Ethiopia has a long tradition of jazz going back to the 1920s when Armenian orphans from the massacres in Turkey formed the country’s first official orchestra.
American jazz great, Duke Ellington, played in Addis in the 1970s and received the country’s Medal of Honor from Emperor Haile Selassie. Composer Mulatu Astatke was assigned as Ellington’s guide during the visit and the two musicians played together at a concert in Addis Ababa.
Today, Mulatu is internationally credited with creating Ethio-jazz with an exciting blend of Western jazz, funk, traditional Ethiopian folk and religious melodies from the ancient Coptic Church.
Ethio-jazz has in recent years begun to flourish thanks to the emergence of several bands from the country. Jazz lovers in Nairobi will this weekend get to enjoy the sounds of an Ethiopian band that has kept the flames of that country’s jazz music heritage burning.