The use of Musical Instruments in The Ethiopian Orthodox Church

We have been asked numerous times why songs accompanied by the organ have been posted on this website and we tried to clarify the church stand on this. However, we still receive comments such as “we never used modern instruments such as Organ in our church” or “this doesn’t sound Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s hymn”, or this is tehadeso etc. Until we post a very good summary in Amharic, we urged to post this article.


“Is organ allowed in our church?”

Please read the Holy Synod decision in Addis Ababa which is published on the “Hamer” which is “Mahebere Kidusan’s” Magazine. If you read the listed allowed instruments, one of them is actually Arganon (Organ).  


Please also visit the Ethiopian Orthodox Church website in Addis Ababa where it confirms arganon as one of the instrument used in our church:


Read the translation of Arganon from the geeze dictionary again posted on this website. If you think that is the wrong translation, you know the geeze language better than the geeze professor Aleka Taye. Or tell us what arganon means. Thank God this dictionary was published in 1948; otherwise if it was produced in these days Aleqa Taye would have been labeled as tehadeso or menafek etc. Don’t tell us its “yemebetachin misgana” composed by Abba Giorgis because we already know that is a book. But the Synod clearly says instrument. If it wasn’t instrument, it shouldn’t have been included with the other instruments. If you know “Esebe tsegaki” from early Morning Prayer which was composed by Abba Giorgis the Gasecha in the 14th century, it describes the instrument. So it proves even back in the 14th century our forefathers were familiar with Arganon/Organ. Arganon was used in Tedebabe mariam during Emperor Iskinder time (14th century).  


In other comments the term tehadeso been used. First of all Amharic songs never been sang in our church prior to 1940s E.C. However, after the foundation of the first two big Menfesawi maheberat (Sunday schools) Temero Mastemar and Haimanote Abewu, a number of amharic songs were composed by the members of the Sunday schools and the clergies. Please read the first amharic songs book which was produced in 1946 E.C. You can see clearly the book includes a musical notation as well. So that shows from the begining of the Sunday school until now, organ has been used in our church. It is not only that but girls were not singing in the church as a choir until few decades ago. So a lot has been achieved to get to where we are today. We have posted songs as they were produced since the 1950s so that you can learn how over period of time the songs been sang in our church.

we divided all the songs every 10 years (since 1950 to current) as produced at the time. So don’t tell us organ or other musical instruments never been used in our church. If you are in complete denial of the facts, then suit yourself. 


Our church fathers were encouraging the use of organ in churches and even went further to let the Imperial Band to sing in order to introduce Amharic songs to the broader audience or fellow Christians (produced in 1960s, you can hear even Bizunesh Bekele singing). Bizunesh Bekele passed away well before MK was conceived so it proves that all the recording was done decades ago.


Our church even awarded certificate to those played instruments accompanying the songs. Here is an example of the certificate.


So the use of organ was a norm in our church back home from the 1940s until early 90’s i.e. it has been used almost half a century in our church. Then “mahebere kidusan” used this issue to divide people. Since then this whole non sense started. To make the history straight, for centuries only kebero, tsenatsil used for yaredawi zema but begena and masinko were used on their own right not to accompany songs. Since 1986 the traditional instrument were adopted in our church for singing. By the way do you know that the use of Kirar is not allowed in the church? But most CDs produced in these days use it.


From what we see, the traditional instruments were the one introduced in the later stage not the organ. We don’t call those who introduced the traditional instruments in our church as tehadeso but we moved on. Some says the former Patriarchs like Abune Basilos, Abune Theophilos, Abune Tekle Haimanot and Bishops were all wrong. But the current generation (“mahebere kidusan”) claiming to be the defender of our faith and knows better than those fathers. Alas...God help us!!! You should know your limit. The Holy Synod and its members are the church leaders not you tera meemenan or “mahbere kidusan”. They decide which direction the church go. If you think you know better, argue critically by providing your evidence about this non sense. Don’t just tell us kehawrita jemro menamin. The apostles never said about organ or any other instruments. As I mentioned earlier, we will post an article on this topic soon.


Some people might not be interested to listen to musical instruments when they sing but that is their interest not the church. Some people trying to relate organ as a worldly instrument and the maskinko and kirar for divine purpose. If you really want to know where to find kirar and masinko, go to any teje bet, bars in Ethiopia. Its not the instrument but how you use it and the message that needs to be considered.


Some people just echo what other people say because they don’t hear Organ back in Ethiopia in these days but only abroad. Although the use of Organ clearly stated on Hammer magazine, it has not been used in Ethiopia since late 1990s because “Mahebere Kidusan” has been the main perpetrator against those used organ by labeling them “tehadeso” etc. Some argue that since organ hasn’t been used in Ethiopia for quite sometime and people get used to it, no need to go back. The main issue at stake is not that but why in the first place this Maheber was allowed to cause such beyond repairable damage to our church and broke the long standing tradition? Unless this mahebere’s activity is limited, there is more danger for our church. That is why the Holy Synod in Addis Ababa and even the government got involved to deal with this Mahebere’s dangerous activity. Please read the following articles if you want to know more about this maheber and we will be posting more in the near future as well. 


I can go on indetails but I will stop here as we will produce a very good summary in the near future and you will learn more then. A piece of advice to those who just keep repeating same argument (not allowed in our church), please ask before you comment on the thing you don’t know much. Please also observe how the melody of the songs have changed since 1980s compare to the old songs. Most Amharic songs prior to 1980s were slowish in melody/rhythm and make you meditate whereas now all or most of them are fast rhythm. The change we see is mega in terms of the church musical development. In some cases the terminology or the lyrics have some errors which could be dangerous too. In the past you can not just produce any songs but the singers have to submit the lyrics and the melody to be reviewed by Liqawuent gubae. The rule still stands but not practiced. So lots of changes have been happening ever since the foundation of Sunday school.


Now, I really would like to see the argument from those who have been just writing that unsubstantiated argument listed in the first paragraph. We prepare the website for educational purpose and all the information are posted in easy way to understand. If you have a document that shows no instruments are allowed in our church, please send us your article and we will post it for you so people can learn. Subsequently, we will also make the changes accordingly or remove all the songs accompanied by organ or other instruments. Otherwise just don’t use the slogan “its not allowed” with out giving your evidence. Please also test your own intellectual level; if you can confute the argument listed above, then you know what you are talking about. Otherwise please ask and learn.


This kind of non sense creating division in our church and only benefits the devil. Try to make positive contribution to our church development instead of coming up with vehement comments. If you don’t like to listen to the songs, then just don’t click on the link!!!!!!!!!!


May our Lord give us the wisdom to understand our faith!