By Bakafa Adela July 17th, 2013
Preserving Their Ethiopian Heritage in Jazz
Yonathan Estfanos, who plays trumpet, describes The Young Ethio Jazz Band’s sound as, “Unique and mellow and lively. And nothing like anything people have ever heard of, especially people of this generation.” Like many of the band members, Estfanos says the band has allowed him to preserve his cultural heritage. “I feel like I’m going back to my culture; you know? I feel like I’m going back to my roots,” he said.
From Rasela’s Jazz Club in San Francisco to Washington, D.C.
In January of this year, The Young Ethio Jazz Band made their debut public performance at Rasela’s Jazz Club in the Fillmore District of San Francisco. They covered a number of Ethiopian Jazz numbers with each member taking a solo part in many. They are coming to perform in Washington, D.C. to reach out the youth and to be a role models of the Ethiopian Heritage for Ethiopian Americans.
EHSNA Members Support The Young Ethio Jazz Band
EHSNA is sponsoring the Third Annual Ethiopian Heritage Festival to be held in D.C. on the grounds of Georgetown University. Because the festival attracts thousands every year, The Young Ethio Jazz Band will have an excellent venue to pour out their musical skills, their love of their heritage, and a whole lot of soul. Flying eight young men and their instruments across a continent takes some money and EHSNA members banded together to raise funds to get the talented youngsters to the East Coast and care for them while there.
The Father of Ethio Jazz
The Young Ethio Jazz Band plays Ethio-jazz, a style that blends American jazz and Latin rhythms with traditional Ethiopian sounds. Led by musicians such as Mulatu Astatke, known as the Father of Ethiopian Jazz, Ethio-jazz flowered during the 60s and early 70s. Astatke’s music has been played on many NPR stations and provided the soundtrack for the 2005 film “Broken Flowers” starring Bill Murray. His sounds are the inspiration for the group.
The Roots of The Young Ethio Jazz Band
The young men of The Young Ethio Jazz Band came together under the tutelage of Sirak Tegbaru. He and the young musicians are members of Oakland’s Medhani Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The band members are trained and aspiring jazz musicians, but were new to Ethio Jazz. Most of this Ethiopian music hasn’t been written; their leader, Tegbaru, studied each song carefully, learning the keyboard, horn, bass, and drum parts to teach them. Months later, using modern instruments yet learning by ear, the youngsters were ready for their performance at Rasela’s last January. Due to that performance, they are receiving some critical acclaim. Prior to that they had been performing at community events or at venues in their respective schools.
Third Annual Ethiopian Heritage Festival
The Young Ethio Jazz Band will be one of the many highlights of the Third Annual Ethiopian Heritage Festival to be held on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. from Friday, July 26 to Sunday, July 28. The band will play intermittently throughout the weekend. The Festival celebrates the Ethiopian experience with many exhibits, performances, activities, and culinary excitement throughout the weekend. For more information on the Festival or when you can catch a performance of The Young Ethio Jazz Band please visit www.ehsna.org