A tribute to Amha Eshete

The sixth Ethiopian Music Festival organized by Alliance Ethio-Française and its partners is dedicated to Amha Eshete, who was the first Ethiopian owner of a music production company, Amha Records (1969-1975), and one of the figures who marked the golden age of Ethiopian music. The festival, which opened on Tuesday, will run until January 17 by featuring various musical presentations.

“Ethiopia has never recognized the importance and value of producers and arrangers, when in fact they often act as the cornerstone without which the musicians surely would not achieve the notoriety they deserve,” says a press statement issued by the Alliance.

The festival was opened with a painting exhibition entitled “Life and City” by Abiy Ghedion with a saxophone instrumental refreshment by Dawit Firew at the Alliance Ethio-Française. Abiy presented in August 2006 about 30 of his paintings at the Abyssinia Art Gallery located in Paris.  This gave him the opportunity to also participate in a group exhibition set up on the occasion of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the ” First  Congress of Black Writers and Artists” organized by UNESCO and the Sorbonne university in Paris.

Musical performances by Minch Band, Abegasu and Friends, Badoum Band (France) and Nadav Haber Quartet (Israel), and Documentary films by the Japanese Itushi Kawase, and the Canadian Kyle Stone are also part of the festival program.

According to the organizers, the festival is aimed at paying tribute to the most important figures of  Ethiopian music in which the importance of the role of the people behind them is taken for granted.

“Thirty years ago, when I was a music student, the celebrated professor Ashenafi Kebede wrote an article that music is being made to earn a living, diverting from its aesthetic objectives. And what would be said after 30 years?” asked Girma Yifrashewa, a famous composer.

As it has been done in the past five festivals, this year’s festival pays homage to Amha Eshete, who was one of the prominent figures who left their traces in the course of the country’s musical progress. Francis Falceto, who published a book based on his research made on Ethiopian music, and the artistic advisor of the festival, said that in the 1960s Amha was a pioneer to begin a music producing business that was owned by other companies in private.

“In addition to establishing the band, “sol-Ex”, Amha has produced 130 albums of Tilahun Gessese, Mahmoud Ahmed, Bizunesh  Bekele, Menilik Wosinachew, Bahta Gebrehiwot and others, as a producer, between 1970 and 1975. Besides, he has played a major role in promoting the Golden Age of Ethiopian music locally and internationally.”

Amha was also an inspiration for the then Kassahun Eshete (Philips), and Ali Tango (Khalifa) records that emerged following his production company.

In the festival, documentary films about Ethiopian music will be screened on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The films to be screened on Monday, “Lalibeloch-Living in the Endless Blessing” and “Azmai”, are made by the Japanese Itsushi Kawase. He stayed in Gondar for more than a year to write his graduation thesis. Compiling the information he obtained during his stay, he made the films about “Azmaris” and “Lalibeloch’. The film, “Lalibeloch-Living in the Endless Blessing”, focuses on the performers’ creativity, by specially centering on the use of rhetorical expressions in interactions with the audience.

Nadav Haber Quartet band from Israel will stage its performances today at 6:30 at the Italian Cultural Institute. The band plays a unique brand of Ethiopian-based Jazz, influenced by the Middle Eastern sounds of Jerusalem. Nadav Haber was introduced to Ethiopian music in 1990. After a few years of learning the music, Nadav started performing in 1994 with an Ethiopian group around Israel, playing traditional and modern Ethiopian music.

By Abiy Solomon

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