Monday, January 09, 2006

Addis Ababa Idol

When we think of Ethiopia, we tend to think of poverty, famine, big-bellied babies, and Brad Pitt carrying Angelina Jolie's newest baby. We do not tend to think of reality television. Turns out, we thought wrong.

Turns out, in fact, that Ethiopians are just as into the televised humiliation of others, nasty television judges, and the public melt-down of sad losers who've travelled miles and miles to subject themselves to the gratuitous criticism of wannabe famous people. Yup, the "Idol" franchise has arrived in...Addis Ababa.

The Simon Cowell is Feleke Hailu and his catch-phrase is Alta fakedem!--which means "You didn’t make it!" in Amharic. (Big points if you knew they spoke Amharic in Ethiopia). He also tells them, "You sing like a donkey."

And instead of hitch-hiking from God Knows Where, Kansas, to the big auditions in L.A., kids like Natinel Amsalu pay $10 to travel 300 miles from Gonder. You know, Gonder. The semi-finalists tend to stick to their own hair-and-makeup routines, like Medina Mohammed, who has tribal scars on her cheeks and performed in the multicolored beads and red cloth of her Afar ethnic group, singing a traditional love song, "I’m So Glad You Came." Judges described her voice as "honey-like."

Can't wait until they syndicate!


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