Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bahta Gebre Hiwot began his musical career as a member of the house band at the Ras Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For decades this legendary hotel was an essential part of the fabric of Addis Ababa, hosting famous guests including Nelson Mandela and Don Johnson.

The Ras Band formed in 1960, and in addition to Bahta G. Hiwot it included such well-known players as Tefera Mekonnen, Getachew Welde-Selassie, Zewdu Legesse, Lufanesu Spongelatke, and a bunch of other people whose names I can barely spell or pronounce. The band played every Friday night, and under strict house rules all guests had to be impeccably dressed and accompanied by a dapper date. Any man who was considered under-dressed was whisked off to Room 147 and promptly given a tie. Flip-flops were also a big no-no, but many patrons wore them on purpose just to be given the replacement leather loafers, handmade by the Bata Shoe Company in Kenya.

Hiwot (or "Batta-G" to his homies) played with the Ras Band for many years but he managed to record several solo singles, including the charming "Tessassategn Eko", which was arranged by Master Mulatu Astatke and is slated to appear on Ethiopiques Volume 648. All the while he was attending night classes to became an accountant. In fact, he abandoned the music scene completely in 1972 to count garbanzo beans at the Ghion Hotel right up until his retirement.


1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Why are you saying that this a Mulatu arrangement when you have no idea in advance!? It is a Girma Beyene arrangement, witch has a similar style but different. The other side of this 7'' is even a greater piece than this. Addammet!