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July 6, 2020
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The Bootleg Fendika Tapes

Fendika Cultural Center

I really had no idea what to expect when I entered Fendika, the legendary jazz club in Addis Ababa. I’d heard the city wants to demolish the club so that investors can buy up the land for developers. But its owner, Melaku Belay, has so far resisted the pressure, and he’s turned this venue into a mecca for jazz lovers. For traveling musicians, this is the place they want to play if they visit Addis. 

It’s a small club tucked behind a green corrugated metal wall, and inside the audience and musicians were packed into a tight space. I squeezed onto the floor and sat just a few feet from the house band, occasionally bumping knees with the dancers who came out onto the tiny floor. The band plays a mix of modern and traditional Ethiopian instruments, including a masenko - a fiddle with just one string, and a krar - a hand-held wooden lyre.

Steve Paulson(TTBOOK)

Steve Paulson(TTBOOK)

And the music? It was an ecstatic experience. The joy of the performers was palpable, and as the songs built to a crescendo, I was overwhelmed — emotionally and physically.

Steve Paulson(TTBOOK)

Steve Paulson(TTBOOK)

I brought my little Zoom recorder, so you can hear some of the music from Fendika in this week’s show. it’s a celebration of African jazz and how music crisscrosses the globe, and also a deep dive into the complicated history of music, race and politics. There’s also a ton of great music, so I hope you get a chance to listen.




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How Meklit Hadero Reimagined Ethiopian Jazz

During their visit to Addis Ababa, Anne and Steve caught a show put on by a household name in Ethiopia — the boundary-crossing, border-hopping jazz virtuoso Meklit Hadero.
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So You Say You Want A Revolution

Valmont Layne grew up under apartheid in South Africa. Music, along with protest movements, radicalized him. He tells Anne and Steve that South African jazz became a musical current that’s traveled across oceans, spreading ideas about freedom.
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The Deep Connections Our Brains Make To Music

man playing guitar
Famous for his stories of people with brain disorders, Oliver Sacks wrote a lot about neurological mysteries, like the way a song can activate parts of the brain that language can’t even touch.
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