"Have you been Wudassed?"* 59 Comments


From L to R Ahsa Ahla, Dale Saunders(I think), Fasil Wuhib, Teferi Assefa and Jorga Mesfin

I'm a frequent visitor at Abesha.com .  It was there I read of a group based in Atlanta, Georgia. Their name, "Wudasse." A quick search on the internet returned this result- www.wudasse.com. Wudasse is an Ethio Jazz band.  As an enthusiast of Ethio Jazz, I was extremely interested. From the website I found out the band was composed of Fasil Wuhib (Bass), Jorga Mesfin (Sax/Keyboards), Teferi Assefa (Drums) and Ahsa Ahla (Percussion)-The website provides a detailed bio section. But, since the website was still under construction, it did not contain any music samples. I wanted to get a hold of the album and "Speech" helped me get in touch with "Funky Dread" who promised I would get a call from her for a chance to purchase a copy. The call never came, and so I put my excitement on hold. That is until I heard that Wudasse would be having an album release party at Roha Restaurant on Wednesday April 19, 2006. 

The time slated for this event was 7:00pm. When I showed up at 8:00pm the band was no where to be seen. I was sitting with Nolawi and Girum discussing the dismal affairs of the current Ethiopian Music scene when I saw someone I though I recognized walk in through the door.  A second look confirmed my inital thought. I was dumbfounded and speechless for a little while. I'll come back to this a little later on.

The restaurant started filling up as the band was ready to begin. The set started with Kevin Spears playing a solo jam on the Kalimba, also known as Mrimba and Tom. Tom being the one widely played by the people in the South West of Ethiopia namely, Gambela.  The set was amazingly head nodding, foot thumping and heavily groovy.

The entire band including two guest musicans, Dale Saunders (Guitar) and Beniam Bedru (Keyboards) came next. It was really hard to find out what the songs titles were since it was very difficult to hear Jorga announce them as they finished or started the songs. Having said that, there was one tune that nearly everybody recognized and that was "

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"  I was quite blown away by it. It was really well arranged and performed. There was another tune, I later found out to be "Megemeria (the begining)" that had me in a different state of mind. I thought the entire first set was great.  Though at times the guitarist was a bit on the Heavy Metal side. I have to say, I have been a fan of Fasil Wuhib since his days with The Walias Band. He definitely is a class of his own. At the end of the set, I decided to call it a night but not before picking up a copy of the album. I heard the album until I got home and has been in heavy rotation ever since. There are two other tracks that I found to be very good, "Aba Gerima" and "Selam(peace)." Support Wudasse and pick up a copy at http://cdbaby.com/cd/wudasse

Coming back to the person I saw walking in, it was none other than Girma Beyene.  A friend of mine, Abiyou Solomon (one of the baddest bassists I've ever come across,) took me to his table and introduced me to him. Sitting with him were other musicans from the "Golden Age"-Moges Habte (Sax), Hailu Mergia (Keyboards) [members of The Walias Band] and Rida Ibrahim (vocalist from The Dahlak Band.)  Here were four amazing musicians from the old guard lending their support for the new. One thing I kept doing that night was take cursory glances towards their table and what I saw was smiles and heads nodding, which led me to believe the four giants definitely approved of Wudasse. I can't stop without pointing out this, when Abiyou took me and introduced me to Girma Beyene, I was floored when he got up from his chair to shake my hand. The humility I saw in his eyes and in his gesture spoke volumes of his kindness.  I used to be a fan of Girma Beyene the musician. Now, I'm a fan of Girma Beyene, THE MAN. 

* This is not an original title, "Speech" came up with the title in her introduction of Wudasse on Abesha.com. I thank her for coming up with something catchy and the true feeling I felt after listening to their entire album.

59 Responses to “"Have you been Wudassed?"*”

  1. 1 nolawi

    Hmmm; nice that you finally met girma beyene. aydel..
    I dont think the band is great as their song ingeneral seem unethiopian… i did like some of the more ethiopian songs very much. but what do i know?

    anyways; its great that muscians are venturing in the jazz route…. keep it up wudasse

