Getatchew passed away today. At the age of 81 and after a musical career of 68 years. He was a truely unique saxophone player. Born in the countryside of Ethiopia, he heard the saxophone on the radio at the age of 13 and went to Addis Abeba straight away. He wanted to play saxophone! And soon after that he got himself into the Municipality Band. Later he played in the Haile Selassie Orchestra’s, the National Theatre Orchestra and more.
Since 2004 he played regularly with The Ex. It was his choice after hearing us at one of our festivals. He recognized something in our music which reminded him of the early groups he was in, like the Fetan Band (Speed Band). He loved playing with us and for us it was also an incredible experience. He was always totally himself, full-on intense and dedicated. We played more than 100 concerts and made two beautiful albums together.
The last few years, his health was not very good. He couldn’t really go on tour anymore. As a kind of farewell concert for his fans, we organized a big event in the National Theatre in Addis Abeba. He got lots of attention and respect that night: 1500 people in the audience, three TV stations and a legendary concert. Getatchew was playing while sitting on a chair, but his playing was stronger than ever.
His whole life was devoted to music. With his unique sound and approach he leaves behind an eternal inspiration!
Ah Glorious Summer! Now that the weather finally feels tropical here in Holland, it’s time go out and see some new African bands –and a few old favourites too- at the Afrikafestival in Hertme, Twente. Now in its 26th year
From 13:00 on Saturday 5th of July right through to 01:00 on Sunday 6th of July, there will be six groups playing. Three will be performing in the Netherlands for the first time and one of the groups will even be playing in Europe for the first time– a European debut!
The festival starts with Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa from Morocco. This group is often used to close the show at festivals, but in Hertme they will be the opening act. The Gnawa trance of Aziz will evolve into the heady trance of the BKO Quintet from Mali in which the hunters-ngoni from the Wassoulou area and the griot ngoni meet.
Singer Nancy Vieira from Cape Verde with her swinging ballads provides a haven of rest in the afternoon. They are one of the most promising new live bands in Ghana. This is their European debut – an exclusive for Hertme. Do not miss the chance to see this new exciting band performing for the first time outside Africa.
As night begins to fall, it will be time for Black Bazar. This group brings a mix of rumba and soukous from Congo. Next on stage will be Debademba from Burkina Faso/Mali. Both groups delivering us with an explosive dance party on this summer night.
Sunday 6th of July is the day of the big names.
At 12:00 o’clock the day kicks off with the magic and virtuoso guitar playing of Teta from Madagascar.
Mamar Kassey are an old acquaintance of Hertme having played there in 2008. Since then, they have become one of the top African bands.
The excellent Ethiopian Circus Debre Berhan will amaze you while Fendika provides explosive music and ‘shoulder-dance’.
The first African circus working with disabled and deaf people
The amazing Ethiopian Circus Debre Berhan was formed in 1998 in the town of the same name, three hours away from Addis. One can find circuses all around Ethiopia, in Addis Abeba and in various smaller towns. Although it’s not an old tradition in the country circus has a very important impact on communities, as they often mix stories about society (violence on women, HIV prevention, etc.) and more straightforward performances. The Circus is working with more than 100 acrobats, including children.
One of the important features in this circus, however, lies in the fact that it employs performers who have physical disabilities as well as those who are deaf. It is the first African circus working with disabled people. These performers, both those in the children’s act and the adult’s act, are extremely talented. Circus Debre Berhan’s shows open with the children’s beautiful and often very challenging acrobatics, followed by the adult act, which is staggering in its intricacy and difficulty. The performances are usually held in public spaces such as markets and main squares where possible in order to reach and entertain as many people as possible.
At the moment, Circus Debre Berhan is touring all over Ethiopia with its hundred or so performers split into small groups, to cover the vast countryside. If it continues its success, it will hopefully help change perceptions of disability and stigma.
Ferocious five-piece band with two phenomenal dancers
Fendika is a troupe of highly accomplished Azmari musicians and dancers. Founded in 2009 by Melaku Belay, a leading dancer, the ensemble is based at Melaku’s famous music club Fendika Azmari Bet in Addis Abeba. In Ethiopian culture, an Azmari bet is a traditional house of music where people come to be entertained, informed, and sometimes playfully insulted by the Azmari, who serve as current events commentators while they dance, sing, and play for tips.
Melaku is one of Ethiopia’s foremost dancers of the eskesta, a traditional Ethiopian trance dance of athletic shoulder movements. Growing up as a street kid, Melaku learned many regional dances of Ethiopia. He has travelled throughout Ethiopia to learn the dance traditions of the country’s 80 tribal groups. The musicians and dancers of Fendika present a cultural journey starting in the highlands of Tigray, Wollo, Gonder, and Gojam and so on.
