Frankincense Chasing Myrrh

Read the text while you run the first music video, then watch the second video to get more information about the coffee ceremony.

ትጥጣለህ ወይ ቡና – Would you like to drink some coffee? was produced in collaboration with Melkamu Meaza aka DeepAbyssinia to whom I am so grateful for revealing the art of ‘collaboration’ on the fringes of a world of music. He is a brilliant teacher, deeply talented, and a friend who has inspired my digital artwork in the ‘Nightingale’ theme. The subtitles of his cleverly crafted YouTube video describe Ethiopia’s coffee ceremony fluently and the recent YouTube link (displayed first, above) offers what may be his final mastered version of the sung poetry ትጥጣለህ ወይ ቡና – Would you like to drink some coffee?

The poem romanticizes the ancient and famously celebrated Ethiopian coffee preparation and drinking ceremony. It is drawn out through a series of events, but crucially gathering a crowd intending to socialize. The burning fragrance of frankincense and myrrh mingled with the aroma of roasting coffee fills the venue with misty smoke. The ceremony creates a unique and memorable ambiance often cited in cultural literature and music.

This poem strays away from the conventional discourse and presents the olfactory powers of coffee, frankincense and myrrh by provocatively delving into deeper levels of socialization and intimacy. I have made an effort to translate the Amharic original into English – a deep learning curve and an ongoing challenge to do this perfectly; so grateful for Betty Attfield’s critique which has lifted the quality and standard of translation immensely.

Frankincense Chasing Myrrh

Would you like a cup of coffee?

A pure taste of jebena brew?

Perhaps fate has deprived you of café noir

Your heart having fled heat, tempestuous.

Frankincense makes a sudden appearance

Myrrh vanishes abruptly.

Noble coffee, clay pot elixir

A sip to chase your troubles away.

Women infusing within secrets

Men yearning for heartfelt love

Ancient sages and admirers

Myrrh, Frankincense and Coffee suppliers;

May have forewarned but we failed to see

That thoughts can be stolen

And dreams can be snatched

To the popping sounds of roasting coffee beans.

Inhale the fragrance, listen to it speak;

Taste me as you take that first sip.

If your heart starts pounding like a Sunday drum,

Euphoria intoxicates you like a merkana

Allow me to invite you to Abol, Tona, Bereka.

Let us sip hot coffee poured from the jebena

Gazing at the lean smoke of Myrrh

Entangling with Frankincense aroma.

Your comments are always useful, I'd love to hear from you.

One thought on “Frankincense Chasing Myrrh

  1. What a delightful poem, appealing to all the senses! I love how the painstaking Ethiopian coffee ceremony symbolises a labour-of-love. The invited guest can either acknowledge this privilege of being lavished with love, or evade it (if not destined to appreciate love). For those who are in the know, the smell and taste of a freshly roasted and brewed coffee, the image of the entangling smoke and the aroma of frankincense and myrrh, evokes the nostalgia of love, and sense of community, which beats any melancholy or stress and replaces it with a glowing feeling. The narration with ambient music, and ‘sighing’ in between is done well to conjure these feelings.

    The efforts of the poet does not stop there. Through translation she made her poem accessible to international readers. I’m grateful for the chance to tweak a word here and there to make the translation sound as evocative in the English as the Amharic original. Keep up the good work Nightingale. Keep collaborating, encouraging reviews and discussions. This is precisely how literature and art grow.

Your comments are always useful, I'd love to hear from you.