Poetry Jazz: Wax and Gold


“Poetry Jazz” is the name of a particular style of popular performance poetry from Ethiopia that fuses poetry and jazz, recitation and improvisation. The musical elements, rhythms and styles draw further connections between traditional Ethiopian pentatonic music and jazz influences. Live events taking place in Addis Ababa reach a wide audience and are broadcasted nationwide over the radio.

Based on a traditional lyrical form referred to as “Wax and Gold”, the poetry is often coded with layered clandestine meanings. The literal and superficial layer of “wax” conceals a core of “gold” with meaning intentionally enshrouded in word games, metaphors and ambiguities. The poetic coding demands an active engagement with a second, unspoken message. Though the lyrical tradition has its roots in the ancient Ge’ez language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it informs secular verse and even everyday Amharic conversation, also being used to address sensitive social or controversial issues.

This project series by the Institut für Raumexperimente (Institute for Spatial Experiments) fuses contemporary expressive poetry styles in Amharic, German and English, and combines them with traditional Ethiopian music, jazz influences and electronic music. Continual shifts in languages, metres and rhythms create awareness of the subtle divergences of meaning that can be attributed to social and cultural influences.

Connected to the exhibition "Uncertain States – Artistic Strategies in States of Emergency", this project is part of the event series “Uncertain States II – colonial repercussions” in 2017/18.

Contributing artists:
Frezer Admasu (ET), Eric Ellingsen (US), Mihret Kebede (ET), Robert Lippok (DE), Nebiy Mekonnen (ET), Jorga Mesfin (ET), Cia Rinne (SE), Rike Scheffler (DE), Misrak Terefe (ET), Tasew Wendem Mose (ET).

This event is part of a poetry series "Poetry Jazz, Wax and Honey, I‘m Home" by the Institut für Raumexperimente, Berlin, in cooperation with the Akademie der Künste; in dialogue with Tobyia Poetic Jazz, Addis Abeba; supported by Studio Olafur Eliasson; Graham Foundation, Chicago, and Co-financing fund of the Senate Department for Culture and Europe.

Funded by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation

Saturday, 5 Aug 2017

8 pm


Studio Lobby

In English, German and Amharic

€ 5


Tel.: (030) 200 57-1000
E-Mail: ticket@adk.de