  2. 2 Adam

    Ethio Jazz,

    I enjoy your writing and i share your interest in the history of the music as well as the musicians of Ethiopia’s Golden period (1960s & 1970s). My sincere thanks for you, Nolawi as well as Francis falcetto for allowing us to feast with the clips of such gem works. I can’t get enough of Girma Negash’s ‘Yene Hasab’ and one of the then artist that i grew to apreciate his music is LEMA DEMISEW. Particularly his KEBETBATA WOTAT. (The Restless Girl). I know he had formal education in music as he was the prime composer, arranger & leader of the Army band. Do u know some of his other works. It seems KEBETBATA WOTAT was influenced by rock n’ roll (the Jerry Lee-Lewis type.) There were also some group of musicians in Asmara influenced by then rock-n’roll beat. Back in the late 80s i borrowed from Eritrean friends a casette which they labelled ‘oldies and what i listened was pure influence of rock-n-roll beat behind TIGRIGNA lyrics. Eventhough i do not understand much of it, i found it nostalgic since it had been long time since i heard some of the songs. I think the group was formed around the radio station of KAGNEW a U.S. Navy communication post. One of the artist was known as YEMANE (his nick name BARIA), and i remembered his melancholic sounding song called KAB SEMAY TEZEWIRA.
    I think TEKLE TEFAZGHI was also in that group before he moved to Addis. I forgot who else were there in that recording. There were other famous artists as well. This was the time around NAB KETEMA METSEWA came out. Often when we think of music scene from Asmara we think of BEREKET and his political themed songs, but i guess the night clubs in Asmara had also paved way for bands that were responsible for such gem love related songs. I do aprciate if you can share with us what you know about the Asmara scene in the 60s & 70s.

  3. 3 Ethio Jazz

    Nolawi–it's ok that some songs don't sound unEthiopian. Think about it, Ethio Jazz is basically a fusion between what is Ethiopian with Jazz(five tone scale v 12 tone scale). So, don't be suprised when you hear something completely foreign.

    Adam: Thank for your feedback. "Kebetbata Wetat" is definitely rock based. Though it was Sisay Kebede that did the song and not Lemma Demissew. Lemma Demissew was a huge contributor to the Golden Era, his songs such as "Astawesalehu" "Adrasash Tefebagn" "Des Blagnalech" are remenicense of Fats Domino. It's funny you should ask about the Asmara music scene during those times. A friend asked me to write a short article on the contribution of Eritrean muscians to the Golden Era. I'm having trouble finding articles or books that deal with this subject. Though Ethiopiques 5 has a lot of info, I wanted to get more information from other sources as well. Yemane Baria, Tekle Tesfazghi and Bereket were/are all giants. As you mentioned many of the Eritrean muscians during these times were employed by the Kagnew Station and in addition there was the Police Orchestra (where Tesfamariam Kidane and Feqade Amdemesqel started their musical journey) as well as "MaTa." "Nab Keteme Massawa" I remember fondly though its more the instrumental I remember than the vocals. Tekle Tesfazghi was instrumental in the formation of Roha Band–here's a video of Tekle backed by Roha Band http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-211213439307139828&q=tekle

  4. 4 Chereka

    Ethio Jazz, this is awesome!!! I have been looknig for a place to discuss the state of Ethiopian music and it looks like I found it!!! I have a lot of questions and comments about this topic. This is fantastic!

    I will be back at a later date with much more, but for now, great job and keep us updated.


  5. 5 salem

    It is good that you mentioned the famous hit of those old times : “Nab Keteme Massawa” but you failed to mention the very singer Osman Abdurahim; one of the best musicians and singers Eritrea has ever produced. Please, do some research on this singer and you will be amazed and amused by his talent and real hits. Thank you.

  6. 6 Ahsa Ahla

    Thank you for the write up and positive energy. Normally on gigs I speak to the audience. Because of the sound system we had at the Roha gig there were not ample michrophones. The websight now has clips of the songs from the CD. Once again thank you for your support. Ahsa

  7. 7 Chereka

    Ethio Jazz, thanks again for the great article on Girma Beyene and others. It was a great read indeed. I also listened to a few more of the songs on Wudasse’s website and I will definitely pick up the CD. Their sound and style reminds me of a mix between Weather Report and The Yellow Jackets, the 80 fusion Jazz bands.

    I heard most of the band (Jorga, Fassil, and I think Asha was there as well) at a wedding in Dallas a couple of years ago, and they were great. Jorga was especially fantasic. I talked to him after the wedding and told him he sounded a lot like Pharoah Sanders and he was very flattered.

    As for Ethio Jazz and its current state (at least in the Diaspora), although I am not as well informed and educated as you seem to be about music, I must say am extremely dissapointed in the lack creativity and fresh ideas by our current ‘famous’ musicians like Abegazu, Henock etc… CD after CD music after music, they seem to follow the same format and sound. For musicians who were educated at one of the prestigious music schools, they are too limited in their ability. I don’t think it’s the music (Ethiopian music) that limits their ability either, because we see bands like Wudassie stepping out of the box and being creative with Ethiopian music. I have seen more pure musicians back home is places like Impreial Hotel than them. I’m curious as to your opinion about this.

    Thanks again for the great informative articles, keep it up.

