Arts, Culture & Media

Global Hit

The World's Marco Werman remembers one of Ethiopia's best loved singer, Tlahoun Gessesse.

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When it comes to soulful dance music, the name Tlahoun Gessesse isn't as familiar to Americans as, say, Wilson Pickett.

On the other hand, a lot of Ethiopians would probably say, Wilson who?

We wanted to note the passing of Tlahoun Gessesse. He rose to fame in the 1960s. Like many pop artists in Ethiopia under Emperor Haile Selaissie, Gessesse needed an official rubber-stamp to get a gig.

So he had to join an official ensemble. Gessesse hooked up with the Imperial Bodyguard Band. They hit the pop charts many times...

...And not with military marches.

Tlahoun Gessesse recorded this number "Tezalegn yetentu" in 1970. With tunes like this, Gessesse played a big part in rebranding Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

For night-owls, it became "Swinging Addis." Gessesse appealed to many Ethiopians. His father was Amhara; his mother was Oromo - the country's two main ethnic groups.

So HE was a kind of an Ethiopian all-star. Tlahoun Gessesse died in Addis of diabetes two weeks ago.