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Thursday, 21 August 2008

Lincoln Center in New York turns to Ethiopian Center

Tedla Asfaw

On a beautiful night Wednesday August 20, 2008 with mild temperature around 70 degree, low humidity front row seat as a result of staying on line starting 4PM, you will be rewarded with unbelievable experience which is only true in one of the greatest city of the world, New York City. Lincoln Center Outdoors in Manhattan was packed with humanity including those who travelled from New Jersey and as far as D.C. Bravo D.C. !!!

Their travel under high gasoline price really paid off. The music started at 6PM by Extra Golden, a Kenyan and American mixed music group and you might need interpreter to what the young singers from Bana Mayaka Nairobi's Kariobangi area for the vocal, However, the beautiful melody and the fantastic instruments were moving us all in our seats and the more than hour show was superb.

The next on stage was Alemayehi Eshete with the Either/Orchestra and his old music like "Addis Ababa Bete" was felt by many like me who believed that the music was played somewhere in Addis Ababa and you can read that from the face of Ethiopians, young and old. You do not need to know Amharic to love Alemayehu Eshete's vocal and his dance on the stage brought him many fans.

Jamaican  and Puerto Rican women who  seated behind me loved him on his dance and asking me politely  what he was saying and how comes they did not see a man of such talent right here in New York ? I told them our "Demisse Berhanu" what you call James Brown is unique in Ethiopian music and went ahead of other musicians in Ethiopia by singing like Elvis Presley and James Brown. However our Alemayehu brought his own style and elevate the vocal and dance at different level unfortunately such talent has been absent on stage for foreign audience.

Then Mahmoud Ahmed with traditional cloth brightened the stage with his famous songs "Endew Mela Mela". Mahmoud had his own fans and one of them was seating beside me. She is an American who married to an Algerian and was going back and forth to take his picture and she told me she liked him better than the previous  vocalists because his voice was soft. And she also told me that his vocal sounds like the Algerian music she is hearing home.

No doubt the audience was backing both Alemayehu and Mahmoud by clapping, singing with them combined with "Eskista" shoulder dance and after the completion of their performance the stage was prepared for Getachew Mekurya with EX.

Who believes this giant is 73 ? Not many, Getachew Mekurya with his saxophone added to the excitement of the last two and half hours  and we went to a new world of music and at this time both the Alemayehu and Mahmoud's fans on my surroundings stand up for the whole show to see this giant playing unique Ethiopian music and I was not asked any translation because there was none to translate.

Getachew Mekuria was supported by a group of fantastic band and you could have said easily that this was played by former "Keber Zebena" orchestra in Addis Ababa. However, the EX band brought the old Ethiopian style to high level here in New York City. On top of that we had a young Ethiopian man on stage who did the dance and many of the audience were shocked by his talent and we saw the high level of "Eskista" shoulder dancing and "Fukera". Glad there was no long stick "Dula" otherwise some of us might have spent the night in the police station.

We have also a white woman who played instrument and vocal in "Guragena", Ethiopian language "Aleme" and it took us a while to know if she was really singing. She did it better than some who happen to grow up in the language and that is the beauty of music.

Getchew Mekuria did not want us to go and he tried to stretch the time way beyond 10PM and that was a time we all saw Ethiopian hospitality, "Chewanet" and we thank all of  you Getachew/Geteye, Mahoud,  Alemayehu/Alex, the young  Ethiopian dancer on stage who brought more fans to Ethiopian music for his extraordinary stage dance and the EITHER/Orchestra and last but not least our Kenyan brothers for the music experience which will stay with  us for very long time.

Finally I would like also to thank WFMU, for live transmission and those who sponsor the program and bring us all together in the Damrosch Park and those far for four hours of unforgettable music experience.