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(Photo by Andy Sheppard/Redferns)

Ethiopian Jazz Great Mulatu Astatke Given Prestigious French Award

The 75-year-old musician was given the French Order of Arts and Letters in Addis Ababa yesterday

The godfather of Ethiopian jazz, Mulatu Astatke, is the latest recipient of the French "Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" (Order of Arts and Letters). The French Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, travelled to Addis Ababa to present the award to Astatke, yesterday, at the French Embassy. The visit is part of the initiative established by French president Emmanuel Macron and Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed to share in honoring their respective cultures.


Born in the south of Ethiopia, the vibraphone and conga drum player later received training in major cities in the US and UK. Through his travels, he began combining musical elements of jazz with the traditions of different cultures to forge a new sound. As BBC reports, "Ethiopian scales have five notes and in Western music there are 12 – Mulatu combined the two to make Ethio-jazz." The new genre created a wave worldwide and furthered the expansion of jazz.

In honoring Astatke, the French Minister tweeted, "Few artists are able to embody in the eyes of the world a musical genre so strongly rooted in a national culture. Mulatu Atskake is one of them." He then later shared a video of Astatke performing with French violinist Théo Ceccaldi together in Addis Ababa. The tweet reads, "a moment of timeless jazz. Watch and listen without moderation."

The Order of Arts and Letters is an award that was established in 1957 to "recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and around the world" according to the Cultural Services French Embassy in the US.

Check out our playlist of Ethiopian samples in hip-hop below featuring Astatke:


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Image by Gareth Jacobs.

A Tribute to Dr Sindi: South Africa's Duchess of Healing, Love and Kindness

The most sincere way to honour Dr Sindi van Zyl's legacy is to pay her kindness forward in exactly the way she did.

South Africans were recently reminded, yet again, of just how much the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to rob us of our loved ones. Dr Sindi van Zyl, beloved medical doctor, social media darling and Kaya FM radio host, succumbed to COVID-19 complications on April 10 after battling the disease for two months in hospital. And while South Africans, and some of her favourite brands, had collectively rallied to raise funds for Dr Sind's medical costs, the outcome was everything we hoped it would not be.

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