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 Who was Tilahun Gasasaa?

By Idaoo boruu


Tilahun Gessesse Negussie's original name was Ayyaano Guddata. I met Daandanaa Ayyaano Guddata in year 1963. The place was Bella Haile-Sellassie, the Imperial Body Guards (Ye Kibri Zebenya Hospital, at Guchii (Sagon)) Division in Finfinnee/Shagaar. He was in full IBG military uniform standing at the gate.

I saw Daandanaa (Tilahun) again after he allowed us into the hospital standing with Captain Sahile Dagago of Illu Abbabor and chatting in Afaan Oromo. Of course, I heard about him before too that he was a singer from Ammayya. My visual knowledge of Daandanaa/Tilahun at first glance did not give me sufficient knowledge about him except an impression with his physical appearance - a handsome guy with good physical stature. 

Towards a Better Knowledge and Understanding of his story...

My Knowledge of Daandanaa Ayyaano Guddata in his native home –Ammayya aka Torban Ammayyaa was one year later after our first encounter at Bella Haile-Sellassie IBG Hospital.  The next better opportunity to know Daandanaa without military uniform and this time more closely starts on Xirr 11/1957 EC. The day was Thursday. The place was Gindo, the capital city of Ammayya woreda (sub-district).  

To be precise, the route was this: From Woliso to Woncii, crossed Ejersa Waangaa, Cittuu, Leemman, Qoliit Guddaa and Qoliit Xinna rivers, finally we crossed GANNA River (the birth place of Daandanaa/Tilahun where we were greeted by kind and generous people living around Sombo Qalla’aa. Laga Gannato (Gannatoo River) was the village and residence of Mr. Ayyaano Guddataa and Mrs. Geexee Gurmuu Yaaii –the biological parents of the late Mr. Daandanaa aka ato Xilahun Gessesse were born and raised. And also where the late Mr. Daandanaa Ayyaano aka Xilahun Gessesse himself was born. NOT in WOLISO or Addis Ababa. He was NOT the biological son of Bal. GESSESSE NEGUSSEE WHO WAS ORIGINALLY FROM WOLLO AND WAS THERE AS THE LAND AGENT OF Dejazmach Silashii Garedew, the brother of the late WZRO ASkale Garedew at Barbaree Midir, Daawwo (Ras Mesfin Sileshei’s mother). Bal Gessese was a mikitil woreda Gazh at Barbaree in Buusaa-Daawoo district of Bacho. He was gradually promoted to a woreda gazh and later retired in Woliso and became a bar owner with his cousin the late Ayale German, the father of Dr Nugusee Ayele now in Califrnia. (By the way, Ayele German was given a nick name as he was doing some unofficial business in collusion with the employees of German legation in the olden times). Xilahun’s mother was from Laga Gannato area and Xilahn’s father was from Haro Ayeetuu area, not to far from each other. Both are from Torban Ammayya clan of Oromo nation. Some say, by clan origin and belonging, the mother’s side is said to be a guddifachaa from Maaruu clan of Oromo nation while his father is from the Kuttaye clan. 


(At Gindo and Tullu Bollo he was known by the nickname Shubbisaa).   January 11, 1957 was a special day in Gindo. It was lawless, disorderly, and every one was free to fight, to hit heads with dulla, to drink, to shout. Gun firings were sporadically heard in the suburbs of Gindo. There were many groups of women, men, and also of mixed gender dancing squads everywhere. The dominant one with countless crowds of gatherings was around Daandanaa Ayyaano. That was the day, and the time, I knew that the renowned artist was from Ammaya, to be precise, was born of Torban Ammayya clan of Oromo nation at a place called Gannato.

To make the matter short and come to the main point, Daanadanaa Ayyanoo was born at Gannatto River basin locality to his mother Geexee Gurmu and his biological father Ayyaano Guddataa in Ammayya sub districs (woreda) in Wolliso Awurajja, Shawa. 

How did Daanadanaa Ayyanoo become Tilahun Gessesse?

