Hailu Mergia: electric piano, organ, melodica, accordion, vocals
Alemseged Kebede-Anissa: bass
Kenneth Joseph: drums
It is easy to understand the return of 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 jamming with luminaries like Duke Ellington and Manu Dibango. In 1981 a good part of Walias including Hailu used the first ever US tour of an Ethiopian music group to escape the dictatorial Mengistu regime. Since then Hailu has been spending most of his recent years as a cab driver in Washington DC and playing only privately.
Enter Brian Shimkovitz, operator of the acclaimed blog-turned-record label Awesome Tapes From Africa, who came across Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument, a somehow obscure 1985 cassette, in a music store in Ethiopia, tracked down the old maestro and reissued it. On the back of Shimkovitz' reissue of Classical Instrument (which came out June 25, 2013), Hailu started to play live again