Swinging Addis ( Ethiopian Jazz)

World Is Africa

The story begins in 1896, following Ethiopia’s victory against the invading Italians at the Battle of Adwa. Russian tsar Nicolas II sent Emperor Menelik 40 brass instruments. It became the imperial music – and planted a seed. Then, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1924, the prince who would become Emperor Haile Selassie met a marching band of young Armenians orphaned in the recent Ottoman massacres. He shipped the “Arba Lijoch” (“Forty Kids”) back to Addis Ababa and installed them as the imperial band. The emperor’s new big band ensembles proved to be incubators for the stars of a new sound craved by a young generation demanding musical – as well as social and political – change.

The father of Ethio-Jazz is Mulatu Astatke. Born in 1943 in Jimma, a city in the Western part of Ethiopia, Astatke unexpectedly chose to study aeronautic engineering in North Wales in…

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