Eyob Mekonnen (12 October 1975 – 18 August 2013) was an Ethiopian reggae singer. His songs were well known for their themes of "love, understanding, and respect".
Birth and beginnings
Eyob was born in Jijiga in 1975, during the start of the Ethiopian Civil War. His father, Mekonnen Yalem, was an officer in the Ethiopian Army during the war in Eritrea, which was credited with inspiring him to impart peaceful messages in songs such as "Nekchalehu" and "Negen Layew". He moved to Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, when he was young, and attended school whilst maintaining an interest in music.
He joined a five-person band called the Zion Band, which was described as having a "reggae beat with a distinctive Ethiopian cast". The band became a fixture at popular clubs in Addis Ababa, performing opening acts for popular singers like Haileye Tadesse, who sung songs like "Song of the Dominions" (Hule Hule) and "Anthem of the Movement" (Kebetiye). His musical style was unique, not only mixing popular Amharic music with reggae, but also Oromo popular music, counting Ali Birra as one of his major influences, alongside Bob Marley. In 2010, he released his first album, Ende Kal. Although lukewarmly received by audiences at first, as it differed from the often synthesized, electronic music that had prevailed since the era of the Derg and the demise of the big bands of the Haile Selassie era. Slowly, however, the album gained a following and "great national acclaim".
His songs dealt with issues of and promoted "morality, love, peace and social consciousness", themes that made them popular and hard-hitting. In 2010 he embarked on a campaign called "Finding Peace" to help heal rifts caused by the disputes in the parliamentary elections.
In 2012 he released two singles; "Beyemehalu" and "Negen Layew". He was beginning to tour abroad, particularly in Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Illness, death, and tributes
On 13 August 2013, Eyob suffered a ischemic stroke brought on by atrial fibrillation and entered a coma, however he was in otherwise good health.His fans and his promoter, Yisakal Entertainment, took to Facebook to post updates on his conditions and raise funds for his treatment on a page called "Let Us Pray for Eyob Mekonnen". Due to these efforts, Eyob was moved to Nairobi on 17 August, however he died on 18 August due to complications. He was credited with sparking a movement towards live music and away from so called "one man bands" and furthering the popularity of reggae and roots music in Ethiopia.