Melaku Belay, dances;
Zinash Tsegaye, dance;
Misale Legesse, kobero (trad. drums);
Endris Hassen, masinko (one cord violin);
Nardos Tesfaw, vocals.
The biggest highlight of the 26th Africa Festival will be the historic reunion of Les Ambassadeurs. One of the members of this legendary group is Salif Keita. Together with his colleagues from the 1970’s, he will play the finest Malian music from that period.
Habib Koité hardly needs no further introduction. He closes the festival with his new band. It will also be the presentation of his new CD Soô.
it’s summer and time for festivals again. With the current wave of sunny days and warm evenings here in Holland, this coming weekend promises to be exciting and interesting.
Music Meeting is an international music festival that unites musical genres from all the corners of the globe: ranging from jazz, soul and funk to klezmer and from gypsy to afro-latin. Ever since it’s founding in 1985 Music Meeting has revolved around improvisation, adventure and experimentation. In twenty-five years Music Meeting has become an established festival, which time and again has presented exceptional and undiscovered talent. The core of the festival consists of projects not bounded by a concept as ‘genre’, performed by artists from diverse cultural backgrounds, who previously have never collaborated. Imagine free jazz combined with minimal music plus a hint of Hebrew soul and Bedouin song.
Some of the artists of African origins or collaborating with Europeans are
Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Guests (Nederland, Ethiopië)
Music Meeting takes place during Whitsun in the lush green Park Brakkestein, bordering the Radboud University of Nijmegen.
At night time the festival spirit is continued in the popular music venue Doornroosje, during which under the name of Club !mm…! a variety of music cultures are blended in with electronic and live dance beats. Here with the younger music- and dance enthusiasts in mind, musicians and DJ’s create an experimental open-minded atmosphere resembling modern music scenes in Rio de Janeiro and New York.
Hail the local record store!! Last few days a record has been on my turntable ever since I bought it. Yes, that’s right, I actually bought a record while I was browsing in the local vinyl store. A fascinating blend of music that was played caught my attention and I just had to ask what it was.
To my surprise the music was by The Ex, a Dutch punk band who had recorded this album with Ethiopian saxophone legend Getatachew Mekuria. The album is called ‘Moa Anbessa’ and has been released on the label Terp by The Ex. Strange brew indeed…
Getatchew Mekuria is the most revered veteran of the Ethiopian saxophone. A real giant, both physically and musically. In his seventies, he is still in full voice, with his own, powerfully distinctive style of playing. His huge vibrato, both forceful and fragile, plays around the vocal lines, using typical Ethiopian embellishments. He started playing in 1947 in the Addis Abeba Municipal Band, then in the Haile Selassie 1 Theatre Orchestra and the Police Orchestra. He also backed up all the famous Ethiopian singers. Getatchew Mekuria is the inventor of a musical style called the ‘Shellele’, which originates from an heroic war-chant, translated to the saxophone. When he plays it, he dons a lion’s mane and cuts loose with furious solos that are a kind of free jazz, from before free jazz existed.
The Ex, from Holland, often descibed as an avant-ethno-improv-punk band, toured Ethiopia twice and fell in love with its music. The Ex had their 25th year anniversary party in November 2004 and they invited Getatchew to perform there with the ICP, the Instant Composers Pool, for many decades Holland’s most amazing free-improvising jazz group.
It was his first time traveling outside of Ethiopia but he accepted the ICP as if they were his own band, donned his lion’s mane, the ‘gofere’, and blasted everyone off stage. On the 25-year-Ex-convoy-tour around France, he played with The Ex.
He was so inspired that he suggested to The Ex he should record his next CD with them. He gave them 10 solo saxophone versions of Ethiopian tunes, which they arranged and practiced. Then in April 2006 Getatchew traveled to the Netherlands for some concerts and recording sessions.
The result is unique; Getatchew’s melodies and solos mesh with The Ex’s rhythms, noise and vocals, supported by a guest impro-horn section.
There were some 80 concerts on many Jazz-, Worldmusic- and Rock-festivals and a presentation of the CD in Addis Abeba, where the record also was released on cassette. First pressing 10.000!
Last year the Ex & Getatchew played a USA Tour ao the Lincoln Center ‘Out of Doors’ in New York and the Millenium Park in Chicago. Later followed by a Canadian Tour and more concerts in Europe.
‘Moa Anbessa’ Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Guests. CD/LP Terp Records AS-011.