  8. 8 Ethio Jazz

    Salem, Ahsa, and Chereka–thank you all for the wonderful responses. Salem: I hope to write in the future the contribution the musicians from Eitrea gave to the Golden Era of Zemenawi(Contemporary) Muziqa. Chereka: Great feedback. Thanks a heap. Though I agree with you in terms of music in the diaspora, I feel the fault lies in three places. The Executive producer, the club/restaurant owners and lastly the consumer. The Executive producer looks at the bottom line and that is his/hers profit. And so its the musicians in a full band that hurt the most. Their amazing sound is replaced by the synthesizer and drum machine. The pure sounds of the sax, guitar and sometimes bass is replaced by the synthesizer. An artist can only develope when he/she is given the venue to expand his/hers love for the music. Most of the venues nowadays only have two at the most three musicans on stage. If the consumer does not demand that the music thats out there is not worth buying for its poor music quality, the executive producers will continue releasing crap. I can honestly say that Abegaz and Henock are great musicans. The first time I heard of Abegaz was when he was member of the Ethio Stars and he was the one who arranged Muluken’s last cassette in Ethiopia. You are probably aware that both Abegaz and Henock have moved back to Ethiopia. I hope that they musicians such as Girum Mezmur, Aklilu W/Yohannes and others can change the destructive path the current Ethiopian music is going on. I’m very optimistic about the future.

  9. 9 Chereka

    Ethio Jazz, thanks for the comment. I agree with your point about the blame going to the groups you mentioned. I guess you can say the same about music in the West especially in the US. Creativity here is also dying slowly. You really have to search to find true mucicians who are dedicated to their art. Everything is about the bottom line. I don’t know if you saw it, but there was an excellent program on PBS’s Frontline a couple of years ago called “The Way The Music Died”. You can watch it online. It was an excellent documentary about how the recording industry is destrying creativity. Here’s the link. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/music/view/

    Anyway, I had heard that Abegaz moved back to Ethiopia, but I didn’t know about Henock. Well good, maybe some of the pure talnet back home will rub off on them and bring them back to their roots. I also didn’t know that Abegaz produced Muluken’s last cassette back home! Wow, exactly how old is this guy anyway? :) That is interesting. So, what happened to him after he came here?

    And what do you think about the new talents like Elias Melka back home?? I have to say I am really impressed with his ability to be creative and versitile. I am curious to hear what you have to say about him and others.

  10. 10 Ethio Jazz

    Chereka: This is the kind of discussion I’ve been hoping for. Thank you so much for posting the documentary. I’ll definitely check it out and will comment on it. You’re absolutley right with your assertion that its happening here in the States. Its happening at a larger scale here. The Ethiopian music market is so primitive that only a handful of record companies are benefiting. Case in point, Nahom Records. Nahom records is soley responsible for flooding the Ethio/US market with junk (some are ok junk)

    Muluken Melesse’s last album/cassette was “Wuha Welawaye,” and if I’m not mistaken it was released around 1984. He was around 18 at the time. Don’t quote me since my sources may be wrong. Once he came here he became the go-to person in terms of arrangements and producing music for countless of artists. He also went to Berkley Music School in Boston, MA.

    As for Elias Melka, hmmm, I don’t know where to start. I know I can’t blame one person for the current situation, but if you want me to name one person, it would be him. Elias Melka as the producer and arranger of most new artists has single handidly changed the sound. Ripping off bass lines, guitar riffs and using voice correcting softwares, in my opinion, does not constitute creativity. I’m sorry to be blunt, but I can not in good measure put this character in the same billing as Neres Nalbandian, Girma Beyene, Mulatu Astatqe, Lemma Demissew and other arrangers of the Golden Era. I believe he would have failed miserably without the advancement of the music technology.

  11. 11 Nolawi

    speaking of Elias Melka… here is an interview http://www.addislive.com/content/view/26/41/

    check it out!

  12. 12 chereka

    Oh no!!! I was not even suggesting that he was in a class of Mulatu Astatke and Girma Beyne. That would amount to blasphemy, if you ask me. Bel besme ab bel!! LOL Actually, I may have mixed up my Elias’s. I actually had Elias Fikru in mind when I asked the question. But I guess the two of them collaborate on many of the new and upcoming talents like Teddy Afro.

    I will be honest with you, I only heard a couple of the CD’s so far by these guys, but I have to say that I was very much impressed by 2 CD’s, Fekeraddis’ new one (Leul Yaswededegn) and of course Teddy’s Yastesasryal. I think those 2 CD’s are probably 2 of the very best productions I have heard from Ethiopia in a long time. Teddy’s is nothing short of pectacular and Fekeraddis’ new one to me is almost (notice I said almost) right up there with Teddy’s. I am speaking in the contemporary Ethiopian music terms of course. I could listen to Yamu Yamu all day. I think the arrangement, the lyrics and of course her voice ( the versatality, the purity etc) is just incredible. I think she is great and I am just puzzled as to why she is not getting the same accolaid she got back home here in the US.

    Maybe I need to listen to more of their work, but I was speaking from the little that I heard of them. As for the comparison to the legends you mentioned, they are not even close. I am with you there.