 Bal. Gessesse Negussee was a mikitil woreda gazh in Ammayya at the time Daandanaa (Tilahun) was a school boy at Gindo, the capital of Ammaya. He was christened by his God-father, Ato Asres Eshete who was the mayor of Gindo. Mr. Tesfaye Eshete, the first director of Ammyya elementary school who was the brother of Asres Eshete changed Dandanaa’s name to Tilahun. Before DAANDANAA (Tilahun) even finished his elementary school education his mother divorced from Ayyaano Guddataa. Ms. Geexee fled Ammayya as many divorcee women do, due to stigma and in search of freedom and new life. They say, Geexee Gurmu fled to Tullu Bollo and remarried to Mr.Asafa Fiixaa (later killed by the Derg), where Daandana was able to attend school and completed 4th grade. The marriage did not last long as Asafa Fiixaa had a land dispute with Ms. Askala Garedew’s land agent and in an incident of a shoot out, Ato Kurabachew Redda was said to have been shot by Asefa Fiixaa. 

Subsequent to this incident, the first step-father of Daandana, Mr. Asafa lost his legal case and eloped to the forest to be a shifta because of the unfairness of the Kangaroo courts and justice system of Abyssinia rulers. Ms. Geexee could not live a peaceful life as she being labeled a wife of the shifta. This changed Ms. Geexee’s life upside down. Helpless, Ms. Geexee Gurmuu, Daandanaa’s biological mother, did not have a land to maintain her livelihood in her native area, due to harsh customary land ownership laws of the region, women did not own lands. So she was forced by circumstances again to take another flee in search of protection. This time to Tullu Bollo and she met Bal. Gessesse Negussee who was a woreda Gazh and was transferred from Ammayyaa due to promotion. 

As they new each other in Ammaya Bal/Gessesse offered Daandanaa’s mother, Ms. Geexee, a job at his TAJJ BET. For the next three consecutive years, the mother and the son worked for him under the management of Ms. SIMEGN BIZUNEH, Bal. Gessesse’s only and legal wife known in wolliso and elsewhere. While working there Daandanaa was liked by the family as good worker. His mother pleaded to Bal. Gessesse to help Daandana go to school. The Bal. Gessesse allowed Daandanaa to go to school this time at Ras Gobana Dachii elementary school. Daandanaa’s name too was change for the third time and this time fully to Tilahun Gessesse.: First from Daandanaa Ayyaano, then Daandanaa Asafaa, and finally TILAHUN GESSESSE at Ras Gobana elementary school. Daandana was unable to attend school as life became miserable and harsh. In the month of October as usual, three Colonels were every year deployed to Ambo (then Col Jagama Kello Garo, today’s Gen Jaagamaa); to Woliso, Col. Angaagawu Haile Gobana of Baantuu (today’s Gen Angagawu); and, to Fiichee/Salaale Col. Haile WoldeGiyorgis Hirpo (Today’s Gen. Haile.).

 In a continuous yearly raid on young Oromos to build Abyssinian marauding army, and necessitated by the worsening economic situation in the south as a result of native land deprivation, poverty stricken Daandanaa aka Tilahun like all other Oromo youths of poor farmers joined the Abyssinian army as a foot soldier and was sent to Xabaaseen, Tegulat and Bulga Awuraja, Debre Berehan city to be trained by the then commander of the 17th Imperial body Guard Division-the late Col. Gebeyehu Duubee from Gimbi (died in August 1975 EC. At Bella Haile Haile-Sellassie later renamed Kibr Zebeyna Hospital at Sidist Kilo, Finfinnee.) 

Contrary to the erroneous story among the Abyssinian circles, Daandana was not first employed by Hager Fiqir which did not even exist at the time Daandanaa joined the Imperial Body Guard’ Infantry Division. His employment by Hager Fiqir Theatre was 12 years after Daandanaa aka Tilahun served the IBG’s Musical band. 

In early 1960, he was the only one invited to a high school graduation ceremonies in Shaggar/Finfinnee and always sung, however unrecorded, Oromo songs. Not as some people from the Oromo NTIONALISTS try to portray DAANDANAA as AMHARANIZED individual. To site one example, Daandanaa/Tilahun was invited to a graduation ceremony at Shimelis Habte Comprehensive secondary school in 1962 EC. The then president of the student council, the late Taye Morodaa (whose brother now works for the WORLD BANK in WDC) of Mulo invited him. The first music was in Oromo in praise of a Maruu Oromo local hero- a ‘shifta’ or outlaw by the Abyssinian version: 

