Alèmayèhu Eshèté obituary

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Robin Denselow

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Star of a ‘golden age’ of Ethiopian music known in the west through the influential Éthiopiques CD series
The singer and songwriter Alèmayèhu Eshèté, who has died aged 80, was one of the stars of the “golden age” of Ethiopian music in the 1960s and early 70s – and then became a cult hero for many western musicians after his music was included in the influential Éthiopiques CD series.

A passionate fan of American music – he was famous for his Elvis impersonations while still at school – Eshèté became known as the Abyssinian Elvis, or the Ethiopian James Brown, thanks to his blend of furious funk songs, passionate ballads and wild stage antics. But he was no mere imitator. His songs were created from a fusion of Ethiopian styles, with the distinctive scales that gave them a sometimes eastern-sounding edge, along with influences from American R&B, funk and soul. And he built up his massive following in Ethiopia by singing mostly in Amharic, not English.

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