Some Traditions of Qəne
6. Some traditions of Qəne
There are some well known traditions of Qəne such as Nät’äqa, Gəlbät’a, and
Tämäst’o. The mastery of these Qəne traditions is the sign of the BaläQəne’s expertise of the genre and his placement at the summit of the Qəne world.
As the meaning of the term attests, this tradition signifies the taking away of verses but does not equate with stealing. Nät’äqa involves finishing off the verses of a Qəne as another person is reciting the beginning verses. This shows that the one who is doing the Nät’äqa already knows what the other composer was going to recite.
Here are some famous Nät’äqas in history.
A) Emahoy Gälanäsh’s Nät’äqa of her father’s Qəne
When the father was reciting
“በታቦርሂ አመ ቀነጸ ምልኮትከ ፈረስ፣”
When your divinity / horse galloped
And the daughter finished the Qəne by saying,
ልጅ፡- “ኢክሂሉ ስብሖቶሙ ሙሴ ወኤልያስ፡፡”
Moses and Elijah could not restrain it.
The amazed father then said,
“በከመ ሰማእኩኪ አነ ኢይሰማእኪ ጳውሎስ!”
I hope St Paul does not hear what I have heard.
(Sam) When a strong horse gallops it is hard for the rider to restrain it.
(Warq) When Jesus took Peter and John with him to the top of Mount Tabor and showed them his transfiguration amongst Moses and Elijah, the disciples were overwhelmed and fell on the ground. The part about St Paul is referring to the Paul’s edict barring women from teaching in public.
B) Qes Gäbäz Kasa of Gonj Nät’äqa of Mägabi Aychaw’s Wazema Qəne
ኢተሐውር ማዕቀብ አልፋ
በምክረ ረሲዓን ዕበው አምጣነ ለዕዝራ ሐሰውኮ፣
ወለባሕር ዘእንበለ ጸብእ ፍኖተ ረሰይኮ፣
እስከነ ይቤ አጽፍከ ዘበአምሳለ ንስር ፈነውኮ፣
Oh Maeqab Alfa do not go on the path
Of foolish council men since you have lied to Ezra
And turned the sea into a pathway without a fight
Until your cloth that you sent in the image of an eagle said,
Qes Gäbäz Kasa
አይቴኑ ባቢሎን ኢያሪኮ
ወአይቴኑ ዳንኤል ተሀውኮ
Where is Babylon / Jericho
And where is Daniel / trouble?
Gəlbät’a involves taking someone’s Qəne creating a new Qəne by changing the message and rhyming scheme. For example, it is common to wish newlyweds to have a marriage like Abraham and Sarah. But another person can use Gəlbät’a and overturn the blessing by saying let your marriage be not like Abraham and Sarah. When asked why, one can say may the bride not be mentally anguished as Sarah was when Abraham had a child from Sarah’s Servant Hagar. On the other hand, a fearful Abraham gave away his wife to King Abemelek saying she was his sister – and this is a good reason to overturn the first blessing.
Thus, likewise, one can overturn the message of a Qəne being recited and create a whole new Qəne. Such practice will help open up new viewpoints of things we are accustomed to and help us list the advantages and disadvantages of a particular knowledge system.
When composing Qəne, one is usually immersed in deep contemplation (Tämäst’o) and becomes oblivious to one’s surrounding. A well known example of such a deep contemplation is the story of the BaläQəne Kəflä Yohannəs who was active during the reign of Emperor Iyassu I (1674 – 1698). It is said that Kəflä Yohannəs lived a very humble life and was not popular among the luxury-seeking clergy of the court who were constantly at work to put a rift between him and the emperor. On one occasion, Kəflä Yohannəs, deep in contemplation, did not salute as the Emperor entered the Däbrä Bərhan Səllase Church with his entourage. The clergy were quick to point out Kəflä Yohannəs’ faux pas to the Emperor. Knowing that Kəflä Yohannəs meant no malice, the Emperor threw at him a gold nugget to rouse him from his meditation. Kəflä Yohannəs then approached the Emperor and composed the following Qəne:
በእስጢፋኖስ አእባን እመ የኀልቁ፣
ዘበጠኒ ኢያሱ በወርቁ፡፡
Since all the stones were used on (the martyr) Stephen
Iyassu stoned me with gold.
The clergy were further disgraced when the Emperor rewarded Kəflä Yohannəs the gold nugget. Kəflä Yohannəs donated the gold nugget to the church.
It is also said a certain ʾäläqa of the Gondar Qusqwam Church was deep in contemplation and did not see the king entering into his room. So finally when the king talked to him, the ʾäläqa apologized saying he was in the middle of composing a Qəne. This is similar to the case of Saint Yared not noticing being speared on the foot while engrossed in his zema.
There were those who went betyond Tämäst’o and reached unfathomable spiritual realms. For example, it is said that Täwanäy walked on top of Lake Tana when travelling from Gojjam to Gondar. It is also said of Kəflä Yohannəs that he travelled like the Disciples on a cloud and on the 7th of the month would celebrate the Feast of the trinity both at the Gondar Däbrä Bərhan Səllase Church and the Showa Däbrä Bərhan Səllase Church.
Kəflä Yohannəs talked about his exploits on the cloud as follows.
አነሂ ወግብረ ቅኔ ዘበሆሣዕና፣
እምዕደ ገፋኢ ወተገፋኢ ንትመሰጥ በደመና፡፡
I and Qəne that are of HosannaWe escape from the hands of the exploiter and exploited through clouds.