|Birth name||Ejigayehu Shibabaw|
|Born||1974 (age 41–42)|
|Associated acts||Tigist Shibabaw, Herbie Hancock, Bill Laswell, Wayne Shorter, Henry Threadgill, Pharoah Sanders, Nicky Skopelitis, Aiyb Dieng, Karsh Kale,|
Ejigayehu Shibabaw, known by her stage name Gigi, is one of the most successful contemporary Ethiopian singers worldwide. She has brought the music of Ethiopia to wider recognition and developed it in combination with a wide variety of other genres often in collaboration with her husband Bill Laswell, a bassist and producer.
Gigi was born and raised in Chagni in northwestern Ethiopia. She has described learning traditional songs from an Ethiopian Orthodox priest in the family home.[a] She lived in Kenya for a few years before moving to San Francisco in about 1998.
Gigi recorded two albums for the expatriate Ethiopian community, but it was her 2001 album, titled simply Gigi, that brought her widespread attention. She had been noticed by Palm Pictures owner Chris Blackwell, who had years earlier introduced reggae to the mainstream through his former label, Island Records. Blackwell and Gigi's producer (and later, husband) Bill Laswell, decided to use American jazz musicians (including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Pharoah Sanders, and others) to accompany Gigi on the album.
The result was a fusion of contemporary and traditional sounds. The album was a critical success internationally and generated controversy in her home country for such a radical break with Ethiopian popular music. This release was soon followed by Illuminated Audio, an ambient dub style remix of the album by Laswell.
2003 saw the release of Zion Roots, under the band name Abyssinia Infinite. Bill Laswell played guitar and keyboard (instead of his usual bass), and several of Gigi's family members contributed vocals. The album was a return to a mainly acoustic sound for Gigi, incorporating instruments such as the krar and the tabla. The track "Gole" is in Agaw, the language of Gigi's father's village.
She released her sixth album, Gold and Wax on Palm Pictures, in 2006.
Her 2001 song "Guramayle" appears in the 2006 documentary God Grew Tired of Us. It plays over opening and closing credits.
Gigi is married to her producer Bill Laswell, and they have a son, Aman, who has accompanied his parents with vocals. Her younger sister, singer Tigist Shibabaw, died under unknown circumstances in 2008.
As leader (Albums)
- Tsehay, 1997
- One Ethiopia, 1998
- Gigi (Guramayle), 2001
- Illuminated Audio, 2003 (Laswell's remix of the 2001 album "Gigi")
- Abyssinia Infinite: Zion Roots, 2003
- Gold & Wax, 2006
- Mesgana Ethiopia, 2010
- Future2Future by Herbie Hancock
- Sacred System: Dub Chamber 4 (Book of Exit) by Bill Laswell
- Realize by Karsh Kale
- Live at Stern Grove by Tabla Beat Science
- Enter The Chicken by Buckethead
- Radioaxiom by Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble
- Daylightless by Fanu (in Salem and Semena-Worck tracks)
- Putumayo Presents: One World, Many Cultures Compilation
- Putumayo Presents: Music from the Coffee Lands, Vol. II Compilation
- Gigi has further claimed that "I grew up singing in the Ethiopian Church, which is actually not allowed for women…." The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church maintains that "both men and women may join in the singing," while ethnomusicologist Kay Kaufman Shelemay notes that the church generally prohibited women from singing or playing music in church until the Derg era of the 1970s.
- "Ejigayehu Shibabaw Official Myspace". Archived from the original on September 12, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2013.
- Professor Sergew Hable Sellassie and Belaynesh Mikael (December 1970), "Worship in the Ethiopian Orthodx [sic] Church", The Church of Ethiopia: A Panorama Of History and Spiritual Life, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, retrieved February 19, 2013 – via Ethiopianorthodox.org
- Shelemay, Kay Kaufman (September 15, 2006). Ethiopia: Diaspora and Return. Interview with Banning Eyre. Afropop Worldwide. Archived from the original on February 17, 2012. Retrieved February 19, 2013.
- Falceto, Francis. "Alfanalech - Gigi Between Past and Future". Les nouvelles d'Addis. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 2007-07-12.
What is new with Gigi and Bill Laswell, is the extremely modernist bent of an enterprise which marks, like it or not, a radical break with the usual routine and the decadence prevalent for the past quarter-century.
- "Mesgana Ethiopia: New Music from Gigi". CultureMob. 21 October 2010.
- "Ethiopian Singer Tigist Shibabaw of Bole 2 Harlem Dies in Bahar Dar". January 21, 2008. Retrieved 2010-05-01.