A member of Ethiopia’s trailblazing Walias Band in the 1970s, in 1981 Mergia used the first-ever US tour of an Ethiopian music group to escape the dictatorial Mengistu regime. Spending most of his recent years as a taxi driver, he cut one album in 1985 – Hailu Mergia and His Classical Instrument – which was unearthed in Ethiopia nearly 30 years later by Brian Shimkovitz of blog-turned-record-label Awesome Tapes from Africa. Shimkovitz tracked down Mergia, re-released the album and revived Mergia’s career.
Mergia has has been touring across Europe with two leading Berlin-based Australian improvisors: double bassist Mike Majkowski (sideman to Hans Bennink and Peter Brötzmann), you can read our review of his recent album Bright Astonishment of the Night here and drummer Tony Buck (The Necks).
Together the trio explores the deep, liquid and hypnotic qualities of Hailu Mergia’s music, combining a futuristic sound steeped in Ethiopian homeland flavour with unique grooves and angular melodies.
They’re coming to town as part of the Melbourne Jazz Festival Summer Series on Friday 15 January for two shows, 7.30pm (doors at 7pm) & 10pm (doors at 9.30pm)
Details for the summer series which also features Vince Jones Quartet and the French japanese ensemble Satoko Fujii and KAZE can be found here.