Eminent Ethiopian deaths of 2021: From ‘Ethiopia’s Elvis’ to notable journalist


MUSICIAN Alemayehu Eshete, 80

Known as the Ethiopian Elvis, Alemayehu became an iconic figure on Ethiopia’s jazz scene from the 1960s and performed right up until his last years.

The 1960s, an era of revolutionary art,  gave not only Alemayehu but many artists the liberty to express themselves, society, and the intervention of new ideas. Some remember that he used to dress up like a suburban cowboy, with his shining boots and his cowboy hat, performing in a small cafe called Texas in piazza. impersonating the king of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley.

“I dressed like an American, grew my hair, sang Jailhouse Rock and Teddy Bear – sometimes we would do Strangers in the Night. But the moment that I started singing Amharic songs my popularity shot up,” he said.

In his later years, he had problems with heart disease. He died at midnight of 2 September 2021 in a hospital located in Addis Ababa.


Zemi founded the Joy Center, Ethiopia’s first school for children with autism, in 2002.

While on the verge of bridging the gaps and helping youths, she stumbled upon another barrier that would change the course of her life and for many mothers like her. The mother of two learned the knowledge of her second son affected by autism. The heartbreaking setback she faced in addressing this issue in both the U.S.A and Ethiopia gave her to find a solution and started her initiative to address and deal with the setbacks she faced.

Amongst her many achievements, she was acknowledged as the Woman of Excellence in 2014. She was a phenomenal woman who dedicated her life to helping others and alleviating other women she played an immense role acting as a responsible agent in mitigating important issues facing nations.

JOURNALIST Tesfaye Gebreab, 54

The author was born in Bishoftu to Eritrean parents Tesfaye first joined the Derg army and later joined the EPRDF armed struggle.

While in Ethiopia, he published books alongside his journalism career and has lived in Kenya, South Africa, the Netherlands, and other countries since leaving Ethiopia due to disagreements with the ruling party.

He has published eight Amharic books, notably Burka Silence and the Journalist’s Notes. Tesfaye has been widely criticized for his “Burqa Silence” conspiracy to create divisions among Ethiopians.

EDUCATOR Asfaw Gebru, 80

Teacher who rose from poverty to found a school for street children in Ethiopia that has survived coup, rebellion and famine.

As a young street-urchin newly arrived from the countryside, Asfaw was mooching around outside St.George’s Cathedral when a barrow of oranges belonging to a Turkish lady tipped and shed its load. Quick off the mark, he scurried about, picking up the fruit for its thankful owner, who then took him into her household as a general dogsbody for the next few years.

During his lifetime Asfaw achieved much and was recognized internationally. In 2001 he was awarded The World Children’s’ Prize for the Rights of the Child; and given an award for his humanitarian contributions from the La Coruña branch of Tierra de Hombres in Spain 2003. But most important was the recognition he gained amongst his own people. As one of his former pupils wrote on Facebook recently: He saw talent, he saw hope, he saw a future. He believed in his students so much, we began to believe in ourselves since starting education at the Asere Hawariat.

HUMANITARIAN Abebech Gobena, 85

A woman vigorously tried to use her disadvantage to help others. She was a passionate woman who had been through the many sides of life setbacks. It fuels her humanity, mapped out her life journey, pursued a passion project, and looked after children without a guardian.

She faced the horrific scene of famine and children starving to death. The painful experience of pain led her to take measures inactive way, where she decided to rescue 21 of the children from the area back to the capital where she resided for more than a decade.


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