Music

Hailu Mergia Is Releasing His First New Album In 15 Years

Hear the lead single from the Ethiopian keyboard and accordion virtuoso's forthcoming album Lala Belu.

Hailu Mergia is back with new music.

The Ethiopian composer, keyboardist and accordion player has announced that he will be releasing a new album titled Lala Belu. The project, which will arrive in late February, is Mergia's first new body of work in 15 years.

In the interim, the legendary musician has dropped the single "Gum Gum," a sweltering, organ-driven groove. The funky cut sways effortlessly, with the rhythms and sounds of Ethiopia's jazzy past and future gloriously on display. The track features Tony Buck on drums and Mike Majkowski on bass.

Lala Belu, which will be released on Awesome Tapes From Africa, will run a lean six tracks long. Mergia has previously collaborated with the record label and blog, the first of those collaborations was the reissue of Hailu Mergia and His Classical Instrument in 2013, which was then followed by Tche Belew and Wede Harer Guzo. The reissues, as well as a re-release of his former group Walias Band's song "Musicawi Silt" by Buda Records on the popular Ethiopiques series, helped build a resurgence of interest in Mergia's music.

The musician relocated to the United States in 1981 while on tour with his band and singer Mahmoud Ahmed. Three other members of the Walias Band also decided to stay behind to escape the political and social turmoil occurring in Ethiopia. While not touring and performing, Mergia, who is now 71, works as an airport taxi driver.

The Walias Band, which formed in Addis Ababa back in the early 1970s while playing as the house band for the Hilton Hotel, has made music with the greats of Ethiopian music, including Tilahun Gessesse and Mulatu Astatke. Because of a civilian curfew instituted by the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, the band would sometimes play into the night and following morning so that patrons could avoid being out and about after hours and still enjoy themselves as they waited for day break.

In a press release provided by ATFA, Mergia remarked that his upcoming release is "a very historical album for me. And I am extremely excited. All of it feels like a big comeback. A different kind of audience, playing with a different kind of band and working with a different kind of record company. The album is very different from all the albums I did after I left Ethiopia."

The basic tracks for Lala Belu were recorded at London's EMS4 in 2016 and completed by Mergia and engineer Javon Gant at Cue Studios in the Washington D.C. area. Lala Belu, as well as Mergia's previous ATFA reissues, were remastered by Jessica Thompson.

Listen to Hailu Mergia's "Gum Gum" on Spotify, Apple Music, or up top via YouTube. You can head to Bandcamp to pre-order the album on vinyl and/or CD. A purchase of either format also comes with a digital copy of the project.

Lala Belu will arrive on February 23.



News

The Ethiopian Government Has Asked Olympic Runner In Exile, Feyisa Lilesa, to Return Home

After two years in exile, the Olympic athlete will return home and receive a "hero's welcome."

Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian runner who went into exile in 2016 after bravely protesting the Ethiopian government's brutal treatment of its Oromo population at the Rio Olympics, has been invited to return to home.

After living in self-imposed exile United States for two years the marathoner, who demonstrated by crossing his fists as he reached the finish line and claimed the silver medal, has been extended an offer to return to his homeland and compete for his country once again by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation and the country's Olympic committee. According to VOA News, the runner will return home in the coming weeks with his wife and children.

"Athlete Feyisa Lilesa has scored great results at the Rio Olympics and other athletics competitions enabling Ethiopia's flag to be hoisted to great heights," read a joint letter from the two athletics organizations.

"We want Lilesa to return to his home country to resume his athletics competition and upon his return we are prepared to give him a hero's welcome."

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Image via GovernmentZA's Flickr.

Could Justice Finally Be on the Horizon for Marikana Massacre Families?

New evidence suggests that the police intended to kill all along.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, when 34 mine-workers were gunned down by police after several days of wage disputes at Lonmin Mine in Rustenburg, North West province. New information was recently uncovered that undermines the police's longstanding claim that they acted in self-defence. If anything, it is a glimmer of hope for the families of the victims that remain left behind in the aftermath of that tragedy.

It was the worst mass civilian killing since the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where South African protesters were killed for opposing the Apartheid regime. The Marikana Massacre, in contrast, was the tragic consequence of week-long wage disputes and clashes between miners and the South African police.

While media footage appears to show the miners as the victims, police have always argued that they were acting in self defence. Consequently no officers involved have been charged. Instead, the surviving mineworkers face murder charges under the doctrine of common purpose. But unnerving facts have come to light that seem to make the police argument even less likely. This includes the ordering of 4000 rounds of live ammunition and several vans from the mortuary the day before the massacre.

I cannot even begin to unpack my anger and frustration at this terrible irony.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Remembering Aretha Franklin and Her Heartfelt Connection With Nelson Mandela

In honor of the Queen of Soul's immeasurable impact, we revisit her passionate support of Nelson Mandela, and the anti-apartheid movement, through her musical tributes.

Iconic singer, Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul" passed away on Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Franklin was considered by many to be the greatest singer of all time. Her influence on popular music cannot be overstated. The legendary artist sold 75 million records and earned 18 Grammys in a career spanning six decades and she was influential in many global social movements as well.

Having been a widely-embraced public figure for so long, Franklin was present for some of the biggest events of the 20th century, including the funeral of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.

Upon Mandela's release, the singer played a unique role in welcoming him to the States by performing at a freedom rally in his honor in Detroit. Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson and Stevie Wonder were also in attendance for the historic night. During the celebration, Franklin called the anti-apartheid leader on stage, where he spoke about listening to and appreciating "the Detroit, Motown Sound" while he was in prison.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.