Hailu Mergia is a composer, arranger and Ethiopian jazz and funk legend. As keyboardist and bandleader of the "Walias Band", founded in Addis Ababa in the 1970s and extremely popular at the time, he developed his very own interpretation of contemporary Ethiopian music early on. It is difficult to categorise his approach to jazz, funk and a variety of Ethiopian music.
As the house band of the Hilton Hotel, the Walias Band played legendary 12-hour sets for all those who did not want to leave at the start of the nightly curfew and therefore had to hold out until the early morning. The band emigrated to the US in the early 80s and disbanded soon after. Hailu Mergia still played a few concerts, but gradually withdrew from the stage. His first solo album "Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instruments", released in 1985, recorded and produced entirely by himself and released on cassette in Ethiopia, was reissued in 2013 via Awesome Tapes from Africa. This marked the beginning of his comeback. He started writing new songs and in 2018 followed up with his album "La Belu", acclaimed and featured by the New York Times, the Guardian and Pitchfork among others. Since then, Mergia has crisscrossed Europe a dozen times and played across North America, including Radio City Music Hall and the Montreal Jazz Festival. Now he's on the road again, bringing his 2020 album "Yene Mircha" with him.
Hailu Mergia is an artist who reinvents his sound every night on stage and refuses to do the same thing twice. In the studio, he starts recording with a core band and then adds more sounds and instruments in a long process of listening, a creative process as urgent and exciting as his concerts, where he pushes the band to the limit of group improvisation. "Yene Mircha" means as much as "My Choice" and expertly captures this live experimentation. His performances are intimate and explosive at the same time. Modern, tradition-conscious and yet worldly jazz, skilfully mixed with a variety of Ethiopian styles.