Global Music Column – April

Hailu Mergia – Yene Mircha

Ethiopian multi-instrumentalist Hailu Mergia’s backstory is one of “world music” cliche. Gaining fame in his home country as the organ and synth player for 70s jazz-funk outfit Walias Band, he relocated to Washington DC in the 80s, released a solo album in the US to little acclaim and ultimately gave up music to drive a cab. In 2013, though, Mergia was “rediscovered” by Awesome Tapes from Africa’s Brian Shimkovitz, who reissued that 1985 solo accordion odyssey, Hailu Mergia and His Classical Instrument, and a star was (re)born.

Of course, in his many years of relative obscurity Mergia continued to noodle away at his keyboard, honing his talent for skewed, ear-worming arrangements. The result was his first solo album in two decades, 2018’s Lala Belu. Where that album’s trio setup showcased a groove-laden, deep-swinging side to Mergia, his latest offering, Yene Mircha (My Choice), finds him taking a more meandering, sonically adventurous path.

Read the review in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 10/04/20]