A ninety-year-old Ethiopian nun has been hailed as a musical genius after a concert pianist stumbled across her scribbled scores and decided to showcase them to the world.
Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guebrù has spent almost her entire life shut away in a convent, rarely ever venturing outside the stone walls of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, where she lives.
But despite her cloistered existence, she is now on the brink of global stardom after Israeli classical musician Maya Dunietz heard a rare CD of her work, and was so impressed that she turned it into a book.
And on Tuesday, Guebru will hear her music played in concert for the first time in a series of recitals in Jerusalem - and may even make a cameo performance.
Guebru has spent the last 70 years penning a vast musical opus that has, until now, barely been heard outside the convent. Instead it has been left to fade in plastic shopping bags tucked away in her cramped living quarters.
'Honest and very feminine': Despite her cloistered existence, she is now on the brink of global stardom after Israeli classical musician Maya Dunietz (pictured) heard a rare CD of her work, and was so impressed that she turned it into a book
Despite there being only a handful of recordings of Guebru's work, Ms Dunietz first heard a sample when her husband brought back a CD he found in a London record shop.
Upon hearing the music, she immediately set out to track the nun down to find out what else she had composed.
'We listened and were amazed by the strange combination of classical, Ethiopian and blues,' said Dunietz. 'And then we read the sleeve notes and discovered she lives right here in Jerusalem.'
Born with the name Yewubdar Guebrù on December 12 1923, she lived there until, at the age of six, she and her sister were sent to a Swiss boarding school where she got her first taste of classical music.
By her late teens she had been offered a place at a prestigious music school in London. But, due to the turmoil that had spread across her homeland, she was denied to leave by the Ethiopian authorities.
In protest at her detention, she went on hunger strike until, nearing death, she turned to God and took her first Holy Communion.
She gave up music and devoted herself to religion, moving to a remote monastery in northern Ethiopia where she spent the next ten years living barefoot in a mud and stone hut.
It was not until she rejoined her mother in Addis Ababa that she took up music again and soon recorded a handful of albums.
In 1984, after the death of her mother, she moved to Jerusalem to take up residence at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church where she has remained ever since.
Cloistered life: Guebru has spent the last 70 years penning a vast musical opus that has, until now, barely been heard, left instead to fade in plastic shopping bags tucked away in her nunnery quarters in the convent (pictured)
It was there that Dunietz tracked her down, sitting at her piano. After years of visits and silent bonding ('We felt there was a lot of longing and sorrow and loneliness'), Dunietz finally persuaded her to hand over her work to turn into a book.
'She handed over four plastic bags — old wrinkled Air Ethiopia bags — containing hundreds of pages, all muddled up, a big mess, written in pencil, some of them 60 or 70 years old,' Dunietz told the Guardian. 'It was all the pages of her music that she had found in her room. "Make a book", she said.'
Enlisting the help of the Jerusalem Season of Culture, which organises an annual summer festival of art, music and food in the city, Dunietz finally completed the painstaking task of organising and publishing the opus.
Musical ambiance: Easter celebrations outside the Ethiopian Orthodox church in Jerusalem, where Guebrù has lived since 1984
The book begins with a foreword from Meytal Ofer, a regular visitor to Guebru.
'I enter a darkened room and catch my first glimpse of her, an elderly woman, not a wrinkle on her face, lying in bed,' Ofer writes. 'It is a modest room with a small window. In the room is a bed, a piano, piles of musical scores and a picture of Haile Selassie and the Empress Menen hung above the papers.
'Emahoy Tsegue-Mariam is in her own world; she speaks slowly with an inner peace, her soothing voice caresses the listener and her infectious smile sneaks into the conversation every now and then [...]
'The disparity between the room's sparseness and Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam's spiritual richness reaches deep down into my soul.'
The performance on Tuesday will feature a host of professional musicians, led by Duniet, play a selection of Guebru's music.
Guebru is said to have found her new fame somewhat overwhelming and has spent most of her time locked in the nunnery, refusing media requests.