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Etenesh Wassié: the blueswoman and 'hurricaine' from Addis

By Alison Hird

Ethiopian vocalist Etenesh Wassié began her career in Addis aged just 15 singing in traditional music venues known as Azmari Bet. She's now building a successful career in Europe singing azmari songs and working, notably, with French musicians. Her second album Yene Alem is out in June.

Wassié was introduced to European audiences thanks to Francis Falceto, producer of the influential Ethiopiques compilations of Ethiopian music.

"I met her in the 90s after the end of the revolution when the curfew was cancelled and nightlife was possible again," says Falceto. "She was one of my favourite singers then and she still is very active. And mostly abroad, because she’s musical enough and talented enough to deal with musicians from all over the world and especially with French musicians."

She began working with French band Le Tigre des Platanes about a decade ago.

"I was dreading the rehearsals," she told RFI's Musiques du Monde programme "but after four or five concerts it got easier."

She now seems perfectly at ease performing live with bass player Mathieu Sourisseau - with whom she's recorded Yene Alem - and cellist Sébastien Bacquias.

"She’s an incredibly talented vocalist," says Falceto. "Her voice, her sense of fun, on stage she’s a hurricaine but she can also be an incredible blueswoman. For me she has a brilliant future. If she goes ahead properly she can fly very high."

Etenesh Wassié performs at Les Nuits de Fourvière festival in Lyon on 22 July with Mahmoud Ahmed and Girma Beyené.

Yene Alem is out on 8 June.

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