For the first time in Ethiopian music history, a young man’s band is taking Gospel songs to another level
The 1960s in Ethiopia was an era of prominent musicians who gave live musical performances on a theatrical stage than that of today’s growing culture of bands performing in nightclubs supported by synthesizers. Dawit Getachew takes us back to that era with his new concert band.
Dawit is a 26 year old young musician and composer who in 2011 won ‘Artist of the Year Award’ (in the male category) held in Nairobi, Kenya, a competition he didn’t want to enter initially. In an interview with Addis Standard Dawit says he had no plan to enter the competition but “my sound engineer for the band asked me if he could take my CD to enter the competition so I said ‘yes’”. But following his success in 2011, Dawit was again nominated for the Gospel category and won the 2012 East African Gospel Music Awards.
Dawit Getachew has recently released a DVD of his astonishing performance at Christmas show in December 2012 in which he performed along with 100 other musicians and singers at the National Theatre in Addis Ababa. By engaging the audience in such a profound display of his musical talent, he was also fulfilling one of his childhood dreams which was to perform in a big band and choir. His concert involved a big brass band backed by a choir and 18 musicians, which he selected from Yared music school and students of the Mekane Yesus (EECMY) School of African Jazz.
The birth of his band
Dawit has a deep appreciation for live music and while still at the early stages of his career he is working on his second album which brings together an extraordinary fusion of styles ranging from spiritual Gospel music to the contemporary sounds of experimental jazz. The album is set to have a combination of Ethiopian Gospel music fused with international jazz songs as well as Ethio-cultural modes and sounds, which makes it the first of its kind in Ethiopian music history.
Now Dawit Getachew’s band is working with four other musicians and attempting to collaborate songs from his new album backed by Zema for Christ Choir. As a lead singer Dawit also plays the keyboard for the instrumental jazz pieces. Musicians included in this five piece band include Bteab Kassa on bass guitar, Sibehat Indale on lead guitar, Mulugeta Geresu on Drums and Dr. Jonovan Cooper on Saxaphone.
In a country where mixing gospel songs with rhythms of secular music is considered as somehow an offense to the former Dawit says that “People are coming to understand the fusion of ethio-jazz music now which opens up a new dimension for music within the Church”.
However, his band is yet to find out how easy or difficult it will be to perform at concert in Ethiopia without resorting to giving performances at night clubs. “There needs to be a system set up for musicians to perform outside of the night club environment,” he said, “thankfully we have a platform at the Church”.
When he is not rehearsing, Dawit teaches piano at the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus School of Jazz Music; he focuses on rehearsals with his new band twice a week with projects planned for bigger concerts for a regional Ethiopian tour starting on March 10th in Awassa and ending in Mekele as well as a more intense rehearsal schedule ahead in preparation for touring Germany later this year whilst at the same time preparing his second album with his new band fresh on the scenes.
When Dawit Getachew released his first album “Tebekehalehu” (l will wait for You) in 2010 he played the leading role having Zema for Christ Choir on back-up vocals. The album went beyond people’s expectations. He wrote and produced all his songs for this album, bringing a new and spectacular flavor to the existing music industry. With such a profound demonstration of entrepreneurial skill in music, we can be sure his forthcoming album and continued artistry will be a shining light for a unique fusion of Gospel songs with secular tempo as that of Jazz.