Salambo discovering Ethiopia
There is no stopping to the plan of erasing old Addis to build a new city. After Dashen, one of the best Ethiopian restaurants and an institution in the city, it is Fendika’s turn to be wiped out. Fendika is an azmari bet, or a type of cabaret where traditional Ethiopian shoulder dancing and singing is performed. The place is very small, people are sitting on small stools around the circular walls and the lead singer moves around the audience, addressing the people directly and individually and improvising accordingly. So when I go there, I always get a song about farenji or foreigner. That’s for the regular evenings.
However, the main attraction at Fendika is to see Melaku Belay perform. He is the owner of the club and a well known Ethiopian dancer who is regularly touring internationally. Every other Friday the place is packed with people going to see him and his band perform, the atmosphere is always very cheerful and happy, mainly because Melaku loves dancing there; his heart is really in Ethiopia at Fendika.
Now he has been given less than a month to purchase the land where Fendika is located in the Kasanchis district of Addis. His idea is to acquire it so he can leave Fendika exactly as it is and build a cultural centre and hotel behind it. The timing is extremely tight and his project financially ambitious so he has launched a crowdfunding appeal online for 90,000 US$ to gather momentum. Tonight, he is organising a big party at Fendika again to raise funds. He does have a lot of support here in Addis to keep the club going because it is such an amazing cultural heritage for Ethiopia, and one that is still thriving, but that may not be enough to save it from demolition.
Personally, I would find it very sad if it went, just like I am sad to see Dashen go. I don’t believe in erasing a city’s past and memory in such a drastic way in the name of modernity. The past, present and future should cohabit together to give the city its unique spirit and atmosphere, but that’s not what is happening here. Having said that, even if everything is destroyed to make way for the new “New Flower” (translation of Addis Ababa from Amharic), the past will survive in people’s mind, as we can’t easily get rid of our parents and grandparents’ memory. That stays in us wherever we are, even if we fight it.
Link to Save Fendika campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-the-fendika-cultural-club-in-addis-ababa