This change, says Abdi, must be mastered by contemporary (and young) Oromo artists. “Excellence is our tool. If we do great songs, we can reach out to the Oromo youth, we can also appeal to the young people of different backgrounds throughout the country and far beyond that, we can cross boundaries and find international audience.”
When Ayyaana Laalattu, a song about betrayal in a relationship, hit the airwaves, there were a number of interpretations that deemed the song as having a political under-layer. “Once a song is out there for the public, the public owns the right to attach to it whatever meaning they see fit,” Abdi says.
“In fact the more people understand a song in a diverse way, the better it is” for the song’s chart life.
Yet, growing up Abdi especially had a soft heart for old songs, be it in Afan Oromo or in Amharic that dealt with existential issues. Songs about truth, identity, life, and of course love. “That is what I want to [emulate.] Of course artists should do political songs; that is one part of reality. But we also have a very flexible, lyrical language. We have to capitalize on that.”
It is this approach of Abdi that earned him fame among his fans and the trust that his upcoming album would, once again, take the rank of Oromo music one step ahead.