Getatchew Mekurya

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Getatchew Mekurya
Getatchew Mekuria.jpg
Background information
Born 1935 (age 80–81)
Origin Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Genres Ethiopian music, jazz
Instruments Saxophone
Years active 1949–present
Associated acts The Ex, Either/Orchestra, Addis Ababa Municipality Band

Getatchew Mekurya (Amharic: ጌታቸው መኩሪያ) (born 1935)[1] is an Ethiopian jazz saxophonist.

Early career[edit]

Mekurya 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.

Recent career, collaborations with The Ex and others[edit]

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.[2][3] Mekurya has said he is unfamiliar with either Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler.[3][4]

The album Negus of Ethiopian Sax caught the ears of Dutch avant-garde/punk band The Ex who invited the septuagenarian sax player to perform at their 25th anniversary show in Amsterdam in November 2004. In turn, Mekurya asked the Ex to be the backup band for his 2006 album, Moa Anbessa. The Ex and Mekuria toured The Netherlands, Belgium and France together in 2006 and 2007, and then the United States in 2008 and Canada in 2009.[5]

Getatchew Mekurya has added his distinctive sound to collaborations with numerous other contemporary artists, including British Tamil singer Susheela Raman and Boston jazz ensemble Either/Orchestra.[3] He still lives in Addis Ababa, and regularly performs at the Sunset Bar at the Sheraton Addis.


  • "Shellela" 45 (late 1950s)[2]
  • Ethiopiques Volume 14: Negus of Ethiopian Sax (recorded in 1970, originally released on Philips Ethiopia in 1972)
  • Ethiopiques Volume 20: Either/Orchestra Live in AddisMekuria appears on the track "Shellella" (recorded in 2004)
  • Moa Anbessa (with The Ex and other guests) (2006)
  • Getatchew Mekurya & 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)


  1. ^ According to the official The Ex website and the Bimhuis website, both retrieved 2011-08-07. Birthdates 1937 and 1931 are also sometimes given, the last one here.
  2. ^ a b May, Chris (2007-09-28). "Getatchew Mekurya: Negus Of Ethiopian Sax". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  3. ^ a b c "Ethiopiques Volume 14". Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  4. ^ Nickson, Chris. "Ethiopiques, Vol. 14: Negus of Ethiopian Sax (Review)". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  5. ^ "An Extended Exography". Retrieved 2010-11-22. 

External links[edit]