It is easy to see the return of the Hailu Mergia to the world of music as one of the most unlikely comebacks of the last few years: The keyboardist was a major star in 1970es Ethiopia, presiding over the country's leading instrumental ensemble Walias Band, which worked restlessly on the Addis Ababa hotel circuit and jammed with Duke Ellington and Manu Dibango. In 1981 members of Walias used the first ever US tour of an Ethiopian music group to escape the dictatorial Mengistu regime. Since then Hailu has been a resident of the Washington DC area, spending most of his recent years as a cab driver at the capital's Dulles Airport and playing only privately.
Enter Brian Shimkovitz of Awesome Tapes From Africa, who came across "Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument", an obscure yet charming 1985 cassette, in a music store in Ethiopia, tracked down the old maestro and reissued it. On the back of this reissue, Hailu started to play live again - In Europe backed by a hard-to-beat rhythm section made up of two leading Australian improvisors living in Berlin: Tony Buck (drums) is involved in a diverse array of projects but best known as a member of the genre-bending cult band The Necks. Mike Majkowski on double bass has come to acclaim with his imaginative solo performances and for his sideman work for Peter Brötzmann. Together the trio explores the deep, liquid and hypnotic qualities of Hailu Mergia's music, while not forgetting to throw in some defty bits of funk now and then.
Hailu Mergia With Tony Buck & Mike Majkowski's recent concerts included festival appearances at Villette Sonique in Paris, Le Guess Who? in Utrecht and at Hamburg's Überjazz as well as club shows pretty much all over Europe from Lisboa to Helsinki. In October 2014, Awesome Tapes From Africa reissued Walias Band's "Tche Belew" (1977), the much sought after holy grail of Ethio Jazz which has been selling on Ebay for astronomical sums up to 4.000 US $.
on tour: May and June 2016