Revolutionaries in the Ethiopian music scene have been coming somewhat every other generation. The first of his kind in Ethiopia and internationally acclaimed musician Mulatu Astatke is and continues to be an inspiration for younger generations to aspire to and set trends as he did. Following his example, Jano Band has become the first of its kind in its genre. Mixing rock and Ethiopian style melody they have taken the country by storm which gave people variety of music they can choose from. Different from the lot, Jano has extended its reach far and wide with new projects, writes Senait Feseha.
After a long wait since they released their first album Ertale, the rock music group, Jano Band is set to release their second album ‘Lerasehe New ’ literally meaning ‘it is for you’ next Thursday. The album has 16 songs and has touched social, historical, physiological, and cultural aspects of Ethiopian society. They mixed the album at a studio in Italy. Song writer, Yilma Geber Abe also participated in the album which will be distributed by Kistete.
Dibekulu Tafesse, a member of the band said they are excited. “We have great respect from our fans, from the people and we’ve worked hard to make this album even better.’’ Jano normally uses a studio around Aware and have plans a big concert to launch the album.
The band consists of two female vocalists, two male lead vocalists and six musicians who play bass guitar, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, keyboards and a drum.
The highly anticipated posthumous second album of Mikaya Behailu dropped this week and is available for sale all over the city. About four years after her passing while she was only in her mid-thirties, her new album entitled “Gize Binegudim” is already widely accepted and praised by many that listened to her work.
According to her biography, Mikaya Behailu acquired her B.A. Degree in Ethiopian Literature and was working to complete her masters in “Journalism and Communications” before she passed away. Some reports also show that she was working to start a television program revolving around Culture and Language.
Mikaya’s love for music was ignited when she was a toddler. She started writing songs when she was in high school. Working full time and attending night classes at Addis Ababa University for the next seven years, she never stopped singing; she often said music was her life and she was addicted to it.
After a long journey, she released her first Album in 2007 entitled “Shemametew”. She wrote eight of the eleven songs on the album herself and collaborated on the other three with her producer Elias Melka. Her album was nominated for the 2010 Kora Music Awards.
The new album contains 12 songs and the inside of her album contains the lyrics, a copy of a hand written note she wrote describing her life, her love for music and her daughter.
The Ethiopian film industry may not be as celebrated as Hollywood, but that has not held it back from getting recognition in the world of cinema, with many films screened at international film festivals. One such event to honour Ethiopia’s filmmakers and actors is the Ethiopian International Film Festival (EthioIFF) celebrating its 12th edition since its launch in 2006. The most recognised film was Kedemena Belay, scooping most of the awards. But behind all the glamour there is an ailing industry that suffers from many problems preventing it from flourishing, writes CHRISTIAN TESFAYE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
Founded in 2013 to tackle issues including domestic violence and forced marriage through songs and online videos Yegna primary aim was to have an impact on the culture of the country by highlighting important social issues in the Ethiopian society. Its members Rahel Getu, Zebiba Girma, Eyerusalem Kelemework, Lemlem Haile Michael, and Teref Kassahun adopted stage names: Lemlem, Emuye, Sara, Mimi and Melat. The initial reception was, to a larger extent good; however, things started to get a bit shaky for the band, dubbed “Ethiopia’s Spice Girls”. It was the victim of a long-running campaign by The Daily Mail, which claimed grants to the group were a waste of money eventually leading the British government to withdraw its support. Now, things are looking up once again for the band having received new funding.
When Prime Minister Theresa May appointed Priti Patel, the right-wing parliamentarian as the face of British aid in 2016 following a poor electoral result that reduced the Tory party to that of minority status and was forced to appease the influential blue voice within caucus, Patel wanted to change the narrative of British aid as one that held “core Tory values”.
The darling of the ruthless British tabloid media that advocated for a protectionist British society with little regards to international aid and development, she wanted to echo a slew of one-liner initiatives borrowed from the editorials of the nation’s daily tabloid newspapers.
She was urged to help curb “waste in the 12 billion foreign aid budget at a time when social care is in crisis”.
