Hailu Mergia (2017)

Washington, DC / Ethiopia

As a member of the Ethiopian ensemble Walias Band, Hailu Mergia cut his teeth playing in the Hilton hotel bar in Addis Ababa during the Derg dictatorship, under a strict civilian curfew that often required the band play all night, even though dancing was outlawed. Mergia’s style is a vibrant mélange of chanted vocals over funky Hammond-based ‘60s soul, making for an immediately catchy and danceable mix.