  13. 13 shtoni

    si. si. i likes being wudassed.

  14. 14 Abba Jorga

    I have been working to hook up our Myspace page.


    thanks for the discussion forum….i agree with everything you said

    no seriously…though..it seems llike everyone here..is well informed
    about Ethiopian music of the last 50 years or so…

    let us keep it up…it might turn into a book…

    I know some about a lot of things…you can ask..and i will ask

  15. 15 tata

    nice nice nice songs

  16. 16 Begena

    Dear Ethio Jazz and Chereka,
    It is great, like you both have said, to have the platform for such a broad discussion about Ethiopian music. And I believe your efforts are remarkable.

    I would like to comment on the issue regarding Abegasu Kibrework, Henock Temesgen, and Elias Melka. I think Abegaz is one of the baddest Ethiopian keyboard players. Henock is also an incredible bass player who is a well respected musician in New York’s Jazz scene. (I’m talking about New York’s Jazz). He is very respected. As a matter of fact, in November I ran into a couple of famous jazz musicians from New York, who came out to the west coast to play in a concert that I was also playing in. When I told them I was Ethiopian they asked me if I knew Henock and they told me how much they respect his musicianship. Henock and Abegaz are musicians who practice 8 to 12 hours a day. Creativity was (is) never a problem with them. Have you listened to Hanna Shenkute’s first album that Henock and Abegaz arranged. The music was out of this world. No body could even understand what the hec it was all about. But it was not like they just dumped western style of playing on traditional Ethiopian songs. It was very musical, and artistic. But people could not understand it. As a result, the album did not sell as much. So, what did Hanna Shenkute decide to do on her next album? She decided to use crazy “Ketefa” music with one synthesizer. Have you listened to Tewodros Tadesse’s album that came out about 7 or 8 years ago? (“Aynishin Ayina” Bla Bla..) That was off the hook. It was a masterpiece. That was arranged and played by Abegaz and Henock, also. Have you listened to Alemayehu Eshete’s album (the one with “Temar Lije” song)? That is another incredible album. Again, the work of Abegaz and Henock. But unfortunately, these albums did not sell as much as the current fluffy stuff. If you really want to know how talented these guys are you should listen to other albums they have played on. A simple example is the album called “Admas”. Please make sure to find this album and listen to the creativity, precision, quality and integrity of the sound, and the music in general. This album features Abegaz, Henock, Zak (also an incredible Ethiopian guitarist and vocalist), and other musicians. I think both Henock and Abegaz have humbled themselves greatly to play with all the “Azmari” singers of today. Everytime singers go to Abegaz to have him arrange their album and play the keys, they ask him or command him,I should say, to play it just like he played for so & so. Unless he plays it the way they want it played, ADIOS. But still, with in the crapy sound Abegaz still makes sense out of it. He creates interesting bass lines, flawless chord progressions, vamps and harmonies that compliment the singer (the song) so much. In my opinion, one of the biggest problems with most Ethiopian music is that when the songs are arranged the musicians do not think about the melody or the VIBE of the song. Musicians have got to get in the zone. And when it comes to the audience, people have indulged themselves with so much junk (synthesizer and electronic) music with in the past 15 to 20 years and the majority has lost a taste for true music. I have been at an Ethiopian concert where the drummer (a friend of mine) was told not to play because “it did not sound as authentic as the drum machine.” What do you call this? Ingnorance? And if they allow for drums to be played they would prefer electronic drums. LOL! What the hec? What happened to the Army Orchestra that used to kick butt back in the days? I was still a kid but I remember watching the videos of the old stuff when I was growning up (at least the stuff that was televised). Ethiopian musicians back then used to be rockin. What happened to that?
    But anyway, I give too much props to both Abegaz and Henock. They are currently teaching music back in Addis. I know musicians learn from musicians and like you have said they might learn whatever from the musicians back home. But they are truly transforming the Ethiopian music scene. I think we, Ethiopian musicians, have a lot to learn from them. Abegaz and Henock did not move back because they were desperate. They moved because they really wanted to contribute to the growth of young and talented Ethiopian musicians. Henock teaches some courses at Yared School of Music, and I think his emphasis is on a course that he established called Applied Music, or may be Applied Jazz. Abegaz also teaches some courses. They are also playing a great role in the transformation of Jazz Music in Ethiopia. Besides playing and teaching in Addis, I they get tons of Jazz & world music gigs in Africa and Europe.Abegaz and Henock have been great inspirations to lots and lots of talented musicians. I agree that Mulatu and Girma, and Kebede, and Ayele and Chaltu … are talented in their own ways too.No offense but please let us not even dare to compare Henock and Abegaz with Girma Beyene, Mulatu Astatke, Ayele, Kebede… Abegaz and Henock are on a whole different level.