Baallami yaa gurraacha kicha

Maal wol hiikta Maarun tokkicha

Hundaa Kan uume Waaqa tokkiicha

Duutin haftu yaa Hinjigu kallacha

It was at this time that the then high school student councils of Finfinnee: Taye Moroda of Shimelis Habte (later fled to Sudan and returne home after the revolution and subsequently killed by the DARG at Solee Wood Factory of Ras Tafarians (Jamican) center in Shashaamanne); Abbomaa Mitiku Waaqo of Tafari Mekonnen (OLF founding member, killed in the battle field by the Somali and Darg agents); Dacho Gobana of Kokebe Tsebah, later of Prince Mekonnin (killed by the Darg Qabale in 1977); Makonnin Bayisaa- brother of Dr Magarsaa Baayisaa fled to Sudan, returned in 1975 and killed by the Darg Qabalee, H.18, K.54 in 1978); Berehane W/Michael Kallacho of Medihane Alem high school later of Kolfe Comprehensive H. S (killed by the Darg Qabalee at K8, H25 in 1978) Fikadu Urgeessaa worra Gajja of Nifas Silk Comprehensive H.S (now at Qaalitti prison under Woyyaanee regime) and other Oromo students especially of Kokebe Tsebah and Shimellis Habte in mass participation were beaten by police when the grad ceremony turned into emotional situation. ON THIS OCCASION, DAANDANAA/TILAHUN WAS LUCKY, HE GOT A BEAUTIFUL ADAREE WIFE, BUT KNOWN IN Biblical paradigm as DELILAH whose true name was Juhara Yosuf. That was prior to his next Amhara wife, who was followed by the Ohio State University graduate and a teacher at Nazret School who is Ras MESFIN SILESHI’S daughter later replace by his current surviving wife. (This is too personal and I should not dwell in this issue. After all, all artists fall in love instantly while on stage with first female that comes to the stage to congratulate their performances. SPARE ARTIST ALI BIRRAA.) 

Later in 1963 EC when the first mass graduation of Oromo students of Finfinnee High school enrollment in imperial history due to the GREAT JOB done by the WELL KNOWN OROMO EDUCATOR, the LATE Mr. GUDDATA MAMMO (who taught renowned Oromos like Dr Tilahun Gamta, Attny Goshu Wolde and others) graduated, the late DAANDANAA Ayyaano and Mrs. Bizunesh Bekele were the only artists who accepted the invitation to their hearts content and made the grad ceremonies beautiful with Oromo and Amharic music. Other artists turned down the invitation preferring to go to weddings of dignitaries at big hotels. Mrs. Bizunesh Bekele was also the only one who showed up as promised to Nefas Silk high school grad cermenoy after five others reneged on their promise. 

Mohammud Ahmed-the renowned Guraagee artist, was also cooperative in many occasions especially for his performance at Menelik H. S in 1963 E.C after other three who promised to come never showed up. In 1963 EC., when Daandanaa/Tilahun was invited to the PMS (Prince Mekonnen High School) the school was engulfed in frictions between the Islamic student union and the Orthodox Christian students and on the other hand between the Oromo students Drama and Theatre Club led by Tarekeng Badhaasaa and Mulugeta Dhaabaa sponsored by the director, Mr. Guddata Maammo and Dr Dejene Arado of AAU university. 

The grad ceremony was divided and a separate date was set without the school’s approval. THREE CONTENDING PARTIES: The ISLAMIC Club of Tahaa Mubarak (later Killed by the Darg and Kelil Ibrahim (now professor of Islamic Affairs in Ryad, Saudi Arabia) was violently opposed by the mainstream Ethiopian high school students union. Without any formal organization, and on the other side stood the Oromo Drama and Theatre Club led by Taerekenge Badhaasaa under Cultural Affairs Committee of the school. The Ethiopian part and the Islamic and Oromo clubs approached artists of different bands to participate in the grad ceremonies. The musical bands were contacted by the school. The school informed the Musical Bands as to ascertaining the graduation date and time, the hall for performance and the security issues. The massive Ethiopian student side rejected the school’s programme and vowed to boycott the ceremony which they did. The musical Bands who over heard this school based skirmishes turned down our invitation. ONLY Daandanaa /Tilahun and Mrs. Bizunesh accepted the invitation. On that day, about eight songs were sung by Bizunsh and Daandanaa/Tilahun, NOT A SINGLE AMHARIC SONG WAS SUNG as the ‘mainstream’ Ethiopian group graduates dissociated themselves and scheduled another graduation ceremony which never took place as it went against the school’s policy as established and clearly announced by the director, the late Guddata Mammo. 

