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Gétatchèw Mèkurya, Ethiopian Saxophonist, Dies at 81

Rediscovery of earlier recordings led to new popularity

Gétatchèw Mèkurya
Gétatchèw Mèkurya in an early publicity photo

Gétatchèw Mèkurya, a leading Ethiopian saxophonist, died April 4 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was 81 and the cause was an infection in his legs as a result of diabetes, according to an obituary published in The New York Times.

Born March 14, 1935, in Yifat, Ethiopia, Mèkurya began in music playing native Ethiopian instruments before switching to saxophone and clarinet. His professional career launched in 1949, as a member of the Municipality Band in Addis Ababa. He spent the next couple of decades largely performing Ethiopian folkloric music with several of his country’s most prominent orchestras.

According to the Times article, an album recorded by Mèkurya in the early 1970s, Negus of Ethiopian Sax, representative of a style called Ethio-jazz, was reissued in 2003 as part of the popular world-music series Éthiopiques, leading to new popularity outside of Ethiopia.

Originally Published