Emahoy Tsege-Mariam Gebru


Mississippi • 2024

A rustling, perhaps street noise, birdsong—then flowing piano chords, dotted melodies. And then, after a while, a voice that many people may have waited a long time to hear. It is the voice of Emahoy Tsege-Mariam Gebru. She also moves very gently through the Amharic scales, as if the melodies were being created as they were being recorded. Gebru is a legendary figure in Ethiopian music. Her father was mayor of the city of Gondar, she sang for Haile Selassie, studied in Switzerland and Cairo, went to a monastery for ten years at the age of 21 and then began to compose. In 1984 she fled to Jerusalem, where she lived until her death last year. She would have been 100 this year. »Souvenirs« is a special legacy because her voice has never been heard on any of her albums. It sounds immediate, untrained, and that may have been a reason to keep it under wraps. The recordings for »Souvenirs« were made in the family home in Addis Ababa in the late 1970s. Emperor Haile Selassie had been overthrown and a military junta had taken power. The song title, »Is It Sunny Or Cloudy In The Land You Live?«, »Ready To Leave« and »Don’t Forget Your Country« already reveal the melancholy of the loss of home. Even more than in the music released during her lifetime, there is an intimacy here, as if you were sitting right next to her on the piano bench.