To the British public that is more enthusiastic with band-aid solutions when it comes to Africa – starting from the efforts of Bob Geldof’s Do They Know Its Christmas charity effort – the idea of empowering women and girls was not a popular idea to endorse.
When the media found out the government was about to fund Ethiopia’s Yegna musical group, dubbed the “Spice Girls of Ethiopia”, the posh 1990s British all-female group that produced manufactured sounds, it was seen an excessive waste of money.
That was the shotgun to reduce Britons responsibility in the world and a hit for the British media.
For a period of one-week, Yegna became controversial and The Daily Mail, one of the most influential tabloid newspapers used it to lobby for the end of foreign aid and used a year-old report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact review of the Girl Hub programme (the name since changed to Girl Effect) to condemn the funding announcement.
The report had highlighted how the now Girl Effect group “remained concerned” (about Yegna) and that “DfID should consider in depth whether ongoing funding is merited and either reach a decision to cease funding or consider extending the project for a year to enable the evaluation to be completed”.
Despite an initial lukewarm endorsement of the initiative from Minster Patel, who credited the effort as one having an impact on women and girls on forced marriage and teenage pregnancies, the government withdrew its support. “We need to provide (taxpayers) with assurance that public money is being spent effectively and that our aid delivery partners apply the highest standards in transparency and ethical behavior,” she said.
The outcry was widespread, including from the aid community, the left-leaning Labor opposition which called her decision “sensationalist, headline-grabbing stories of waste and corruption (that) have become an ever increasing staple of British newspapers and from noted Britons, including poet, Lemn Sissay. “It’s wrong to let Yegna to hang out and dry,” he said. “They were the babies of the British Council, the former British ambassador to Ethiopia and the Nike Foundation. They all brokered this deal for the betterment of Ethiopia”.
Fast forward a year, in the midst of controversy and to some extent secrecy that has clouded its efforts from the outset, Yegna announced a new funding has been allocated to continue its work within Ethiopia. (The Reporter repeatedly reached out to Gayathri Butler, the country director of Girl Effect Ethiopia, but she rebuffed the request). “Our funders, including institutions and private donors are not willing to have their names made public,” she said.
Ethiopia’s Jano Band is breaking up due to financial difficulties and disagreements on ownership, according to a local publication.
Ethiopian radio personality Dereje Ayalew, popularly known as DJ Kingston, was quoted by the Ethiopia Observer as saying that the band members had been entangled in a bitter dispute about the future of the group and its ownership for some time. Additionally, the band had been struggling financially forcing some of the members to demand for an equal share of income.
“The wrangles within the band began when some of the band members demanded that the income generated from live shows and album sales be shared equally,” Ayalew said about the band that was assembled by Ethiopian band manager and concert promoter Addis Gessesse.
“This idea was disputed by the band’s manger, Samuel Tefer, who also legally owns the registered Jano trademark,” Ayalew said.
The band, which has been performing together for six years, is known for fusing traditional Ethiopian music with jazz and progressive rock. The band released its first album Ertale in 2012 and was in the process of finalising a second offering before news of the break-up was publicised.
Before Ertale’s release five years ago, legendary New York-based producer Bill Laswell praised the band for its innovative sound.
“These are modern instruments but it does not overlook the kirar, it does not overlook masinko, it does not overlook the traditional singing, the church music and the power of the tradition,” Laswell told Tadias magazine. “It does not take that for granted. They don’t join the ranks of Ethiopian music, they break the rules.”
Ayalew said: “Before the members can each go their separate ways, an agreement has to be reached on when the album will be released and how each member will be compensated from the album sales.”
The band recently made its debut on Coke Studio Africa, which also features a number of other Ethiopian artists. Memorable moments for the Ethiopian TV audience will be Betty G’s collaboration with American singer Jason Derulo, Asgegnew Ashko’s collaboration with Ugandan star Sheebah and Jano Band’s collaboration with South Africa’s Shekinah. The first episode of Coke Studio Africa was broadcast in Ethiopia yesterday.