Tribute concert, book to honour Getatchew Mekuria

Fans and friends of legendary Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria will pay tribute to the musician on Tuesday 4 April during a special evening in Addis Ababa, exactly a year after the maestro died at the age of 81.

The late Getatchew Mekuria. Photo: next.liberation.fr
The late Getatchew Mekuria. Photo: next.liberation.fr

Organised by Dutch punk jazz group The Ex, with which Mekuria played for 10 years, the event will include the launch of a photobook documenting Mekuria’s 68-year career, a photo exhibition and a tribute concert by Norwegian band Large Unit and several Ethiopian musicians.

The Ex has published the photobook as a final tribute. It has four sections of pictures, the first a selection taken from Mekuria’s private album. It is followed by photos by three international photographers – The Ex guitarist Andy Moor, Matias Corral and Nick Helderman, who went on tour in Europe, America and Addis Ababa to document the career of the music icon.

Born in the countryside of Ethiopia, Mekuria heard the saxophone on radio at the age of 13 and went to Addis Ababa seeking opportunities to play. He soon joined the municipality band and later the Haile Selassie Orchestra, the National Theatre Orchestra and the Police Orchestra. He was also one of the first musicians to record an instrumental version of shellela, a genre of traditional Ethiopian vocal music sung by warriors before going into battle. He caught international attention with his 1970 album Negus of Ethiopian Sax.

In 2004, The Ex invited Mekuria for their 25th anniversary festival. The band went to Addis Ababa to find him. He travelled with The Ex to Amsterdam and stayed on after the festival to kick-start a collaboration that saw them play more than 100 concerts worldwide. The collaborative project released two albums – Moa Anbessa (2006) and Y'Anbessaw Tezeta (2012).

Having suffered diabetes-related complications, he was unable to travel from 2014. It was then that The Ex organised a farewell concert, Celebration of Getatchew Mekuria, at the National Theatre in Addis Ababa. He played to 1 500 people in wheelchair and received a standing ovation.

Soon after this, his health began to deteriorate rapidly until a year ago, when he succumbed to a leg infection.

The tribute evening takes place at Alliance Francaise at 6.30pm.

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