Hailu Mergia - Wede Harer Guzo
Before Walias Band’s successful gig as house band at the Hilton, Mergia was a young musician hustling from one place to another around Addis. After finishing gigs at the Hilton or on nights off, he would go to good bar where azmari—roving musicians who play traditional songs for tips—and he’d pick up ideas and inspiration. Late night azmari performances revealed for Mergia which songs were moving people in the city. He regularly attended clubs, bars and special private after-hours venues called zigubgn where azmari perform. For Mergia, it was crucial to feature songs he knew people would recognize.
Amharic music has a large repertoire of standard songs everyone knows, the original composers and lyricists of which are often unknown or forgotten. Many of the songs Dahlak, Walias and other bands of that era (including Ibex and Shebele) were playing came from the treasury of shared music, which helped ensure a good vibe in the air.
Mergia released Wede Harer Guzo (“Travel to Harer,”with Sheba Music Shop, which was located in the Piazza district but has long since shut down. Recalling the audience’s positive reaction to Wede Harer Guzo’s novel arrangements, he says it sold well and found many fans. However, as no trace of the tape can be found online, there’s no indication as to why the cassette appears largely forgotten until now. (Text by label.)