Tetsuo Kobori



Addis Ababa

The experience of leaving my body and dancing until midnight at Azmari Bet, a bard’s pub was an intense sensation that made me forget everything. The sound of the masenqo, a single-stringed bowed lute of Ethiopia, the unique dance rhythms like jellyfish that continuously rocked my body and joints, and the resonance of physical dancing in the dimly lit, crowded, thin air gradually put me in a trance. Just when I thought it was almost over, the rhythm picked up again, and for two hours straight, I drank a distilled spirit called Arak. Addis Ababa is located at an altitude of over 2300 meters above sea level, so it was hard to breathe. It is Azmari Bet that pushes me over the limit.

At noon, we had a meal at Tafari’s house, and at the end of the meal, we had coffee, which is the same as the Japanese tea ceremony culture. At first, we were served with injera, a crepe-like dough made from fermented rice flour, in which beans, meat, and vegetables are stewed and wrapped. The coffee we were served after the meal began with a charcoal fire, followed by roasting the green beans in a clay frying pan, grinding them in a small mortar called a mukeccha with a stick through the beans, and pouring it into a round-bottomed pot with hot water. Bathed in frankincense smoke, I drink a small cup of  Tena Adam, an herb with a strong aroma, steeped in coffee. The taste is a refreshing yet clean blend of coffee and fresh herb, with no bitterness at all.

Yesterday, at the Little Ethiopia, a restaurant in Yotsugi, Tokyo, cultural anthropologist Itsushi Kawase told me about the ritual of inviting spirits into a space through that suffocating, frankincense smoke that I felt in Ethiopia.

Let’s return to the story of Addis Ababa. At noon, Sachiko Nakajima and I went to Fendika, a very pleasant place with a series of irregularly sized spaces that looked like an extension of a barracks (crowded at night with Azmari Bet and live music venues, but a place for children by day), where there were many children and we measured and sketched together. The kids insisted on drawing with the mysterious orientalists, and they were very creative, trading pens and paintbrushes, and the sketches were finished in no time at all. Melaku Belay, the owner of Fendika, was a street child but was saved by growing up in a place like Azmari Bet. He told me with passion that this is why he keeps this place going. He also said that he is an Architect. It was a survey that made me feel with my body that Africa has an origin of life beyond my imagination.