The Young Ethio Jazz Band.
A group of US-based young Ethiopian musicians, ranging in age from 10 to 15, are playing Ethio-jazz and getting some media coverage like this one.
Sirak Tegbaru leads young members of Oakland’s Medhani Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Church in an unusual extracurricular activity: a traditional Ethiopian jazz band. The young musicians, ranging in age from 10 to 15, had their first performance on Sunday, at Rasela’s Jazz Club in San Francisco’s Fillmore district. They call themselves the Young Ethio Jazz Band.
The students play Ethio-jazz, a style that blends American jazz and Latin rhythms with traditional Ethiopian sounds. Led by figures like Mulatu Astatke, Ethio-jazz flowered during the 1960s and early ’70s.
The eight person band played several covers at Rasela’s, with many members taking solos on each song. Most Ethiopian music hasn’t been written down, so Tegbaru has to study each song carefully, learning the keyboard, horn, bass, and drum parts so that he can teach them to his band. After seven months of practices, they were ready for their first performance this January.
Yonathan Estfanos, who plays trumpet, describes the Young Ethio Jazz Band’s sound as “unique and mellow and lively. And nothing like anything people have ever heard of, especially people of this generation.” Like many of the band members, Estfanos says the band has allowed him to preserve his cultural heritage. “I feel like I’m going back to my culture, you know? I feel like I’m going back to my roots,” he said.
‘Guzo’ is the first solo outing by the young Ethiopian pianist Samuel Yirga, who is still in his 20s. Introduced to wider international audiences through his playing with Ethio-fusion group Dub Colossus, Sammy is now exploring new directions as a solo artist.
Reviewing his album for the Quietus, an online music magazine, the UK-based Russell Slater, a journalist specializing in writing about music, reveals his ambivalence towards the album.
I feel conflicted about the debut album from Ethiopia’s Samuel Yirga. On one hand this is obviously a talented young musician at the start of his career, looking to build upon his cameo role within the world fusion group Dub Colossus by stretching out his piano and compositional skills here on Guzo. On the other hand it all feels too convoluted, as if someone has heard this guy play piano, recongised that he’s as adept at both Ethiopian melodies and Western jazz noodling, and realised this could be the point where Ethiopian music can truly cross over into the world music crowd. Essentially this is Ethiopian music for people who can’t take the raw, spontaneous bluster of the Éthiopiques series; people who can’t truly get into world music unless there’s a roll of brushes on the toms, plaintive piano notes sprinkled here and there, a double bass lazily playing scales in the background. Surely there is a genre of music in this world that doesn’t need to be fused with jazz? Read more…
Ethiopian jazz giant Mulatu Astatke has been honored by the world-renowned Berklee College of Music. Mulatu, often dubbed as the father of Ethiopian jazz, was presented honorary doctor of music degree yesterday from the university’s president Roger H. Brown at 2012 commencement. Mulatu told Ethiopica Link over the phone that he was gratified to have received this honor and this was a magical moment in his long career. Speaking hours after ceremony, the jazz legend emphasized the accolade was more than an individual achievement.”It is a recognition of not only my own achievement but also my country’s rich and diverse musical heritage,”he said. Read more…
The legendary Ethiopian composer and musician Mulatu Astatke will be presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Music degree from Berklee College of Music. The presentation will be made at the college’s commencement ceremony, May 11, 2012 at the 7,000-seat Agganis Arena at Boston University. “I am very honored about it, “wrote the 71-year-old composer on his Facebook page after he was advised that he would be receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the world’s largest college of contemporary music.This year’s other honorees are Rock and Roll Hall of Famers the Eagles and 27-time Grammy winner Alison Krauss.This year’s honorary doctorate recipients are being recognized for their achievements and influence in music, and for their enduring contributions to American and international culture, Berklee announced.The annual commencement concert will allow some of the school’s most accomplished students to present a tribute to the honorees, and in some instances play alongside them.
Teferi Assefa is a quiet, at times effervescent, and friendly person. A returnee from the United States, this thirty-eight-year-old drummer is one of the new generations of musicians leading the budding jazz scene in town. His entire life is centered on music. He is busy performing regularly, researching, and teaching.
Since childhood, Teferi has found his own sound on the drum. Influenced by a range of musical traditions, his percussion style was a key element of the Urban Vibes band’s distinctive sound that played recently at the acacia jazz festival. It is great to watch him play— the beat of his bass drum holding everything together. Not loud-felt more than heard. He hits a beat or drops an explosion on the tom-tom, making the drums ‘speak’ in a passionate and moody voice.
A week after the festival, I met this tall, bespectacled man at Kazanchis’s Jupiter Hotel, where he was about to begin his weekly gig. Read more…