    Now about Elias Melka. Eli is an unbelievably talented guitarist. Too bad that most of his guitar playing has not made it on the media. Every now and then I let my musician friends (Incredible guitarists, bass players, keyboardists, drummers out here in the west) listen to the stuff he played on the guitar, and they all fall out. They just love it. He is nothing but amazing. His chops, versatility, and tone on the guitar is more than what I can even describe. He is killing on that guitar.
    His arrangments are great too. His first well known arrangement was Teddy Afro’s “Abugida.” I’m telling you that kid Elias is talented. He arranged that whole album in two weeks. I know It’s probably not a good thing, per se, that it was done is such a short period of time. But I just wanted to point out how much talent it would require to be able to arrange 12 songs in less than two weeks and compile them into an album that would become a hit. Elias has also inspired lots of musicians, especially guitarists back home.
    Here is a list of incredible young musicians: Beniam Bedru – (One of the most soulful Ethiopian Keyboard players, currently lives in D.C area), Yohannes Tona – (the most talented Ethiopian Bass Player, this guy will smoke us out. He is killin on that bass. lives in the twin cities MN.), Eyasu Esrael-(an amazing,amazing guitarist, lives in Addis), Hunante Mulu-(The funkiest Drummer, who knows how to hold it in the pocket, lives in Addis), Girum Mezmur-(the most talented Ethiopian jazz guitarist I have ever known, lives in Addis), Zak – (you would not believe how talented this guy is. An incredible guitarist, song writer, and vocalist, lives in D.C area.) .

    God Bless

  17. 17 bgFelasfit

    Wow wow wow!!
    I’m completely blown away by your discussion….

    Ethiojazz, chereka, begena your discussions fill me with lotsa optimism & curiousity!! Can’t tell you how much I wanna get a hold of all the albums and works of arrangers u guys are talkin’ bout…and listen my ears out :P !!

    As a budding young listener of golden era ethio music (experienced the latest ethiopiques 20 and #14&15 a year ago…they made me fall in love with Getachew Mekuria’s sax, crazy about euro/ethio fusion… Abo, the electric guitar was off the hook! & generally amazed by girma beyene, mulatu astatke, and the musicians I was more familiar with like mahamoud, tilahun etc.)
    I’ve just about written off mainstream ethiopop for its ashaferegn Kureja & “junkiness” really! Don’t bother much to keep up with it anymore…

    What ethiojazz said about synthesizer and drum machine: Ooooo boy! I think that’s exactly where mUsiQa is in deep trouble!! sorry for hatin’ but in my opinion its: ehem….fake/manufactured/unnatura; sounds and more importantly feels superficial. What happened to our lovely elec guitar, bass, drumset, trumpet, vibraphone, PIANO!, washint, masinko, kirar, kebero, begena: REAL instruments?? Isn’t that kinda realted to the love of real music? ine ingidih, am just an inexperienced admach…you musicians can answer that better….all I know is that I am realllyyyy craving acoustic ethio sounds updated with some fusion!

    Small confession: recently when asked to share Top 10 hit songs with my musician/music student friends tinish aferku ina lemestet hesitate areku … I just chose to share traditional stuff, Gigi and Teddy…

    Here’s an idea for an ethio entrepenure to run away with: an online ethio music store!! And then I can download all the recommendations u guys have!!

    Please indulge my curiousity on a mini-interview :P :
    ~What are ur takes on the big question of the jazz: Is jazz dead or are ppl like wudasses and others creating new stuff and bringing new musica silt to ethiojazz?
    ~Ina, something that was so shocking for me: How come Mulatu’s famed and admired piece ‘Yekermo Sew’ sounds crazzzzy similar with Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father”

    I wish ethio music would experiment more with some drums from south africa/zimbwabe– high pitch “happy drums” by also using our traditional instruments…
    and maybe some acoustic guitar sounds – the kind u hear in mediterranean/spanish music mmm…guess it’s the mandolin or arab lyr (?)
    hehehe…I’m prolly talking nonesence with my nonexistant knowledge about music… I love the music by the girl who did stuff with indian sounds…reminds me of the riiiich ethio traditions with eastern flavors….

  18. 18 Ethio Jazz

    Begena, wow! many thanks for a most detailed comment. I agreed with your assessments until I reached these words,

    I agree that Mulatu and Girma, and Kebede, and Ayele and Chaltu … are talented in their own ways too.No offense but please let us not even dare to compare Henock and Abegaz with Girma Beyene, Mulatu Astatke, Ayele, Kebede… Abegaz and Henock are on a whole different level.

