Alemayehu Eshete, singer known as “Abyssinian Elvis”, dies at age 80
As a child, Alemayehu enjoyed watching Elvis Presley movies and singing Presley songs for his friends at school. Dream From Hollywood stardom, he once ran away from home, hitchhiking to a port city in Eritrea, where he hoped to board a ship bound for America. His mission was foiled when someone came into contact with his family and he was sent home.
Mr. Eshete is survived by his wife, Ayehu Kebede Desta; seven children; and six grandchildren.
As Addis Ababa entered the new millennium, its musical past was revisited as part of a cultural renewal. Young musicians played the old songs with reverence, and lost classics becomes radio hits again. Mr. Eshete started playing every Wednesday at a place called Jazzamba Lounge.
In 2008, Mr. Eshete and three other notable Ethiopian musicians, Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatke and saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya, performed together at the Barbican in London and at the Glastonbury Festival. In New York, supported by the New England-based company Either / Orchestra, Mr. Eshete performed at Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center.
“Sir. Eshete was at his charismatic best,” Nate Chinen wrote in a review of this show in The New York Times. “Each verse started with a single bugle note, then plunged into a quick crackle. He tried a few more. approaches in his set, like an insinuating croon and a bark worthy of his nickname, the Ethiopian James Brown.
A burial ceremony attended by hundreds took place for Mr. Eshete in Meskel Square in Addis Ababa. An orchestra played before his coffin was cast out. A few months earlier, Mr. Eshete’s music had resonated in the square when he carried out there with a band and sang his song “Addis Ababa Bété“(” Addis Ababa, my house “).
Mr. Eshete had recorded that adjust, a funky love letter to his hometown, in 1971 with his fellow musical outlaw, Amha. They sold it to Amha’s provocative little record store, where it quickly became a hit and set Addis on fire.