To western ears, the music seems both foreign and familiar. Its mood stretches from sultry and haunting to upbeat and vibrant. Soulful Western undertones are audible, yet the overall impression is distinctly and inimitably Ethiopian. Now a rich musical export, the evolution of “Ethio-jazz”, as this hybrid genre is known, and its growing global renown are a tale of back-and-forth migration and the alchemical fusion of ideas. The dramatic saga involves political upheaval, accidental epiphanies, a series of dogged and inspired individuals—and Hollywood.
Today, says Samuel Yirga, a pianist and composer, Ethio-jazz is a calling and way of life for many Ethiopian musicians. In 2020 there were new releases from stars of the genre including Mulatu Astatke (pictured), a visionary percussionist and keyboardist, and Hailu Mergia, an accordionist and band leader. “Sons of Ethiopia”, a cult classic of 1984 by the band Admas that mixes pop, funk and jazz, has just been re-released. Yet the story of the mesmeric sound began almost a century ago, in Jerusalem. Read the full story at The Economist