Amharic in Reggae Lyrics
Amharic (Amarinnya) is the national
language of Ethiopia, and as such is very important
to Rastafarians. Derived from ancient Gi`iz
(sometimes spelled Ge`ez), it is a Semitic
language, also related to other tongues such as Hebrew
and Arabic. Click here to see a chart of the 'family
tree' of Semitic tongues.
Some Reggae songs include words and phrases from Amharic
or Gi`iz. Below are a few common examples you may come
across, as well as other key words and expressions, with
translations... (Corrections and additions are more than
welcome! Email me).
Please note: To my
knowledge, there is no standard system of transliteration
for Amharic, so spellings in English may
vary considerably. For example, you may
see the phrase 'Neguse Negest' written 'Nigus Nagast', 'Negus
Negast', etc. The 'gn' sound is pronounced as the Spanish
ñ ('ny'), not as in
English 'magnolia'. The 'q' sound is like a hard 'k'
pronounced as far back in the throat as possible.
Fiqir = Love
Hence Fiqir Bandinet
= 'One Love'.
The name Haile Sellassie means literally 'Power (Haile)
of the Trinity (Selassie)'.
Iyesus Kristos = Ethiopian name for Jesus Christ
word 'Igzee'abihier is the
Ethiopian name for God, meaning literally, "Lord
of the Universe". This is composed of 'Igzee
(Lord) 'ab (father) bihier
(of the nation). The complete phrase, 'Igzee'abihier
Yimmesgen, means "Let God be praised".
with a long 'ee' sound at the beginning)= Ethiopia
Janhoy = the emperor, or
majesty, sometimes affectionately referred to as
'Ababa Janhoy' (Father Majesty).
= 'Glory of Kings'
This ancient Ethiopian text gives an elaborated account
of the meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba,
claiming that they became the parents of a son Menelik,
who later stole the treasured Ark
of the Covenant
from his father's Temple and brought it to dwell in Ethiopia. According to tradition, it is still
there to this day.
= "Saviour of the World".
Anbesa Ze'imnegede Yehuda
Conquering Lion of the
Tribe of Judah
A motto of the Ethiopian monarchs, and often
attached to the Emperor's name. See Revelation
word Nigus (sometimes
transliterated 'Negus', but
pronounced 'nih-goose') means 'king', 'emperor'. Hence
also the phrases, Negusa Negest ze Itiopia,
meaning "Emperor of Ethiopia", and YeNegustit
Nigus meaning 'King of Kings' (see Revelation
19:16). ... YeIsrael
Nigus = King of Israel, Yetsion
Nigus = King of Zion. Click here to see a comprehensive
list of Amharic Imperial, Royal and Noble
is Ge`ez for 'first', and may also mean 'old' or 'holy'.
= 'First Creator', or 'Head
Creator'. This is not to be confused with 'Ras
Tafari' (for which, see below), although the word 'ras' ('head')
is the same in both cases. The cover of Peter Tosh's 'Nuclear
War' album features a picture of Tosh displaying
this divine title in Ethiopic script around his neck.
Tafari Mekonnen (name of HIM Haile Selassie I)
Ras = head (compare Hebrew rosh,
Arabic ra's). Tafari =
he who inspires awe'. Mekonnen
= 'the angel'. The name Rastafari became applied to the followers of Haile
Selassie, the Rastafarians.
amassagana ahamlack, ulaghize is usually
translated as "Give thanks to God continually".
Strictly, however, this is not quite accurate Amharic,
for the vowels in amassagana are
mispronounced. More properly, it should be ames-seggene.
Igzeeabhier = Elect of God
Sellassie = Trinity
Usually used as a suffix, as in Haile
Selassie, 'Power of the Trinity'.
The cocept of the Trinity (God being mystically Three in
One) does not always form a part of Rastafarian belief,
and is understandably considered by some to negate the
absolute oneness of God. However, it
remains a key doctrine of the Orthodox
or 'Hello', etc.
Tewahido = 'made one'
Emphasizing the inseparable unity/oneness
of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus Christ, of all humanity as one family. The full
title of the Ethiopian Orthodox church is 'The Ethiopian Orthodox
Tewahido Bete Christian'. ('Bete Christian'
means literally 'Christian House', hence 'a church'.)
Light of the World
Berhane is an Amharic name
meaning 'my light'. Bob Marley was baptised into the
Ethiopian Orthodox church as Berhane
Sellassie, which means 'Light of the
Here's a list of songs featured on this site that include
lyrics in Amharic/Ge`ez:
Black Dignity (Peter Tosh)
Igziabeher (Peter Tosh)
I Pray Thee - Satta Amasagana (Big Youth)
Mighty Negus (Israel Vibration)
Negus Nagast - Buju Banton and Morgan
Rightful Ruler (Peter Tosh & U-Roy)
True Ganjaman (Rocker T)
Satta Massagana (Abyssinians)
If you want to know more about Amharic or if you're
interested in studying it at any level, please see links
related to 'Amharic'.