about you?

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