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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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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

South Africa's Siya Kolisi Wins Personality of the Year Award

The Springbok captain beat out several others to be named the Rugby Union Writers' Club's 2019 Personality of the Year.

Just a few months ago, South Africa's Springboks brought home the win at the 2019 Rugby World Cup after beating England 32-12. Led by team captain Siya Kolisi, the first Black captain of the national rugby team, it was a moment that inspired genuine hope for many South Africans living within a politically uncertain landscape.

More recently, Kolisi has been named the 2019 Personality of the Year by the Rugby Union Writers' Club (RUWC), according to eNCA.

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Watch the Hazy Music Video for Burna Boy's 'Secret' Featuring Jeremih and Serani

Burna Boy drops a new music video for a fan favorite from his Grammy-nominated album 'African Giant.'

Grammy-nominated Burna Boy shares the music for the latest single "Secret," a fan favorite from his seminal album African Giant.

The track, which features American singer Jeremih and Jamaican dancehall artist Serani, is arguably one of the album's most fun and memorable tracks. The song gets a hazy music video starring the three artists in various dimly-lit, monochromatic settings. The video was directed by David Camarena.

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Listen to J Hus' New Album 'Big Conspiracy'

The artist's highly-anticipated sophomore album features Burna Boy, Koffee and more.

J Hus is back. The heavyweight British-Gambian artist returns with his highly-anticipated sophomore album Big Conspiracy.

The 13-track album features the likes of Burna Boy, who joins the artist on the upbeat track "Play Play," as well as buzzing Jamaican artist Koffee who appears on the track "Repeat," one of the album's clear standouts.

It also features a new artist by the name of iceè tgm on three tracks. Some fans have speculated that the mysterious artist is J Hus' sister. The album includes the previously released single 'Must Be,' which he dropped in November of last year.

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