On that occasion, Daandanaa sung NOT A SINGLE AMHARIC SONG as Daacho Gobanaa announced that the graduation ceremony first in Afaan Oromo then repeated in Amharic stating that was sadly enough the graduation ceremony was divided by the chauvinist machination. Out of a total of about 2500 student, 515 participants as per ticket sales were presented. Guests that were not ticketed were not counted. Of course, there were male friends, female fiends, families of graduating class, Indian teachers organized by the Chemistry teacher, Mr. P. Kush and Oromo Ethiopian teachers as organized by Baayisaa Abbaa Wollo, Maths teacher and Dr Dereje Arado, who is at AAU now, then records head of the high school under the director, the late Guddata Mamo, Vice director, GEN. Amin Hannah of WAFDIST EMMIGRE during Jamal Abdul-Naser’s Egyptian Revolution, and the 4th Police Station of Finfinnee security police sent by the then Maj. Yadate Gurmuu (later Gen. Yadate Gurmu of Finfinnee Police Head Qrt).

When Daandanaa/Tilhun and Buzunesh completed their performance the remaining performance was overtaken by Fiqaaduu Urgeessa of Worra GAJJAA from Awash Malkaa Qunxuurree of Aabbbu clan. Unfortunately, we never expected organized hit gangs who on their own accord boycotted the grad ceremony were outside waiting to attack those who left the school yard after the show. The security guards never informed us of this possible incident.  

On leaving the school compound Daandanaa (Tilahun) was meted out with rains of stones and suffered stone beating from behind the school fence. The gangs spared Aadde Bizunesh Bekele. Daandanaa/Tilahun sheltered himself in the business premises of the late Mr. Tadesse Argawu (killed by EPRP in December1977) Patrice Limumba Photo shop just in front of PMS. 

Two police officers living near by the school: Crpl. Gizawu Hordofaa (now works for Ameuchi Metal Works co.) and Crpl. Shuumii Nagaa (killed by EPRP at H6 K.11 in 1978) who were both in uniform just leaving their post of duty opened fire on the mob and spared Daandanaa’s life. Daandanaa was taken to Gen. Tadesse Gabree Hordofaa’s house that was just across from the school and then the kind general ordered his son Solomon Tadesse who just returned from American Field Service stay in the USA for a year, to drive him to police Force hospital where Daandanaa/Tilahun was given medical treatment and released on same night. 

Some of the malicious police officers who were deployed to keep peace and order who undoubtedly were ill informed about the division on the graduation ceremony and other matters within the school connived with the violent hooligans’ acts and were enjoying music inside the hall. DAANDANAA/Tilhaun suffered GBI at the hands of the chauvinist disorderly thugs. Regardless, he participated in the next graduation ceremony of Tegbareid Technical School, which also surprisingly comprised the majority of Oromo students in that same year (1963 EC).  

At the TTS, although the graduation ceremony went amicably unlike the one at PMS, Daandana sung Oromo and Amharic songs sparingly. In short, seen from his cultural activities at his school age in Gindo, Ammayya and later in the IBG division, DAANDANAA was not a person who sold his identity beyond the pressure and enforced norms of the social and class system under which he lived. He was just acculturated like most of us and if those are things to be accused of, then all of us is guilty of not being overtly in defense of our own cultural and natural rights as Oromos. 

Hence, DAANDANAA AYYAANO/Tilahun Gessesse does not deserve any attacks neither from the Oromo Diaspora who accuse him of selling his identity nor the wanton distortion of his ethnic origin and natural identity from the Abyssinian circles who, knowingly or unknowingly, strive to de-Oromonize him and claim that any thing good done in that wretched country is the works/achievements of Abyssinian origin.   

Finally, I wish to reiterate my ode to Daandanaa Ayyano Gudetta aka Tilhun Gessesse Negusse:

1.   As the source of information, Primarily I am personally indebted to Ayyaantuu website for letting me know about the untimely death of the celebrated/renowned Oromo/ Ethiopian artist Dr. (Hon.) Tilahun Gessesse Negussee (born Daandanaa Ayano Guddataa). 

2.    By the same token, I appreciate the stellar tribute made by Ethiopians all over the world. It is heart –wrenching and poignant.

3.    However, the purpose of my article is to all intents and purposes, is to express my condolence to the families and friends of the beloved artist and set the record straight The lies concocted by those Abyssinians in their warped vision that they want to write him a false birth certificate, as an Amhara. Far from it, he was a full blooded Oromo nothing more, nothing less!!

DAANDANAA/Tilahun Gessesse Jeenatni Kee Nagaan Haa Ciisu

MAY DAANDANAA Ayyaano/ Tilahun Gessesse’s soul REST IN PEACE!



Idaoo can be reached at



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