Ethiopian Jazz: Thrilling Music That You Should Hear

Contemporary Ethiopian musicians reinvigorate traditional jazz stylings for new audiences in America and Addis Ababa.

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The group, a mélange of novelty and tradition, consists of U.S.-trained Ethiopians, like the smooth double-bass player Henock Temesgen, as well as musicians from 1950s and 1960s, like the mesmerizing Shaleka Melaku on accordion and Ayele Mamo on mandolin. Now Ethiopians can relish a musical tradition that was nearly lost at home, and barely acknowledged in the West.

This music is no passing fancy but a spellbinding style that deserves the critical attention it now receives in the U.S. and Ethiopia. Whether you listen to the curated Éthiopiques or live music in Ethiopian nightclubs in Addis Ababa, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles, you'll hear a transcontinental exchange of melody, history and culture, and discover one of jazz's greatest innovations.

Want more? Watch and listen to a range of music and a playlist of Ethiopian music videos, and check out the Roha Band's modern approach.

Salamishah Tillet is an assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and co-founder of the nonprofit organization A Long Walk Home, Inc. Follow her on Twitter.

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