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Go Mahmoud Go - The Soul of Addis

When Piranha Records director Christoph Borkowsky visited Ethiopia in January to speak at the Cultural Forum of the Selam festival about cultural industries & local development, he was overwhelmed by the new generation of Addis soul talent at Mulatu Astatke’s African Jazz Village club and other hotspots of the capital’s nightlife. “It was a little bit like in the Southern Soul days in Memphis in the 60ies, tight backing bands accompaning outstanding singers who took the stage for a few sweet songs and then left again without even introducing themselves. If the international labels would be there, this could be the next wave out of Africa after the Sahara Blues.”

At the Selam festival itself he shared one of the mindblowing local performances by Mahmoud Ahmed, the old lion of Addis soul who became something like a musical Moses for Ethiopians home and abroad through their turbulent history since he first entered the scene as a member of the Imperial Body Guard Band of Haile Selassie I in 1962. “Nothing can compare to see Mahmoud in front of his own audience. He is now close to 75 but still in full control, with his Nelson Mandela aura but having fun leading the crowd to follow him into the typical local wedding dance movements. Plenty of young people in front of the stage and everybody knows the words of his songs by heart and sings along. If you plan to go to Addis, I can only recommend to make it in good timing to see him live under Ethiopian sky.”

Photos of Mahmoud Ahmed and his audience during the Selam festival courtesy of Aida Muluneh, one of the young independant creative players in town, curating the 1st international photography festival “Addis Foto Fest” and more.

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