    My question to you, “are you serious?” I don’t know much about “Kebede” and “Chaltu” (yes I know it was a joke, so is this) but I do know Mulatu’s and Girma’s work–these are in my opinion the giants of modern Ethiopian music. What Abegaz and Henock had that Girma didn’t have, is opportunity. They continued their education and became better musicians. For someone who didn’t have ANY formal training, Girma was a GENIUS. Have you heard his work with Alemayehu Eshete? Please check out Ethiopiques 1, 8, 9 & 13 for Girma’s complete works. Abegaz and Henock are both very humble individuals but even if they weren’t they wouldn’t agree with that comment. Abegaz’s work with Alemayehu–hmmm-those were arranged in the 60s and 70s. I have both Hanna Shenkute’s and Teddy Taddesse’s CDs and I think Abegaz did a GREAT job with both. I commend both Abegaz and Henock for returning and participating in the advancement (I hope) of the Ethiopian music scene.

    As for Elias Melka, my thoughts about him are in comment #10. I have never heard him play the guitar and would love to hear him and tell him to maybe sometimes incorporate his guitar playing in the CDs he makes instead of using the synthesizer.

    From the musicians you listed, I’ve heard of Girum Mezmur and Yohannes Tona. Both are incredible musicians and I’ll take your word in terms of the others. I do hope that they can change the scene. Not going back to the 60s but coming up with their own sound–its been done before and it has worked. This Teddy Afro and Elias Melka sound is pure bull crap. Taking an idea and outright stealing sounds are two different things.

    bgFelasfit, thank you for the comment as well. I agree with you in terms of the synthesizer and drum machine. They’re both responsible to the disintegration of Ethiopian music. But, don’t write it off just yet–a “Change is gonna come…”

    Continue listening to the Ethiopiques releases, Getachew Mekurya is by far my favorite sax player–what makes him so unique is that before he became a sax player, he played the massinko and kirar. Thats why his versions of Ambassel, Anchi Hoye and Tizita are exceptional.

    Now to the mini interview:)

    Jazz is not dead and will not die but it will be molded and changed. Groups such as Wudasse are on the right track. The question is will they work at it and improve the sound. Its a great start, but one album bands are more common today than they were 20-30 years ago.

    Horace Silver’s “Song for my father” is one my favs jazz tunes–and like you I noticed the similarity. Actually more than similar, damn right identical. I’ll ask him when I see him next.

    The mix with other music is something i’m willing to listen to. I’m not sure of the singer you mentioned. For me the prerequisite is that no synthesizer are used but original sitars, kora talking drum etc…

    so there are some sounds you can get at this site http://www.myspace.com/ethiojazz –check out the videos section as well

  19. 19 Begena

    Ethio Jazz,

    First of all I would like to apologize for the silly additions of non-existent people like Chaltu, Bekele, and Ayele to my list. I was just being stupid. I hope I did not come as desrespectful. It was just out of frustration. Like you said Girma Beyene and Mulatu are great. And I really respect their work.
    Ethiopia has been blessed with many talented musicians. I only named a few of them. So, I’m just trying to say that I really appreciate the work of several Ethiopian musicians.
    What is crazy is that our music is not being appreciated or heard by the rest of the world at all. But I don’t think it should be that way at all. We need to be able to get our music out, so that other nations and cultures can appreciate it, listen to it and develop a taste for it. To do that, we have to arrange the music in a way that it can reach the world. None of the Make-Quick-Bucks-Micky-Mouse arrangements should make it on the market. On the other hand, think about west African music, for example. You hear it with in R&B, Jazz, Gospel, Reggae, etc. Think about Indian music, for example, you will hear it in Hip-Hop, Rock, R&B. I’m just saying that it shows they have been able to cross-over and let other cultures appreciate their music. And why not ours?
    And like you said, Wudasse is playing a great role in demonstrating where Ethiopian music can be takenBy the way, I did not mention Jorga, Teferi and Fassil on the last blog because I thought their work was obvious. I cannot describe how much I appreciate their musicianship. Jorga, Jorga, Jorga! This guy is incredible. He has found the real tone of the instrument (Saxophone), he KNOWS HIS NOTES (important), He plays in tune (pitch) with other instruments in the band (I think it is commonly 440HZ frequency, right? LOL.), and more importantly, he learned on his own and familiarized himself with western jazz. Jorga sings with that instrument. Have you heard his solos? You could hear Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, you name them, along with Girma, Moges Habte,… all of these guys in a single soul named, Jorga. This boy hits authentic Jazz notes on the sax and blends them very well with some real Ethiopian flavor using a beautiful tone in his own original way. (He utilizes “Anchi-Hoye”, “Bati”, “Tizita”… as his tools). He sings with that instrument.
    I’m sorry to say, but some of our sax players make the instrument sound like garbage: “Koshasha Awutu Turumba”, remember that? Can’t even tune the instrument right. I think woodwind/brass instruments are the most abused instruments in our culture. If the Federal Law had required every musician to play in tune with the right tone, I’m telling you the FBI would have been chasing some of our sax players. Ethiopian sax players would have been on Cops (“Bad boys Bad boys What you gonna do, What you gonna do when they come for you…” We would be watching CSI episodes about Ethiopian sax players, shoot! Gee.
    I’m sorry for all my ghettoNess. I’m saying all these things out of frustration. I’m not trying to desrespect anyone. Just keeping it real. There are lots of musicians out there who have taken short cuts to fame. That’s the goal anyway right? You just have to be popular, and that’s it. No body cares what notes you play after that. You can do whatever you want and get away with it. But that is sad. One of the reasons I like musicians out here is because they keep it real. Specially, in the African American community. Brother, if your benind is sorry on the instrument, they will let you know. If you are not good on your instrument, most likely, you’re not going to make it, unless by means of some divine intevention or luck.
    But in our culture it is not only about knowing your notes. There are several things such as patriotism, loyalty to the society, and so forth that surround music. These are great things, by the way. And I think these things are the essence of music. But at times it frustrates me because people refuse to listen to the notes and they focus too much on how the sax player Patriotically walked into the middle of the crowd and played “Zeraf Yagere Lij” or “Abagoraw.” Anyone could walk patriotically into the crowd and do “Shilela,” but not anyone can play precious notes. Only the gifted. Please believe me I have been following the music thing since I was a little kid.

