Beacons of Ethiopian Music
How few record labels changed Ethiopian music
Strolling down the memory lane by revealing musical revolutionary scenes of the 1960’s Ethiopian music arena, one must expend credits to the fascinating musical genius into count. In the hindsight, the 1960s is the most relevant era in making Ethiopian music independent and an influential genre. A time full of exploitation of the deep qualities of traditional sounds and integrating it to modernity like good music sets to do. The time of revelry, an era of experimental synopsis in other continents spurred its glamour in the local music. presumably, generations exposed to listen to.
Where the time of progressive music was heard through the radios of the others continent, from jazz to blues and beyond funky rock, the glimpse of rousing sound sparked. Its chain reaction was inevitable. it ignited the spark of geniuses held unnoticed.
This incredible scenery seems rather electrifying, where the underground music movement dared to take a toll on the normal rhyme of dormant music, and the damned time that brought major international standard Ethiopian artists and great record labels into sight.
The birth of a vibrant music scenario started at Central, one of the lonesome and famous music stores at the time. It was located right in front of Trianon Bar in the center of Piazza, owned by an elderly Italian man whose musical choice was far from creating an appetite for the youths interested in music at the time.
The lack of musical preferences led the revolutionary act into the making of the first record label ever established by Ethiopian, Amha records was the pioneer record label established in Addis Abeba. It was founded by Amha Eshete, a passionate man who had a keen talent for dispensing his musical vision into a platform for creativity to sponge on.
His exposure to international music at an early age contributed to his test, and the flexibility to experiment with diverse sounds.
But during that time Venturing into the music business meant risking opposition from authorities, he started small by just importing international music to his shop called Harambe music shop. Located at piazza. He started looking for partners and approached many singers. Soundly, most were hesitant, except for Alemayehu Eshete who was willing to take up Amha’s offer. They immediately saw eye to eye.
Amha Records’ successful leap recording was a 45rpm single featuring Alemayehu Ehete’s “Timarkiyalesh and ‘Ya Tara’ on the B-side. The recording was manufactured in India distributed by Amha’s own Harambee music shop. Once the songs started singing everything came in place. People started dancing to the echo, that came through the music shop.
Along with his production with Alemayehu Eshete great artists came into existence and Amha records gave us beautiful and sublime, drawing in jazz elements, funky groove and blues came integrated with Ethiopian music. Followed by works of Girma Beyene, Bizunesh Bekele, Teshome Mitiku and Getachew Kassa were the pillars that made international standard music starting under Amha records.
Following his footsteps, Kaifa records came into the vision founded by Ali Kaifa. After the 1974 revolution, the pioneering Amha Records was closed and its owner, Amha Eshete relocated to the US. The demand for fresh recordings was creating its colossal effect. Hence, Kaifa records thrived on fulfilling the demand to accompany the surreptitious movement of the new music scene. From 1978 onwards, Kaifa replaced its attention from vinyl to the cheaper medium of cassettes, a technology that made a massive impact on music distribution in the country. Ali recognized the importance of popular culture and felt that he was in the right place at the right time to venture into the music industry. Ali went on to record and produce consequently launching the careers of several artists including Neway Debebe, Hamalmal Abate, Ali Birra, and the renowned rock star.
Aster Aweke was the most vibrating rockstar that Ali vouched for during her peak success. To counter this Ali proposed that Aster teams up with singer Woubishet Fisseha. Both Aster and Woubishet rehearsed together for a year before they got to record together. Because he believed in her, Ali did a lot to promote her work through radio and TV commercials besides advising her on other aspects of performance. Both Aster’s and Woubishet’s albums were released in 1975. With this success Aster found herself in great demand, performing at clubs.
As the music business became lucrative, taking a chance on new upcoming artists, another independent label came into existence. The Paris-based world music record label Buda Musique began the Ethiopiques series and compiled Ethiopian influential music from the 1960s and 1970.
The legendary advancement of music quality was bigger. Negotiating their way through artists, audiences, and authorities, the record label business wasn’t easily taken by the landscape. Jumping through the hoops seemed exhilarating and difficult at times, but these labels will always be responsible for setting a foundation for Ethiopian modern music. They keep to be idolized more as music progress and will always be a reference to go back to in search of passion, creativity, and dedication for something they had envisioned. They will be aspired by generations for sharing their great talent.