Tilahun Gèssèssè / Sept 29, 1940 - April 19, 2009

Born on this date in 1940, Tilahun Gèssèssè, one of the great Ethiopian singers of that "Golden Age", a time in the '60s and early '70s when things were a little more lax in the country in regards to producing records.

Born to an Oromo family, he dropped out of school and moved to Addis Ababa. He joined up with the Hager Fikir Theater and then became a star with the state-sponsored Imperial Bodyguard Band, perhaps the best opportunity for a singer's career at the time.

In 1960 he spent some time in jail, due to interpretation of one of his songs being considered less than patriotic. He became very popular as a singer and performed for Haile Selassie I on a few occasions. He recorded with Mulatu Astatqe and groups like The Walias Band and the music could be soulful, funky, folky, jazzy or experimental.

After the junta in '74, many of his songs were banned. Known as "The Voice", he traveled the world promoting Ethiopian culture, sang in Amharic and Oromiffa and was an activist who raised money for charities in the '70s & '80s. He died from diabetes at 68 and his funeral was attended by over 500,000 people. That fantastic Ethiopiques series has brought his catalog to the attention of fascinated music fans all over the globe.

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