    Back to Wudasse now. I like their sound and what they are trying to do. Teferi is a whole different chapter. He is called “Mr. Polyrhythm.” Besides studying jazz, he digs African and Ethiopian music so much. When this guy plays drums it sounds like a whole African Village is doing the music ceremony. Tefe is a nerd! He studies, and practices so much. His influence in Jazz is from great drummers like Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, “Philly Joe” Jones, Billy Higgins, Tony Williams, and the later Vinnie Colaiuta. And I most of his influence in the African style comes from musicians like Salif Keita and more. Teferi disects and studies the traditional (rural)southern Ethiopian rhythms (more polyrhythmic) and northern Ethiopian ones also. He incorporates all of that into his playing to develop an original style. That’s the man right there!
    Fassil is Fassil, so I don’t have to say too much about him. He is one of the greatesst inspirations to lots of Ethiopian bass players. I remember watching him kick that bass on TV with the Ethio-Star band back in Ethiopia. He is Mr. Groove.
    To keep it real, I think I don’t like what the guitar player did on Wudasse’s album though. I’m not saying he is not a good guitarist. I just don’t think he understood what the band is trying to do. He is putting everything under the roof of Blues. Need to get in the Vibe, get in the zone.
    By the way, please do not think that I am just hating on people. I’m just trying to keep it real in my own terms. My point is that let us help diversify Ethiopian music so that other nations can give it an ear. I’m not talking about reaching a few westerners who stop by the Ethiopian markets every now and then to eat Injera and to pick up a few Ethiopian instrumetal albums. I know it will take time, and with bands like Wudasse and Admas we might get there one day. And that’s why I said in the last blog that the Big Band stuff they used to have in the Army (or may be I’m wong it might not be the army band, it could be Ras Theatre, or Biherawi which ever one) back in the days used to be on the right track. The musicians used to be digging some Big Band Jazz. At least that was the mind set they had. If we built our music on that and advanced what they had started we could have gotten somewhere. But at a certain point, it all crumbled and we started from toy Yamaha synthesizers. How sad? We are waaaaaaaaay behind and we have lots of work to do in order to catch up. Lots of work. Otherwise Techno music will take over. It’s gonna be pitiful!
    By the way another musician you should check out is a guitar player named Yoseph Ermias, he lives in LA area. This guy is incredible on the guitar. He is very musical and he has a great ear. He has a wonderful taste, flawless tone, and great chops.
    And also the one and only Kirubel Assefa. He is a very creative, talented bass player. His arrangements on Lasta Sound’s album are great.

    I promise I will not write so much junk from now on. I think I have said most of the things I have been wanting to say for so long.

    Please keep up the great discussion blog you guys have started.
    Thanks and God Bless.

  20. 20 steve young

    I’m interested in producing and recording great Eitho music and is new, fresh and moves the music from old to new. recording artists should submit demos to me if they would like to be considered for support. I would act as production company and lic. cd’s and or manufacture cd’s for distrubution on an exclusive agreement. Let’s work together to make Eitho music great. Send me email

  21. 21 Dinich

    Ethio Jazz,

    Do you know Yohannes Tona? He will blow you away.
    Here is his myspace profile


    He is the Bass player/arranger of the music you will hear on his myspace account. He lives in MN

  22. 22 Abba Jorga

    Greetings everyone:

    I am very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the dialogue on this forum….i am almost convinced that most of us know each other…because the information written on the posts are very detailed and obtained through personal interaction. Teferi and Fasil are my friends and what was written about Teferi was very accuarate….

