Fendika members Melaku Belay and Zenash Tsegaye in 2009
|Also known as||Fendika Azmati Bet|
|Origin||Addis Ababa, Ethiopia|
Ethiocolor Cultural Band|
Born in 1980 in Ethiopia, Melaku Belay lived as an orphan on the streets of Addis Ababa. As a child he taught himself to dance through participation in folk traditions and religious festivals. He worked for seven years as a dancer for tips in Addis Ababa's Kazanchis neighborhood at a local azmari bet—a tavern that hosts azmari story-songsters who accompany themselves on the masenko or krar. Each night after work, the young Melaku slept under the bar and eventually saved enough money to buy the club, Fendika Azmari Bet, from its owners.
When not working at the azmari bet, Melaku traveled extensively through Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and South Sudan to learn as many dances as he could from more than 80 tribes around the Horn of Africa, including the traditions of Gurage, Wolaita, Tigray, Wollo, Konso, Gonder, and Gojam. Melaku also became a nationally celebrated artist in eskesta, a shoulder dance style whose movements share roots with hip hop's traditions of locking and popping.
With Ethiopia's capital city being a nexus of culture, music, and dance from other nations, Melaku incorporated these into his repertoire as well, gradually assembling a 13-piece ensemble called the Ethiocolor Cultural Band. Combining tribal dances and folk instruments with jazz, rock, theater and elaborate costumes. The group became a staple at Fendika, rooted in the azmari tradition but with amplified versions of its instruments. In 2009 Melaku assembled a smaller group out of the larger Ethiocolor ensemble, featuring three musicians, two dancers, and one singer. With a more portable acoustic sound and azmari folk aesthetic, the group named themselves Fendika in tribute to the establishment from which they originated.
Through the Fendika venue's hosting touring artists from all over the world, the ensemble has established an international network enabling them to travel and collaborate with musicians from around the globe. They have toured the United States and eastern Africa with Boston-area Ethiojazz orchestra Debo Band, and in 2010 the two groups released a joint live recording from a concert given at the Sauti za Busara African music festival in Zanzibar. Fendika has also toured throughout Europe with Dutch post-punk band The Ex and released records through the band's label. In their home city of Addis Ababa, Fendika have collaborated with many of their nation's most well-known musicians, including singer Mahmoud Ahmed, begena player Alemu Aga, and saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria.
Fendika often leads workshops in traditional Ethiopian music and dance. The group also supports a school for migrant children which aims to prevent youth homelessness and child labor by providing cultural education for these children and their families. Fendika has also collaborated with members of The Ex, Instant Composers Pool, and others to bring electronic, punk, and improvised music education to Ethiopia.
- Melaku Belay
- Zinash Tsegaye
- Nardos Tesfaw
- Selamnesh Zemene
- Belaynesh Bezabeh
- Tesfaye Taye
- Gashaw Abateneh
- Fassika Hailu
- Anteneh Teklemariam (bass krar)
- Gizachew Teklemariam
- Endres Hassen
- Asrat Bosena
- Hargos Takele
- Mesay Abebaye
- Misale Legesse
- Asrat Ayalew
- Yohannes Aferworq
- Tamru Neguse
- Flamingoh: Pink Bird Dawn CD EP with Debo Band (2010)
- Addis Tradition CD (2013)
- Ethiocolor CD (Selam Sounds, 2014)
- "Lale Guma"/"Addis Hum" 7" single with The Ex (Ex Records, 2015)
- Melaku's Fendika CD (2016)
- Birabiro LP/CD (Terp Records, 2017)
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