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Begena Begenaye documentary

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Begena Begenaye
A documentary film by
Eyerusalem and Melketsadek

The deep bass of the Begena resonates through more than three thousand years of history leaving an ephemeral trace in written history and folklore. What remains paints a dichotomous picture; an instrument used for meditation in seclusion but also bravery in war, deep spiritual contemplation yet para-liturgical. The players who have mastered it are much like the instrument, marked by grace, serenity, and wisdom.

This 10-stringed musical instrument of ancient origins and Biblical mention is found preserved in modern day Ethiopia. Strictly played solo and considered a devotional and sacred instrument by its players, the Begena has survived the test
of time; simultaneously avoiding the limelight and complete obscurity.

Lured by its mystical nature we acquired our first Begena in 2018. We immediately set out on a search for an instructor on the internet and locally around Washington, DC. To our surprise not only were we unable to find instructions for beginners, but we couldn’t even tune it.

By early 2023, having exhausted most of what we could find on the Internet, we decided to fly to Ethiopia with a mission to do a more in-depth research and begin documentation of the Begena, its history and its value in sonic healing.

Though we were able to produce over 15 hours of compelling interviews and performances, by the time we returned to D.C. we were filled more with questions than we had answers. We began to realize that studying the Begena is a way to peek back through the great poetic minds of Ethiopians whose lament is still heard through the strings of the Begena.

Our journey continues in spring 2024 as we prepare to embark on our second trip back to Ethiopia. While preservation and documentation of remaining sources is at the heart of the aim of this documentary film, we are also very enthusiastic about highlighting the next generation of gifted protégées who have picked up the baton. As the Begena was passed down through many generations from master and pupil, we hope this film could serve as a forum for inter-generational discourse around the Begena in the context of African musical traditions, folklore, spirituality, religion, history, poetry, art, science, and the wisdom of Ethiopian mystics past and present.

We hope you are as enthusiastic as we are about this film. All our efforts so far have been self funded. We kindly ask your support in seeing this project to its completion.


Donations (1)

  • Abel Eshete
    • $25 
    • 6 mos
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Eyerusalem Seyoum
Washington D.C., DC

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