Ethiopian music does not get a huge amount of coverage here in the UK and isn’t a regular at UK festivals either, which makes Hailu Mergia’s forthcoming appearance at Field Day all the more exciting.
A major star in Ethiopia in the 1970s, he presided over the country’s leading instrumental ensemble the Walias Band, who became the first ever Ethiopian act to tour the US. The tour resulted in Hailu and a good part of the Walias Band using this opportunity to escape the dictatorial Mengistu regime in Ethiopia at the time and take up residence in the US.
Like much of the excellent African music that has been brought to people’s attention of late, Brian Shimkowitz, the operator of blog turned record label Awesome Tapes From Africa, reissued the 1985 cassette ‘Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument’ in 2013. This spurred on the Ethiopian maestro to begin playing live again in and around his home of Washington DC, before coming together with the excellent Australian improvisers Tony Buck (drums) and Mike Majkowski (double bass) for a european tour that earned rave reviews wherever they went.
This is the trio that will be performing together at Field Day on Saturday and it certainly promises to be one of the most intriguing sets of the day.Listen