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  • Writer's pictureNathan Groves

Ethio-Jazz

Hello Friend, I just wanted to highlight an ongoing discovery of mine known as Ethio-Jazz. I am only going to talk about a couple of my favorite compilations and albums, but am including a short background regarding the history. If you’d like a more detailed history feel free to check out the article I pulled from: https://theculturetrip.com/africa/ethiopia/articles/ethio-jazz-the-amazing-story-of-ethiopian-jazz-from-london-to-addis/


From article above by Lilian Diarra:

“One of Ethiopia’s greatest innovations, Ethiopian Jazz, termed “Ethio-jazz,” is a unique fusion of traditional Ethiopian music with jazz, Afro-funk, soul, and Latin rhythms.”

“The period up until the mid-1970s was the country’s golden age of music and creativity. In the late 1960s, Astatke decided to return to his home country and set about introducing Ethio-jazz to his people. Considered somewhat of a radical with his unconventional ideas and signature vibraphone, Astatke’s music was initially met with mistrust, as many Ethiopians, strongly traditionalist having escaped colonization, feared cultural contamination of any form. With Astatke’s insistence and dedication, Ethio-jazz eventually picked up momentum during the last days of Selassie’s reign, although its popularity remained in Ethiopia.”


“The Derg, the Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile-Meriam that rose to power in 1974, squashed Ethiopia’s budding musical scene and liberal social life. Because it was considered a Western import, much of Ethiopia’s popular music was censored, and musical creation and practice were largely limited to patriotic songs. As a result, many musicians fled the country or kept a low profile, and a generation grew up with hardly any memory of Ethio-jazz.”


“The revival of Ethiopian music started after 1991 when Ethiopia became a democracy following the ousting of the communist military junta. In 1997, Francis Falceto, a French music producer and promoter, fascinated by Ethiopian music at large, went about painstakingly collecting and recording Ethiopian music and compiling a 23-volume series called Ethiopiques on the French label Buda Musique (the series has since evolved to 28 compact discs). Featuring Ethiopian and Eritrean music legends of the 1960s and 1970s, Ethiopiques focuses on traditional music as well as highlighting individual musicians or specific genres.”


Ethiopiques, Vol. 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale (1969-1974)

Mulatu Astatke

Mulatu Astatke is widely considered the father of Ethio-Jazz. This compilation has the most variety in terms of sound and tempo. Featured on this compilation is “Tezeta (Nostalgia)”, the first song I heard of his and what led me to discovering the ethiopiques compilations and Ethio-Jazz as a whole. Another favorite is “Ene Alantchi Alnorem (I Can’t Live Without You).”

Ethiopiques, Vol. 21: Piano Solo

Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou

My personal favorite of the Ethiopiques Compilations. A lot of the songs featured on this have this bittersweet element to it. Great for homework and long reflective walks alike. My favorites from this include both of the tracks titled “Homesickness” as well as “Evening Breeze.”

Wede Harer Guzo

Hailu Mergia & Dahlkak Band

Very upbeat and lively. This pulls a lot more inspiration from f funk influences compared to the others mentioned. (WARNING: WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO BOOGIE). My favorites include “ Yene Nesh Wey (Amalele),” “Wede Harer Guzo,” and “Minlbelesh.”

Getatchew Mekuria and His Saxophone

Getatchew Mekurya

Getatchew Mekurya was also a prominent figure during the Ethio-Jazz golden age. Similar to the one by Hailu Mergia, this features some elements of electronic music. This one is the strangest of all the ones selected. A lot of these have a very haunting element to them, very hypnotic. My favorites include “Shemonmwaneyewa,” “Yegenet Muzika,” and “Musika Hiwote.”


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