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Live: Mulatu Astatke at the Met

The father of Ethio-jazz plays his first New York concert in a decade

Mulatu Astatke performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Mulatu Astatke performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Mulatu Astatke and drummer Daniel Freedman perform at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Mulatu Astatke and band perform at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

More than 2,000 years and at least 1,000 miles, mostly desert, separate the site of the Temple of Dendur in Egypt and modern Addis Ababa. But it still felt fitting and historic last Friday when Mulatu Astatke took the stage in the Temple’s current home at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As the recognized “father of Ethio-jazz,” Astatke has built his career on merging the ancient with the modern as well as the African with the American.

According to the introduction offered by Astatke’s musical director, British saxophonist James Arben, Friday’s concert marked the first time that Astatke had played in New York in a decade. That would make the show, presented by the World Music Institute, his first appearance since his 2006 U.S. tour with Boston’s Either/Orchestra, which followed shortly after the release of Jim Jarmusch’s film Broken Flowers, the Astatke-centric soundtrack of which helped bring the Ethiopian composer’s name to a wider audience.

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