Who Are the Best Old Ethiopian Musicians

Ethiopian musicians have long been celebrated for their unique blend of traditional sounds and modern influences. From world-renowned singers to talented guitarists, Ethiopia has produced a plethora of talented artists who have made their mark on the global music scene. Ethiopian musicians like the legendary Mulatu Astatke have helped to popularize Ethiopian jazz, while famous singers like Aster Aweke have captivated audiences with their soulful vocals. Whether it’s the mesmerizing melodies of traditional Ethiopian music or the innovative sounds of modern fusion, Ethiopian musicians continue to inspire and delight listeners around the world.

Here are the 10 ethiopian musicians who shaped the Ethiopian music

Alemayehu Eshete

Affectionately known as the “Ethiopian Elvis,” Alemayehu Eshete is a figure whose impact on the Ethiopian music scene is monumental. Emerging in the 1960s, his fusion of traditional Ethiopian melodies with the soul and funk vibes of the West created a distinctive sound that was revolutionary. Eshete’s dynamic performances and soulful voice have earned him a cherished spot in the hearts of many, making him a pivotal figure in Ethiopia’s music history. His tracks, characterized by the krar’s electrifying strums and the masinko’s mournful cries, continue to resonate, encapsulating the vibrancy of Ethiopia’s musical heritage.

Mahmoud Ahmed

Mahmoud Ahmed, with his rich, emotive voice, has been a defining presence in Ethiopian music since the 1960s. Singing primarily in Amharic, his music transcends linguistic boundaries, embodying the soul and complexity of Ethiopia’s cultural tapestry. Ahmed’s ability to blend traditional Ethiopian scales with jazz and soul genres has made his music timeless, appealing to audiences worldwide. His performances, often backed by the intricate rhythms of traditional instruments, are a testament to the enduring appeal of Ethiopian music and its ability to convey deep, universal emotions.

Mulatu Astatke

Known as the father of Ethio-jazz, Mulatu Astatke is a visionary artist whose innovative sounds have placed Ethiopian music on the global map. Astatke’s unique blend of traditional Ethiopian music with modern jazz and Latin influences has created a genre that is both forward-thinking and deeply rooted in cultural tradition. His mastery of the vibraphone and his sophisticated arrangements have won him international acclaim, with compositions that are as intellectually engaging as they are emotionally resonant. Astatke’s work not only celebrates Ethiopian scales and rhythms but also pushes the boundaries of music, making him a pioneer of global jazz.

Tilahun Gessesse

Tilahun Gessesse is a towering figure in Ethiopian music, renowned for his unparalleled vocal ability and emotional depth. His music, which spans over four decades, is a reflection of Ethiopia’s social and cultural life, capturing the nation’s joys, sorrows, and hopes. Gessesse’s songs, deeply embedded in Ethiopia’s collective memory, are a powerful testament to his role as one of the country’s most beloved voices. With his profound impact on Ethiopian music and society, Gessesse’s legacy continues to inspire new generations of artists.

Aster Aweke

Aster Aweke, with her powerful and emotive voice, has been a prominent figure in Ethiopian music since the late 1970s. Her music, which combines traditional Ethiopian melodies with global pop and jazz influences, has garnered a wide international following. Aweke’s ability to convey deep emotions through her singing, coupled with her dynamic stage presence, has made her one of Ethiopia’s most celebrated artists. Her songs, often revolving around themes of love and social issues, resonate with fans around the world, showcasing the universal appeal of Ethiopian music.

Asnaketch Worku

Asnaketch Worku stands as an unparalleled figure in Ethiopian music, renowned for her mastery of the krar, a traditional lyre, and her soul-stirring vocal performances. Worku’s music, imbued with depth and emotion, captures the complexities of love and longing, weaving narratives that resonate with listeners far and wide. Her contribution to the arts extends beyond music; Asnaketch’s roles in theatre and film have made her a cultural icon, symbolizing the multifaceted talent that thrived in Ethiopia’s artistic golden era. Her legacy is one of passion, elegance, and an indomitable spirit that continues to inspire future generations.

Getatchew Mekurya

Getatchew Mekurya, known for his explosive saxophone skills, is a legend in the Ethiopian jazz scene. Mekurya’s distinctive style—deeply rooted in traditional Ethiopian war chants and the pentatonic scale—has earned him the nickname “the Lion of Ethiopian Sax.” His album “Ethiopiques Volume 14” showcases his groundbreaking fusion of Ethiopian traditional music with jazz, creating a sound that is both avant-garde and deeply familiar. Mekurya’s influence extends beyond Ethiopia, collaborating with international artists and bringing Ethiopian jazz to global stages.

Ali Birra

Ali Birra is a towering figure in Ethiopian music, celebrated for his contributions to the Oromo music tradition. Birra’s songs, characterized by their lyrical depth and musical richness, touch on themes of love, social justice, and cultural pride. His ability to blend traditional Oromo sounds with contemporary music styles has made him a beloved figure among audiences of all ages. Birra’s music is not just entertainment; it is a powerful tool for cultural expression and identity among the Oromo people and beyond.

Emahoy Tsige Mariam Gebru

Emahoy Tsige Mariam Gebru’s music is a serene journey into the depths of the human soul. A pianist and composer, her classical compositions are a unique blend of Western classical music and Ethiopian melodies, creating a sound that is meditative and profoundly moving. Emahoy’s life, marked by monastic devotion and a commitment to her art, resonates in her music, offering listeners a sanctuary of peace and contemplation. Her albums, particularly the re-released “Éthiopiques Volume 21,” have garnered international acclaim, introducing audiences worldwide to her transcendent music.

Hirut Bekele

Hirut Bekele, with her captivating voice and emotive delivery, has been a beloved figure in Ethiopian music for decades. Known for her vast repertoire of songs that span traditional, modern, and religious genres, Bekele’s music is a reflection of Ethiopia’s diverse cultural landscape. Her ability to convey deep emotional truths through her music has made her a cherished artist, celebrated for her contributions to the Ethiopian musical canon. Bekele’s songs continue to inspire and uplift, securing her place as one of Ethiopia’s most enduring musical talents.


The tapestry of Ethiopian music, woven with the threads of both tradition and innovation, is richly embodied in the lives and legacies of these ten iconic musicians. Their collective contributions have not only preserved the soulful depths of Ethiopian cultural heritage but have also propelled it onto the global stage, where it resonates with universal themes of resilience, joy, and the unending quest for artistic expression. From the pioneering jazz fusions of Mulatu Astatke to the emotive vocals of Aster Aweke, each artist has played a pivotal role in shaping the dynamic landscape of Ethiopian music. Their work, transcending boundaries of time and geography, continues to inspire a new generation of musicians and listeners alike, ensuring that the heart of Ethiopian music beats strongly and expansively across the world.

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