Bezunesh Bekele Greatest Hits album cover
Bezunesh Bekele Greatest Hits

Bezunesh Bekele

1972 - 1977
Nahom Records Inc.

She’s been called “"First Lady of Addis” and the “Aretha Franklin of Ethiopia,” and for decades was the most popular female musician in Ethiopia. But despite the renewed interest in Ethiopian music since the 2000s, it’s rare to hear the name Bezunesh Bakele alongside those of Mulatu Astatke or Mahmoud Ahmed. Most of her songs only survive on tapes or 45s, and this is one of the few compilations to collate her music: an idiosyncratic mix of jazz, soul, rhythm & blues, and Ethiopian scales. Though on most tracks here she’s accompanied by a full band, she often used to perform with Ayele Mamo, the legendary mandolin player who was active in the Addis music scene until his passing in 2021. Bakele was known for being an excellent performer and for her incredibly high-pitched voice, which Francis Falceto once (allegedly) said “may be too high for Western ears.” I dare say he got this one wrong.

Megan Iacobini de Fazio

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