Tilahun Gessesse, Leading Ethiopian Singer, Dies
Tilahun Gessesse, a dominant musical voice in his native Ethiopia, died April 19 in Addis Ababa. He was 68.
One news story called him the ''Ethiopian Pavarotti," which is a bit of a stretch culturally even in the world of puffery agents. It also could be seen as an offense to the people of the Horn of Africa. After all, would you call Pavarotti the "Italian Tilahun Gessesse"?
Gessesse remains a bit of a blank in the American press, with a few sporadic references to his skill.
He was sometimes known as Tlahoun Gessesse, and a New York Times reveiwer in 1998 described his early 1970s records as "alive with the trebly, scratching, rhythm guitars, punching horn sections and James Brown-style drum rhythms that were flooding the world. Except that he was Ethiopian, his songs used Arabic and Eastern scales and his bands were state-run institutions."
The reviewer, Ben Ratliff, continued: "His voice slips from a gargled upper-middle register to a yodel or a shriek, and flutters through a weave of scale notes, muezzin-style; sometimes he pauses between phrases, aware of his power, and lets out a chuckle."
The BBC has a brief account and a link to hear him singing here.
A far more complete story of his life is here. Many songs and clips are also on this site.
Mr. Gessesse apparently spent time in the Washington area, so any personal memories of the man or his music would be appreciated.
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