Ethiopian Jazz Luminary. African Funk Pioneer. Classical Accordion Genius. D.C. Cab Driver With New Music For The First Time In Nearly 30 Years.
We are pleased to welcome Hailu Mergia & trio to Pickathon, joining us August 3-5 as part of our special 20th annual festival.
Lala Belu is Hailu Mergia’s newest release, out today on the formidable Awesome Tapes From Africa record label.
Hailu recently sat down with The New York Times and discussed his past, the present, and why exactly he stayed in the U.S. in 1981 after the completion of that first stateside tour with The Walias Band.
Once the leader of one of the biggest jazz funk bands in Ethiopia in the 1970s. His band, The Walias Band, reached the pinnacle of success in Ethiopia, eventually being invited to play for the president. Their sound, a mixture of traditional Ethiopian melodies and American-inspired jazz and funk, struck a chord with Ethiopians across the spectrum.
Having achieved celebrity status in his home country, Hailu wanted his band to grow. He arranged a U.S. tour for the Walias band, hoping to find international success. The tour did not match his vision of quick American success, and, met mostly with indifference in the States, the band fizzled.
Hailu decided to stay in Washington DC, where the band had originally landed upon their arrival–and there he has remained until today.