Hailu Mergia in Zurich

The Moods 2019

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Hailu Mergia — Pianist, accordionist, singer

Eliot Seppa — Double bassist

Ken Joseph — Drummer

Program notes

At Moods in Zurich in 2019, the Ethiopian multi instrumentalist Hailu Mercia performed his most well-known works with his trio, formed of Eliot Seppa on the double bass and Ken Joseph on drums. Mercia is known for his role in establishing the 70’s group, Walias Band, considered today as the biggest group from the golden age of Ethiopian music. Here, with his accordion, melodica, and his keyboard, he blends in perfectly to accompany his fellow trio members. 

Extremely modern and somewhat atypical for the period, the Walias Band struggled to get out of the shadow of the dictatorship and censorship of Derg, the administrative council in Ethiopia that forced the band to produce exclusively instrumental music. The group changed the narrative of this constraint however to make breakthroughs in the field with ingenious rhythm and harmonies, creating what we now call Ethio-jazz. After moving to the United States, Hailu Mercia ceased composing in order to try and follow other vocations such as a taxi driver and a chef. However, throughout this hiatus, he never stopped practicing his instruments and he returned to the stage in 2015 with Lala Belu, a piece that catapulted him once again to the forefront of the stage.

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