Getatchew Mekuria (photo Matias Corral)
Getatchew Mekuria (photo Matias Corral)



MARCH 14, 1935 – APRIL 4, 2016
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!

We will miss him.
The Ex.

Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Friends Tour July 2012



(plus new double cd of Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex and Friends “Y’Anbessaw Tezeta” out in July 2012)

06/07 AMSTERDAM (Netherlands)- Bimhuis Roots Festival

07/07 KONGSBERG (Norway)- Jazz Festival

08/07 COPENHAGEN (Denmark) – Jazz Festival

10/07 PARIS (France) – Gaité Lyrique

14/07 GRONINGEN- Vera

15/07 DOUR (Belgium) – Pop Festival

16/07 NIJMEGEN – de-Affaire Festival

Getatchew Mekuria – Saxophone.

The Ex:

Arnold de Boer – Trumpet, Andy Moor – Guitar, Terrie Hessels – Guitar, Katherina Bornefeld – Drums.


Xavier Charles – Clarinet, Ken Vandermark – Baritone Saxophone, Brodie West – Alto Saxophone, Joost Buis – Trombone, Colin McLean – Bass,Melaku Belay -Dance,Melelu Abebaye

Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex -Ethiopunk

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 & The Ex-Almaz Yeharerwa

Totonto:Paul Till.jpg

Getatchew Mekuria – Saxophone

The Ex: Katherina Bornefeld – Drums,  Terrie Hessels – Guitar, Andy Moor – Guitar, Arnold de Boer – Vocals

Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex -Tezeta


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.

Recommended Listening

‘Moa Anbessa’ Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Guests. CD/LP Terp Records AS-011.

The Ex

Terp Records