Mahmoud Ahmed wins BBC’s music awards

The most acclaimed Ethiopian musician, Mahmoud Ahmed, won the 2007 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music in the African category. He will receive the award on May 27 at a ceremony to be held at London’s Barbican. This year’s award is to be held for the sixth time.


“Mahmoud Ahmed is both a living legend and something of a mystery in the West. Undeniably, Ethiopia’s most famous singer of its golden era,” wrote Garth Cartwright of the BBC.

In his writing about Mahmoud career, Garth said that the three albums reissued of his recordings by French label Buda Musique as part of their Ethiopiques series have captured western listeners in the same way that, the reissues of Robert Johnson’s Delta Blues, did a previous generation.

“Yet Johnson was long dead; Mahmoud is alive and in fine voices. Why then hasn’t he become a bigger star on the world music circuit?”

Delegates at the annual world music trade fair WOMEX are asked to nominate who they think have been the best artists in each of the awards categories. At the end of the WOMEX these ballots are counted up and the four artists with the most votes in each category become the nominees for that year’s BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music.

Back in 2001, Roots Magazine’s editor Ian Anderson, who had already been running a critic’s album poll in the magazine for some years, came up with the idea of the Awards for World Music.

Mahmoud Ahmed was born on May 8, 1941, in Addis Ababa. Although no one in his family sang from an early age, Mahmoud made no effort to be anything else. Leaving school unqualified, Mahmoud began work as a shoe-shine boy.

A series of jobs followed until he ended up handyman at the Arizona Club. One evening Mahmoud persuaded the house band to let him sing and soon he was a member of Haile-Selassie’s ultra-official Imperial Band, remaining there until the military coup of 1974. Mahmoud cut his first single in 1971 and quickly became a favorite across Ethiopia.

read about the competition and other details on BBC

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