Artist Biography by Timothy Monger
Tewodros Kassahun, better known as Teddy Afro, is an acclaimed Ethiopian pop star known for his uplifting and often politically motivated songs. Born in Addis Ababa in 1976, Afro made his debut in 2001 with the album Abugida, quickly establishing himself as a prominent voice in his native country.
Mixing reggae, traditional Ethiopian styles, and pop music, his sophomore LP, 2005’s Yastesereyal, yielded a major hit in its controversial title track, which criticized corruption in the country’s government. Four of the album’s songs were subsequently banned from media outlets, though Yastesereyal’s sales and influence remained strong.
The following year, Afro re-released an earlier collection called Tarik Tesera, whose inspiring title track acted as a tribute to a pair of Ethiopian runners and became another widely known song. In 2007, riding high from his success, Afro was involved in an auto accident in which a young homeless man was killed. Charged with hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter, Afro served two years in prison, though there was a good deal of controversy surrounding his sentencing by what many considered to be a vindictive government.
Upon his 2009 release, he performed a comeback concert at Addis Ababa Stadium for a massive crowd of 60,000. 2012 saw the greatly anticipated release of Afro‘s fourth LP, Tikur Sew, a powerful, historically inspired album celebrating the battle of Adwa in which Ethiopia fought off Italy to remain uncolonized.
The album was a major success at home and significantly raised his profile internationally. Bolstered by frequent touring and high-profile appearances around the world, Afro‘s next release, 2017’s critically lauded Ethiopia, debuted at number one on Billboard’s World Music chart.