Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou  

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Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou (1923 – 2023) was an Ethiopian nun known for her piano playing. A compilation of her work was issued on the Éthiopiques record label. She also appeared on The Rough Guide to the Music of Ethiopia, and The Rough Guide to African Lullabies ("Mother's Love").


Guèbrou was born as Yewubdar Gebru in Addis Abeba to a wealthy family, at six she was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland, where she studied violin. In 1933 she return to Ethiopia. During the Second Italo-Ethiopian War she and her family were taken as prisoners of war by the Italians and sent first to the prison camp on the Italian island of Asinara and later to Mercogliano near Naples. After the war she studied under the polish violinist Alexander Kontorowicz in Cairo. Kontorowicz and Gebru return to Ethiopia where Kontorowicz was appointed as musical director of the band of the Imperial Body Guard. Gebru was employed as administrative assistant.

At 19 she fled to the Guishen Mariam monastery in Wollo Province. There she changed her name to Tsegué-Maryam and was given the title Emahoy. She became a nun at 21. She continued her music at the monastery writing pieces for piano, violin and organ.

In the 1960s she lived in Gondar Province and studied religious music of the 6th-century Saint Yared who is credited with inventing the sacred music tradition of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. There she was moved by the plight of other young students studying the sacred music - they often had to beg for food and lodging. "Although I did not have money to give them, I was determined to use my music to help these and other young people to get an education".

Her first record was released in 1967. The proceeds of this and subsequent releases went to help an orphanage.

In 1984 she fled to the Ethiopian Monastery of Jerusalem because of a conflict between her religious beliefs and the marxist regime of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.

The Emahoy Tsege Mariam Music Foundation has been set up to help children in need both in Africa and in the Washington DC metro area to study music.


A compilation of her work was issued on the Éthiopiques record label. She also appeared on The Rough Guide to the Music of Ethiopia, and The Rough Guide to African Lullabies. Her music has been described as melodic blues piano with rhythmically complex phrasing.

For three decades she lived a reclusive life with only rare performances including one at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, D.C. on July 12, 2008. Three tribute concerts were held in Jerusalem in 2013 to mark her 90th birthday and a compilation of her musical scores, compiled by Israeli musician Maya Dunietz, were also published. The Emahoy Sheet Music Project which aims to publish the complete works was launched and funded on Kickstarter.


  • Tsege Mariam Gebru, (1963) Spielt Eigen Kompositionen
    • Reissued 2012 by Mississippi/Change Records – MRP-025
  • Tsege Mariam Gebru, (1963) Der Sang des Meeres
  • Emahoy Tsegue-Mariam Garbru (1970) The Hymn of Jerusalem/The Jordan River Song
  • (1972) Church of Kidane Mehret/Yet my King is from Old (HED-ARZI PRT 14318)
  • Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou (Compilation 2006) Éthiopiques Volume 21, Ethiopia Song, Buda Music

A further CD was released in 1996.

See also

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