Musical Group Celebrates Anniversary
About 800 people gathered at Hager Fikir Theater on Monday, May 11 to celebrate the one year anniversary of the “Addis Acoustic Project” (AAP). Praised for its skilled and enthusiastic performances, the AAP is making a name as one of the premier performing groups of the city, playing great instrumental hits of the late 50’s and 60’s, with some sing-along tunes.
The pop music of this era, from which the group has drawn much of their inspiration, predominantly featured acoustic instruments like the mandolin, accordion, clarinet, and double bass. Guitarist and arranger Girum Mezmur, who is behind the Project, made use of these instruments to provide for his new group authentic, fresh and contemporary sounds.
The 35-year-old Girum who worked with musical giants such as Aster Aweke, Mahmuod Ahmed, Ali Birra and Teddy Afro has already established himself as one of the most respected names in the Ethiopian music scene.A musical pair with Mahmoud has taken him on extensive tours to Africa, Europe, and Canada, playing at prestigious festivals such as the WOMAD and the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Girum’s musical career stretches back to 1990 when he first joined the school band at St. Joseph as a guitarist, which later opened the way for him to be recruited as a lead guitarist of the Axumite band. While performing with Axumite Band, he had his first break to try his hand as an arranger where he soon proved himself as an accomplished musician.
Also founder of the Afro Sound Band, Girum has been on the forefront of promoting jazz for the past decade when the genre hasn’t always been entrenched in the city’s musical life. He also came to form AAP by bringing old and new generation of musicians to unfold the Ethiopian music from the time past in a new light. Last year, the AAP made its first appearance in the annual Ethiopian Music Festival where it made a highly rated and well-attended performance. Since then, it has been making weekend appearances at Bole’s jazz spot “Club Alize”.
The choice of Hager Fikir to mark the group’s establishment date was more than a coincidence. It was the venue where the musicians performed their debut a year ago and they found it fitting to stage the anniversary concert there.
On the night, audiences were entertained with a variety of great pieces, played in slow, medium and up tempo styles. One of the veteran group members, Ayele Mamo, who has been playing the Mandolin for over half century, gave a memorable performance. He played a range of appealing styles on the mandolin and also took unforgettable solos. In addition, he sang one of his hits, “Ke Wedet Tegengsh”. The black- and-white clip of the song was occasionally showed on ETV, the only place where it was archived but never been registered in any other audio formats.The melancholic lyrics of his song were charged by his unique voice, exhibiting folk-inspired sweetness.
As a former member of the Emperor’s Body Guard Orchestra, Ayele has written a number of songs for notable vocalists such as Tilahun Gessesse. On the night, one piece that he had co-written with Tefera Kassa for Tilahun was played as tribute to the artist who passed away recently.
Girum played jazz and acoustic nylon string guitars showing his enormous skill in experimentation of new sounds. He doubled on accordion, using the very instrument that his parents owned for over four decades. A smooth jazz radio host Henok Temsgen generated harmonic backdrop on his double bass, with masterful finger techniques. Henok is also another important musician leaving his mark in the current Ethiopian music scene. He hosts a weekly jazz radio show on Sheger FM. It was a thrill to hear and an opportunity to see him close doing his trick with the instrument that looked like a huge guitar; the double bass.
Dawit Frew, famous for his rendition of “Ishururu”, a song originally played by his father, Frew Hailu, used his clarinet remarkably, extracting sounds that seemed laughs and cries.
The Kebereo player and percussionist Mesale Leggese and drummer Natanel Tessema offered a wide range of dynamics and kept interesting grooves.
On one piece, “Addis Ababa Bete”, professional folk dancer, Melaku Belay who happened to be among the audience made an impromptu appearance, his choreography adding attraction to the show.
The group played jazzy re-arrangement “Yene Hasab”, “Ante Timete Ene”, “Ititu beredegn” “Ambassel” “Ishiruru” and “Fikir Ayaregim” “in away that captured the mood and tone of the 50’s and 60’. An interesting alliance between the old and the new. The crowd was elevated, giving a standing ovation at the end.
The band is recording a CD with world Music label, Harmonia Mudni which is expected to be released on November.