Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ethiopia Gets Its Own 'Idols' to Ridicule

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ethiopia Gets Its Own 'Idols' to Ridicule

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeff Vrabel

Having already sent the region Michael Jackson, there wasn't much left that the American music industry could do, I figured, to damage the Eastern hemisphere.

But that was before I read about Ethiopian Idols. Really, really sorry, everyone.

Ethiopian Idols is a play off our own American Idol (itself a copy of Britain's Pop Idol). As you likely know if you've recently tried to catch any of the programs Fox occasionally tries to work into its 24-hour loop of Idol commercials, the new season begins Tuesday. And as you likely know if you're one of the 400 trillion or so weekly viewers, that means weeks upon weeks of dimpled singers attempting to test the physiological limits of lung capacity as it pertains to Whitney Houston music.

(According to Billboard, there's more: Spectacularly unfunny Idol judge Simon Cowell will soon begin work on a series wherein professional singers partner with non-musical celebrities to perform duets before a live audience.)

Though the most likely outcome for Idol contestants in any country is televised humiliation by famous people, Ethiopian Idols, according to a recent AP profile, is a massive hit in the crushingly impoverished nation. It's quickly scored the highest ratings on the otherwise lousy state-run TV.

It's a low-budget hit, sure, and it can't offer the fame and fortune of its counterparts. But it does have their most necessary ingredient: a snippy judge, Feleke Hailu, a 46-year-old saxophonist who dismissses contestants by telling them they "sing like donkeys." This is startling because it means that, in the course of the one quote I've read from him, he's considerably funnier than Simon Cowell. It's also startling because if you sing like a donkey in America, you very quickly become the lead singer of Creed.

Hailu's catch phrase is "alta fakedem," or "you didn't make it" in Amharic, which would never fly over here. …

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