    I am using my own name for the posts..because that is the only name i got…Abba Jorga

    So…thanks for the props on my sounds on the Wudasse Album…Selam..

    I think if there is to be a single most important contriubtion of Wudasse…i would list three! Hahaha

    Doing it Live, Going for Maximum Self Expression, Democracy on the stage with each instrument being created equal….Wudasse is nothing with one of us missing….Saxophone, Bass and Drums are the Ethiopians….Percussion and Guitar are the African Diaspora from Brazil to Detroit….i think that makes Wudasse a great sound…..and i am blessed to be part of it…

    The Past should be respected for what it is…at the same time i am not one to idolize past musicians…musicains should be judged by their output…by what they have produced, how much they have grown during their career and how they transformed their own life experiences into musical works of art….in that aspect…my biggest heroes are….

    Muluqen Melesse, Abegaz Kebrework Shiota, Selam Seyoum…

    I am talking about careers that are more than 30 years old…and still rising!!!!!!

    I have listened to 77 muluqen songs in a row…..and i was mesmerized with each one…maybe i have the pivelege of experiencing the music as a Blackopian….(www.blackopia.com)….

    I plan to do the same with Dahlak Ibex Roha Walias Ethio Star Admas….i belive that the music shall tell the story…you can tell everything from the music…the music quality, tone, new bass player, bad guitarist, mistake in lyrics, better recording equipment….for example…if someone can’t tell when Abegaz joined Ethiostar by just listening to the entire discography ofEthiostar..then tha tperson is officially Deaf….

    The same for Derje Makonnen leaving Ibex…..or Yosef Berhanu on Drums etc….each person, soul, spirit leaves a mark ontheworld..,.universe…we are blessed to have been selected as musicans..and our vibration reverbates throught hte univers more bolder and louder…i mean literally…>Wudasse plays on FM…that means about 6 million Ethiopianare exposed to Wudasse waves..vibes at 3 in afternoon on some great Bercha….that is what it is about…and the album is called Selam…and there is war in the east adn war in the west…Darfur and Moqadishu…you know what i mean…what better pleasure…that being a musicna…

    i think this generation of musicians became that because we understand the above Divine spiritual mission of music…i would bet all my money…that Joni Tona, Tewodross Aklilu, Gerum Mezmur, Lasta Sound, Admas, Walias, Ethio Star, Dahlak, Ibex_Roha, would all agree now…after all is said and done…after all the fights and the meqegna tricks…and ego trips..that music afterall is not about the ego…it is about the expression of ones inner most truth…that is why I ask every musican I meet to tell me anything there is to know about Berhane Muche….EthioRocker….

    Egos have driven our country down paths on horror over the last 100 years…the same to the music…and now we see a revival a quite revolution in Ethiopia music…i mean listen to interviews by my friends….Elias Melka, Zeritu, Abdul Kiar…and hear the authenticity in their world view…they are not kissing ass to anybody…and are not paid my any Imperial Court, or Oil Money…they made it on their own…and they are proud to tell it to you in your face…i love them….

    with all due respect to Kibur Zebegna days….those bands were on the Emperors Pay Roll…that means ristricted freedom.. no free jazz unless it is Shilela…

    I will leave you with a joke….i was playing this music for this abesha girl….and she didn’t like the fact that the music didn’t have a solid rhytmic pattern….so i explained that they are playing more freely just for the heaven of it…and she said “Ere minew Ete….we will pay them…free mehonu yiqerena…muziqawin yetwut….I dont care free hone alehone…benexam bihon eko Joroyaen efelegewalew”////n

    what a slant on the concept of Free Music….by the way Wudasse is Free Music….cause we still broke…:)

  23. 23 Abba Jorga

    Henock Temesgen Bass, Arranger
    Song Minew Minew
    Zefagn: Hana Shenkute


  24. 24 Mamitu

    I finally listned to the sample of the Wudasse songs. They sound great. I liked Tefferi’s drumming even when he was in the Sain’jo band his style has now matured with age. Great job Tefferi.

  25. 25 Begena

    Hey Jorga,

    Isn’t that arrangement of Henock a killer? (Hanna Shenkute’s song). That vibe was off the chain, bro!

  26. 26 dawit tilahun

    besmam teferi men akele , dero new tez yemelegn Addis Amaren replce seyareg, jazzun ekua Alsemahutem. koy esti egezalew, teferi gen betam arif drummer new Abet dont be cruel (Bobby Brown ) sechawetu ST Joseph Band, Abet yahu alefe, ene Daniel melaku serotu menamen…….. wuuuu, Hilton lay endet endet neber , Dawit Tsegue Ene dereje Abuye, kkkkkkkk ye kuchu zefagn, Fassil ante agecham, peace!
    Dj DAve, Switzerland.

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