Melaku Belay
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Melaku Belay

Torrington, Connecticut, United States | SELF

Torrington, Connecticut, United States | SELF
Band World Folk


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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


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DVD: Ahun (Now); 2011 release, Addis Ababa, Zeleman productions; 7 minutes

Singles (with Ethiocolor Band):

CD (with Ethiocolor Band): release late 2012



Virtuoso dancer Melaku Belay is a highly respected ambassador for Ethiopia’s music and dance, passionately committed to the preservation and development of traditional culture. He has established two traditional performing groups - Fendika and Ethiocolor – and presents (and dances with) renowned musicians at his Addis Ababa music club Fendika. Melaku’s dance demonstrates that the immense musical heritage of Ethiopia can be performed with a great degree of creativity and innovation, while still maintaining its deep roots. He is an experienced dance teacher and choreographer, touring throughout Africa, Europe, and America in performance with nine different groups of varying musical styles.

Growing up as a street kid, Melaku learned many regional dances of Ethiopia through participation in religious festivals such as Timqat, folk ceremonies, and everyday activities in Addis Ababa and the countryside where dance is a central form of cultural and spiritual expression. He also received intensive training in performing and choreography at the National Theater of Ethiopia and Hager Fikir Theater, the oldest indigenous theatre in Africa. For more than 15 years he has worked every night with traditional Ethiopian bardic musicians called Azmari, in the deeply traditional setting of his club Fendika.

Melaku is a master of more than thirty different dances that express Ethiopia in all her diversity. His cultural journey starts in the highlands of Tigray, Wollo, Gonder, and Gojam, then includes dances from the Somali and Afar regions and southern Ethiopian dance forms from the Gurage, Wolaita, and Konso traditions. Melaku is most famous for his extraordinary presentation of eskista, a traditional Ethiopian trance dance of athletic shoulder movements that presage hip hop dance styles of breaking and popping.

Melaku extends his base of tradition to new areas of dance collaboration, developing performance partnerships with Ethiopian jazz bands Addis Acoustic Project and Nubian Arc, and international groups such as Le Baroque Nomade, Ukandanz, and Akalé Wubé. Melaku maintains a longstanding musical relationship with European punk band The Ex, gaining a fervent following throughout Europe, Ethiopia, and America through their dynamic performances.

Recently Melaku premiered his creative dance piece called Misunderstanding, at the Alliance Francaise in Addis Ababa, signalling his advance into contemporary choreography. The innovative short film Ahun (Now) features Melaku’s spontaneous dance interpretation inspired by the soundscape and human activities of the famous Merkato market in Addis Ababa.

In 2011 Melaku performed in Europe several times, in the US with Fendika and the Boston-based Ethiopian jazz/funk collective Debo Band, in Nairobi where Ethiocolor was a finalist in the East African Music Awards Traditional Category, and in Bamako, Mali at the French Cultural Center, where Fendika provided the performance component of an important conference on African music in October. Melaku and Fendika ended 2011 with performances in France with Le Baroque Nomade. A concert in August 2011 at New York’s Lincoln Center received a rave review from New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay:

Ethiocolor has been selected to perform at the prestigious Ethiopia Vis a Vis Festival in Madrid in July, and will release its first CD later in 2012. Melaku will also perform and give workshops in the US, Norway, Denmark, and France this year. He is available for bookings worldwide.

"The rhythmic virtuosity of Melaku was often astounding. He can turn either the upper or lower body into an electrifying vehicle of rapid pulsation...Simply to see him sway his body to the music was a marvel: the angle of his out-held elbows, the pliancy of his spine, the rythmic point of those shoulder