I grew up singing in the Ethiopian Church, which is actually not allowed for women, but there was a priest at my home who taught me how to sing the songs. And I listen to a lot of West African music, South African music, hip hop, and funk, so you feel all that in the melodies. Even if it's in Amharic, people can appreciate this music."
This explains Ethiopia’s new star Gigi.
Fifth child in a family of ten, Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw was raised in a far-off hamlet by conscientious parents who'd turned their backs on the squalor of the city. Her family's life was directly dependent on the water from the river Ardi to irrigate their coffee plant crops. "I always knew I wanted to be a singer," she recalls. "We always had a lot of entertainment in my house. When people would come over, my parents would have the kids perform for them."
A loyal daughter with a rebellious streak -- some things truly are universal -- Gigi sought her artistic fortunes abroad when her tradition-minded father initially forbade her to make way in the world as an entertainer. Living first in Nairobi, Kenya, and performing with an Ensemble of East African expats, performing with an Ensemble of East African expats, Gigi returned to Addis Ababa, where she quickly established herself as a singer and songwriter to be reckoned with.
Cast in a French theatre production of the story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, which featured an all-Ethiopian ensemble, Gigi toured East and South Africa, and eventually France, where she was invited to perform at a Paris World Music Festival. Seeing the world stage as her true home, Gigi relocated to San Fransisco at age 24. It wasn't long before her music, released for the local Ethiopian community, caught the attention of Chris Blackwell, Palm Pictures founder.
Her music derives from celebrations of Genna (Ethiopian Christmas), when men and women used to assemble at her home for two months of feasting, games, and of course, zefen (songs) and chifera (group dancing). Her poetry is inspired by the land, by scripture, the ancient Ethiopian church, and the beauty of the Ethiopian civilization.
Malena Ernman is without a doubt one of the worlds greatest singers. But Malena Ernman is far more than a world class mezzo. She is an entertainer in the words true meaning - a groundbreaking modern classical artist with an extremely flexible voice, spanning over nearly 4 octaves. A voice that is willing to try out anything that spells music.