Ethiopian jazz, also referred to as Ethio-jazz, is a blend of traditional Ethiopian music with jazz, combining the pentatonic scale-based melodies of Amharic music with the 12-tone scale and instrumentation of western music. Over time the genre has grown to include elements from other genres such as afrofunk, soul, Armenian jazz, and Latin rhythms.[1] The genre originated in the 1950s with Armenian refugees such as musician Nerses Nalbandian, who created a fusion of Ethiopian and Western music while working at the National Theatre.[1] Ethiopian jazz was revolutionized by Mulatu Astatke in the late 1950s. Astatke is considered the father of Ethio-jazz music.


Nerses Nalbandian

The origin of Ethio-jazz can be traced to the 1950s with Nerses Nalbandian, a musician of Armenian descent whose family migrated to Ethiopia in 1915.[2] Nalbandian became the leader of Ethiopia's National Opera after his uncle, Kervok Nalbandian, retired.[3] When Emperor Haile Selassie commissioned Nalbandian to compose music for the Ethiopian National Theatre, he created a fusion of traditional Ethiopian music and Western instrumentation. This was considered the basis of the evolution of Ethio-jazz music.[3]

Mulatu Astatke

Mulatu Astatke is considered the father of Ethio-jazz music

Multi-instrumentalist Mulatu Astatke has been considered the father of Ethio-jazz.[4][5] He was born in 1943 in Jimma and developed an interest in music while studying aeronautical engineering in Wales.[3] He went on to pursue a formal education in music at Holy Trinity College in London. Astatke was interested in promoting traditional Ethiopian music to Western audiences. Beginning in 1958, he also studied jazz at Berklee College of Music in Boston. There, he successfully combined Ethiopian music with Western jazz and rhythms, conceiving "Ethio-jazz".[3]

List of musicians

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (September 2022)

Dawit Getachew Liben Tinos Yizzac


  1. ^ a b Diarra, Lilian (2014-03-21). "Ethio-Jazz: The Amazing Story Behind Ethiopian Jazz". Culture Trip. Retrieved 2022-09-23.
  2. ^ "Ethio-jazz is a product of migration and heroic ingenuity". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2022-09-23.
  3. ^ a b c d Diarra, Lilian (2014-03-21). "Ethio-Jazz: The Amazing Story Behind Ethiopian Jazz". Culture Trip. Retrieved 2022-09-23.
  4. ^ Monitor, Ethiopian (2022-05-02). "Artist Mulatu Keen on fusing Ethio-Jazz with Turkish Music". Ethiopian Monitor. Retrieved 2022-09-23.
  5. ^ "Mulatu Astatke - Ethio Jazz". Light In The Attic Records. Retrieved 2022-09-23.