By Befekir Kebede
Tuesday, 22 October 2013 00:00
Ethiopian music is at crossroads. The days of a handful of great individual artists dominating the scene for decades and the days of traditional/contemporary Ethiopian melodies being the absolute norm is almost over.
Those days are being replaced by nearly a plethora of singers competing against each other with most of them blending their Ethiopian songs with outside influences such as reggae and western styles.
Contemporary Ethiopian artist Tilahun Gesesse dominated Ethiopian music almost until he died in 2009 and was dubbed the king of Ethiopian pop for more than 4 decades. Aster Aweke, who has just released her 24th album, is credited with being the most dominant and influential female artist Ethiopia has ever produced.
But besides Tilahun and Aster, Mahmoud Ahmed, Muluken Melesse, Getachew Kassa, Alemayehhu Eshete, Bezunesh Bekele, Hirut Bekele, Tamirat Molla, Ephrem Tamiru, Melkamu Tebeje, Mary Armedae, Asnakech Worku and Melkamu Tebeje are just only a few of Ethiopia’s history-making singers who have been able to contribute, in their own unique ways, to the Ethiopian cultural and artistic renaissance.
Another interesting milestone in the Ethiopian music industry surfaced about 12 years ago when Ethiopian music fans were alerted to the sounds of Teddy Afro with the release of his second but groundbreaking album Abogida. He was 25 then and a somewhat famous local singer. With growing popularity, perhaps never witnessed in Ethiopia before him, Teddy has been able to release many more albums since and he and his band, Abogida, have toured the world bringing many of his sensational songs that have made him famous live to his fans.
From South Africa to North America, the Middle East and Australia, he continues to criss-cross the world to entertain.
Teddy’s popularity was, no doubt, further enhanced when, in 2005, he was invited to lead stage performances at an unprecedented international music concert to celebrate what would have been the 60th birthday of Bob Marley at Maskal Square in Addis Ababa.
A number of local and international artists performed on stage before thousands of local and international audiences.
An American-based Ethiopian concert promoter by the name of Addis Gesesse was instrumental in organizing this unique concert along with the Marley family.
Addis subsequently had an ambitious idea of creating a modern Ethiopian music band from scratch. Most importantly, he wanted to create this rare band not in his adopted country of 35 years, America, but in Ethiopia itself.
In 2011, following a lot of hard work and perseverance, Addis’ idea was brought to life and an Ethiopian rock band by the name of Jano was born.
Jano is an energetic Ethiopian rock band of very enthusiastic and young musicians and as such the first of its kind in Ethiopia. The band says it offers “traditional melodies, massive bass and drum polyrhythms, metal guitar assault, soaring vocals and dense electronic textures”.
Here is Jano band’s first music video of their most popular song Ayrak.
Jano has 10 members, all born and raised in Ethiopia, including 2 male and 2 female vocalists gifted with truly rock vocals. The vocals of Dibekulu Tafesse, 27, and Haleluya Tekletsadik, 22, are simply amazing.
Addis Gesesse, who is now the manager of the band wanted to do something that has never been done in Ethiopia and he has delivered. Also, a great achievement in putting the band together is finding Bill Laswell, one of America’s most celebrated music producers, to have a hands on role in producing the music of Jano.
Preservation of Ethiopian styles of singing and a new interpretation of older Ethiopian songs are very important hallmarks of what Jano band is about and will continue to be the essence of their music. This means that some older Ethiopian songs by the great Ethiopian singers of the past will be turned into rock songs and given a new life – one such example is Haleluya Tekletsadik’s Bejoche Eyedasesku, origionally sang in the 1980s by Teshome Assegid (watch below).
The continued success of Jano is remarkable and founder and manager Addis Gesesse’s innovative idea simply commendable and worthy of formal recognition. The band is already touring the world, but they are committed to keeping their base in Ethiopia.
It is simply refreshing to see a bold Ethiopian band of 10 innovative youth, offering something new to Ethiopian music audiences, going live and going abroad often, but always returning home.
On its website, Jano band says: “Get ready for a new music experience unlike anything you’ve heard before. The future of rock is JANO.”
Now that is confidence.
Below is a video of CNN’s Inside Africa on Jano band.
Here is an amazing song titled Anchi Hegere, from Jano band’s first album, which is all about Ethiopia. It gives yet another perfect description of the beautiful, historic, united and cultured Ethiopia. If you thought the days of unfiltered passion about Ethiopia, its greatness, its undisputed historical record of being the cradle of mankind and the glory of Afriuca, Jano band says: think again. This is such a beautifully sang song – it defies genre – not just soul, pop, jazz, rock or folk – it is just a beautiful song. It’s a song that gets its message across very subtly. Listen and see if you agree.
Befekir Kebdede | Tuesday, 22 October 2013