So excited for the long-anticipated re-release of “Tche Belew,” Hailu Mergia and the Walias’ 1977 instrumental jazz and groove recording set against the backdrop of post-revolution Ethiopia. Following Mergia’s Shemonmuanaye/Classical Instrument reissue last year, the keyboardist and accordion player has been visiting stages across Europe and North America to much critical acclaim. “Tche Belew” was a groundbreaking recording and the LP became collectible for so many reasons but overall it is just an astounding merger of Ethiopian songs, elegant contemporary arrangements and “western” instrumentation. Completely sublime music from one of the seminal bands of a funk-laced era of Ethiojazz and soul.
Pre-order here (or wherever you pick up music).
Hailu Mergia European Tour Dates
Hailu Mergia With Pawel Szpura & Mike Majkowski*
Hailu Mergia With Tony Buck & Mike Majkowski+
16.10. SE Malmö Inkonst*
17.10. SE Göteborg Oceanen*
18.10. FI Helsinki WeJazz*
20.10. DE Heidelberg Enjoy Jazz Festival*
21.10. DE Nürnberg Desi*
23.10. DE Düsseldorf KIT-Café+
24.10. BE Aalst Netwerk+
25.10. DE Hamburg Überjazz Festival+
The acclaimed and highly sought-after LP by Hailu Mergia and the Walias, Tche Belew, an album of instrumentals released in 1977, is perhaps the most seminal recording released in the aftermath of the 1974 revolution. The story of the Walias band is a critical chapter in Ethiopian popular music, taking place during a period of music industry flux and political complexity in the country.
Hailu Mergia, a keyboardist and arranger diligently working the nightclub scene in Addis Ababa, formed the Walias in the early 1970’s with a core group of musicians assembled from prior working bands. They played Mergia’s funk- and soul-informed tunes, while cutting 45rpm singles with various vocalists.
While the Walias performed at top hotels and played the presidential palace twice, their relationship with the Derg regime was complex, evidenced by the removal of one song from the record by government censors.
Decades later, Hailu Mergia was surprised to see the album fetching more than $4,000 at online auctions (it helped that the most popular of all Ethiopian tunes “Musicawi Silt” appeared on the record). Now everyone has the chance to listen again—or for the first time—to this timeless pillar of Ethiopian popular music.
Listen to the song “Eti Gual Blenai.”