Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, the Ethiopian nun revered for her distinctive piano compositions and charitable contributions, has died, according to Ethiopian state media Fana Broadcasting Corporate. She was 99 years old.
Guèbrou was born on December 12, 1923 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As part of a wealthy family, Guèbrou began studying music in her youth, beginning with the violin in the early 1930s. She spent time as a prisoner of war as Ethiopia fought for independence from its Italian colonizers in the late 1930s. 1930, which interrupted his practice, but he resumed his studies in Cairo.
Guèbrou committed to a monastic life as a young adult, joining the Guishen Mariam monastery in Ethiopia’s Wello province at age 19, after the Ethiopian government denied her the opportunity to study music in London. She found spiritual clarity and fulfillment through music, composing for violin, piano, and organ; She found inspiration in classical and liturgical canons along with popular Western styles like blues and ragtime. Guèbrou released her first album in 1967, donating the proceeds to impoverished youth in her community seeking an education. She continued to release albums as a way to raise money for charitable causes, focusing on helping Ethiopian children orphaned by war.
In Guèbrou’s later years, his music attracted the attention of music fans outside of his home country, who were drawn to his smooth and unique compositions. Director Garrett Bradley used his work for the soundtrack of his documentary. Time, about the cost of imprisonment. “I like how open time can be. Emahoy’s music is like that in many ways, and yet it’s also something radically spiky,” Bradley told Pitchfork in 2020. “She frames her own sense of time, shapes it to her liking.” A new collection of music by Guèbrou, titled JerusalemIt is scheduled to arrive on April 14.
In 2007, Guèbrou’s family members helped establish the Emahoy Tsege Mariam Music Foundation, which was revived in 2014. The nonprofit has a corporation that manages the rights to Guèbrou’s music as well as develops cultural programming in Jerusalem and Washington, D.C. According to FBC, Guèbrou moved to the Ethiopian Monastery in Jerusalem in 1984 after the death of his mother, and he remained there for the rest of his life.