Saxophonist | Vocalist | Composer
Photos (c) Gaya Saadon
Saxophonist | Vocalist | Composer
Photos (c) Gaya Saadon
Abate Berihun is an Ethiopian-Israeli jazz saxophonist, vocalist and composer. A prolific musical artist, he is one of Israel’s most prominent Ethiopian musicians.
Originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Berihun got ahold of a saxophone at an early age and enrolled himself in the Addis Ababa University Music School. It was here that he was first exposed to the Western jazz tradition and the albums of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, two of his most important musical influences. At the age of 16, Berihun joined the Ethiopian Military Band. This period in his life came to an abrupt halt six years later, when the band’s bus was ambushed by EPRDF forces, rebelling against Mengistu’s Marxist dictatorship. Most of the band members were killed in the prolonged attack, and Berihun was wounded by two bullets.
Berihun continued playing in the Ethiopian National Theater and toured internationally with Mahmoud Ahmed and Mulatu Astatke. At the age of 21 he established his own jazz band, with which he toured Europe three times a year. His last European tour ended merely three weeks before his move to Israel.
Berihun joined his family in Israel in 1999. He has faced some cultural and financial adversity pursuing his musical career in Israel due to the pressures and struggles associated with the general acculturation process. His dream - being a musician in Israel - has proven difficult to realize. Facing a language barrier and the burden of alimony, Berihun worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant through the day and as a night security guard. His fingers were burned by dishwashing detergents, hindering his practice with his saxophones.
After being discovered by Moshe Bar-Yuda (then head of the TOMER NGO) however, Berihun’s professional experience began to change. Bar-Yuda brought Berihun together with musicologist Shlomo Israeli, who was deeply touched by Berihun’s playing. Israeli then paired Berihun with jazz pianist Yitzhak Yedid, a musical collaboration that gave rise to the Ras Deshen Ensemble. The ensemble takes its name from the Ras Dashen mountain in Ethiopia and blends free jazz with musical modes of the Ethiopian highlands.
In 2003, Berihun’s established the Kuluma band, together with Itamar Borochov (trumpet), Alon Yoffe (drums and vocals), Uri Naveh (West African percussion), Sangit Dotan Segal (Afro-Cuban percussion and vocals), Orr Bareket (bass guitar) and David Adda (keyboards and vocals). The group released their debut album Mother Tongue, in December 2005. Both the album and their concerts, mixing Ethiopian music with Cuban influences, gained critical acclaim.
He later established another project, SHABATE, an ensemble that blends Ethiopian jazz grooves with traditional Jewish soul. SHABATE recorded a album and toured throughout Israel and the world. Following this project, Berihun has led two other successful ensembles: Tezeta (“nostalgia” in Amharic), which was established with the aim of serving as a stage for the renewal of Israeli-Ethiopian musical culture. Tezeta ensemble incorporates ancient and unique Ethiopian instruments such as the krar, the single-string masenko and the kebero percussion instruments. The second group is Tesfa band (“hope” in Amharic) led by Berihun, which features a group of young Israeli musicians.
Berihun is also known for his collaborations with artists such as Ariel Zilber, Ehud Banai, Yossi Fine, Kutiman, Anat Fort, Omri Mor, Shay Zelman and many others.
Berihun’s latest project is ADDIS KEN - አዲስ ቀን (“New Day” in Amharic). This quartet co-led by pianist Roy Mor presents original compositions, Ethiopian-Jewish soul music and songs inspired by Jewish prayers. The result is a thrilling encounter between ancient Ethiopian
traditions and the spirit of a modern jazz ensemble, employing musical adventurousness, rich harmonies, and heartfelt blues.
6/3 Abate Berihun and Addis Ken Project ★ Jødisk Kulturfestival, Copenhagen
5/29 with Omri Mor, Elad Levi, Avri Borochov & Yair Tzabari ★ Musrara Mix Festival Jerusalem, Israel
5/4 Abate Berihun and Addis Ken Project ★ Mazkeka, Jerusalem
4/27-28 Live with Omri Mor ★ Tashkent Uzbekistan
4/4 with EHUD BANAY ★ Barby Tel Aviv, Israel
4/2 with Omri Mor, Elad Levi, Avri Borochov & Amir Bresler ★Levontin7 Tel Aviv, Israel
3/27 Live with The Anat Fort Trio 20th Anniversary ★The Tel Aviv Museum Tel Aviv, Israel
3/14 Live with Anat Fort ★Bar Kokhva Tel Aviv, Israel
3/10 Live with TESFA collective and Rudi Baynesay ★Women’s Day Celebrations, Petach Tikva, Israel
3/9 Live with Roy Mor ★BaSalon Shel Tirtza, Neve Efram Monosson, Tel Aviv, Israel
3/1 Abate Berihun Live with Shay Hazan @Hofshi BaSalon, Bat Yam, Israel
2/12+19 Ethiopian Music Workshop, Oru Authentic Music Center Israel
1/31 with Ehud Banai, @Heichal Hatarbut, Tel Aviv, Israel
1/1/19 - 1/26/19 Abate Berihun Ethiopia Tour
12/26 with Omri Mor, @Zappa Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
12/25 Abate Berihun Live at Cafe Shapira, Tel Aviv, Israel
12/24 Abate Berihun and Addis Ken Project, @Levontin 7, Tel Aviv, Israel
12/1 with Kutiman Orchestra, @Abraham Hostel, Tel Aviv, Israel
11/22 Abate Berihun at White Donkey, Sefad, Israel
11/12 Abate Berihun at Makamat Music Center, Workshop for Musicians, Sefad, Israel
11/10 with Shay Zelman & Anat Fort, @Clamores, Madrid, Spain
11/9 with Shay Zelman & Anat Fort, @Clamores, Madrid, Spain
11/7 with ADDIS KEN, International Exposure Festival @Yellow Submarine, Jerusalem, Israel
11/3 duo with Shay Zelman, house concert, Tel Aviv,
10/28 with Sandman Project, EP Launch at Kuli Alma, Tel Aviv, Israel
10/14 with Nissan Ventura at Ahuzat HaShachar, Klil, Israel
10/12 Roy Mor & Abate Berihun Quartet at Beit Haamudim, Tel Aviv, Israel
Musical samples from Abate Berihun’s works:
Television item about Abate Berihun, aired on KAN11 Israeli Television, 20.10.17
Ben Shalev, Haaretz, Aug 17, 2010:
After struggling to establish himself, Abatte Barihun - a saxophonist who infuses Ethiopian music into jazz and blues - will perform at next week's jazz festival in Eilat, and he's even set up his own studio.
Timeout Magazine, 21 November 2017
Five questions with Ethiopian-Israeli musician Abate Barihun
Saxophonist and vocalist, Abate Barihun, is an outstanding musician and all-round human being. He fronts the popular Tesfa band, following in Getish Mamo's great footsteps (one of Ethiopia's top vocalists to date). With a joint performance paying homage to Mamo at the 8th annual Hullegeb festival this December, we found five minutes in Barihun's busy schedule to catch up before the festival kicks off
Ben Shalev, Haaretz:
Home Is Where the Harmony Is
The Ras Deshen jazz concert in Addis Ababa enabled the Israeli embassy to present a perfect musical harmony of Israeli and Ethiopian cultures.