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Amharic in Reggae Lyrics

'Fiqir Bandinet' ('One Love') in Ethiopic Script

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 ('ny'), not as in English 'magnolia'. The 'q' sound is like a hard 'k' pronounced as far back in the throat as possible.

Amlak = God

Fiqir = Love
Hence Fiqir Bandinet =
'One Love'.
'Fiqir' ('Love') written in Ethiopic script

Haile Sellassie

The name
Haile Sellassie means literally 'Power (Haile) of the Trinity (Selassie)'.

Iyesus Kristos
= Ethiopian name for Jesus Christ
'Iyesus' written in Ethiopic script

The 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".
'Igzeeabhier' written in Ethiopic script

Itiopia (pronounced with a long 'ee' sound at the beginning)= Ethiopia
'Itiopia' written in Ethiopic script

Janhoy = the emperor, or majesty, sometimes affectionately referred to as 'Ababa Janhoy' (Father Majesty).

Kebra Nagast = '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.

Medhanie 'Alem = "Saviour of the World".

Moa 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 5:5.
'Anbesa' ('Lion') written in Ethiopic script

The 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 titles.
'Niguse Negest' written in Ethiopic script

Qedamawi is Ge`ez for 'first', and may also mean 'old' or 'holy'.

Ras Fetari = '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.

Ras 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.

Satta amassagana
Satta 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.

Sehumi 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 Church.

Tenayistilgn = 'Greetings' 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'.)

Yebrehanu Alem = 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 Trinity'.

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 Heritage
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'.

'Fiqir Bandinet' ('One Love') in Ethiopic Script