Ashenafi Kebede (Amharic: ኣሸናፊ ከበደ?; 1938 – May 8, 1998) was an Ethiopian composer, conductor, ethnomusicologist, historical musicologist, music educator, novelist, and poet.
Kebede was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1938 and was educated in musicology in the United States at the Eastman School of Music (1962), and Wesleyan University (M.A. 1969; Ph.D. 1971).
He founded the National Saint Yared School of Music in Ethiopia, serving as its first director (1963–1968).
He was designated a National Composer by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, in 1967. Shortly after that he began his graduate studies in the United States, and earned the first Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.
Ashenafi was a prolific writer. His works include a novel, Confession (1964), articles in ethnomusicology journals, the book Roots of Black Music, and numerous articles in The Chronicler, the magazine of the Center for African-American Culture.
In his own compositions he combined Ethiopian and Japanese musical ideas. "Koturasia" is one such piece, written for flute, clarinet, violin, and Japanese koto. Among his other musical compositions were "Peace unto Ethiopia" and "The Life of Our Nation". His best known composition though rarely heard outside Ethiopia was "The Shepherds Flute", performed in 1968 with the Bulgarian Symphonic orchestra.
In the United States, he was Director of the internationally known Ethiopian Research Council, consisting of a group of Ethiopian and American scholars and professionals. At the time of his death he was Director of the Center of African-American Culture at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.
Professor Kebede died in Tallahassee, Florida, May 8, 1998. As spoken by the man, "you are here for me, I am not here for you."
Kebede had three daughters and a son; Nina (Nina Ashenafi Richardson, a judge married to Florida State Representative Curtis B. Richardson) and Senait (an actress), Samrawit Ashenafi (Samra) and Yared.
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