Documenting and Preserving “Qärärto and Fukkära”: ‘Heroic Recitals’ and ‘Warriors’ Poetry’ - Two Popular Poetic Traditions in Ethiopian
Author: Gelaye, Getie
Affiliation: University of Hamburg, Germany

This paper examines the two important poetic genres known as qererto (warrior’s chants or war songs) and fukkera (heroic or patriotic recitals), which are the most favorite poetic traditions composed, recited and improvised by the rural people in Northwestern Ethiopia. Qererto and fukkera are performed exclusively by men and are expressions of praise, individual’s bravery, vilification, strength, hard work, power, heroism, verbal aggression, etc. Qererto and fukkera are colorfully performed on such occasions as weddings, agricultural work parties (harvesting), hunting expeditions and war campaigns, at the funerals of prominent persons and during annual religious feasts. The two poetic genres have been employed as a major media of protest against invaders, enemies and have been used to arouse male courage during war campaigns, conflicts and before battlefields. Furthermore, whenever, conflicts between the rural people and the government arise, the peasants use these genres to voice their responses and convey their rebellion, resistance and protest by composing their qererto and reciting and improvising their fukkera. These genres of Amharic oral poetry are also considered as the most important forms of oral expression in the rural society to mediate social tensions and to debate political issues. The paper also attempts to explore the artistic and literary features of the performance of qererto and fukkera and looks at the function and power of Amharic oral poetry in the rural areas of Gojjam, Northwestern Ethiopia, where the majority of the population is illiterate and where written media are almost non-existent. The paper also explores how performers of the two poetic geners employ various “metaphors”, “praise names” or “horse names” and other established individual and exclamatory expressions. Sample qererto and fukkera poems and recitals will be translated, analyzed and presented based on the data, which were recorded and collected during field research conducted between 1992 and 2004.