From 1989 until I left Vermont in 1991, I lived in a farmhouse in Waltham with Ron and two fine Ethiopian gentlemen and musicians, Seleshe and Kiflu. The latter was known as the ‘world most handsome man.’ The two were brothers and musicians and dancers. During the summer of 1990, I played color percussion very quietly in the four person rhythm section of The New Nile Orchestra on three occasions. Kflu told me with a wink–before the orchestra took the outdoor stage at The Discover Jazz Festival, “You’re okay as long as I can’t hear you.”
We had an immense amount of fun as roommates even if Selesshae Damessae, an internationally famous ex-patriot folkloric musician, wasn’t around much. I’ve never ate as well as I did back then. Ron and Kiflu melded vegetarian and ethiopian cuisine and often Breakfast was the main deal.
Once a month or so during the summer the Jehovah’s witnesses would come by and we’d hang with them on the front porch until they got jumpy as tourists in their own land sometimes do. You have to picture Ron and myself with our long hair, the coal black adonis Kiflu, the Jehovah’s men with us on the porch, with wife and daughters sitting in the car. We extracted their agreement: we’d listen to their scripture reading if they’d partake of our own. However, they’d always book once one of us went into the house to get our book.
Ethiopian music is ancient. Here’s two music videos from the brave and poor land that capture the two sides of the this most unique of countries.