Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
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Mulatu Astatke

1943 -

Origin: Ethiopia

Main instrument: Xylophone/vibraphone

Genre: Jazz

An icon of the golden age of Ethiopian music, percussionist and composer Mulatu Astatke is considered the father of Ethio-jazz. After a musical career stretching over 40 years, he surged back onto the international radar with the re-release of the CD series Éthiopiques in 2007 and his appearance on the soundtrack to the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers in 2005. He made his first visit to the Festival in 2014.


Born into a well-to-do family in Ethiopia in 1943, Mulatu Astatke moved to Wales at 16, then on to London where he enrolled at Trinity College. He was a quick study, picking up the trumpet, clarinet, keyboards and percussion. A proud inheritor of Ethiopia’s musical legacy, he took his talents to the U.S., becoming the very first African student at Berklee College in Boston in 1958. Moving to New York, he formed The Ethiopian Quintet in 1963 with Puerto Rican and Afro-American musicians, fusing Latin-inspired jazz with the traditional music of East Africa. He followed with 2 volumes entitled Afro-Latin Soul, combining Ethiopian melodies and Western instruments. Returning to Addis-Ababa in the late ’60s, he appeared in the Éthiopiques series, a collection of some thirty albums featuring the greatest names in 20th century Ethiopian music and marking the birth of Ethio-jazz. In 1973, he performed one of his final African concerts alongside the immortal Duke Ellington. Increasingly renowned on the international scene, thanks to the re-release of Éthiopiques,he has been teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, appeared on the soundtrack to the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers in 2005 and is collaborating with two groups: one American, the Either/Orchestra, and one Ethiopian, The Heliocentrics, releasing Inspiration Information Vol. 3 with them in 2009. The following year, he formed the group Step Ahead, which accompanied him on Mulatu Steps Ahead and Sketches of Ethiopia (2013).

Mulatu Astatke 2014

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