Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Addis Acoustic Project, AAP for short, is the three-year-old brainchild of composer and guitarist Girum Mezmur.
This acoustic band has revitalized songs from Ethiopia’s 50s and 60s repertoire, by mixing them with jazz, Latin and East African sounds and rhythms.
But Mezmur is more than a consummate artist. Since June of this year he is the co-owner the Ethiopian capital’s only permanent jazz venue called Jazzamba.
This is set in a former ballroom in Addis’s red-light district and is attached to the city’s oldest hotel, the Taitu, which was founded by Emperor Menelik’s wife at the turn of the last century.
The guitarist and arranger is also part of the teaching staff of a school which has a three-year jazz programme for young children.
His Addis Acoustic Project plays at the Jazzamba every Friday night, and is part of a rebirth of jazz music in the Ethiopian capital.
It is something of an exaggeration, to call it the equivalent of Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club, as some have done.
But no one can remain unmoved by the combination of this music and the low-lit venue, full of golden chandeliers, warm red curtains, fresh beer and vivacious waitresses.