Ethio-Jazz is experiencing a renaissance in Addis Ababa, with live music shows multiple times a week and the rise of young dynamic artists across the city. On any given Wednesday at the African Jazz Village, housed in the Ghion Hotel near Addis’ famous Meskel Square, the Meleket band plays a smooth set to a small crowd of jazz enthusiasts. In the dark club, people are ensconced in cozy sofas, sitting in twos and threes, and watching the 6-man band perform soulful jazz songs with a distinctly Ethiopian sound. If you haven’t been, go, relax, enjoy!
Ethiopian megastar and father of Ethio-Jazz Mulatu Astatke founded the African Jazz Club. Astatke, whose parents sent him abroad to study engineering, went on to study music and was the first musician to infuse Western jazz and funk with traditional Ethiopian sounds. While he created the sound in the 1960s, Ethio-Jazz in Ethiopia was long stunted by the communist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam.
Now, live music and Ethio-Jazz can be found in spots all around the city, including the African Jazz Village, Mama’s Kitchen, and Fendika Azmari Bet, a traditional music house. A fire earlier this year at the Jazzamba Club housed in the Taitu Hotel, the oldest hotel in Addis, delivered a blow to the jazz scene (and to me!) when the iconic club burned down, but artists have resiliently continued to carve out spaces in the city to share their craft.
Young Ethiopians are making a name for themselves in both the local and international scene. My personal favourite is the dynamic young performer Samuel Yirga, who is beloved at home in Ethiopia and abroad, and who has been viewed as an artist who will carry the Ethio-Jazz torch forward. Samuel is signed to Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records. In interviews, Yirga has applauded the rise of Ethiopian music in the international scene, but has also called for more support in the arts by both the government and the private sector. Sadly it’s a similar story across East Africa but change is most definitely in the air. It has to be.Read more Read less