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Mélaku Belay & Zenash Tsegay.jpg
Fendika members Melaku Belay and Zenash Tsegaye in 2009
Background information
Also known as Fendika Azmati Bet
Origin Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Genres Ethiopian music
Years active 2009–present
Labels Terp Records
Associated acts Ethiocolor Cultural Band
Debo Band
The Ex

Fendika is an Ethiopian music group based in Addis Ababa.[1] Led by dancer/choreographer Melaku Belay, they operate a venue, tour, record, and perform under the name Fendika.[2]


Born in 1980 in Ethiopia, Melaku Belay lived as an orphan on the streets of Addis Ababa.[3] As a child he taught himself to dance through participation in folk traditions and religious festivals.[4] 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.[5] 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.[3][6]

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,[7] including the traditions of Gurage, Wolaita, Tigray, Wollo, Konso, Gonder, and Gojam.[8] 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.[1][9]

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.[10] Combining tribal dances and folk instruments with jazz, rock, theater and elaborate costumes.[2] The group became a staple at Fendika, rooted in the azmari tradition but with amplified versions of its instruments.[11] 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.[1]

Fendika performing with Debo Band in 2010

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.[12] Fendika has also toured throughout Europe with Dutch post-punk band The Ex and released records through the band's label.[2] 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.[13]

Educational work[edit]

Fendika often leads workshops in traditional Ethiopian music and dance.[1] 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.[3] Fendika has also collaborated with members of The Ex, Instant Composers Pool, and others to bring electronic, punk, and improvised music education to Ethiopia.[14]


In 2011 Melaku Belay won the Alliance Ethio-Francaise award for dance excellence and in 2015 was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.[1]


Fendika and Ethicolor perform, tour, and record in different configurations with ensembles that vary from 5 to 20 members at any given time.[15][16][17]

  • Melaku Belay
  • Zinash Tsegaye
  • Frehiwot
  • Dagim
  • Nardos Tesfaw
  • Selamnesh Zemene
  • Belaynesh Bezabeh
  • Tesfaye Taye
  • Gashaw Abateneh
  • Hawa
  • 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)[18]
  • Addis Tradition CD (2013)[15][19]
  • Ethiocolor CD (Selam Sounds, 2014)[11][15]
  • "Lale Guma"/"Addis Hum" 7" single with The Ex (Ex Records, 2015)[20]
  • Melaku's Fendika CD (2016)[17]
  • Birabiro LP/CD (Terp Records, 2017)[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Fendika". Cadenza Artists. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "Birabiro by Fendika". exmailorder.nl. The Ex. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c Unthank, Rachel (24 February 2010). "Folk: Ethiopia". BBC. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  4. ^ "Fendika: Biography". Kennedy Center. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  5. ^ Halfpenny, Eric; Grame, Theodore C. "azmari: Ethiopian bard". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 21 December 2016. 
  6. ^ Doyle, Rachel B. (13 November 2014). "In Ethiopia's Capital, a Resurgent Jazz Scene". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  7. ^ Forster, Siegfried (22 July 2010). "L'art et l'audace des " Regards sur l'Ethiopie " – RFI". RFI Afrique (in French). Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  8. ^ "Fendika". Earth Beat. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  9. ^ "Fendika". The New Yorker. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  10. ^ "Ethiocolor releases debut album". Addis Zefen. 25 September 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  11. ^ a b "Selam Sounds new Release: Ethiocolor". Selam. 20 October 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  12. ^ Man, Hog Eye (20 June 2012). "Interview: Debo Band". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 16 December 2016. 
  13. ^ Aymar, Patrick. "Melaku Belay". www.melakubelay.com. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  14. ^ "The Ex: History: 2008". The Ex. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  15. ^ a b c "Fendika with Joshua Abrams, Tim Daisy, Ben LaMar Gay, Macie Stewart and Mars Williams". www.constellation-chicago.com. Constellation. 19 September 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  16. ^ Samuel, Rahel (1 October 2014). "Ethiocolor Releases Debut Album | Ethiosports". Ethiosports. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  17. ^ a b Beley, Melaku (2016). Melaku's Fendika: Volume 1 (Compact disc). Addis Ababa: Fendika. p. Back cover. 
  18. ^ "Flamingoh (Pink Bird Dawn), by Debo Band". Debo Band. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  19. ^ Romeero, Angel (29 December 2015). "Interview with Melaku Belay of Ethiopian Band Fendika | World Music Central.org". World Music Central. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  20. ^ Tuffrey, Laurie (27 March 2015). "The Ex & Fendika - Addis Hum". The Quietus. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  21. ^ Hareuveni, Eyal (5 December 2016). "Fendika". Salt Peanuts. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 

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