14 March 1935|
|Origin||Addis Ababa, Ethiopia|
4 April 2016 (aged 81)|
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
|Genres||Ethiopian music, jazz|
|Associated acts||The Ex, Either/Orchestra, Addis Ababa Municipality Band|
Mekurya was born on 14 March 1935, in Yifat, Ethiopia. He began his musical studies on traditional Ethiopian instruments such as the krar and the masenqo, and later moved on to the saxophone and clarinet. Upon reaching adolescence, he began his professional career in 1949 as a part of the Municipality Band in Addis Ababa. In 1955 he joined the house band at Addis' Haile Selassie I Theatre, and in 1965 joined the famous Police Orchestra. He was also one of the first musicians to record an instrumental version of shellela, a genre of traditional Ethiopian vocal music sung by warriors before going into battle. Mekurya took the shellela tradition seriously, often appearing onstage in a warrior's animal-skin tunic and lion's mane headdress. He continued to refine his instrumental shellela style, recording an entire album in 1970, Negus of Ethiopian Sax, released on Philips Ethiopia during the heyday of the Ethiojazz movement. Mekurya continued to work alongside many of the biggest orchestras in the Ethiopian capital, accompanying renowned singers Alemayehu Eshete, Hirut Beqele, and Ayalew Mesfin.
Later career, collaborations with The Ex and others
Mekurya reached an international audience when his album Negus of Ethiopian Sax was re-released as part of the Ethiopiques CD series. Mekurya's playing style has been compared to free jazz, but developed in isolation from it during the early 1950s. Mekurya has said he is unfamiliar with either Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler.
Dutch avant-garde/punk band The Ex caught the ears of Mekurya, and he invited them to play with him, which they did from 2004 on. Mekurya asked the Ex to be the backup band for his 2006 album, Moa Anbessa. The Ex and Mekurya toured The Netherlands, Belgium and France together in 2006 and 2007, and then the United States in 2008 and Canada in 2009 with members of the group Fendika.
Mèkurya has added his distinctive sound to collaborations with numerous other contemporary artists, including British Tamil singer Susheela Raman and Boston jazz ensemble Either/Orchestra. He lived in Addis Ababa, and regularly performed at the Sunset Bar at the Sheraton Addis, and also at Fendika Azmari Bet.
Mekurya's wife Ayalech died in 2015. He was survived by nine children and numerous grandchildren. He died of a leg infection caused by diabetes, aged 81.
- "Shellela" 45 (late 1950s)
- Ethiopiques Volume 14: Negus of Ethiopian Sax (recorded in 1970, originally released on Philips Ethiopia in 1972)
- Ethiopiques Volume 20: Either/Orchestra Live in Addis (Mekuria appears on the track "Shellella") (recorded in 2004)
- Moa Anbessa (with The Ex and other guests) (2006)
- Gétatchèw Mèkurya & The Ex + Guests [DVD, Ethiosonic/Buda Musique] (2007)
- Y'Anbessaw Tezeta (with the Ex and Friends, 2012)
- The Rough Guide to the Music of Ethiopia (2012, World Music Network)
- "The Ex".
- According to the official The Ex website and the Bimhuis website, both retrieved 4 April 2016.
- Nate Chinen (April 11, 2016). "Getatchew Mekurya, Ethiopian Jazz Saxophonist, Dies at 81". The New York Times.
- May, Chris (2007-09-28). "Getatchew Mekurya: Negus Of Ethiopian Sax". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
- "Ethiopiques Volume 14". Budamusique.com. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
- Nickson, Chris. "Ethiopiques, Vol. 14: Negus of Ethiopian Sax (Review)". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
- "An Extended Exography". Retrieved 2010-11-22.
- "King of Ethiopian Sax Getatchew Mekurya Passed Away at Age 81 at Tadias Magazine". tadias.com.
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